Team RADL recently had the pleasure of chatting with Australia's latest rising hip hop star, Dylan Joel, ahead of his huge national tour for his debut album, Authentic Lemonade. It's been a busy year for Joel, touring with the likes of Seth Sentry, dropping debut albums and just generally saving the world with his laidback, communal approach to life. His album, Authentic Lemonade, breaks genre boundaries and offers music lovers a fresh new sound that celebrates being true to yourself. In a world where it feels like everything is mass produced, we reckon it's definitely something worth celebrating.
Hey Dylan, so what drew you into the world of creating music?
I started learning drums when I was 12. I played drums for a few years but then I got bored of them. I taught myself guitar for a couple of years and then I got bored of that and started djing a bit. Around that time I was starting to write songs and singing a little bit. I wrote so many lyrics because I was into hip hop, which they almost became rap. Once I reached about 16 I really fell in love with hip hop and the movement of it. I started writing raps and by the time I was 19 I just thought, ‘you know what? I’m just gonna give this a shot.’
There’s definitely genres other than hip hop that creep into your music, can you tell me what your other influences are?
My first inspiration for live music came from gospel. I grew up going to church and I just really loved gospel so that definitely had a big influence on me in terms of live music. Outside of that I’ve always been really into soul. I don’t really know, it totally varies. I can think back to when I was younger and I was into whatever CDs my parents would play; bands like Fleetwood Mac. Obviously it changes over the years and I still listen to heaps of stuff, and I try and do that on purpose because there’s beauty in every genre, I feel. Being closed off and listening to just hip hop will make you sound like only hip hop.
Yeah I can definitely hear that soul and gospel influence in your music. Now, I think that hip hop artists in particular tend to have a personal mission that they try achieve with their music. Would you agree with that and what would be your mission?
It’s funny because I feel like the majority of artists are writing for themselves. They write music because they want to express where they’re at and they’re doing it for themselves and then they start putting it out and people like it so they continue making it. When I got asked to start music, I turned it down. I got offered a recording contract to professionally record five songs and do a music video and I turned it down because I thought I’ve got everything I need, you know? Good family, good friends. Then for some reason, like two weeks later I thought I don’t have to do it for myself and I can actually make music to reach out to others. So I thought I’ll just do it and I started making music. It’s still my music that I wrote for myself but with the purpose of hopefully reaching out to others. But that’s a huge part of it, I think for me, sound just spreads love. It sounds corny but it’s just so underrated. So yeah, that would be my purpose.
That’s a solid purpose. Can you tell me about the process of producing a debut album because I think a lot of people don’t understand how rigorous it is.
Well it didn’t happen super quick, I mean, I had been making music for two and a half years before I got signed. I had been in my career for about two years before I got signed but I had been making music for about five years. I had just kept crafting what I was making with bedroom recordings and producing stuff on my own in my room. Eventually, it happened in a funny way because I hit up a producer who I wanted to work with and he listened to my music and just really liked it I guess. So that was where I got in. I would say for anyone else writing music, just stick to crafting what you want to do. The music speaks louder than anything else. Even if you know heaps of people in the industry, that’s great, but you’re not going to get far unless you have your craft down and you really refine what that is.
Were there any moments where you thought, maybe this isn’t for me? Or were you always convinced that it was what you were going to do?
To be completely honest, I experience doubt all the time. I’m 24 now and so the reality of this being a career has kicked in and I’m wondering, am I gonna get by? Can I move out and pay rent and feed myself? Now that that has kicked in, I think about it all the time. Is this right? Is it not right? But it’s funny because as much as I feel like it might not work out there’s always a hint of something like, oh we just got put on this festival or Triple J just added your brand new song. Things have just kind of moved too well and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. For me, it doesn’t matter how much I earn. It matters that I’m still loving it and I still feel like I’ve got more to give. So as long as those things are in check then I’ll keep going.
You’ve just gotta buckle up for the ride.
Totally. And it’s a tough industry because there’s so many people who believe that they have a chance. It’s also a tough industry to watch, when you see those people give up. I’ve already had people around me, friends and stuff, who have started careers in music and just stopped making stuff. It’s really tough to see. It’s crazy but some of the best advice I was ever given - before I even started my career - was from a rapper named Phrase. He used to be a huge rapper in the country and he said to me: “you’ll notice the ones who end up with a career, aren’t necessarily the ones who are most talented, they’re the ones who want it the most and they stick it out for the longest.” And it think that it’s really true. It’s the ones who are willing to go through the hard grind and keep practicing.
I want to talk about your album cover because I’m a real fan of it. I was wondering what drew you to that style and why ‘Authentic Lemonade?’
The title came about because by the time I finished writing the record, most of the songs on it had this underlying theme of the importance of being authentic or genuine to yourself and who you are. I think in this day and age there’s so much push in the media for us to be people who we’re not and to reach expectations that are unrealistic. So for me, that was the message and I had to think what’s a product in the world that’s rare to find an authentic version of? Something that is mass produced? So I thought, oh, lemonade. Anyway, I went with that title and I had some cups made. We decided to have a photoshoot so we went to the desert. We sat at this table and had the cup on it and took a bunch of shots thinking that it would be the cover shot. Then on our way home we put the cup in the sand and the photographer just decided to shoot it. When we got home we were flicking through the photos and we were like oh crap, after all that, the album cover is just going to be the photo of the cup in the sand.
I feel like I have to ask, what would be your favourite beverage other than authentic lemonade?
That’s a really good question. I wish I had prepared for this, no one’s asked me this question. It would have to be smoothies. But I don’t know what kind of smoothie…some form of fruit smoothie.
I noticed earlier this year you organised a pop-up op shop to raise money for the Nepal earthquakes and it was also done as a replacement for a music video for your single ‘What’s Good.’ I just think that’s the coolest idea, so how did it all go?
It actually went so much better than we thought. I got all my friends involved and my management team and we just reached out to people. We reached out to Savers and they ended up sponsoring the event so they let us come into their stores and grab anything we wanted and re-sell it. So yeah that was crazy and we actually ended up getting endorsed by Savers so now we can just go in there and grab clothes and promote them, which is just sick. There was also a whole bunch of artists who got on board. We had Hilltop Hoods, Drapht, Bliss n Eso and Alison Wonderland and Triple J even sent us a pack. Everyone got involved and sent us all these things to auction off. Section 8, a venue in Melbourne, gave us the space for nothing and it was just amazing, people were so generous. We ended up raising $10,000 so that was nuts. It just blew me away.
That’s fantastic. It’s amazing to see how much influence the music community has.
Yeah! I think that something hip hop does really well is build communities and that’s the whole purpose of these events. Just to bring people together and enjoy life together. It’s kinda cool. I’m not in other scenes so I don’t know if that happens but from my knowledge, a lot of other genres aren’t as motivated to do that. I think it’s just a part of the hip hop movement. Peace, love and unity is about community so yeah, it’s really cool.
I totally agree with you there. So your tour begins today?
Yeah I’m on the way to Brisbane now!
How are you feeling about it all?
It is a little bit daunting but I’m feeling really good. It doesn’t even matter how many people are coming. I’m just so excited to go and play as hard as I can and just to hang out with people as well. I can’t wait to meet people after the show and just kick it. We might even just go get ice cream afterwards. We’ll just sell out some man’s ice cream store.
Looks like you’ll be hitting up Adelaide on November 7th so I guess we’ll see you then and maybe get some ice cream…
Awesome! I’m so down for that.
Catch Dylan Joel at Rocket Bar on Saturday November 7th. He'll also be making an appearance at McLaren Vale's Gorgeous Festival on November 28th. Tickets are available here.
All images taken via Dylan Joel official Facebook page