by Ryan Meehan
Founded in 2008, Dawty Music Group (DMG) is a production company based in San Diego, CA, where it continues to create music that expands well beyond its West Coast headquarters. It is not often that you come across business partners so different culturally and ethnically, but at the same time so much alike in terms of talent and determination. You need only experience the hard hitting sounds these young men produce to understand what love for music really is. Armed with explosive tracks and mixing acrobatics, Dawty Music Group promises to keep you attuned and on the edge of your seats. DMG has perfected their multitude of styles to develop a unique plethora of tracks from fresh Hip-Hop and Rap to R&B off-shoots with a lot of Pop music influence. DMG is not a stranger to hard work and best be described as resilient, hungry and focused. These gentlemen are destined to become a strong music production force that will not be denied success. DMG incorporates actual musicians and songwriters who have been influenced by many, many successful artists. The innate ability of these young men to write, arrange and produce songs has driven them beyond the “auditioned producer” stigma to a rare find of young talent who create songs that not only reach people deep within, but also reach out to people as a source of inspiration. In a world where artists and producers so often become discouraged and frustrated because of industry bureaucracies, DMG perseveres knowing that their attitudes are the only things they can truly control in life. Since splashing onto the pop scene, Dawty Music Group has created tracks for a number of hit singles, particularly in Europe. The emerging production team has recently earned credits with Estelle, Janelle Monae, Ne-Yo, Mya, Teddy Riley, Wale, and Boyz II Men. We are delighted to have Co-CEO Ty Reynolds as our guest today in 10 Questions.
RM: Who are the other power players at the helm of Dawty Music Group; and how did you come to work with those individuals? Which similarities of your view on the entertainment business sparked the realization that you should get together and form your own production team?
TR: Warren Zavala is also Co-CEO for Dawty Music Group. His stage name is Warren Kurtiss. I met him somewhere around 10 or 11 years ago through a mutual friend, Jelani Harris. Jelani and I were in a boy band named Rare Blend. He met Warren in La Jolla on a random evening and they set up a listening session at Warren’s place a few days later. During the listening session Warren and I really clicked in terms of music appreciation in that we enjoyed a lot of the same things. We started working together on random projects with no particular direction. A few months later a close friend of Warren’s named David Amar, now of American College Clothing in France, came to town with some new music. Warren and I were blown away by the sounds and immediately inquired as to who produced the works. This was our introduction to Tiery F. We decided to start a company together and came up with the name using our initials. Da for David, W for Warren and ty for Ty = Dawty. We incorporated Tiery F. into our plan as well which worked very well in that when we were sleeping, David and Tiery were working and vice versa. We turned records around VERY quickly. We all had a similar vision in terms of what we felt the industry needed with regards to musical direction. We felt that the industry was becoming very cookie cutter in terms of what was acceptable and popular. It sounded to us that all of the music that was being released as singles sounded exactly like something that had been previously released, only a little bit different. We decided to strive to bring what we felt was REAL musical music back to the industry.
RM: What is the most significant benefit of being able to work out of the San Diego area? Is there more to that strategy than just the relative location to Los Angeles?
TR: Honestly, San Diego feels much more relaxed than Los Angeles for me. I enjoy being away from the “hustle and bustle” if you will. I feel it is much easier to create down here. It’s not as intense for me. Being a few hours away from L.A. is a perk. Obviously a lot of the music industry is established there and it’s necessary to have that at our disposal. We also have a studio at Warren’s place in Rancho Santa Fe. It is an amazing place to create. We have started booking artists to stay at the house and work on their projects and it’s been a wonderful experience. It’s almost like a vacation for them to have the opportunity to get out of the city and come to a relaxing place where you can also be efficient.
RM: How would you say the way DMG approaches the music industry is different from the methods utilized by other production companies? How does that translate into competitive advantage that directly benefits the artist; and in what ways does it do so?
TR: Well, I’d say we are very versatile when it comes to the genres we feel are our strong points. We don’t like to stick to just one sound. We try to diversify so that we can be relevant in any given situation. We create music from conception to delivery. Warren and I were both artists at one point in our careers so we have a good idea of what it takes to be a successful artist based on our experiences. We both produce, engineer, write, arrange, mix, master and sing. We are able to contribute to any project wherever there is a need.
RM: What is DMG’s current mission statement? Can you foresee the core principles of that intended sense of direction being different ten years from now; and if so, how?
TR: We offer individual artists the opportunity for music production, writing, vocal arrangement, mixing, mastering, recording and market return through Dawty Music Group. We offer record labels and artists of entertainment market and the recorded product market the opportunity to obtain high-quality, professionally performed, expertly produced, efficiently crafted music products of many genres including, but not limited to, Hip-Hop, R&B, Rap, Pop, Jazz and religious sectors. We offer production, writing, vocal arrangement, mixing, mastering and recording projects through individual format plan to investors as a planned return-on-investment opportunity. Such projects ‘live’ as separate entities, but enjoy the umbrella security, strategic relationships, beneficial knowledge and proficient talent provided by Dawty Music Group and its reputation in the industry.
I have been building microphones, 500 series pre-amps, compressors and EQ modules, analog to digital convertors and am working on my first pairs of headphones and studio monitors. I can see us branding and releasing these pieces once the development process is completed. I’m sure I’ll have to hand build them boutique style initially, but I welcome the challenge if people are interested in the products! I’m excited about the potential to contribute to music in another arena.
RM: What would you say is the most frequently overlooked aspect of the songwriting process? Why do you think that younger writers and producers tend to glaze over something that is so critical when it comes to getting a killer finished product?
TR: When I approach music, whether it be a sound bed or a song, I consider the listener. I still believe that music is the soundtrack to people’s lives. I think there is a great responsibility in that. I’ve always believed in the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”. I’ve tried to capture the emotion of an experience or create a vivid image of what I am conveying in the process of writing so that it might reach someone, either in a positive light or in a way that helps them somehow. It’s hard for me to say in general what may be overlooked in songwriting, but I will suggest that at least in top 40, there is a large amount of disregard for content. I’m not sure if it’s just a generational thing and people are sort of numb because of the things they have seen or witnessed in person or on social media or whatever… Much of the music I hear in top 40 these days feels like a remake of some kind. Obviously not everything is, but there’s a lot of remaking going on in music and movies. When you think back to the eighties and some of the brilliance in originality that existed in both music and film, you have to consider the strong points in comparison to now. They didn’t have the big budgets that they have now days. They didn’t have access to the technology either. Everything was based on good song writing, musicality and in film good script writing and dialogue. I would say that today people glaze over that because they can.
RM: When not given a specific studio assignment does your production team typically tend to compose songs with a particular artist in mind, or do your writers hammer out a basic structure and then get together to discuss which performer would be the best fit for that piece of music?
TR: All of the above. When we don’t have a particular project we are working on we do whatever feels good. Warren is working on a solo project as an artist in France that is coming out exceptionally well. I am part of a group called Damn ScoundrelZ, which is a team of established multifaceted individuals who are essentially tired of some of the bureaucracies in the industry. We have decided to create a project that takes things into our own hands. It is very ‘hip-hop’ in nature. We consider ourselves the teachers for the new mind. When we aren’t working on these projects, you are exactly right, we will create a record on any particular vibe that we are feeling at the moment and then try to find a home for it based on what types of records a particular artist is looking for at the time.
RM: It’s common knowledge that ProTools is the industry standard when it comes to arranging and sequencing songs in the digital landscape…But what have you found to be the most effective drum sequencing program to craft beats and hooks? Do you use programs such as Reason or Ableton/Live when constructing new rhythms, or do you prefer to use old school drum machines like the Roland 808 or the Alesis SR-16? Does it depend on the project at hand; and if initially there is no clear cut choice what do you usually reach for first?
TR: We definitely track all of our vocals in Pro Tools. Our productions take ultimate shape in Pro Tools for sure. When it comes to creating instrumentals, we use Reason. We have been using Reason since version 3. We are up to version 8 now. It’s a wonderful collaboration software. We all keep the same sounds and plugins available so that we are on the same page when a session exchanges hands. We pass sessions around regularly and it’s been really efficient in getting them to completion. We have been through a synth or two as far as outboard gear is concerned as well. I’m sort of a gear head in general so I’m always buying and selling gear. I’ll pick up a piece and we’ll use it for a few months and then I sell it and get something else. We just got rid of an Alesis A6 Andromeda which is a MONSTER analog/digital synth. It’s true analog so you actually have to let it warm up. Very rare to find one that works well these days. We still have and use an Access Virus Polar Ti which is a wonderfully built digital synthesizer. It has some incredible sounds that always inspire. We have been through the MPC’s, 808s, 909s, but I think at this point we are most comfortable creating in the box. It’s all about work flow and captivating the feeling of what you are trying to convey or express quickly as not to lose the vibe.
RM: Which of your most recent sessions was the most inspiring and why? Do you feel that inspiration is something that you have to initiate, or is more productive to leave that ingenuity to the artists themselves?
TR: I recently had a session with an artist named Royal Rizow. He is actually one of my best friends and we go back many years. When I first arrived in California, he was one of the first people that I met and began working with on music. I can actually say that when we met, I wasn’t very good at producing but could sing and write really well. We caught back up after a long time and it was as if we never stopped working together. The inspiration was immediate and without effort. The music we created was magical. We’re really excited about continuing to work together. Another session I recall was one with artist B. Howard. This man is incredibly talented. The vibe is immediate every time. Rob Fresh is another artist that love working with. We spend moments vibing and then the music simply takes on a life of it’s own. I think that it’s important to create an environment conducive to creativity. Sometimes that means just hanging out together and finding common ground before creating. Just experiencing life and then going into the session feeling well and balanced. Creativity doesn’t punch a time clock so there is no telling when one person is going to be in their most creative state. Sharing life and experience has been the most conducive spark to creativity, inspiration and overall vibe for me.
RM: When you think about the long term goals of DMG, what would you consider to be the ultimate achievement that would lead you to believe you’ve done all you set out to do and so much more?
TR: I think a lot of people get caught up in winning awards and such as a measurement of success. I tend to lean toward the ability to do what you love everyday and work for yourself as success. Financial freedom would also be on the barometer of success for me. I just want to continue creating music and music equipment and have a level of financial freedom as a result of my efforts that I can pass down to my children. Even if they would choose not to follow in my footsteps, that is fine with me. I want them to be comfortable in the choice of their path so that they may be in the best of spirit with their efforts. As long as my legacy is something that still speaks after I leave this world, that’s all that I can ask for.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
TR: We are going to keep pushing Warren’s solo project to completion. We will also be heavy on pushing Damn Scoundrelz to a place where the platform can be seen and heard. We have a big placement but unfortunately I cannot speak on it yet. We have a Kleenex commercial, Kellogg’s (international), and TJMaxx campaign running with Estelle featuring Janelle Monae’s “Do My Thing” running right now, so we are excited about that. Rizow and I will keep building. We will continue to move forward with the most positive intentions and see what the universe has to offer!
Official Website: http://dawtymusicgroup.com/
Dawty Music Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dawtymusicgroup
Dawty Music Group on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dawtymusicgroup
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