We recently caught up with singer, songwriter, producer and author Dusty Wright to talk about his work with CultureCatch.com, his latest endeavor with The Acoustic Guitar Project and the importance of authenticity in art.
CFM: You worked a number of ways in and around music. Why was music always a constant and how do you think it has impacted your decisions and trajectory?
DW: Music has always been very big in my life, it has impacted some of my decisions and certainly the trajectory of my career. Early on from working at William Morris and being liaison for the music department as a TV variety agent, I booked Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show, the Merv Griffin Show, game shows and award shows. When I left the William Morris agency, I got into journalism, specifically, music and print. I became a music critic. Ultimately, I got my gig as the Editor in Chief of Cream Magazine then was hired by Prince for his magazine, New Power Generation. So music I would say is the great elixir, the great soother of the soul. It’s a great way to commune with people and a great way for people to share their joy, their pain, their happiness, their frustrations. You can go to a live show and you can see people communing together in front of a great band or at a rave or at a small gathering in ones living room passing a guitar around.
CFM: As a musician, you’ve played with lots of different bands and have gone through various genres. You now play Americana and you’ve said in the past that you love the simplicity of that genre and music style. What for you has been the common denominator or common thread through your playing, if any? Tell us a little more why you love Americana in particular.
DW: I actually started out in a punk grunge band, Bastards of Execution but I quickly moved into the Americana arena because I saw that as a very timeless genre of music. You can play it from cradle to grave, it’s that kind of music that appeals to somebody’s singer-songwriter side. Folk, country, R&B it has elements of everything that is American. The music forms that were created here the plaintiff ballad or the uplifting song, they make you think of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and then people like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen carrying that torch. I think there is a common denominator in the storytelling and in the simplicity of the music that resonates with many people. If the recordings are done correctly and if the songs are engaging and the melodies are strong, it’s timeless music. You look at country music: great country music is timeless, you look at folk music: great folk music is timeless, you look at the great singer-songwriters of the world, their classic songs are timeless. Americana music is a very simple plaintiff music that resonates with a lot of different people. It just creates a very evergreen vibe when you’re playing and recording it.
CFM: On top of being a musician you are also very active in other ways in music as a writer, interviewer and general cultural curator. What do you look for when you create content about music? What is it that particularly draws you in?
DW: I look for authenticity in music it doesn’t matter if I’m writing about it, if I’m interviewing someone, curating an event or looking for inspiration from other sources. I look for a unique voice that’s authentic and that draws me in. I think that resonates with people and I think it’s an ongoing conversation that lives well into the future. People love the authentic and it doesn’t matter the art form the more authentic, the more organic it is, the longer the shelf life. And being a conduit to the authentic, being a good listener, so when you do write music or you do paint or you do write, you’ve had your ear on the pulse of what your fellow man is discussing or sharing with each other.
CFM: What is CultureCatch.com?
DW: Culture Catch is a place where I can curate content in all areas of the arts: film, music, theater, television, literature, and share it with the world. I launched it back in ’05, I was able to leverage a lot of my contacts from the entertainment industry into tremendous audio and video podcasts as well as a staff of writers, who could write reviews about all areas of the arts. It continues to this day, it’s a labor of love. One of the great disservices to podcasting was the inability to leverage that into a money making thing but regardless, it is a great vehicle for me to curate artists that I’m really drawn to: filmmakers, authors, musicians, artists. At Culture Catch we used to say smart people looking for smart culture. It’s New York centric only because I’m here but it’s a global look at things and a way to share things that interest me that I think will resonate with other people.
CFM: What is The Acoustic Guitar Project? How are you involved?
DW: Imagine five musicians to having to use the same acoustic guitar to write a song in one week by themselves and record it on tiny little digital recorder: No frills, no additions. Then taking that acoustic guitar and recorder and passing it to their neighbor to do the same thing. Each acoustic guitar project is curated in various cities all over the world, curated by one guitarist, or a person who doesn’t necessarily have to be a guitarist or a songwriter, to oversee the exercise. I was brought in by the guy that created the concept, Dave Adams. This has been going on for about four or five years now and if you go to the website: TheAcousticGuitarProject.com, you will see hundreds and hundreds of musicians from all over the world who have given themselves to the project. It’s a really fantastic way to force yourself into a recording mode. Maybe you are stale or stagnant or maybe you just want the challenge of writing and recording a song in one week, very stripped down and then sharing that with fellow musicians and the world.
CFM: What would you like to say to a young person who is considering taking up an instrument or pursuing a career in music?
DW: Don’t quit your day job. Sadly, Napster and some of these other free music services have eliminated the revenue stream for a lot of these musicians. So we have devalued music to almost a point of no return. It’s very sad and I find it insane that people will pay $4 or $5 dollars for a cup of coffee everyday but see no value in paying for music. Those same $4 or $5 dollars a day could buy albums and keep a musician alive. Musicians need to profit from their work, music shouldn’t be given away. They say it’s promotional among other things and that’s crazy. Artist don’t give their paintings away, teachers don’t work for free, why should a musician work for free? If you’re just starting out, I think you can tie in all my other answers. Be authentic, find your unique voice, don’t try to sound like anyone else, find the voice within you or try to be a conduit for a voice that exist maybe outside of your own realm of dimension, sound, or vision. In other words, try to get outside of your comfort zone I think that is where the greatest art is created and offer a unique perspective on the world around you. Doesn’t matter what kind of genre you are interested in, just be authentic and organic. Don’t get caught up with all the toys, sometimes an acoustic guitar and a voice can convey the most pain, pleasure, insanity, depression, joy, tears, laughter, etc. Sometimes the simplest message resonates the deepest, just be true to yourself.