2016 Blog: Grammys, Vegas, Et Al

First blog of 2016. 

Wow this is more than 365 days in the making! Talk about taking procrastination to an entirely new level!

I was trying to figure out what happened in 2015 that got me away from blogging. Then I realized Facebook and Twitter happened. It was easier to post 140 character (or thereabouts on FB) realtime updates and pictures on these social media platforms than to find a quiet place while having a shot or two of espresso and just being alone with my thoughts and writing about them.

I guess that’s what I miss the most this past year – being alone with my thoughts in an age of virtual connectivity to almost everything that’s happening around us. I miss the silence in my head, and allowing the universe to dictate where it can, or should go.

Suffice to say that’s how most, if not all, of the songs on the album STRONGER THAN BEFORE (STB) came about. And it’s no wonder a followup to it has been stalled from quite some time now.

But I feel a personal renaissance is brewing on the horizon. And maybe one way to concretize that foreboding is through a simple blog.

The journey STB has taken since its release in November 2013 has truly been a fulfilling one, especially from the perspective of a songwriter. Despite the fact that there was no coordinated effort resembling anything close to a professional marketing and publicity plan for the album, STB has garnered multiple nominations and awards for many of the songs therein, including the title track Stronger Than BeforeThe Me I Found In You, I’ve Been Searching, and Shine On.

Attending our first GRAMMY event in January 2014 was the impetus to Stronger Than Before being part of the first round balloting in the Vocal R&B Performance category for the 57th GRAMMY Awards. We tried as hard as we could to push the song to as many voting NARAS members. At the time it felt like we put in a tremendous amount of effort in having our song heard. On hindsight, that “effort” barely scratched the surface in the world of NARAS membership.

That deer in the headlight look? That was me in every networking event our team managed to attend back in 2014. Socially inept, I found it difficult approaching people to tell them about our album, or to simply say hello. The irony was I avoided doing the very thing these events were meant for – to network, to build relationships, and to share my music. The CDs and the business cards were always neatly tucked away in my backpack – untouched and never having seen the light of day.

Yup – I definitely have issues.

But despite my innate social dysfunctions, I could feel a sense of genuine camaraderie from the other side of the wall I had unwittingly built around myself. It was definitely calling out, with persistent echoes that seemed to plead “lower your defenses, dare to step out of your comfort zone, and put your trust in a spirit that’s genuine inside you, and in your music.” 

One thing of note too was the fact that outside of the CD release party back in November 2013, we never actively performed STB, nor any of my previous originals, to a live audience. I don’t really know why that was the case. For some reason, live performance opportunities were focused on the cover band I belonged to – the Brown Oasis. After our first taste of participating in a GRAMMY campaign during the latter part of 2014, most of 2015 was spent pushing and establishing the Brown Oasis brand – finding gigs and learning to play keyboards while also serving as one of 3 lead vocalists for the band.

It was a personal challenge I felt I needed to take. I hate the feeling of being artistically stale, and I’m constantly looking for the next challenge in my music journey. And this actually led to my first gig as musical director for Kirby Asunto’s concert last November 2015. I definitely consider that a personal highlight thus far in my career.

But something inside me wondered – is this a fork on the road where I’m supposed to choose between playing and performing with a cover band, or is there more inside me that’s waiting to be shared as a songwriter and singer?

A choice between feeding a CHALLENGE or being INSPIRED?

On a whim, we decided to enter a cut from STB – the song I’VE BEEN SEARCHING – in the 58th GRAMMYs. Once again, I wish decisions like these were not acted upon on impulse, but more as a result of careful planning with a strategic intent.  (An important lesson for another day.)

But acting on that “whim” has led me to a door, where once opened, has put DSYMusic back on track on what we believe to be its manifest destiny – creating music and writing songs that we hope would make a difference in this world filled with limitless possibilities.

All it took was for someone else to BELIEVE in me. And someone did! (You know who are you!)

And that belief led to a partnership and mentorship that would result in a total shift in attitude – the realization that the voice inside my head as concretized in the lyrics of my songs DO MATTER; that the feelings and thoughts conveyed in those songs can resonate deeply with the listener; and that opening myself to a whole new universe of “indie” talents and their music can be one of the most rewarding and inspiring moments in my artistic life.

I was a “sheltered” artist, engulfed in my own world where I thought I needed to reside to be in touch with the source of creativity and inspiration that had fed my art. Little did I know that by daring to leave the cradle that has sustained me for so long, one can benefit tremendously and grow exponentially simply by pushing against one’s comfort zone and focusing outward to other people’s experiences, their thoughts and their art.

From that decision onwards, the GRAMMY experience this time around had become more fulfilling and rewarding. No longer was I attached to any particular outcome, but instead I was focused on the process – of sharing my work, and at the same time, listening to and enjoying the works of so many wonderful artists.

The different genres didn’t matter. I found myself fully immersed and engrossed in the artistry of everything that I had heard. From the words sung to the notes played, or the arrangement of how all these musical elements were put together to convey the author’s intent, the outcome was alway the same – MUSIC NIRVANA.

And in discovering “Nirvana”, I also stumbled across something that has been missing in my career as a performer of other people’s songs – PRIDE and excitement in sharing and performing MY songs.

That’s why there was something different with my last 2 gigs – in Vegas at the Truffles N Bacon Valentines and Anniversary show, and at David Longoria’s pre-GRAMMY artists showcase event at Molly Malone’s in LA – it was my originals that took centerstage. 

I don’t know how to explain it, except to refer to it as I did earlier in my blog – as a “personal renaissance”. A rebirth and a reconnection to something that is wholly ME – in words and in expression.  And it felt really good!

And this I owe to the NARAS community that has been so generous in sharing their art, and at the same time has been so accepting of me as a fellow artist and as part of the family.

I met a lot of my “heroes” in many of the pre-GRAMMY events leading up to the MAIN EVENT – wonderful artists who have astounded me not just with their artistry, talent, passion, and dedication, but more so with their humility and their generous hearts, and the vision that they have for their music.

And I consider myself extremely blessed to have experienced this at this stage in my career.  

In the end, the “main event” was the culmination of a 5-month journey and a celebration of friendships both new and old, and a celebration of music. It was a discovery that a community could exist consisting of kindred souls – passionate in their art, and generous in how they interact with those that they meet.

It also presented a road that’s yet to be traversed; to music yet to be written; to friendships yet to be formed; to inspired thought yet to be formed and shared.

And that to me is the exciting part – WHAT’S NEXT!

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On The Ballot! A GRAMMY Blog

iceberg

Most of the time the things that we aspire for and dream about are based solely on what is “the tip of the iceberg” – the summit, if you will, in all its amazing glory. What lays hidden, except to the select few who have managed to reach the apex or those who have experienced scaling the mountain before, is a plethora of navigational requirements and challenges one needs to traverse and be aware of just to be able to say one has experienced the journey.

Forget for a moment about reaching the summit – that is an entirely different ballgame altogether.

The iceberg or the mountain being referred to here is what is known to the music public as the GRAMMY Awards.

Despite all references to “dreams” and “aspirations”, I’ll be the first to admit that anything GRAMMY related is far beyond the realm of reasonable or realistic expectations from my end as I went about my musical pursuits. I did, however, endeavor to find out how one becomes a member of the Recording Academy. And when I was able to get my membership in 2011, I already considered that a highlight of my career – to be part of this prestigious organization of musical peers.

Every year thereafter, I stood on the sidelines during the awards season, a proud listening participant during the campaign and voting process as I exercised the privilege of having my vote counted towards determining who among the best of the best would receive a GRAMMY.

When we released the album STRONGER THAN BEFORE last November 9, 2013, we never even considered entering it into any of the award categories in this year’s competition. As we have always maintained, it was too much of a pipe dream, even though the album was starting to get a lot of traction with positive reviews, and nominations at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards and the American Songwriting Awards.

grammy picThen late in 2013, we found out that we’d be able to attend music’s biggest night in 2014 – the GRAMMY Awards night itself. It was another first for me, and little did I know, it also planted a little seed of plausibility. Do I dare submit my work and my creation for GRAMMY consideration amongst those of my musical peers and music legends?

The decision was thus made after attending GRAMMY night last January to throw our hat in the ring and see where this journey would take us.

Despite the tempered expectations, there was definitely excitement too at the prospect of participating in this process – of having to submit your work, studying carefully the eligibility guidelines for album releases, to choosing the right category for our lone entry, which is the title track of the album – STRONGER THAN BEFORE.

When submissions were opened in June of 2014, we finally dared ourselves to dream as we filled in the online submission forms, read instructions carefully, and sent in a physical copy of our album for GRAMMY consideration.

The initial reluctance stemmed from that inherent doubt that echos the question “Am I good enough?” or “Am I worthy enough?” – questions that I continue to struggle with throughout my career. With every step forward and intermediate goal achieved, the doubts get a bit diffused layer by layer, but I guess one cannot totally outrun its pervasive nature – just as you can’t totally eliminate that initial nervousness every time you step on stage and size up a new audience.  You just have to face it head on, always trying a little harder each time to be better at your craft.

That’s how you grow. And eventually you find yourself asking a different type of question – “Why not me?”

After 3 long months, we found ourselves staring at the officially accepted entry list released last October 15, with STRONGER THAN BEFORE officially on the ballot for the 57th GRAMMY Awards.  I can’t begin to tell you what a thrill that experience was for someone like me. And the realization that all I’ve done thus far was to get myself to the starting gate – giving myself the privilege and the opportunity to be part of this race.

It’s another chapter written to my ongoing musical journey, one that has defied the odds so far and surpassed all my personal expectations already.

As before….my music journey continues. Thanks so much for being a part of it!

ALWAYS IN MUSIC,

Dennis

DSYMusic 2014 First Quarter Update

2014 is off to a great start for DSYMusic!

Riding the momentum generated towards the end of 2013 with the release of our 3rd album STRONGER THAN BEFORE (STB) and the official CD launch at Toshi’s Living Room and Penthouse in NYC (click here to view photos), as well our attendance at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards in LA for the honor of having 2 songs from the album nominated at last year’s event, 2014 continued to roll along with the same pace and excitement that had us already dreaming about some much needed R&R as we close off the 1st quarter of the year.

STB’s radio campaign began right off the bat as we entered the new year, with a fun live interview last January 3 with the very cool Big Nel of Urban Soul Radio FM. I couldn’t think of a better audience to introduce our little old school / R&B tune STRONGER THAN BEFORE to,  than to the listeners of Urban Soul Radio. To date, we have garnered airplay at the following radio stations across the US:

CHOICE 107 in Columbia, SC

DOMINION GLOBAL RADIO in Houston, TX

KPTR-FM in Atlanta, GA

KTMR-FM TRUE MUSIC RADIO in Charlotte, NC

MAJIC 93.3 in Denver, CO

PURE SOUNDS RADIO in Chicago, IL

URBAN SOUL RADIO in Lakewood, CA

SKYHOOK RADIO

STB is also being heard around the world with fans joining in from places like Slovenia, Canada, Israel, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Venezuela, across Europe and Asia on Jango Radio.

DSYMusic at the GRAMMYs

Of course, one of the highlights of my career will always be the     opportunity to attend “music’s biggest night” – the GRAMMY Awards last January 26.

It was a night filled with inspiring memories – to be amongst the “best of the best” in the field of music, watching them strut their stuff in the grandest of stages, and witnessing the live performance of 2 of the remaining members of the legendary group The BeatlesSir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

It was an experience that fed the creative fire within me, to never stop learning and improving, and hopefully one day… 🙂

(Click here to view more pictures from THE GRAMMY EXPERIENCE)

DSYMusic at Truffles N Bacon CafeFebruary was quite an eventful month for us, as we were notified that another song from the STB album has been nominated at this year’s Hollywood Music In Media Awards – the song I’VE BEEN SEARCHING (Male Vocal Category).

It also brought us the opportunity for us to travel to Las Vegas to perform at the grand opening of Truffles N Bacon Cafe, a little piece of gourmet heaven in the heart of Vegas. We truly had a great time savoring the hospitality and gourmet offerings of owners Magnolia Magat & Chef Jackie Lim, as well as the 70 degree weather in the “desert”.

We rounded off the month of February with a live performance at Toshi’s Living Room & Penthouse last Feb. 22, with the always amazing The Kayumanggi Band, and a surprise jam session with Rockstar MiG Ayesa.

Catch a snippet of this impromptu jam session below.

Oh yeah – we also decided to enter the Apollo Theater Amateur Night Song Competition one night before the submission deadline! 

Armed with just a will and determination to come up with a song that we thought captured the spirit of the Apollo Amateur Night contest, we wrote the song HERE AT APOLLO.  With help from fellow singer/songwriter Chrysss Estipona in adding the drum tracks and other musical input in the arrangement, we managed to write, produce, record, and create our video entry within a span of 10 hours straight to make it to the submission deadline. And although we didn’t make it as finalists in this competition, we are proud of the effort that we put into our song entry, and we humbly share it with everyone here.

Well, that’s our little 2014 first quarter update.

Many more ideas and plans are in the pipeline, including a “concept album” of all original material, plus some live performances already booked for the year.  We look forward to the journey ahead and to whatever challenges and creative magic it ultimately holds.

Thanks always for joining me on this wonderful and amazing ride! Your support is what keeps us going as we traverse through this maze of totally uncharted opportunities and surprises.

Always In Music.

Dennis

Grammy’s Here I Come!

On this journey I’ve learned to temper my expectations with the realities of my circumstances without letting go of my dreams. I’ve come to accept certain doors might prove inaccessible because I regard my passion merely as a “serious hobby”. Yet I continue to knock, and the doors I’ve been able to open thus far have already been way beyond my humble expectations. But never did I believe that one day I would be given the opportunity to experience “music’s biggest night” in person.

Until today.

My journey continues.

#Grammys #ASongwritersDream #Grateful

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