Artist Select (May 2021) Presents: Dylan Rockoff, Nashville Based Pop Singer/Songwriter
Finding an artist with a personality that matches their level of talent is hard to come by, but 26-year-old emerging pop artist Dylan Rockoff is the hay we’ve been searching for in the overflowing needle stack. Coming from Williamsport, Pennsylvania but now living in Nashville, Tennessee, Dylan is finally in the place he truly belongs.
I had the opportunity to chat with this singer/songwriter about his extensive musical background, achievements, and knowledge that has taken him so far. As an independent musician Dylan has reached a level of success that rarely any unsigned artists reach. With a mix of undeniable talent, an impossible-not-to-like personality, strategic moves, and a talented team behind him, Dylan is set to have his best year yet.
For an independent artist, Dylan has seen an incredible amount of support from some of the industry’s top companies. He has been supported by radio stations like The Pulse and Kiss FM, placed on Spotify editorial playlists, and sync’d on HBO’s ‘Generation.’ He’s also frequented the charts previously placing at #2 for pop artists on iTunes. With over 20 million streams to date and an extensive discography, Dylan Rockoff has created a foundation that can only keep getting stronger.
Before Covid-19 changed everyone’s plans, Dylan was set to open for Travie McCoy on his ‘Billion Dollar Tour,’ but has now spent the past year focusing on writing and creating new music. But after opening for Bon Jovi at Madison Square Garden in 2017, I’m sure Dylan is still riding that high enough to hold him over for what comes next in live music.
“Bon Jovi is like my mom’s favorite artist ever. Things really came full circle for me and for her in that moment. It was really awesome to play Madison Square Garden because that’s such a legendary venue.”
You can view the whole video interview here or catch some of the highlights below!
Tell us a little about yourself and your musical background.
“I come from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. That’s where I was born and raised. A little bit smaller of a town in the middle of the state. Growing up I was super into sports before I got into music. Then all my siblings took piano lessons and my mom was always singing around the house. My older brother was a big musician, a piano player. So it was always around. I took piano lessons as a kid and I really liked it but it was very traditional, out of the book type of training. But it was a great foundation for music. It wasn’t until 6th grade that I picked up the guitar for the first time.
It was something about that, that I just really latched onto and really loved. So my parents realized that I was taking interest in it. I would come home and I would play whatever I learned in class that day on the guitar like a hundred times. I think they got sick of hearing the same song over and over. And they’re like, there’s a lot more songs than like ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Iron Man’.”
Dylan attended a school of music in his hometown called Downtown Music Collective. There he met a bunch of kids to form bands with and perform all around the state. After going to college he didn’t have any people to play with anymore so he started his solo project. He spent his early college years really experimenting and just having a good time discovering his sound. Shortly after, he met his manager in 2015 and has been growing the project together ever since and touring all around the Northeast.
With this diverse musical background, Dylan grabs inspiration from all different genres and eras of music.
“As far as my musical influences go- the school of music I went to when I was young was like very 70s, 80s, 90s, like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Motown and stuff like that. It wasn’t until I got to college that I really started listening to a lot of pop music. I got really into it. John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendez, stuff like that. Cause I felt like that was a good kind of template for what I wanted to do as a songwriter.”
Coming from a background full of classic music, Dylan’s original songwriting and sound seemed to resonate a little too much with the past. But he took that as a challenge when working to form the pop sound he’s so passionate about embodying. While it originally hindered his growth, Dylan found ways to incorporate these classic sounds into a more modern and pop approach. With artists like Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak as inspiration, Dylan’s recent project Crooked Records has found its way into this classic but modern alternative space.
How has your style changed from when you first started to now?
“As far as the evolution goes, I would say the R&B and hip-hop kind of aesthetic has definitely started to rear its head in my music. While still being rooted in that singer songwriter pop that I fell in love with pop music through.”
Though he’s crafted this alternative pop sound, Dylan’s singer songwriter roots still often shine through.
“I love singer songwriters. I always like to let there be moments where it’s just me and the guitar, because for me, that’s what music has always been to me. It’s great to be on stage playing with a band and it’s great to be in a room writing songs with other people, but at the end of the day I really want this song to be able to stand on its own with just a guitar and a voice. With just me being able to play it.”
Tell us a little about your most recent project Crooked Records and what kind of feedback you have been getting?
“A bunch of the songs had been released as singles leading up to the release of the EP. One of them being Magic. Just like I was saying with the R&B and hip-hop influences, that song plays to that a lot. That’s the song that has really been raising its hand, and a lot of people have really been loving it. Overall the feedback has been really great.
The EP has a lot of different flavors on it. It still has moments like ‘Problems’ which is a more stripped back singer songwriter kind of moment with Brie Kennedy. Then there’s ‘Magic’ with the summer dance vibes. We have ‘Highlight Reel’ where Maxwell does two verses on it and really kills it with the hip-hop elements. I think it’s a really cool collection of songs that are indicative of where I’m at musically at the moment. It’s cool that there’s a lot of different flavors and seeing the way that it all fits together at the end of the day.”
Is your next project going to have a similar sound or is it going to be even more experimental?
“It’s hard to say because I’m still writing it right now, but I definitely want there to be moments like Magic that are happier, dance-y, and more upbeat. I definitely want there to be moments like that. While still being able to have those moments that are a little bit more stripped back and it’s just bare bones, guitar, vocals, maybe a drum and a bass here and there, snaps or whatever it ends up being.
I’m always trying to push the envelope and I’m always trying to explore new territories with my music. Being an appreciator and a fan of music in the way that I am, I always love when artists kind of go a different direction or incorporate some new spicier flavors with every project they release and are always trying to push themselves forward.
For example, like Radiohead is one of my favorite bands all time. I love that they came out hot with ‘Pablo Honey.’ It was like early 90s and they were right on the grungy kind of rock thing. And then they took a total hard left turn and went super experimental and did like The Strokes kind of stuff.”
“I love bands that are not afraid to go there. And so I don’t ever want to be afraid to go there and try something new.”
When do you think we can expect this upcoming project?
“We’d like to have a single out in the summer, whether that means July, August, or September. But the whole project is probably going to be coming out 2022.”
Every artist has had to find new ways to stick out during the pandemic. What have been some successful moves that you’ve made virtually this past year?
“Virtually what we’ve done to push the project forward, well brand sponsorships have been big for us this year in the middle of the pandemic. You know to really substitute some of the stuff I was doing in the live space. We were reached out to by Truly, because they saw some of the videos that I’ve been making. They reached out wanting us to do a video for them so we did that. That was our first big brand sponsorship thing and we got great feedback.
We got playlist support from Nike on a remix of my song ‘Competition’ which was really cool. It streamed really well while it was on the playlist and got a lot of great feedback. And it pushed a lot of people to our socials. The brand sponsorship element was huge for us.”
Apart from brand sponsorships, Dylan has been virtually connecting with artists all over the country during this pandemic. Living in Nashville puts Dylan in the center of a tight knit music community full of singer/songwriters. The support and collaboration between artists in this community is something that really makes Nashville a special place. Though the pandemic stopped artists from collaborating in person, they took this opportunity to connect virtually. From there, Dylan has connected and collaborated with artists all over the country.
What advice do you have for independent musicians that are kind of looking to take the next step in their career by building a team around them?
“I think the most important thing and the most valuable thing to me and my career has been finding people that you really, really trust and really understand what it is that you’re doing and what it is that you want to do. But at the same time, being willing to push your own understanding and your own expectation about what the music industry is and challenge that. Find people that are going to challenge that and encourage you to try new things try new writing styles, or try new writing approaches and just trying to push the envelope and make you be better. Surrounding yourself with people who want to see you constantly improving and not being complacent with where you are and being satisfied with where you are.”
“I think it’s about surrounding yourself with people who you can trust , number one, but number two, who are going to challenge you to be better and continue growing and to take it to the next level.”
Dylan also explains the importance of writing as much as you can if you are trying to be a songwriter. He also throws us some tips for when writer’s block takes over.
“I feel like I’ve dealt with a good amount of writer’s block this past year. But the things that have always kept me pushing forward have been just giving yourself space. If you feel like you don’t have a lot to say or you feel like you’re not feeling super inspired, be willing to give yourself the time and the space to let it come back to you. Don’t try so hard to chase it, let it come to you. I think that’s really easy advice to give but hard to take and actually incorporate. It’s been very helpful to me also reading. We’re very inspired by the things that we read and we’re naturally going to incorporate things that we read into the stuff that we write.”
Though Dylan tends to read historical non-fiction, totally unrelated to pop music, he finds that any type of reading allows your mind to create a world based off of what you’re reading which naturally leads to creativity.
You’re officially going to the radio with your song ‘Magic’ very soon and you’re going to be the only fully independent artists that’s going to Hot AC next month. How does it feel to be competing at such a high level as an independent artist?
“It’s very, very cool. It’s cool to be in that space and to have the opportunity to be up with those names who are the artists I really love and admire. It’s definitely an exciting, exciting space to be. But at the same time it is a little nerve wracking because you are in the big leagues and you’re competing against, whether it be Charlie Puth, blackbear or Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and all that stuff. I would be lying to say it’s not a little bit nerve wracking because I want people to like what it is I’m doing, but I also know that not everybody’s gonna love you. Not everybody loves Taylor Swift, not everybody loves Charlie. Everybody’s got their own flavors, you know?
But it is really cool to be in that same league and being in the same conversation with those people because the radio still drives a huge amount of listenership and it’s a big deal. I want to treat it as such.”
My last question for you is, if you could be reincarnated into any animal, which animal would it be?
“Oh, that’s a good question. You’re gonna have to give me 30 seconds to think about this. I want to give you a good answer.”
While Dylan had no troubles answering the rest of the questions, this one had him pondering. After asking me about the criteria of the question (certainly to kill some more time), Dylan finally decided:
“So my girlfriend and I adopted a yellow lab mix over quarantine about a year and a half ago. I think I would want to be reincarnated as her because I would like to see what it’s like to experience her life and everything that she experiences through her lens and how she perceives us, like our life together. Which is a really obvious, specific answer, but also just like I’ve always been a dog person.
My family has always had Samoyeds. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that breed of dog, but they’re like this white, fluffy kind of like Alaskan snow dog.
I’ve always loved dogs, but this particular dog that we adopted is just like so, so special to me and I love her so much. She’s kind of like my daughter. Just to see what it would be like to live life from a dog’s perspective, specifically her perspective, would be really interesting to me.”
With an answer like that, how could you not become a fan of Dylan Rockoff. Becoming a known artist takes much more than just talent, it also takes a personality that people will be drawn to and connect with. For this young singer/songwriter, he hits both nails on the head. Mixed with strategic promotion and branding, Dylan is headed in only one direction- up. And he’s not slowing down anytime soon.