Catching Up With Dexter Myers
If you were to think of the qualities of a successful entrepreneur, I’ll bet I can guess a few of the things that would make your list. Such a person would need to be creative, flexible, forward-thinking, resourceful and driven by a standard of excellence. Now, if you were to think of the qualities of a successful artist, would you say he or she would need to understand all facets of the music industry, from the recording process to marketing, promotion and distribution? I sure would. So, what happens when you combine the traits of a successful entrepreneur with those of a successful artist? You get Dexter Myers – singer, songwriter, producer and founder of the lifestyle marketing company IndieSoul.com. Dexter has released 5 albums and has even launched a very unique cookie brand, Dexter Myers Cookies, which he uses to help market his music by offering listeners what he refers to as “Soul Cookies”. I was excited about the opportunity to chat with Dexter about his music and accomplishments and since we had so much to talk about, I’m going to share the conversation with you in two parts. First up is our chat about his early musical years, his company and his journey as an independent artist.
Mimi Soul: How did you get your start with music?
Dexter: Well, I actually took jazz and classical piano as a kid and that was my first introduction to music. It’s a funny story because we had a piano in the house that my dad bought for my sister. She played it for a week and then she discovered boys and she never played it again. (laughing) So, every day I would run down the stairs and just bang on the piano from beginning to end. One day, my dad just got so tired of that and he was like “Son, you come down here every day and you race through and beat that piano up. Why not just learn how to play it?” I enrolled in lessons and that was it. I grew up in a house with soul. My parents listened to soul, gospel and jazz and there was always music around.
Once I started the piano lessons, I loved it and I did recitals every year. That’s where I first got bitten by the music bug. The thing is, when you start to play those songs that you’ve heard on the radio growing up, it’s like “Wow, I’m playing it. I heard it on the radio but I’m buying the sheet music. And, if it doesn’t have sheet music, I’m playing it by ear. But, I’m playing it.”
That’s where it all started and once again I gotta give my dad the credit because I got really good at the recitals and one day he said, “Son, good job. You’ve been playing jazz and classical for all these years. Now what? Are you gonna write your own songs?” I started writing my own songs and they sucked. They were “Please please baby I love you, please blah blah blah”. They were awful. It took years of playing with more experienced artists in the neighborhood who taught me how to write and how to use those classical and jazz music influences. I sucked for quite a while. Then I got better and the writing got better. Eventually, I got pretty good at it.
Music is the soundtrack of our lives. I know you’ve heard that a million times but it’s so important. I can associate every experience I’ve ever had with a song because that’s what music means to me. In good times or bad times, music is always around. So, that was my first introduction to music.
Mimi Soul: In addition to your upbringing and playing piano, what would you say are some of your other musical influences?
Dexter: Oh man, that’s easy. There are so many. Stevie, Donny and Roberta Flack because they make beautiful songs. When an artist has vulnerability in a song, that is just the most amazing thing. An example is when I heard Stevie Wonder sing Lately. It’s like honesty in the music and those guys are the best at it. And Roberta Flack in her clear, perfect-pitch delivery of The First Time Ever I saw Your Face. These are the songs that made me say “I wanna write pretty soul music.” I’m also very into melodies. I like Sade and of course divas like Chaka and Patti who pen a song with such force; you know, divas that can use their voice as an instrument. And, Minnie Ripperton’s Greatest Hits has been on repeat right on my iPod. I love melodies and that definitely comes through when you hear my music.
Mimi Soul: How would you describe your journey as an independent artist?
Dexter: Wow, that’s such a great question. My journey has felt like a road less traveled but in a good way. My journey in indie soul has been a long and winding road. The thing about being indie is it’s all about being flexible and being able to change. So many times I’ve had to be nimble with the many trends and changes in the industry. It has been a really great adventure with ups and downs. But, I think the road is a very good analogy because there’s always gonna be bumps in it and you gotta keep your eyes on the road and look for the exits or the opportunities that are gonna come your way. There’s no chauffeur. You’re not on a bus. As an indie, I’ve been driving my own car with the top down and stopping along the way and saying “Wow, this is cool. I wanna experience this.”
A good example of that is the internet. When I first started back in 1998, everyone kept talking about this new millennium way of thinking and how the music industry was going to change drastically. Everyone was talking about the internet’s influence so I educated myself on it. I got a website and decided to sell my music online on my own. It was those first sales from my website from strangers all over the world that made me say “You know what, now this is real.” I never looked back and that has been my journey for the last 11 years.
One of the most amazing parts of my journey has been stepping into each role that an indie must perform in order to be successful. At the end of the day you’re the product. You’re the creative output. You’re the singer, songwriter and producer but you’re also the publicist, manager, manufacturer, shipping and production. You take it all. If you say you wanna be in this business, you can’t frown when you’re wearing all these different hats. I’ve always had a great team around me but I always wanna know what’s going on and I always wanna be hands on.
Mimi Soul: I guess having to wear so many hats and be hands-on in every aspect has to be a labor of love, right?
Dexter: Yeah, I think my background has a lot to do with it. I’m almost as passionate about marketing as I am about music. And I’m my best salesperson. No one can sell Dexter Myers better than Dexter Myers. People are gonna say that if you wear too many hats, you run the risk of doing too much. But you have to know when to pass off. I’m fine with passing things off to my team or hiring a professional. But, you need to be able to do things just in case you can’t find someone or can’t afford to have someone else do it for you.
Mimi Soul: Could you tell us a little about your label? Are you looking to expand it?
Dexter: I get that question alot. The easy answer is when I find an artist that is as equally talented as they are a hard worker, I will sign them up immediately. And by that I mean I need them to match my energy. There are alot of artists that I’ve thought about working with over the years and alot of them still have the old label mentality of “I’m signed to indiesoul.com records so I’ll have Dexter and his team do all the work and I’ll just sit back and be the artist and show up when I need to.” It’s not that kind of label. We’re 50-50 partners. We’re in it together. So, I’m open to it and the moment I find an artist that is an equal fit with work ethic and talent, I’ll definitely consider it.
It’s interesting because my label is moving in a new exciting direction. Once again, it’s taking advantage of the situation that the music industry finds itself in now. We’re gonna be moving into more live music. You may have noticed the trend of artists like Madonna and Jay-Z signing with Live Nation. There’s a new label model that’s really based on live performances, merchandising and marketing. So, that’s the direction that I’m currently going with indiesoul.com. We don’t even call it a label anymore. It’s like a lifestyle marketing company.
As you can see, Dexter really knows what it takes to excel in both music and business! Check back soon to read more about his new album, Soul Divo – The Collection, his future plans and his cookie brand.