Dustin McKamie - 10 Questions Music Interview
Originating from the midwest, Dustin McKamie is an American singer/songwriter who has made a living as an artist in the Los Angeles area. Most notably, Dustin's visual effects artistry can be seen on hit TV shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones, Westworld, and AMC’s The Walking Dead (to name a few). When he’s not busy making dragons fly and killing zombies, he is writing and recording music. After spearheading different bands, playing over 100 live shows, and touring the country, Dustin is no stranger to the music scene. Just recently he was acknowledged as a winning finalist for the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. In 2011 he was a winning finalist for a contest put on through Universal Pictures to be placed on the Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World blu-ray. His song was hand-picked by director Edgar Wright and voted to win by the public. Dustin released his first single, "CREATURE!" on Oct. 30th 2020 which has already received rave reviews. With a new EP on the way, Dustin's songs have emotionally charged lyrics that cut through an atmosphere of 80's inspired electronic beats and synth-wavy sounds. Bedroom Indie rock pop at it's finest with influences of The Postal Service, Bleachers, and The Smiths.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I had a knee injury in high school that left me bed ridden for a few weeks. I picked up the guitar and started writing songs. They were really bad but very emotional. I wrote them between sessions of playing the Legend of Zelda on NES (this was way AFTER the release of this game. I'm not that old I promise!) I wasn't able to save the game for some reason so between failied attempts I wrote songs on an old guitar we had laying around. Anyways, I got the courage to play some of these songs for a few trusted friends and they didn't laugh at me. It was very kind of them. I ended up beating Zelda on one run through without saving though. Let that go on record.
Then, in college, I was going to a lot of indie rock shows. I followed bands like Thursday, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Saves the Day, etc. I was captivated by the lyrics and the cult following that was present. It was energy like I've never seen or felt before.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career? Nothing too crazy. Honestly, I can't really think of anything. I did an East Coast tour years ago which included sleeping in the van and eating a lot of sandwiches by the side of the road, but all the stories kind of blend together at this point. I remember losing a $300 pair of eyeglasses while hanging out the van window. I was belting the lyrics to Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on a turnpike. I'll never get too crazy on a turnpike again. Hard to go back and look for things, especially at night. Basically, I'M THE TAMEST MUSICIAN YOU'VE EVER HEARD OF. No crazy stories...yet.
What has been the high point of your music path? Probably this latest release. I've never had this great of a response to a song before. It makes me happy that people dig it and are listening to it, even when I don't ask them to! I had such a fun time making this song. It's so easy for me to get lost in synth sounds, and to let my imagination just run wild. Before I know it, I've gone the whole day without eating. But don't worry, I eat plenty. Especially when it comes to mexican food. Anyways, I really feel like I'm progressing and it's just nice to see other people responding.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like? Songwriting comes pretty naturally at this point. I just start with the music and then slowly mold lyrics to match. It's different writing on synthesizers opposed to the guitar though. With a guitar, I can write a lot faster and it all kind of comes at once. With a synth, I have to lay down the groundwork in sections (verse, chorus, etc.) and then I sprinkle lyrics on top after. Sometimes this causes me to go back and adjust the instrumentals.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be? Getting your music heard and produced at a level that matches industry standard (radio, etc.). If I could change one thing, I'd make professionally produced tracks accessible to EVERYONE! Kind of like free healthcare! And let the best song/performance win. Someone can be a great songwriter and you may never know because they don't have access to good equipment or a producer. That's sad to me.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why? It would probably be Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service. I've listened to his music more times than I'd like to admit. I remember seeing The Postal Service at a 10 year reunion tour in Kansas City. It was so nostalgic. Not only did everyone know every word, but every sound as well. When the first synth sound hit for The District Sleeps Alone Tonight...everyone went wild. Myself included! It was a unique experience.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show? Rehearsals are generally trying to figure out how to play the song live and experimenting with different looping parts. Right now, it's just my friend Devin Mcgee (a super talented actor and drummer) and I. We did an Instagram live show recently for the John Lennon Tour Bus, which was fun, but lots of moving parts. I'll say it's fun once it's figured out but can be a bit frustrating in the process. I plan on pulling in more musicians to help lighten the load, if the right opportunity comes along to play out some more.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it! Probably this next one I have coming out in December. I'll save the title for an announcement, but there's a lot of technical things going on. Also, I had a the song all worked out and decided to let my wife have a listen. She was like, "I like everything but the bridge, it just doesn't fit really well (She's brutally honest when it comes to my music. Thanks...I guess?? Haha)." It challenged me to go back and try something new. And you know what, she was right. The one I have in there now is much more fitting!
What's coming up in the future? I have an EP in the works. Its has some of the same electronic, synth-wavy parts to it. 4-5 songs I hope to release in the near future. I may just release a single at a time followed by a full EP. We'll see!