Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dustin Douglas rocks with melody

Debut solo CD from gifted musician puts emphasis on songwriting

October 1, 2014 

Dustin Douglas has arrived.

Yes, the gifted guitarist and vocalist, who has been a fixture within the Northeastern Pennsylvania music scene for more than a decade, has already done plenty of fine work. But with the release of his new album, “Black Skies and Starlight,” he’s jumped leaps and bounds as an artist.

It is the best music he’s ever made.

Douglas, 28, is perhaps best known to local music fans by his full name, Dustin Drevitch. But for his first solo album, he’s opted to use his given middle moniker. For him, the move was simply a symbolic gesture as he enters the next phase of his musical career.

“It wasn’t like a Prince move, where I just came up with a crazy stage name,” he says with a chuckle. “I didn’t change my name. It is my middle name.”

The change should make no difference to his fans. And over the years, he’s made plenty of those. Douglas’s former band, Lemongelli, an explosive power trio, released three critically acclaimed albums, each of which received regional airplay. He’s also spent the past five years performing with The Badlees, who were perhaps the most respected band to ever come from Northeastern Pennsylvania and certainly one of the most successful. Just last year, his impressive guitar work helped anchor the band’s double-disc set, “Epiphones & Empty Rooms.” And though The Badlees went through some major personnel changes this year, Douglas remains a touring member of the group. As for Lemongelli, that group has disbanded, though Douglas said the split was cordial.

“That was circumstantial,” he says. “We were done supporting the last album, our bassist got married and had a kid, and then The Badlees thing happened. It wasn’t there any more with us three. Life was happening – whether it was family life or career life – and it just ran its course. I loved that band and I loved what we did, but it was just time for some new pastures.” 

With the release of his first solo album, Douglas says he’s uncertain about his future with The Badlees. Still, he says he’s enjoyed being a part of the band for the past five years – and band that first formed when he was only four years old and one that he had long admired.

“I was definitely a fan,” he says. “My grandfather won a guitar from a radio station that was signed by The Badlees, and I found it up in the attic while I was in The Badlees. That put a smile on my face. And I’ve got to give props. I am a product of the Northeast PA music scene. I take it all in. Breaking Benjamin and The Badlees … fortunately I’m friends with both of those groups and I’ve learned a lot.”

“Black Skies and Starlight” was recorded at Saturation Acres recording studio and was produced by his former Badlees bandmate Bret Alexander, who had also produced Lemongelli. Tracks include “Daydream,” “Another Day In Disarray” and “My Door.” It’s a fine collection of guitar-driven rock, and for this record, Douglas says he took a different approach to the songwriting.

“For me, with Lemongelli, the songs always started with the riff,” he says. “It was a very guitar-riffed oriented band. This time around - and I would have to say it was definitely due to the time I spent with The Badlees - it was songs first. It was all about the songs. The songs and the melodies came before anything else. That’s where it’s different.”

It’s pointed out to Douglas that the music is fashion free. That, he says, is not by design. It’s simply a reflection of who he is as an artist.

“I’m at a point in my life where I’m just going to be what I am,” he says. “I’m just going to write the songs that come out of me, and whatever they sound like, they’re going to sound like. And they just sound like rock and roll music. Tom Petty is my biggest influence, but there’s different kinds of rock and roll, and I just want to touch on all of them – whether it’s rhythm and blues, or whether it’s a little harder. I’m influenced by all of that stuff, therefore I’m going to write that kind of stuff.”

Douglas says inspiration for writing comes from all places. He says he has many influences, some of which might surprise people.

“I’m very influenced by the radio,” he says. “I’m a rock dude at heart, but man, if there’s a good pop tune on the radio, I love it. I’ll crank it up. It’s popular for a reason. There’s nothing wrong with a catchy tune. I’m influenced by everything I listen to. Everything. And lyrically, it’s my life. I write about what’s going on around me. It’s not all autobiographical, but it’s stuff I see. I’m not really writing abstract stuff. I’m writing stuff that I see, stuff that I live and stuff that I have lived.”

Douglas, with his band, The Electric Gentleman, will hold a CD release party on Saturday, October 4 at the River Street Jazz Café. They’ll also perform on Tuesday, October 7 at Breakers at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs as part of the “Music On The Menu Live Original Music Series.” That show will also be broadcast live on 105 The River. (104.9-FM in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.) Douglas says if there is one theme to the new record, it is his desire to take his music beyond Northeastern Pennsylvania and move on. And though he says he’s still not quite sure where he’s heading, he’s definitely ready to go.

“Wherever the wind takes me,” he says. “Even before this record was made, I was thinking ‘I don’t want anything to hold me back. I want to take off and go, and play this record for as many people as possible.’ I want to see the world. And there’s no better job in the world than to play music and travel. This is a fresh start. I feel like I’m in a different headspace. I’ve learned a lot. With The Badlees for five years, you learn things, you meet people, you see things. I can’t say I know what to do, or know what not to do. I just feel like my path is different and I have a better plan. I’m been working on this record for a while now. It’s been a process. And I’m really excited for people to hear it.”  

This story also appeared in the October 1, 2014 edition of The Weekender.

(Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs every Sunday from 9-10 p.m. on 105 The River.)


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