Dutch - "The emotional aspects of the human experience in music have always resonated with me, so typically my songs start with a feeling." - Stereo Stickman

Dutch “The emotional aspects of the human experience in music have always resonated with me, so typically my songs start with a feeling.”

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Following the release of his album Learning How To Lie, we caught an in-depth interview with artist and songwriter Dutch to find out more about what inspires and motivates him to make music of this nature. We talk everything from live performance to vulnerability and his hopes for the future. Here’s the conversation in full. 

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Hey – thank you for the interview, and congratulations on the album. For those who don’t know – how would you describe your sound and your approach to making music?

Thanks! I’ve been making music my entire life in one form or another. Originally, I was extremely into guitar and playing technical death metal / post hardcore music. When I lived in Boston & NYC, I was working on producing and DJing underground house and techno music. I started a record label called Green Village with a couple friends and we were focusing on releasing proper techno music on 12” vinyl (a rarity in the US these days). While we were putting out some incredible music, I felt like something was missing for me personally and I had nothing more to give to this genre (from an artist perspective). I’ve always been into hip hop and acoustic song writing, and shortly after I moved to Houston, TX I decided to start making music on my own that was completely true to myself.

The emotional aspects of the human experience in music have always resonated with me personally, so typically my songs will start with a feeling. From there, I usually start crafting a beat that fits my mood and I sort of do the first take of my lyrics on the spot to try and capture that feeling completely. I’ve always loved harmony vocals, so this usually comes next. If I had to choose one word to describe my sound, it would be “honest”.

What does the title Learning How To Lie encapsulate for you?

I made my first EP (Single Player Game) alone in my bedroom after I lost someone extremely close to me. I think this album purely dealt with feelings of isolation, loneliness, and helplessness. Learning How to Lie, for me, is an emotional concept. As we move into different phases of our life and we seem to be overcoming these difficult feelings or seem to be happy, are we really changing underneath (or are we Learning How to Lie)?. While this record still has some sad moments, I think there is a lot more hope than on Single Player Game. I am challenging the listener to create their own perspective on what the songs really mean and look beyond the face value of the lyrics.

Where did your musical journey begin, and how has your approach evolved or changed over time?

I grew up in London, Scotland, and Singapore. My parents got me into classical piano, and I begged for a drum set when I was 12. My parents said it would be too loud, and got me an electric guitar instead (I am not sure they knew how loud a Marshall full stack actually sounds). I’m an only child and I changed friends / schools every year or two, so music became an outlet for me in times of isolation. The music that I was listening to abroad was really on both ends of the emotional spectrum I was feeling at the time – from super angry (All Shall Perish, The Black Dahlia Murder, Despised Icon) to really sappy and emotional (Bright Eyes, Straylight Run, Brand New). My dad force-fed me rebel country growing up so I always had songwriting in the back of my head whether I liked it or not.

After I went to college in Boston, I started listening to different music entirely and got really into all Hip Hop and electronic music – particularly the original dubstep music popular in the UK and underground house & techno (before the EDM thing in the US completely ruined this type of music for me). I think the over commercialization of electronic music was one of the many turning points for me to turn back to the underground and to really draw from all the music that was important to me to create something more true to myself (instead of trying to fit into a box that might get me exposure). I have a job that allows me to support myself, so music for me now is really about passion, honesty, and catharsis.

How important is live performance to you as an artist?

I’ve always been a performer, but at the moment I haven’t even tried to get Dutch gigs (aside from some open mics to practice). I think for the last 6 months or so I have just been focused on creating music and building a catalogue. However, I just got all the fully mastered backing tracks for both of my releases, and I am ready to start reaching out to people to get back into performance. I’ve always been terrible at self-promotion, but it is a necessary evil if you want to get gigs. Eventually, I would also like to work in playing guitar and having a live drummer for my gigs.

Which song on this new album would you recommend to listeners who only have time for one – and why?

This is a really tough question for me because I feel every track on the record is very different. I would probably go with track 2, 661. I used to make all the beats myself, but for this release I started reaching out to other artists to work with. Foxwedding is one of my favourite producers in the game right now and I love the beat. The lyrics blur the line between depressing and hopeful and the message is open to interpretation (a good representation of who I am as an artist).

Do you ever second guess yourself when writing so openly about personal experiences and difficulties?

Initially, Yes. My first record was largely about one person in particular, and I was really laying it all out there for everyone to hear (including that person, my friends, my family). I used to be afraid that what I was trying to say was too much. I think it was other popular artists at the time that were releasing the type of music I was making in my bedroom (Lil Peep, Brennan Savage, Zubin, Wicca Phase, Corbin) that inspired me to put something out there and to not really care about how it might make me look. For the artists I mentioned, their music helped me immensely during difficult times. If I could connect with even one person who might relate to my lyrics or help them feel better during a really difficult time, I’ve done my job as an artist.

What’s next for you – what’s the bigger picture?

I am working on a concept for a music video for an upcoming unreleased single, also produced by Foxwedding, with my step brother (an insanely talented director based in LA/Toronto). Other than that, I just want to keep creating content and make the jump into performance. I got the opportunity to work with some artists I love on this record, and I would really like to do more collaborations instead of working entirely on my own.

Is there anything else we should know?

Not really, but I just want to encourage anyone making music in isolation to use the internet and put it out there. As I said above, if you have the chance to connect with even one person you could make an impact on someone. Stay open minded & humble, and see what happens!

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Stream the album on Spotify. Find & follow Dutch on Twitter & Instagram.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Musician & writer with an MA in Songwriting.