As a confident Midwestern woman specializing in off-the-beaten-path freestyle rap that combines funky observational storytelling, social commentary, a passion for classic rock and deep spirituality, I’m the poster girl for “a lovable niche indie artist.” Because my specialty is offbeat narrative rap poetry and clever rhymes and I am not a musician or producer, I owe my unexpected international success (4,000+ terrestrial, internet and satellite radio outlets) and series of Euro Indie Chart hits these past two years to collaboration with an incredible musician and producer. The fantastic, Hellmut Wolf, has been unleashed in all new ways for DGD.
I get into my “DawgGoneDavis” character and go to the Audio Cave in Kansas City, MO, not far from where I live, where engineer Scott Martinez records my raps. He then emails those files to Hellmut, the well-known veteran producer and multi-instrumentalist who lives and works in France. Interestingly, Hellmut and I have never met face-to-face, but we have a very intuitive collaborative relationship based on mutual respect for each other’s unique talents.
Hellmut absorbs what I’m trying to convey, then either starts on the track immediately, or works his saxophone and flute expertise with digital magic to create, slice/dice what I’ve sent him and rearrange my lines and rhymes for greater impact. Stylistically, sometimes we might converse to decide on a specific vibe, but sometimes I have a clear vision that I want it to sound like Motown, funk, rock (as on my Ronnie Van Zant tribute “Baby I Have Words”) or techno (my latest release, “Weight of The World.”) Ninety percent of the time I am intrigued and happy with what he produces. It’s great to work with someone so open and experienced in my range of styles. Hellmut and I, we are in constant communication with new ideas for each other.
Hellmut has really taught me the importance of vibing with the right person to create great tracks. We met online serendipitously when I was casually looking up music sites and producers. His profile caught my eye because I lived for two years in Germany. For fun, I had provided a Facebook video of me rapping that had gone viral, generating over a million views. He checked it out and, using the three distinct segments of the video, cut it up, created some powerhouse tracks and turned my raw material into what became our breakthrough #1 hit “Middle Age Woman – Hip Hop Style.” Another recent contributor to my rock & roll sound is French rock and acoustic guitarist Romain Duchein. He adds even more Cool to the School.
Here are some things I have learned on my journey that you may find helpful:
- To experience any kind of success, artists must know themselves well and believe in their unique creativity. It’s okay to be different. Some friends and family may not understand or support your endeavors, but it helps to focus on those who believe in your dreams, support your artistic expression, and can give you honest helpful feedback. In the early stages of my career, I took the confidence, encouragement and reassurance I had from those who believed in me and started writing and performing more. I go fishing with some young folks who are in their teens and twenties––and their feedback is priceless!
- Stop worrying about everything that’s holding you back and go for it!! If you have this awesome idea that you feel strongly about, you owe it to yourself and the world to share that cool message. You never know whose life you can change with your songs, raps, musicianship or general artistry. I have been rolling/gushing over “both sides” of the Main Stream for two years and people dig it, saying: “whoa, cool, awesome, and wow!”
- Don’t be concerned about having a life with two identities, especially if you are developing your music while working a normal day job. When I came out with “Middle Age Woman – Hip Hop Style,” it freaked some people out who thought of me as this so-called normal lady in the neighborhood and those who knew me in the corporate world of IT project management. But I believed in myself with Hellmut, and each success built on the previous one (big time).
- As I mentioned above, finding the right collaborators who can complement your talent set, execute your vision and help take your career to the next level is invaluable. I think I had an open/fun personality and unique storytelling skills, but without Scott recording my raps and Hellmut 100% creating viable commercial tracks out of them, I would still be at square one. You should feel free to give that collaborator full creative license to share his or her expertise. Each collaboration is a learning experience.
- Another must––learning how to network. Beyond just creating tracks, that includes finding the right publicist and radio promotions people. I am blessed to work with Tom Estey of Tom Estey Publicity & Promotion and Stephen Wrench of Musik and Film, Inc., who has helped me get on the radio all over the world. I met Stephen through Hellmut.
- Don’t be afraid to stand your ground even when those who you hire to help you give advice you’re not crazy about. Stephen has been amazing at distributing my songs, but he kept insisting I add karaoke to my repertoire. I know my strengths and limitations and I am not a singer! It’s best to stay in your lane and only take those chances that feel right for you.
- Keep in mind that developing an indie music career (and US one) is extremely expensive, but if you believe in what you’re doing, it’s worth the investment. I have had a lot of success in Europe, but far more is needed and required in the States. I know it will take continued effort to make the same gigantic splash here; I am confident in my ability to do that with the team––I’m not afraid to spend and work it––to do what it takes to achieve our goal. I have a very dogged personality and more folks will hear/see me soon!
Listen to DawgGoneDavis's music, including her newest release "Weight of the World," on Spotify.