D.L. Yancey II is a creative writer and nuclear engineer who uses artistic expression to advocate Diversity and Inclusion. After a short stint in professional football in 2008 he began a career in engineering and music. Over the course of his engineering career, he has been involved in research of galactic nuclear storms (NASA), decommissioning technologies (ORAU), and design of the first new nuclear reactor authorized to operate this century. Musically he has recorded with Grammy award-winning record producer Lex Lucazi, shared stages with award-winning artists such as Waterloo Revival and Wess Morgan, and he’s also a winner of T.I.’s Exposure Open Mic showcase.
“Life Is Love” is D.L.’s upcoming album. This debut album is classified as “jazzy soul music” which cultivates the mind of all ages. For D.L., “music is a ministry” and this album reflects how life is full of love if we take time to see it. “Life Is Love” will be released June of 2018.
What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
It’s difficult to place it in a category because of the different variety of songs I’ve recorded. I began this recording journey a long time ago as a hip-hop artist and in the present time, my interests are growing more toward a jazz sound. So currently my work falls somewhere in between those two spectrums. The music on the album has a heavy live jazzy R&B sound, and the lyrics are centered around the life and the gospel. This album, to me, fits in the R&B Gospel genre. But I would say that I’m definitely a soul artist.
Who are your major influences?
I grew up in a family of talented singers and no instruments. So I was accustomed to hearing acapella songs. I think that’s been the most impactful influence musically. I was exposed to quartet gospel groups, R&B groups like Boyz II Men, and Jazz Group Take 6 early on in life which sort of built my foundation. Once I began to explore music on my own, I started listening to hip-hop artist Nasir Jones. I was intrigued by his track selections and his candid ability to lyrically paint a visual. Reggae music is another heavy influence on me. I’m a huge Tarrus Riley fan. He has an amazing voice, vibrant persona, and I find his songs to have rooted meaning. I’m currently most inspired by musician Johnathan Butler. I believe he’s laid a blueprint on how to be progressive in R&B and Gospel. Plus, for me, he is the mental model of having the perfect blend of guitar and vocal skill.
Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
For me, it’s always been the sound inspiring the lyrics. Music by itself has a way of telling a story, so I would need to listen to the instrumental first before determining what direction to go in lyrically. If I’m creating everything from scratch, I usually hear a melody first along with a phrase that describes the mood I’m in when the melody comes. It starts with me humming or stringing that melody as a recording into my phone. I’ve got three devices filled with voice memos right now waiting to go through the process of being developed musically. Once it’s developed I’ll bounce it off the band (headed by music director Evron Stewart) and from there it’s fine-tuned and brought to life.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
We’re playing together all the time. We’re the musicians for our local church, and for a local college choir. So we rehearse on Thursday evenings each week and sometimes twice per week. Every rehearsal there is a set list we must cover and we work through all of the details of each song. However we definitely allow for spontaneity to happen during rehearsals, we usually begin and end with random jam sessions.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
I was just talking with Ev about this the other day. When I first began playing I took the saying “all you need is 3 chords and the truth” to heart. I literally was structuring songs around 3 chords and focusing mostly on finding creative melodies and catchy wordplay. Since we’ve been playing together, my ear has “opened up” and we’ve discovered new complexities to some of the songs I already wrote. We dig into music theory and variations of chord progressions. So now the music is just as creative as the wordplay.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
The biggest challenge as a band has been finding the right mixture of musicians and being able to come together collectively on a consistent basis. We’ve finally conquered that challenge and it was something that just organically kind of worked itself out. Some musicians de-committed, some moved on the other areas, and that opened up room for the right ones.
So is it those encountered that had you realize you were going to make music professionally?
I think I made up my mind a while back that I wanted to pursue music professionally. However, these encounters have definitely provided the experiences needed to re-affirm and polish the professionalism needed to continue the journey.
In Music: What do you wish you were told when you started out and that you think would help anyone who starts out?
In this “Do It Yourself” era we are currently in, it would’ve been great if someone had laid out a blueprint on HOW. But the reality is that each blueprint is tailored made to the individual/group. So I advise anyone who’s just beginning to seek counsel, get educated, set realistic goals, and seek help/accountability in achieving your goals.
What do you do when you don’t do music (creative or otherwise) and that you are passionate about?
I’m a science nerd and an Engineer by degree, so I’m constantly reading articles about ways to harness energy, new engineering technology, and project management principles. I’ve always been a conceptual writer at heart and a culture lover. So I love learning different cultures, and challenging philosophies, theories of the “world” around me. This leads to me creating my own aphorisms about life. So if I’m not creatively turning these thoughts into songs, I’m channeling my thoughts into conceptual poems and short stories. I’ve created hundreds of these aphorisms and I’m looking forward to releasing them in my first book titled “The Soundtrack Of a Nuclear Engineer”. Other than that, you’ll find me spending time with my Wife and children. Enjoying the simple moments of life.
Hear our interview with D.L. Yancy II
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