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Sunday, April 5, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Dion Roy, Emerging Indie Musician

Dion Roy is an emerging artist on the indie music scene, fusing his electroacoustic roots with his knack for writing an unforgettable hook.

Born in Namibia, raised in South Africa, later raised in New Jersey and now a true New Yorker at heart, Dion has lived and breathed the downtown Lower East Side music landscape for the past 9 years. Playing as a bassist in several bands over the years, Dion has graced the stage at all of the usual NYC suspects, including The Bitter End, the late Luna Lounge, Pianos and Kenny’s Castaways, and opened for high-profile acts like The Donnas, Bleu, and Ben Kweller, while touring throughout the North-Eastern College circuit.

After years of flowing from one creative project to the next and keeping his collaborations and personal productions low key, this introspective and enigmatic musician has moved on from group bassist and fellow songwriter, to solo vocalist and front man, gearing up for his debut release — scheduled for January, 2009.

Today, Dion’s original music is a surprising combination of catchy pop hooks with brooding, raw emotionality. His songs draw upon personal experiences but speak to a greater audience about conflicting perspectives and desires. What distinguishes this young artist from others is his genuine lack of pretense and his guarded nature. He almost never reveals the backstories to his songs, encouraging his fans to find their own connection to the words.

Dion Roy’s blend of genres has drawn comparisons to other singer/songwriters like Ryan Adams, Pete Yorn, and Damien Rice, and electronic bands such as Keane, Postal Service, and Snow Patrol.

In his other life, Dion owns and manages a Manhattan-based PR firm with a specialization in music, and uses this day-to-day knowledge as fuel in the belief that with social media and the digital revolution of music, anyone with a passion and a unique talent now has the opportunity to share their music and succeed in this ever-changing industry. Peachy Deegan interviewed Dion Roy for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: When did you realize music could be a career rather than an interest?
Dion Roy: I have been interested in music as a hobby ever since I was a kid, and started playing bass when I was 16. Somewhere along the way, it became necessary to get a “real job” and that is precisely what I did. When I was 25, I realized that I couldn’t work at an investment bank and be happy at the same time. These two things were mutually exclusive for me. It was then that I realized that music was the one true thing that made me feel happy and fulfilled in my life. Soon after, I took the step from playing and writing bass parts for other bands, to writing and creating my own music as a solo artist, and here we are today. I’m getting ready to release my debut solo album in May of 2009.

How would you compare the music world of South Africa to Manhattan?
They tend to like harder rock a bit more than they do the softer stuff. I guess it’s because of the environment that you are in. My little cousin is in a hard-core band, I guess it’s not so far off as when I was 17 to 18, I was playing in a hard core band as well called "Area 51." I left South Africa at 10-years old, and although I still have family there, it’s hard for me to compare what’s currently going on in the music scene. When I first arrived here, everything felt like the American Dream. After enough time in Manhattan though, you find pockets of all different styles of music—there is no such thing as a pigeon hole in New York, and that is what I love.

How does working in PR compare to being a musician?
It’s actually not that bad, I get to be creative on both fronts and that is what’s most important to me. It also helps that my day job is connected to my lifestyle a bit more than that of a regular clock-in clock-out based lifestyle. I’m a 100% night owl, and that works in the PR industry. It’s fulfilling that my knowledge of PR gives me a leg up when it comes to marketing myself as an independent musician. Both skills go nicely hand in hand.

What future direction do you see your careers going in?
I’m hoping that a few of the placements I got for the album in advance to its release pan out to be as big as they sound, so that I can work a bit more on scoring, and ultimately production. While I love writing music, and performing, I am very interested in sound development for TV, Film, and Commercial, and I’ve recently done a few jingles as well. I love collaborating with people and would love an opportunity to work alongside some of my favorite musicians. Whether I’m writing for myself, or writing for a client, it would be an amazing thing to make a living as a musician—and occupation which is increasingly unrealistic, and increasingly appealing to me, all at the same time!

What is your favorite place to be in NYC?
I love Rodeo. Rodeo is a Tex-Mex style bar on 27th & 3rd, where you can throw peanut shells on the ground and listen to a honky-tonk band all in one setting. Its laid back, and there are definitely no "media" people that i can embarrass myself in front of. When I do find time to go there, I am officially off the clock.

What is your favorite shop?
Rivington Guitars in the Lower East Side (Rivington between Essex and Norfolk) is the best guitar shop in the City. Other than that, I’m more of a dive bar scence, kind of guy. Does a bar count!?

What is your favorite drink?
Jameson on the rocks, hands down. Maybe I just want to be Irish because they are usually so cool. Think Glen Hansard, Snow Patrol, and the Lucky Charms guy?

What is your favorite restaurant?
Freeman’s (on Freemans Alley in the Lower East Side hidden off of Rivington between The Bowery & Chrystie). The regular folk don’t know this place exists because it is very much off the beaten path. And wow, the Filet Mignon, Caramelized Onion, and Mashed Potatoes signature dish.... Oy Vey.

What is your favorite NYC book?
I really love Time Out New York on a regular basis, it’s a great find for what’s up in the City. As far as books go, most of the authors I like are NoCal people. Maybe I’m just envious of their laid back style…

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
Order Indian Food at 2AM. Order Thai food at 10AM. I’m pretty much here for the food. Whenever I travel, I love it, but I can’t wait to get home and eat the best of all cultures, all in a 10 block radius of my apartment.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Clubs are over-rated. Most are obnoxious and pretentious, for no good reason. Basically, I don’t like anything that “seems” cool. You will never find true New Yorkers at the clubs on a night where there is a $20 cover, unless they were paid to be there! As for underrated, the music scene is often griped about, but the truth is that if you know where to look - there are a ton of gems, luckily I’ve been exposed to some of them on my travels.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
That I might not remember your name and please do not take it personally, but I’m probably one of the nicest guys you’ll know. Warm, genuine people are most important to me, and although I hustle and work a lot, I take care of the people in my circle to the best of my ability, and as long as you’re on my team, you can be sure that I am on yours. Another fact that people don’t always realize about me is that I’m a total geek: I’m a MAC geek and a techie geek. When it comes to the latest phone or the latest app, you can be sure that I have a strong opinion about it.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Good ‘ol gmail is,, with something hilarious in the subject line. e.g. L is for Elephant. You can also catch me over at which will direct you to all my various social networking pages.

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