TheTRu chats with Dan Smith (a.k.a. The Listener)
What's your favorite song from Whispermoon?
I would say I'm the most proud of Train Song, and how that turned out. My second favorite would be Decadence.
Describe Whispermoon, the title, the experience?
Whispermoon is a word I made up as a God reference. It's my interpretation of what God is for me. The experience has taught me a number of lessons over the course of every point in the recording process. It is my first solo album I've done in years, and it took me a while to cultivate that much material mostly because I wasn't used to doing it. I've emerged a much better writer and artist because of it.
What do you hope your listeners walk away with having heard Whispermoon?
- what's the message?
The album is an extension of who I am. Personal, emotional, sarcastic, witty, etc. I just make the art and music that I love to be surrounded with and offer it to whomever will give it a chance to consume them. Each song has an idea, and a message I guess. Although I don't write songs to have messages, just life sprayed out. I hope listeners who listen to this project will maybe start to culminate a new understanding of art and not be so dependent on spoon fed media outlets (mtv, vh1, bet, gma, cm, etc.)
What are your favorite songs right now? CD?
I just got the latest (a year or so old) Flaming Lips album. It's called Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, or something. The title track is amazing. The song Do You Realize is great. I bought the old Sigur Ros album, very good stuff. I'm a huge fan of Pedro the Lion and Bill Mallonee (formerly of Vigilantes of Love). I got the new Brother Ali album, very well written. And the new Aesop Rock, very big fan of his as well. The new Marsill is great as well as the new Outkast. I'm a very picky music listener, I always surround
myself with artists and art that inspires me, or is doing something different, and is not dependent on spoon fed media outlets...
Are you a sports fan? What are "your teams"?
Not really. I don't like baseball or golf (both boring to watch and I have no desire to play either of them). Basketball is Ok, but professional sports bore me because of the money and trading and such. College sports are good, but I don't have the time to search through all the ESPNs to find a game. Rugby is my sport. I've played for 7 years now. I started in college, and play now on a local Atlanta team. My favorite rugby team would have to be the New Zealand All Blacks.
I've heard rumors... When's the next labklik CD due to drop?
Spring 2004, is what we've been talking about. No more details than that.
- New deepspace5?
We've been chatting with a label or two who are interested. The big thing is the money, because it takes a lot to get us all together in one city. We want to do it right and record it properly.
- New underground rise?
Why a solo album?
- What did you feel you could say or do that you couldn't do with labklik ds5 etc.
I can say what I want to say in whatever group I'm in. I wanted to be solo to write and grow songs from only my perspective, to be out there as an artist with my heart on the chopping block. I also can't tour with labklik or the entire DS5 crew. I wish it were so, but a solo career gives me the ability to do so. This is what pays the bills.
Why not upRok? Why not a "Christian" label?
Well, just like all my releases, I completely finished this before I even considered having a label look at it. I want my complete stamp of approval before anything goes out the door of the studio. Once I was done I realized that I needed a little more help putting this out than what I could muster up. I sent out CDRs of some of the songs to labels both Christian and not Christian. Not many were interested in the project actually. There were a couple of labels interested, all non-Christian, and I chose Mush because of their roster and artistic base. I really feel like this is where I need to be. Not as an undercover converting agent, but as an artist who is a Christian and makes good music. Thankfully the Christian labels weren't interested, because I'm not really that interested in what they do. I like that there is a scene for Christians to rap to each other, but they spend a lot of time preaching to the choir, instead of putting their music where their heart should be. Why not Uprok? They didn't want to put it. Why not a Christian label? I feel like at this point in my career I need to be doing music in the genre I do music, not a religious sub culture. I don't look down on Christian Rap, I have so many friends there, and I still want to be a part of that scene. For me it's the place I need to be, and I think can have the biggest impact.
What are you working on right now?
Nothing really, just working on touring on Whispermoon. I'm always writing though. Actually I'm working on another solo album. The labklik album is in the back of my head as well as what I'm going to say on the next DS5 record. Nothing recorded or out of my head or computer yet (I type out all my lyrics).
Are you happy with Whispermoon, did you accomplish what you had hoped?
Very happy. I spent lots of time in the studio and out working on this record. It is my first of many solo efforts. I'm pleased with the debut and I'll see where it takes me.
Can i drop a verse on your next album?
What should i do to get into the rap game, advice for young cats?
Just do music, art, whatever it is you do, and do it a lot. Don't wait on some company or someone to obtain your goals for you. So many people think, well once I make this 3 song demo with my ideas and show it to a record label life will be easy. Wrong. If you want to be a rapper, rap. Do records on your own. Press up 100, 50, 25, whatever just do something and then close up that chapter and do another one. And if 10 years go by and you are still in the same place you started. You at least accomplished 10 or so independent releases and you know how to make it, or not make it in this business.
What kinda car do you drive?
- What would you drive if you had your druthers?
I drive a 1989 nissan sentra. It's a piece, but it was free and runs like a gem. I think I'm going to trade it with my mom for her mercury sable, it has cruise control and makes for easier 1000 mile drives. I'll drive anything that has seats, is somewhat gas friendly and is dependable. I'm handy with fixing a car, but it is always a headache to have to fix your car in a rush.
- Tell me about your design shop... is that what pays the bills?
I don't have a shop. I do websites and print design, text, and image enhancement sometimes. Mostly for myself and artists and friends around me. Sometimes I take on Free Lance work from outside customers, but not often, my time is limited. I love to do art though. It is not what pays the bills. Rapping pays the bills. I tour and have all that going on. My wife works at a Group Home for abused girls.
- Any certifications, training etc that you wanna brag about?
I went to John Brown University and graduated with a degree in Broadcasting and graphic design. I focused on tv/film production and graphic design.
- Computer specs, what have you got?
I use an iBook, running Jaguar 10.2.6, from the only company that makes computers worth money. Apple.
- What do you feel is your best design?
Who knows, I like some of the album covers I've done and some of the websites. I don't have a favorite.
What's the dumbest thing you've ever done?
That's a hard one, because I do so many dumb things every day. I don't know, I can't say. Even if I did know one, it would be too hard to relinquish.
What's the smartest thing you've ever done?
My wife would want me to say "that I married her", and that honestly is one of the smartest things I've ever done. Go to College, play rugby, do lots of raps. Record a deepspace5 record. I do so many smart things every day, it's hard to list them all.
Are you "purpose-driven?" what do you do for devotionals?
I am purpose driven to an extent. I have a purpose for everything I do, but also I like to let my heart and spontaneity take over. It's the whole art thing, letting that go where it's going to go. For devotionals I read, the Bible mostly, I write, I talk with God. A lot while I'm driving. Writing songs is a huge way for me to have communion with God.
What are you reading?
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.
Do you rock the symph? (i ask everyone that)
Sometimes. I like the Haleiyoos songs on Composition 1 the most. They are all fun guys to be around.
If you had one message for the church, what is it?
Accept anyone with a drop of interest in God, Heaven, Hell, Spirituality, any issues. Don't turn anyone away no matter what they look like or sound like or portray.
What Bible character do you relate to most and why?
I don't know.
John Coltrane or Kenny G?
How are sales looking for Whispermoon?
Not sure exactly yet, but I think it's double platinum. I've sold more myself than I ever have, so the label and the stores should be doing good too. I'll know more around December.
What verse are you proudest of?
Probably my verse for Stick This In Your Ear on the Deepsapce5 Record. We even got nominated for a Dove award for best Rap song. Didn't get the trophy though.
How (if at all) has marriage affected your life, career, rap?
It's a whole new life. Brand spanking new way of living and looking out for another person. Girls are so much more emotionally wired and wear their hearts on the outside, so I've had to get used to being sensitive the most. It has affected my raps some. I wouldn't be here doing this interview about my solo album if it hadn't been for her telling me I was good enough to make it and backing me up. So, she's my cheerleader. She tells me when I suck too.
What's a typical day of your life like?
I roll out of bed around 9-11 am. Not too concerned with the time these days. I usually check some online things, email, etc. I do any online orders I have and head to the post office, then I come home work out, make a bunch of phone calls for bookings on future tours and spend some time with my wife. She works the night shift, so after she leaves I stay up working on art and writing and such, and go to bed about 2-3am. If I'm on the road it's a different story. It all depends on where the next show is, but usually I'm not in bed before 3am, then sleep, then drive, and then rap some more.
Dan Smith, a.k.a. the Listener, is a world renowned rapper extraordinaire. Known for his work with labklik, deepspace5 and a myriad of other hip hop groups, Whispermoon, which released this year, is the first solo effort put forth by the Listener. It is one top-notch recording that outshines albums that other rappers consider their magnus-opus. Yeah, it's that good. Anyway, make sure to check out the Listener's website (ForTheListener.com) and pick up a copy of Whispermoon.