Twenty-one year old Dylan Dunlap may seem like an ordinary guy to some, but his passion is making waves as a singer-songwriter. His warm, sultry voice is moving in his indie tracks, and his personality is fun and infectious. He was so humble to even apologize for whispering, as he was on a bus to his next stop on his “I Don’t Have A Booking Agent So I Just Booked Myself” Tour across the US. He is currently supporting his latest release EP Feels Right At Home.
Dylan Dunlap is on a mission to raise awareness on mental health. One hundred percent of his EP Feels Right At Home proceeds are being donated to to the PSA Behavioral Health Agency in Phoenix, AZ. Dylan took the time to discuss this, his experience with music and film scoring, and announce his future plans.
ME: I would like to start by saying congratulations on your EP release that was released last month. How’s the feedback been from it?
It’s… it’s been incredible. People really like people that have drive like that to raise awareness about what I’m doing with the mental health organization. It seems like a lot of people really resonate with that.
ME: Definitely. I want to personally thank you for what you’re doing, because I think it’s incredible. I’ve suffered from depression since I was an adolescent. I know one hundred percent of your proceeds from the EP go to the Behavioral Agency in Phoenix. What moved you to take on such a generous act?
Thank you. There are two reasons here. I think the first one is… as an independent artist, assume your main focus is finances and how to pay all the bills you have. You start focusing too much on the dollar signs, and what I wanted to do with this is call myself out in a way. and be able to just say, “I’m just going to put music out.” and I’m not going to make a single dollar out of it, because I want to do something good with this money. I don’t want to just obsess over it, and be disappointed or happy or whatever the emotion it is about the check that I get at the end of the month. I want to take the focus completely off the money and put it directly toward the music. The other reason is because in October of last year, I was actually diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome. which is a very bizarre thing to find out as an adult. You start to rethink certain behavioral handicaps of your childhood, you start to just question a lot of things, and it’s been a very interesting road since then. it’s been very difficult, very challenging, but I knew instantly what I wanted to start talking about it. Starting talking about autism, start talking about how mental health in general is not talked about enough in the music industry. and after i had those thoughts about the money aspect, it made me realize that this would be the perfect opportunity to take the focus off me and really just try and talk about the group in phoenix as you mentioned that nobody knows about and they should because what they do there is absolutely amazing. And that’s what inspired me to do this crazy thing to give all the money away. (laughs)
ME: No, I think it’s amazing, so I definitely thank you for what you’re doing.
Aw, thank you so much. You’re sweet. Thank you.
ME: What are some things that help you get through some tough times? What are some words of advice for anyone suffering from a mental illness?
You know what, I’ve always caught myself in realizing that it’s very easy to start thinking you have the answers as a musician. because you’re on this platform, you’re preaching positivity and love. In the past year, I’ve made an effort to really tell people that are struggling, to reach out to me. I give out my email address, I give everyone my email address. To just say hey, reach out with any thoughts or concerns or anything, I’d just love to have conversation with you. The biggest thing that I talk about is that I don’t have the answers. I don’t have the perfect form of advice that can turn somebody’s life around, because I, myself, am trying to figure things out as well. But what I do offer is that sense of comfort by saying that, because I feel like the easiest thing to do is forget that you’re not alone. Any person who struggles with mental health.. Like you mentioned depression, is one of the severe cases, I’ve struggled with that my entire life. The easiest thing to do is think to yourself you’re the only person in this specific scenario struggling with the fact of what you’re struggling with. There’s some truth to that, and that’s what shields the depression even more. You start realizing, wow, this is just happening to me. and there’s some truth to that, but at the same time, although every scenario is different, the symptoms and disorders themselves are all the same. And developing that sense of community has got to be the most beautiful thing. For me, it’s been virtually, being able to talk to all of my fans (US primarily), being able to connect with them via email. And it’s actually helped me too. realize The world is so big, there’s so many people having a hard time out there, and if I can just make it my one goal for the rest of my life to reach as many people as I can, I would be so happy with that.
ME: Aww, that is so sweet. Is there any particular song off the EP that speaks to you personally over the others?
I talk a lot, by the way. (laughs) I would say “Purpose,” the third track out of the four songs. I think that one’s the most punished in terms of the lyricism. Every song comes out of inspiration of catching myself in the act of thinking a way that I don’t want to think. When I preach love and positivity , I talk about all these things in lesson, I’m telling myself them as well. So with Purpose, It’s inspired about being an artist in Los Angeles, and comparing yourself to everyone you meet, and how detrimental that can be for your mental health. If you’re to use a race as a metaphor as far as music career, that song dives into the idea of what if you just stop, and stand still for one moment during that race to appreciate where you are, your family and your friends , and honestly the accomplishments that you have. To be able to pat yourself on the back, because we are all our own critics. Sometimes, we are the only people that are wanting to see us fail deep down. We’re the most insecure, the most critical. That can be really hurtful for an independent artist to start feeling that way, and I know a lot of people can relate to that.
ME: Definitely. You have a way of conveying emotion in your songs. How long have you been writing?
You know what, I thought I was going to be a film composer. (laughs) That’s what my dad does for a living. I went to college for one year in Boston at Berklee College of Music and majored in film scoring for a hot second. And, I don’t know. There was this one free weekend (this was fall of 2013) where I just decided to do a gig and try to get as many people as I could out to it. It was a very, very small turnout. (laughs) I only knew how to play like one or two songs. I don’t know, I just really fell in love with the idea of being that beacon of being whatever you want to be. For me, it’s just trying to make people smile. I’ve really honed in on that in the past year or so, but I would say it’s been about three or four years now.
ME: Who are your musical influences? Did any of them make an impact in regards to this EP?
I don’t need any time to think about that. (laughs) I would say Coldplay. I’ve grown up with Coldplay my entire life. I just love what they’re about, and I love they’ve been four band members for almost twenty years now; the same four guys. They recognize each other. It’s not just about Chris Martin. I finally got to see them last August, and it was just the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had. I would definitely say they’ve had a huge impact on my musical career.
ME: How has the tour been so far?
In about fourty-five minutes, I think we’ll be arriving in Richmond (VA.) It’s been nuts, it’s been a crazy experience. You really learn how to respect toiletries and not be so wasteful. It’s constantly moving, and to be honest with you I love downtime. I love taking time to just sit in front of my laptop, write, and answer emails, or go see a movie or something. It’s been a little bit challenging. When you’re a DIY on tour, you’re just constantly moving from A to B. I’ve had a show every single night, so it’s been a blessing. But I’m really excited to take the next couple of days to just truly relax during the day and then go to the house show wherever I’m playing this week.
ME: So I’d like to do a little play on words… What are some things that you love and that make you feel right at home.
Chipotle. (laughs) Going to the movies is a big one. Feeling right at home… I would say cuddling with my cats, even though I am strongly, severely allergic to them. I have three of them now. Let’s see… discovering new music is a big one. And uh, did I give you too many? (laughs)
ME: No, not at all! (laughs) So you mentioned going to the movies. What’s the latest release you’ve seen?
War for the Planet of the Apes.
ME: Oh, how was it?
Have you seen the other two?
Me: ….No, haha.
Oh, well you’d be very confused. (laughs) You have no idea what’s going on. Honestly, I tend to hyperbolize with films. I never have expectations, so if I walk out of something just horrible, I’ll find a reason to fall in love with it. I never want to regret spending twenty dollars on a movie ticket. But, I’ve got to be honest with you, War for the Planet of the Apes was just an experience. It’s really unlike any other film I’ve seen in a while. It’s a nice escape. I’m always obsessed with film scores as I have a very dense background to that. My father and I used to score a lot on projects together. It’s just nice to take a couple of hours to yourself, go see a movie, and take your mind off of things. Also to be able to study things I’m into, really.
ME: Do you ever feel yourself ever going back to film scoring, even just for side projects?
Yeah! I do it here and then. I just did a shorter film for a student at LMU by the LAX airport. I love it. It’s honestly not all that different from the songs I have out right now in terms of the bare bones and the beginning of it all. I produce all of my own music in my studio, and those demos are usually instrumental. I don’t record vocals until later on. It’s very stripped down. I just love to experiment. That’s also what I love to do when I’m scoring projects, so it kind of goes hand in hand. The point where it gets different is when I go live. That’s where it kind of goes back into the singer-songwriter realm.
ME: So do you feel having that experience before hand has helped you with your music since you said you do the vocals after music tracking?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I got Pro Tools when I was twelve or thirteen. I don’t know if you know anything about Pro Tools, but it looks like Korean when you open it and understand the symbols. I’m twenty-one now, so it’s been about seven to eight years of not looking at a manual, street smarts, and learning how to use the program myself. Now I actually produce artists on the side, so I’m very fluent understanding the ins and outs of Pro Tools. Yeah, no, I definitely think it helps me having the background of scoring. The music side of it means so, so much to me.
ME: That’s amazing. What can we expect from Dylan Dunlap in the near future?
October should be the best month of the year, by far. Actually, I haven’t announced it anywhere yet, but I’m returning to this music festival in Bakersfield on October 1st. It’s called Gospel Fest. It’s going to be massive. That week I’ll be doing an exciting full band show in Hollywood. All of those announcements should be coming up very soon.
Learn more about the PSA Behavioral Health Agency in Phoenix here.