Dave Herrero, is an internationally acclaimed Blues Artist and Producer, and one half TrackForce Productions. While Dave's solo release Austin to Chicago was nominated by Illinoisblues.com for "2009 Debut Album of the Year", his list of placement credits is extensive, with TrackForce Production's music consistently used by Harpo Productions (The Oprah Winfrey Show), MTV, and Telepictures (Tyra Banks, Extra, TMZ), as well of some of Chicago's hottest MC's. Dave and is scheduled to tour the US, Norway and Sweden later this year in support of his newest LP. With a full list of tracks available for license at Affix (here and here), we wanted to share some insight via a quick Q&A into Dave's background, inspiration, and influences, and importantly, his thoughts on the Blues' role and fit in Urban Music.
Q. What is Urban Music to you? How does your music fit into the Urban genre?
A. Urban Music to me is music that comes out of the streets of Urban societies. The music of TrackForce Productions, and the “Hero Brothers”, as we’re called by the Chicago Hip Hop community, is a representation of music of the modern times. We don’t have a traditional Chicago Hip Hop sound, my brother and I having both grown up in the South. We both grew up in Florida, I then moved on to Austin, TX for several years, growing up on the sounds of 2 Live Crew and Ghetto Boys.
My blues music is a representation of what music was coming out of the streets of the Urban communities across the US 40 years ago. It’s a challenge to keep such an old form fresh, exciting and current, but not losing the integrity of the roots; but I think we do a good job of that.
Q. How has the perception of Urban Music changed over the years to the general market?
A. Its an interesting paradigm. The old school Blues music, that was popular in the streets, was looked at as “The Devils Music” by the elders of that generation, then the music gets more and more popular, which eventually leads to the commercialization of that movement, then the next thing comes along.
Same thing is happening with Hip Hop. The elders of our generation thought it was the “devils music” so to speak, then it becomes extremely popular, commercialized, which then leads to the next big thing. Who know what that’s gonna be next. But one thing is for sure, it will come out of the Urban Culture, at it always has.
On the left coast, they just started a few years ago a movement called “hyphy”. Sonically right now, the Southern Hip Hop aesthetic seems to be dominating the airwaves, as it has for the last several years, but who knows what the next major shift is going to bring us.
I guess to answer your question, I feel it has become much more widely accepted, which in turn has brought it to a mass audience. The people who have grown up on Hip Hop are now reaching middle age and beyond, which makes them a very desirable market for advertisers with expendable income.
Q. Is there something or someone in mainstream media that is getting Urban Music right?
A. MERCEDES BENZ has some of the hottest beats you will ever hear in their commercials lately. Of course when McDonalds jumps on board, you know its gotta be the “it” thing right now…
Q. What's in your iPod right now?
A. Outkast, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Mos Def, BB King, Doyle Bramhall II, Fela Kuti, The Sugarman 3, Scarface, Vivaldi, The Arc Angels, The Wood Brothers, Townes Van Zandt, Busta Rhymes.
Q. What was the first record that inspired you to become a professional in the business?
A. Hound Dog Taylor – Live, Alligator Records.
Q. Who are your musical idols?
A. The obvious and some not so obvious are: Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Outkast, Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, Mozart, Ronnie Earl, Billie Holiday, The Neptunes, Busta Rhymes & Dr Dre.
Q. Outside of music what are you passionate about?
A. Cooking, wine, ideas and working with kids.
Q. Do you draw inspiration for your music from sources outside of music?
A. Life is my number one inspiration. You cant make up some of the bizarre amazing things that happen in the real world.
Q. Name one song that you love that would surprise us.
A. “I Would Do Anything for Love” by Meatloaf. What the hell was “That”? Anyways...
Q. As a producer, what is it that gets you excited about working on a project or that draws you to an artist?
A. Someone who is saying something different (especially in Hip Hop). Like for instance, my brother has been working with Lupe Fiasco who is a true artist. You think he’s gonna go right, and he does a 180 degree shift, then goes to the right, you dig?
I also like when someone has an intoxicating, enticing delivery. Someone who has that special thing that you cant bottle, and can't put a finger on. As Simon Cowell would say it, an artist who has the “x” factor, but who also is professional and has their business together.
Q. Your work is extremely diverse. You’re a serious Blues artist and you also produce Hip Hop, as well. We have both styles in our catalog from you, can you tell us about how you approach them and how you got involved in each?
A. With the Blues, I just try to keep the songwriting fresh, yet familiar. I do my very best to keep it SOULFUL. Always trying to stretch things out too. I’m currently working on a project combining Blues and Hip Hop. Those styles are 1st cousins to one another and the project has been coming along seamlessly. It says a lot when you don’t have to force it, and it has a smooth way of coming together. The project is called The Underground Railroad and it has my brother and I doing the Hip Hop production and Blues guitar esthetic, and Cedric and Cody Burnside (grandsons of the legendary Mississippi Bluesman R.L. Burnside) doing the songwriting and rapping.
My brother, Mike Hero, as he’s known to the Chicago Hip-Hop community got me really into Hip-Hop production. He’s one of the best on the scene right now so my little brother has been a great teacher to me.
The stuff we initially put together between our trips between Austin and Chicago, working with sampling organic sounds like Hammond B3 organs, upright bass and big box guitars, goin on some funky beats are the 1st compositions that were purchased by Oprah Show. It was a non-threatening Hip-Hop sound we’ve started calling “soccer mom hop” that’s still Urban in nature, but very non-threatening with the sound choices.
Q. How much time are you in the studio and how much are you playing live?
A. I spent at least one to two hours a day in the studio and play live at least twice a week unless I’m on tour, in which case we’ll play 5 or 6 nights a week for a 3 or 4 week run.
One time, I had a 3 month tour of Scandinavia so I had to bring my portable studio and before every gig in the hotel room, or on the tour bus, the other guys would be napping and I would be making compositions for Oprah. The first 60 days we had 59 gigs with 3 days off we were hustling!
Q. Who are some artists you’ve worked with?
I played with Archie Bell and the Drells for 5 years in Texas. While with him, we did shows with everyone from the Temptations to Dennis Yost (“Love is Kinda Crazy with a Spooky lil girl like you”…. )
I’ve been blessed to play with some of the absolute best in the blues world, from Lazy Lester, to Cedric Burnside, to Marsha Ball to the phenomenal soulman Jimmy -Burns.
On the Hip Hop tip, we’ve worked with everyone in Chicago from Psycho Drama to Profound.
Q. Can you talk about your work bring music to kids?
A. With www.rockforkids.org I go to the hood here in Chicago, and provide free music lessons to underprivileged kids on the south and westsides of Chicago. I do a class in instruments and singing, and my brother does a class in Hip Hop production and songwriting. These kids are RIDICULOUSLY TALENTED!!!!
We did a performance for their parents before Christmas, and their jaws were on the floor seeing what these 7 – 12 year old kids were doing. They played as a band, and played “Wild Thing” and “Thriller”. A definite career highlight. Some of these kids are pre destined for gang life, and this can give them a way out. I feel so inspired and whole after leaving these sites every time.
Q. Any parting words?
A. Thanks much for your time. All the best in life, love and happiness, and the pursuit of your dreams.