Born in California, America, Derrek Wayne describes himself as a singer/songwriter; the latter of whom he describes as people who are so compelled by their experiences they want to capture and share them. For Derrek, songwriting is a performance art, and if he feels he has an experience he wants to share with people, he’ll share it as a song. In addition, Derrek is also a self proclaimed ‘travelling pianoman’, something which has seen him perform in various states around the USA, and at Jazz bars on luxury cruise liners. Today however, this ‘travelling pianoman’ is more simply a pianoman, as he has recently been invited by Twinpalms Phuket to add some musical sizzle at brunch and Tuesday through Saturday evenings at their Oriental Spoon Grill & Bar.
Phuketindex.com recently caught up with Derrek prior to one of his evening performances to find out more about this ‘travelling pianoman’.
How and when did you become interested in music?
Vocal music has always been of great interest to me. I remember my mother telling me a story about when I was younger and we were sat in church, she had to put her hand over my mouth because I kept repeating what the person on stage was singing.
As I grew older, I knew music had a special power over me, and I always wondering what that special power was. I questioned myself as to why I always hummed these melodies to myself, why I would drive around in my car with certain lyrics going round and round in my head. I knew there was a way to work it out, and that was to start writing myself.
What did you study at University, and did this have any influence on what you do now?
I actually studied computer science, but when I was studying in Seattle I figured out how to hack the university system and turn in my papers by email rather than physically going there. This allowed me to live far away from the university with a bunch of other artists, and we’d just sit around making songs, performances and dances. At this point I began to realise maybe I could be making a living out of this.
You describe yourself as a travelling pianoman, please explain?
This is just my trick to get myself known in this world. Having a name, a title, a costume, a performance time, it’s all just showbiz really. This is to say I use this moniker to get people to come and see my show. It’s very easy to understand, and a lot of people have experienced it. Piano bars are very popular in major cities around the world and also on cruise liners, and they’ll probably get more popular as time goes on. This is a very simple show if it goes right; it’s easy for people to understand, and it’s really easy for the performer and the audience to enjoy themselves. That is of course if the performer is doing his or her job right.
Do you have a fondest memory in your career as a travelling pianoman so far?
If I can be completely honest, my best memories are playing for audiences which are made up of kids, but this only happens once in a while on cruise ships. The thing about playing for kids is they don’t have any real conception about what they really like, and you can turn them onto things they haven’t had experiences with yet.
You’re also a recording artist, how and when do manage to fit this in with travelling, and how successful have your releases been?
I, like any artist, would like my work to go out to a larger audience, but I believe in the words of Bob Dylan who said “things are handed to you when you’re ready for them”, and the recording side of things for me is simply trying to make something which is worthy of listening to.
Recording technology is something which is easily accessible now; anybody can record music in a basement and I’ve tried to stay as close to that as possible. I’ve never really found any better success by recording in a big studio, although saying that I did record my last tracks in a medium sized studio and found it great fun. At the end of the day, studios mean big budgets, and for my music it also means a lot of musicians, and that can be difficult. It’s all about having the right people, and maybe the right people will be reading this interview.
How did you end up playing at Twinpalms Oriental Spoon?
That’s a long question, but I’ll answer it honestly. It was just a professional contact who wanted to take this gig but was already booked for another gig. It’s simply a network thing!
Do you have any musical influences, if so who are they and why?
I love American singer songwriters, and for me American music is so special because not only has it had a rich cultural history to draw from, but it’s where I’m from. I appreciate all American music from The Violent Femmes to Paul Simon, anybody who can get up on stage with something they want to get across.
I feel the most popular recorded American music has always had something it wanted to get across; it was good for something and not just about a good beat or sound, it has something to say. Luckily America has allowed people to say things through music, and artists have been allowed to use music as a method of saying something, and for me that’s something to be very proud of.
What’s more important for you, the lyrics or the music?
The marriage of lyrics and music is such an interesting topic, that’s where the magic happens. You can have great lyrics that are meaningful, insightful, interesting etc, but without the supporting musical language behind it you can’t really get to the magic, it just speaking. But similarly the music can be overzealous, lost, fancy, ostentatious etc, and it won’t paint the picture you want. But at the end of the day it’s art, and if it gets across what the person made it wants to get across, or at the least inspires someone to have a strong reaction to it, then it’s good music, but I believe it takes both things to make this happen.
You remind me slightly of the English artist Jamie Cullum, is he someone you admire?
He has a really good radio show I like to listen to!
I don’t really know too much about his history other than my sister playing one of his songs a few years ago and me thinking this is great. But I think Jamie Cullum has a great respect for America music, as I do. He’s a fantastic piano player and I’d love to jam with him sometime.
What’s next for you after Twinpalms?
I don’t really know what to say about what comes next for me, I suppose it all depends on what I earn when I put pen to paper or sit down and play for 2 or 100 people in a bar, it’s all about what I earn as a performer.
Finally, what are your hopes and plans for the future?
I want to write movie songs for Pixar Animation Studio! The reason a lot of people know American music is because it’s popularized by film, and I really venerate the directors, writers and thought process that comes out of Pixar. That studio is just fantastic, and I want to work there. I want to go in and clock in, sit down and see a scene, go back to my piano and write 5 songs to go with that scene, cross 4 of them out until I’m left with the one that goes best with it. I want to do that day in day out, and make something great with other people who want to tell a story. If you don’t dream big, what’s the point of being an artist!