Dylan Echo is an intriguing artist from Whittier, California who has been quietly honing his craft for some time and is now releasing amazing, genre-bending music. The young musician has amassed more than 40 thousand plays on his Soundcloud with only four songs uploaded and has created a strong following in a span of eight months. So, when we find an artist who’s music we love, but don’t know too much about we interview them to get to know more about them for our sake and yours. This is one of the more thoughtful interviews I’ve been a part of. Dylan and I spoke about his musical influences, how he would describe his sound, which artists he would like to tour with potentially, how certain songs manifested, asked him to elaborate on some of his lyrics, and more.
Vic Stunts: I was drawn to your music because how different it was sonically. It’s definitely hip-hop, but has R&B elements and a few other genre influences. What would you describe your unique sound as?
Dylan Echo: So, I grew up with my parents playing a bunch of 80’s music all the time, and even though I liked some of it, I got tired of it. One day when they weren’t looking I took all their CD’s to my room and started listening to all this crazy music by these bands who I later realized we’re Sublime, Nirvana, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it was so different then what I was used to hearing. They would play Duran Duran, Elton John, The Smiths and all those guys and even though they were really good, there was just a feeling I got when I first heard this new music, it opened me up to so many different sounds. So when I think about today and how a lot of this shit sounds very similar in terms of content and the actual music itself, I’m honestly a little bored, and no disrespect to the people out here hustling, but I want to push the envelope of what you consider “hip-hop” or “r&b” or however people wanna describe my music. I think of my music as music for moments. I want my music to resonate with people in the same way that memories and moments can evoke certain feelings. You don’t just forget about it once it’s over, it has the power to last with you throughout your entire life.
Vic: That’s very interesting, all those bands aren’t typically the influences you hear from someone making hip-hop or R&B, but it’s really refreshing to hear because those acts were so great. Are you an artist who views music as music with no genres?
Dylan: I think that’s because I don’t make the typical brand of hip-hop and r&b that people are used to. I don’t want to put myself in a box like that. One day, I could be making a cover of a Cure song with only my voice and my keyboard, and the next day might be something completely different with guitar solos and melodic interludes. I never know what’s going to come out, and that’s the cool part about the process. As far as genres go, I don’t think I see music as being without them. I’ve never really thought about that though, if I like something I like it. Except for country, I hate that shit. Shout out to Johnny Cash though, he doesn’t count.
Vic: You’re right, your sound isn’t typical hip-hop, R&B or anything I can absolutely say belongs in a certain category. So, with that being said if you had to go on tour right now with 3 acts who’s fans you believe would really appreciate your music, who would they be?
Dylan: I gotta go with, Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment, The Internet and… Kevin Abstract. I remember seeing The Internet and The Social Experiment live but it was when they were backing Chance (The Rapper) at one of his shows way before Surf. They both have this energy on stage they you can’t replicate with just a DJ and a microphone. That was something that made me appreciate their music a lot more, the musicianship.
Vic: That’s really dope, all those artists have very unique sounds but have a hip-hop foundation. I feel it. When did you really begin to harmonize your voice and focus on melodies in your music? Did you start out just rapping at first?
Dylan: Yeah, it started out strictly raps. I don’t know what it is, I just like singing, fucking around with my voice and seeing how far I can push myself. I don’t think I can sing particularly well but people seem to like it and react to it. Plus, there’s definitely added emotion you get from vocals that sometimes you don’t get from just words. Words are powerful, but if you gotta monotone voice and little to no cadence then it just kinda cancels out. As much as people like simple catchy shit, theres also that other side of them that fucks with instrumentation and singers with songwriting sensibilities. It’s completely contradictory but it’s the world we live in.
Vic: The first song I heard from you was “Not My Type” and I was blown away by how good it was. It was refreshing to hear something so unique in a time when everyone wants to sound alike. Can you tell us how that song manifested?
Dylan: I came across the beat while I was digging through Soundcloud and I just started singing to it on the spot and those were the first words that came to my head. From there it just became this ode to the art of rejection and at the time I was still getting to know Alanna (Aguiar), but I could tell we vibed musically, so when I had my part of the song written I knew she would be perfect for that female perspective of it, and she came through and killed it. The first vocals she sent are the ones you hear in the song and I just had her add in some harmonies and adlibs. It came together so perfectly that I underestimated how good of a song it was until we put it out. I actually have another song with her tucked away that she and other people have wanted me to put it out for a while now but, I’m just waiting for the right time.
Vic: When you create a song that you like what do you need to hear to have the urge to release it?
Dylan: It’s usually less about hearing something and more about the timing of it. The song could be the best song I’ve ever written, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I gotta put it out right then and there soon as I’m finished mixing it down. Everything falls into its’ right place, I just like to keep grinding out as many songs as I can until I don’t feel inspired to do anymore.
Vic: In your song “Find My Way” you drop a whole lot of gems and say when you speak you just want to bless the kids, is it a real goal of yours to steer the youth in a positive direction, or was that just a bar?
Also, in the second verse you allude to things specific to your city (Whittier) and being there for a while now, and you also talk about a local legend who passed away and how you didn’t get the chance to say hi to before they died. Were you referring to 2Wig? How did his death affect you, and why did you feel the need to pay your respects to him on this song?
Dylan: At first I felt like, as an artist, it shouldn’t be my responsibility to try and be a role model, but at the same time you look around at who’s influencing the youth right now and how it’s reflected through them (the youth), and a lot of it feels negative. I think that’s a clear reflection of the content they’re consuming. Music to me is like food, you are what you eat.
People are gonna decide for themselves whether I’m a role model or not, but I think that sharing my own experiences and lessons can be enough to resonate with people in a positive way. Not only because the music is good, but because of the feeling it leaves you with. Whether it’s self-empowerment and knowing your worth (Not My Type), pushing through fears and insecurities to pursue new love (Girl), or just trying to get through the everyday grind and help others along the way (Find My Way), you’ll come away feeling like you learned something without being lectured to.
I was referring to 2Wig. He was a Whittier local who a lot of people held dear, especially in respect to his music. He blessed people with his time here on earth, and unfortunately I never got the chance to meet him, I only saw him in person twice. The first time was at the Whittier hip-hop show in 2011, the other time was at a place where he worked a few years later. I knew who he was, but at the time I was too nervous to say what up and how much I appreciated his music. It’s just crazy how fragile life is. This is somebody who was immensely talented and who had a future, but his life was cut short by a tragic accident. Events like that are hard to understand, we don’t know why they happen, but they do, and it’s up to people to honor him however they can. For me, after I started writing “Find My Way“, a reoccurring theme was this appreciation for my city and its people and how they shaped me. It just felt right honoring him in that way, and through something we both share a passion for, music.
Follow @DylanEcho on Twitter, Instagram and Soundcloud.