Soul Spotlight: Diggs Duke

Diggs Duke

 If you need to know about any indie artist this year, Diggs Duke is someone you must check out. This phenomenal musician writes, sings and produces his own music. He also plays numerous instruments including the drums, sax, and the trumpet. Duke has two LPs out currently along with a new video for the track, “Gravity”. Thankfully, he took the time out to chat with The Soulcial Circle about his new project, musical background and influences.

When did you discover your gift of creating music?
Music has always been a part of my life. Both of my parents encouraged me to learn an instrument at a pretty young age. So, I picked up the drums when I was five years old. I was always singing as a child, as well, so I just got better and better. When I really started to become skilled at making music, it was more the result of a decision than a discovery. I started practicing more and listening to music all day, every day. I think you could say that music chose me, just as much as I chose it.

How would you describe your sound?
I make soul music from the viewpoint of a jazz musician.

Who or what gets your creativity flowing? What inspires you?
Within the last year, I’ve realized that after living in urban and suburban areas for all of my life, I don’t like big cities. So, a few months ago, I decided to move far from them for a period of time, to coastal Maine. Right now, I’m inspired by the landscape here. The vastness of the ocean is awe-inspiring. Every single night, I can walk out onto my porch and see a sky full of stars. It makes me realize that I am very small in the grand scheme of things and that I need to create something to make an impression on the world.

Do you play an instrument as well? I noticed the musical arrangements and the horns in your music, which are awesome.
The first instrument I learned, as I mentioned above, was the drums. But, you can hear me playing the alto saxophone, bass guitar, keys, clarinet, vibraphone and electric guitar on my current releases. I also had a buddy of mine play the mandolin on a couple of tracks. Ideally, I’ll hire other musicians to play live on the recordings. I have people in mind, but I’m just waiting for the right time.

I really love all of your work. Your first EP, “Gravity” has a different feel to it than, “Black Gold”. What was your inspiration behind both albums and was this difference intentional?
It was intentional. When I released “Gravity,” it received a lot of praise. I knew that if I didn’t do something a little different for the 2nd EP, listeners might expect me to make that same music over and over again for the rest of my life. Whereas my first release was introspective and complex in its arrangement, I wanted my 2nd to be a bit more upbeat and light. They aren’t meant to be cohesive concept albums. I would say they are just two collections of songs that I wrote to introduce my music to the world.

That being said, there was much thought put into writing the songs. It took me three years to write the music and lyrics for “The Epic Lie” from start to finish. “Black Gold” is the most metaphorical song I’ve written on the most unemotional topic I could have possibly picked, which is sleep deprivation. But, I know I’m not the only one who can’t keep a normal sleeping schedule. 

What artists are you currently listening to?
As far as contemporary music, there are two ladies who are taking up a lot of my recreational listening time. Gretchen Parlato writes music that compliments her voice wonderfully and the musicians in her bands are always phenomenal. I’m also stuck on Esperanza Spalding lately. She has this song called “Morning” that has the most beautiful horn arrangements. And her voice is like a clarinet or something.

I’m always studying records and trying to learn, though. I love soul music from the 60’s and 70’s. I love High-Life music from West Africa. I love Jazz music. I love Brazilian music. The list really could go on and on.

If you had to listen to one song for the entire day, what song would it be? Why?
John Coltrane’s song entitled, “Wise One,” from his album called Crescent, has a strong effect on me every time I hear it. I think listening to that song all day might put me in a very calm state.

I tend to gravitate towards songs like these because I like mid-tempos and ballads. You won’t hear too many up-tempo tracks from me. I like to take everything nice and easy when I play, so I can concentrate on what I’m hearing without the distraction of speed.

Are you working on any other projects? Upcoming shows?
I’m trying to use this initial wave of interest in my music to my advantage. So, I have a lot going on. Currently, I’m recording a full-length album that I’m planning on releasing in a few months. This project will be similar to the previous two, just longer. I’m filming the process of making the record all the way through and there will be a mini-documentary to accompany the release.

I’m filming a music video for “Gravity.” It will be nice and simple.

I’m also putting a band together for some shows, as well. Ideally, I would like to plan my own performances all the way through. I think the people who listen to my music are active listeners, rather than passive ones. So, I want to give them a musical experience that they’ll be proud of. I want them to tell their kids, “You know, I saw Diggs Duke and his band play live once.”

A mission that The Soulcial Circle has is to shed light on various social issues that are occurring both nationally and internationally. What is one social issue that concerns you and what do you think we (society) can do to alleviate this problem?
I guess the social issue that I’d like to address is that there are so many social issues to address. I think that we all need to improve individually in order to improve collectively as a society. It seems that all social issues arise from individual issues that have been magnified.

Our biggest issue in this country (USA) is that we want too much for too little. The policies of our politicians have always reflected that and the modern money-spending habits of our citizens confirm it. On top of that, we don’t go for what we think is the best, we go for the most advertised. Mass consumption of ideas and products is certainly the enemy of all progress.

How can people connect with you?
There are several ways to connect with me, depending on what the intent is. If looking to talk to me and keep up with me on a day-to-day basis, Twitter is best (@diggsduke).

I use my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Diggs-Duke/213056228716127) to announce things that are happening with my music. I give away stuff on Facebook and listeners can learn things about me and my music in more detail.

If interested in what music I listen to, I have a very extensive YouTube page with all of my favorite music organized very neatly for people to enjoy (www.youtube.com/diggsduke).

If there’s some opportunity that someone is looking to offer me or if other creative people are looking to contact me, I can be reached at my e-mail, which is diggsduke@gmail.com.

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