Artist Spotlight: Dillon Vanders

"Healing Touch", "Paradise", "The Road Ahead", Alexs Bar, Alyssandra Nighswonger, Bamboo Club, Beck, Billy Strings, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Charles Wesley Godwin, comedian, Crosby, Crosby Stills Nash Young, Del McCoury, Eric Clapton, George Madrid, Greg Leisz, Huntington Beach, Jeff Ziemba, John MIranda, Joni Mitchell, Katie Jo, Lana Del Rey, Marty Robbins, Max Cogert, Nash, Neil Young, Nigel Burk, Phil Lemke, Robby Krieger, Simon & Garfunkel, Stills, The Doors, Tom Petty, Wade Hammond, Wildfires -

Artist Spotlight: Dillon Vanders

Photo Credit: Wade Hammond

The Basics:

- Who are you and Where are you from?

I'm Dillon. I'm from Long Beach CA

- What inspired you to become a song writer?

Funny enough, I wanted to be a comedian when I was younger. I thought it would be good to write funny songs, so I learned how to play guitar. I quickly discovered I'm not that funny, so I tried writing real songs (helped with the teenage angst). Turns out I'm much better at that!

- How did you get involved in the long beach music scene?

I grew up in Huntington Beach, and got the hell outta there as soon as I could. Long Beach always seemed like the best place to seek refuge (way better than a sh*t hole like Hollywood). It's always been a place for artists. You can find live music here every night. Most of the musicians I knew growing up made the same decision and left Stink Town (HB) for Long Beach, too.

The Process:

- What is the writing process like? How do you flush out your ideas?

This is an interesting question. For most of the projects I've been in, I've never approached writing in an autobiographical way. I'm usually telling stories about other people. I tried to be more personal on this new album, which is my first real solo endeavor. In reality though, most songs I write just sort of manifest after hours, days, and sometimes months of just noodling!

- Whats most challenging about working solo as a song writer?

Sometimes it's great to have someone to bounce ideas off of when you're stuck. Also, I can get lazy about writing sometimes. Collaboration can be helpful in keeping you motivated, but it comes with its pros and cons.

 Without Collaboration, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get ideas off the ground, but giving up control, even just a part, over your art, can be challenging. How did you navigate collaboration with other arists?

After being in many bands, I realized I'm not always easy to work with haha. When I want something a certain way, I don't budge. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but it's just something I think I needed to come to terms with. I work better by myself. That's definitely the benefit of hiring players to record with you, especially if you have a specific vision. Collaborating can be tough, especially when you're playing with people equally as stubborn as you are!

Dillon Vander Truck Bed Long Beach Music Scene Artist Spotlight

Photo Credit: Lucas Vanderschuit

- You just put finishing touches on a  new album, what was that process like? Any cool stories to share while either writing, recording, or mixing the album?

Oh yeah too many to tell! I recorded it at Robby Krieger's (The Doors) studio in LA. He was in and out quite a bit while we were tracking, which was a thrill because I'm a huge Doors fan. I think the best part was getting to record with amazing players like Greg Leisz, whose recorded with titans like Beck, Clapton, Springsteen, Lana Del Rey and so many more, and also amazing local Long Beach musicians like Max Cogert, and  George Madrid on the same sessions. The album is called "Wildfires" and it's out April 8th!

The Sound:

-Most dreaded question every band has to answer, how would you describe your sound?

Like Neil Young, Tom Petty, and Marty Robbins got very high on acid and recorded a shitty record together. JK, but I think you can definitely hear those influences (including the acid).

-What do you want to communicate through your music?

That we should cut the crap and realize there's more that unites us than divides us. The folks in charge want us to think our neighbors are our enemies. I don't buy that. So I wanted to make something someone in Silverlake could relate to as much as someone in West Virginia, because we're all pretty much after the same things in life.

- What song are you MOST proud of? Why?

Oh tough one. I'm really happy with how "Paradise" turned out. We had a real tough time getting that one right, but I love it. I think it's what a Clint Eastwood movie would sound like if it were a song.

- Is there anything you’ve had your eyes / ears on recently that you’d like to incorporate into your sound?

I've been listening to a lot of great new Americana artists from all around the country. Folks like Charles Wesley Godwin, Billy Strings, my friend Katie Jo, and lots of others. I've been listening to Del McCoury too, he's the OG bluegrass player! So maybe expect some more finger picking in my next recordings!

- You’ve played in a few bands over the years. How has that sound developed and changed over time?

Well my earliest influences were people like Simon & Garfunkel, CSNY, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, so I've always been a bit of a folkie. As I joined bands though, that didn't seem to be the thing other players were into. It was in the height of the Burger days, so I leaned more into the indie rock thing. The modern Americana movement seems to be much bigger than that scene ever really got, so I definitely took the opportunity to get back to my roots.


Long Beach Music Scene DIllon VandersPhoto Credit: Lucas Vanderschuit

The Gear:

- What does your typical setup on most songs look and sound like?

I learned a while ago that less is more. You have to leave enough space for everything to shine through. So I tried to make my acoustic tracks the center that all the other parts were built to complement. We used a baritone guitar on a few tracks and that was pretty cool! Gotta love my Stacks FX Native Lung Reverb pedal too!

Big Picture:

- Any new releases coming up or that just came out?

Yeah! I've got 2 singles out,"The Road Ahead" and "Healing Touch" with a 3rd single being released at the end of March. The full album is being released April 8th on all platforms!


- Long term goals for your music career?

I just wanna hit the road. I've never been on a proper tour. So I'm gonna play wherever I can and see what happens!

- What do you feel is most unique or special about the long beach music scene?

Long Beach is so eclectic in its sound. It's very close knit as well. We all wanna help each other and see our peers do well. There's not a whole lot of competitiveness, just a real respect for each other as artists.

- Do you want to Shout out to anyone special In the community?

Yes! George Madrid, Alyssandra Nighswonger, Max Cogert, Heather Summerhauser, Nigel Burk, John Miranda, Wade Hammond, Jeff Ziemba, Phil Lemke, and Katie Jo!

Current favorites:

- album
Highwayman by Highwaymen 🤠

- local restaurant
Flaming Curry

- local bar

- spot to play
Always love playing Alex's Bar! Vine is great too. They really stepped up their game, and the room sounds great.

*Artist Spotlight is a weekly blog that features local Long Beach Musicians. Want to nominate yourself or someone you know for a feature? leave a comment below *

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published