We had a chat with Life of Dillon about their new single ‘Overload’, touring with Meghan Trainor and their very varied musical interests.
For anybody that doesn’t know too much about you yet, can you tell us what Life Of Dillon is all about?
Joseph: I think Life Of Dillon is all about doing what we want with our lives and freeing ourselves from the rat race, and from that everyday mundane wake up at 7 o’clock, pour coffee and go to work type of lifestyle. We’ve all been into music our whole lives but we all went to university, we went through ordinary education to go into that lane and at some point we were like, actually we want to do what we’re passionate about. So that’s what Life Of Dillon is for us, that’s what we do, and we just want to keep pushing the envelope, making music and share that with the world.
Was it musical based subjects that you studied at university?
David: No, Rob did Computer Science.
Robert: Yeah, I studied Computer Science and then I did a Sound Engineering course which is more about the tech aspect of it but when it comes to actual music then mostly we’re self-taught.
David: Yeah, I did an Engineering course at university, Joe studied Law, but we all had musical things on the side at that point and me and Joe graduated two years ago, Rob dropped out in the last year.
Robert: I dropped out because I had the opportunity to pursue music. It was what I did everyday outside of uni anyway, as soon as I got back from class I’d just start making beats from like 4pm-11pm and then doing the same thing, rinse and repeat. So as soon as I had the opportunity and the chance to actually enter the music industry, I went straight for it.
Joseph: I think music isn’t really one of them things that you should learn, you just kind of end up sounding like the guy that’s teaching you and that’s why I think we have something because we all just experiment and try and do something new.
You’ve already been launched in the US. How comes you decided to start off there at not in the UK?
David: We were first signed in the US and that’s where we first started to make a buzz about six months ago but it was out of desperation. It was the first thing that came to us and we didn’t have anything a year ago and nobody in the UK picked up any of our music. Rob had a publishing deal with Sony ATV here in the UK and we were just trying to find our feet, but that was the first thing that came to us so we thought ‘why not?’ We went out there and we spent pretty much the last six months out there and we were on tour with Meghan Trainor, but we don’t have a home there. We were kind of on buses and in hotels. We’re based here in the UK and it’s like finally, we’re back! It’s weird because, to be honest, nobody knows who we are. We’ve done all this stuff in America and we’ve tried to build a bit of an audience but we don’t have any UK fans because we haven’t released anything here. It’s still very early days for us.
Joseph: Luckily, Columbia are releasing our single this week and starting to put it out there officially in the UK so hopefully that all changes.
Since you’ve been back in the UK on this trip, you’ve supported Charlie Puth on his tour. How did you find being on the road with him?
Robert: We were actually on the road with him in America as well so he was also supporting Meghan Trainor on her tour and we all became close friends and we’d get on his bus and hang out with him and his band and Meghan’s band. So it was a bit of a reunion when he came to the UK and we all got to see each other again, it was really cool. Nothing but respect for him.
David: Yeah, amazing. Great talent, both Charlie and Meghan. Personally, we love writers. People who make the music and who are involved in the music and the stories that they’re singing and Charlie produces and sings and a lot of the stuff that we do so we got on really well and hopefully in the future we’ll do a record together.
Do you have any backstage gossip about Charlie or Meghan that you can share with us?
David: To Robert: I’m sure you’ve got some backstage gossip…
Robert: I ain’t got no gossip!
David: I hate talking about gossip.
Joseph: I mean the tour wasn’t even, it was great and it was big, but we were very focused. It was like you wake up, you’re in a new city, let’s set up, and because we’re brand new we didn’t have a production team or loads of people helping us, we were doing things ourselves whereas Charlie or Meghan are more established than us and they can afford to pay for certain help that we may not have had. So it was work. We love what we do but when you’re out there, you set up, you get ready for the show, you perform, then you’ve got to go out there and get the fans, meet them, you’re working it. By the time it’s over, you’re back on the bus and on to the next city.
David: You’re always super tired. I think the worst thing we did was drinking beers on the bus.
Joseph: We went out on a couple of crazy nights, in New York especially.
David: There’s a really cool place in New York called The Box and it was insane.
Joseph: The thing is, we were always staying in different hotels to Meghan and Charlie and their crew, they were always in nice hotels and we were in crappy ones. There was one time where we were in Nevada and they were in Utah. We were on the border, we weren’t even in the same state as them, we had to get the cheapest hotel. It was like that the whole way through the tour so, not too much gossip.
Did it feel good to be touring at home after being away for a while?
David: At the moment we’re not really touring. We don’t have many gigs lined up, it’s all still being sorted. We’ve had a couple of songs released in the US and now they’re trying to decide what to go with here and when they’re going to do it. You know how hard it is to get songs on radio, they’re trying to find a window. Once we’ve got that, then we’ll start to plan gigs around it.
Joseph: We’ve just finished our album, but, we have a bit of time. We’ve delivered something which is “our album”, but we’re making more music and we may end up replacing a few songs down the line and they’re gonna go to radio with our song next month, and, hopefully soon after that we’ll be touring. It will make sense then, it doesn’t make sense now. Even though we’re not a brand new band anymore, in the UK we kind of are. So it doesn’t make sense to go out and do tours, people need to hear the music first and that’s what we’re focusing on.
Robert: I think the main thing about be back for us is the opportunity to connect with our home-based fans. We’ve been out in the US for so long and we’ve made quite a few fans out there and, even though you’re in a different country, you don’t know the local customs. Everyday you’re asking ‘what’s the local football team?’ so you can shout with them but here you can connect on a more personal level. This is our town, this is London, this is England, this is where we’re from. So for us we just want to connect with people here and meet more people.
David: And writers and producers. We want to get more involved in the musical community because we were kind of plucked out of the UK and dropped in the US. Nobody knew us in the UK and now we’re back here and we’re looking to now meet people and make friends.
If you could get a support slot on any artists’ tour, who would you choose?
David: Ed Sheeran.
Robert: Ed Sheeran would be crazy.
David: Sam Smith.
Joseph: I would love to get on the tour of like 2 Chainz or Drake, just because you know it’ll be the most fun tour ever. Ed Sheeran would be great though.
David: I just think our music lines up, it’s got that kind of acoustic feel to it.
You’re about to release your debut single ‘Overload’ in the UK, is it more nerve racking to release it on home turf than it is elsewhere around the world?
David: I think because, when it went out in the US, we didn’t know what to expect and it did quite well over there so over here, it’s kind of less nerve wracking because we’ve already had it do alright in the US. I think a lot of our families and friends are just waiting for it to go out so they can help push and share. For a really long time nobody knew what we did. People knew that we’d stuck together and made music but we’d never shared anything online. We always knew the value of keeping our music contained and not giving it away for free at the beginning at least so then we could go to a label and go to management with all these songs and ask to collaborate and now we’re just really excited to share some music and show people what we do. I think for a long time my parents didn’t even know what I was doing away from home, so it’s not nerve-wracking. Even if the song didn’t blow up or become big, it wouldn’t be a problem, it’s just something from people to hear and we can build and with next one, people might like that more. It’s so hard to get a hit record these days.
Joseph: I don’t think the focus should ever be on whether a song’s going to be a hit. Stay true to yourself and put out there what you want to put out there. The people that appreciate it, they’ll find you, and then just build on that. Something might work here more than it works in America and vice versa, it doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is bad, it just means that you need to keep going no matter what the result.
David: London is so diverse, there’s so much music. In America, they’re very set from their country music to their pop music to their rock music to their urban whereas over here it’s a bit of a mishmash. Honestly here it’s a bit of a shot in the dark, you don’t really know what’s going to hit, but there’s a good chance that because we’re from here, hopefully people will want to get on board.
The track’s already had over 20 million plays on Spotify, are you shocked by how well it’s doing or did you always know it was special?
Robert: I don’t think we ever expected that many plays. I don’t know if it was the song that I would have gone with initially, it was just one of the songs out of all of the songs we had written.
Joseph: I think it’d be cocky for us to say we knew it’d be that big.
David: I think we were just happy to meet some people who liked our stuff. We walked into the label with about thirty songs done and ready and then we let them pick which one they wanted to go with and it was Doug Morris at Sony who said “that’s the hit.” We love all our music so we were just like ‘go ahead’. We definitely want to share more and put more out there. It’s very easy to like a song for a song but you don’t fall in love with a band until you’ve heard three or four songs.
Joseph: If you hear ‘Overload’ and you like it, if you hear ‘Dreams’ and you like it, once you’ve done that five or six times, it’s stops being “that’s a good song,” and starts becoming “that’s a good band.” It’s just about the consistency and lucky we already have a lot of music in the bag and we all write, produce, play, record, engineer all our stuff. We’re musicians, not just a face with someone else making the music for us. So in that sense, we can keep making more music all the time and keep putting more stuff out there.
David: The thing is we’re not meant to put music out there for free like on SoundCloud because of Sony’s relationship but I think we’re going to. I think we’ll find a way around, we just have so much music that we want to share and when you get wrapped up in a major label or a big contract you can’t do it as easily but until somebody tells us to stop then we’re not going to.
Is ‘Overload’ a true reflection of the type of music we’ll be hearing on your debut album or will you surprise us with different sounds?
David: I definitely think people will be surprised by different sounds. We like to think of it as each song is a different something. There’ll be one ‘Overload’, one ‘Dreams’, with every song we like to switch it up and go a bit more acoustic on one, a bit more electro on another, maybe a bit more house on another and I think to do an album now where every song is of the same vibe is to shoot yourself in the foot a bit because people get bored easily and we just want to keep surprising people with cool s**t.
Your latest single ‘Dreams’ was released in the US this summer, will that be getting a release in the UK next or will we get a new track from the album?
Joseph: I think it’s a little early to say yet because we haven’t even released ‘Overload’ in the UK yet. Personally, I think ‘Dreams’ is more of an American track, I don’t think we should release it in the UK. It’s our song, we wrote it and we’re very proud of it but you have to strategise and see what makes sense.
David: I think we have songs that have more of a European or UK feel to them.
Joseph: Yeah, that’s where you have to step away and be more than an artist and be a businessman and think about strategising releases. You have to be in charge of what you’re doing and at the end of the day it’s our careers, our music and we should know how to go about things, not to just splash it all over everywhere.
Your music has been described as both acoustic-laced and dance-driven pop, which are obviously two very different genres, so where do your inspirations draw from?
Robert: We all have very different inspirations. Mainly as a producer I’ve always liked Timbaland’s stuff and Skrillex, Diplo, all of these big dance producers. We like to call our sound acoustic-house, it’s got that four to the floor rhythm, tropical vibes but acoustic rhythms from the guitar and that’s where David’s influence comes because he plays the guitar.
David: John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, James Morrison. I come from a very acousticy, songwriter kind of background and then when I met these guys they were into hip-hop and R&B and bigger productions.
Joseph: I liked a lot of hip-hop, R&B, some soul music and then I started listening to a lot of Jamaican music, with the whole Afrobeats thing that happened in the UK and I think that’s definitely an influence because me and Rob are originally from Nigeria.
David: In the house, Joe will be playing the latest Drake album or 2 Chainz and Future and I’ll be like “Check out this new Jason Mraz song!”
Joseph: I think it comes down to the fact that we are fans of music. It’s not just this kind of music, that kind of music. Maybe 10 years ago I only listened to one kind of music but today I think our musical palettes have grown and they’re more diverse and that’s why our music sounds the way it does.
David: And in the studio, we’ve worked together for like eight years and we’ve built that chemistry where we know what each of us can do on a record and records kind of just float around and come together and it just works. You can’t force that, when people are like “you’re going to go in a session with this person today and write a hit”, how do you expect that relationship to be strong enough to make something real?
Joseph: I think when you go into the studio with someone you don’t know and they’re like “What concept do you have? What do you want to write about? I was thinking we could write about this…” and to me that’s just f***ing whack because you’re trying to construct something out of nothing, you’re manufacturing music and it shouldn’t be that way because you should be into it.
David: We’d rather make 10 amazing songs in a year than 100 average tracks. We want to make something that really stops people and makes them think, whether that be the melody or a great hook or a concept or whatever.
What advice would you give to anybody who’s trying to break the industry right now?
David: There’s so much advice you could give. For one, you’ve got to want it, you’ve got to really want it. We didn’t have any return for about three years after getting out of uni but we knew where we wanted to be. You just need to keep going. Work on your skill, put the hours in. We’ve all worked from a technical side, to the production, to the singing. We’ve all put in the hours and we’re still hungry.
Robert: I think a big thing for me is that people should realise that is not impossible. We had major obstacles where we thought it was impossible and we wouldn’t break through.
David: We all started out as songwriters and producers and I think that’s a good way to start and maybe you could make a career from that, selling music. We all thought that being an artist was quite unattainable but it really isn’t. Just make music, you just need one great song to grab people’s attention.
Joseph: And when you’re here, you realise how much of it is actually down to you. Before we got signed we thought you need a label to do everything for you, and they do a lot for you but most of it is down to you and people don’t see that. It’s very easy to overlook it when you’re in it because that’s how the media makes it out to be. It all looks very glamorous on the TV and it’s a grind.
David: Get a good lawyer.