The first time I met Derrick, I asked myself, “Who IS that guy?” He looked like he stepped out of a romance novel, complete with guitar in hand. Turns out that he’s quite the songwriter. After dropping out of college to train with producers in Atlanta, he passed on a bogus record deal. Now he’s back at UGA and in the Music Business program. He brought all his talent with him. Southerland has the smooth voice most singers would kill for and the songwriting chops that most lack. His tunes are tailor made for you, like a favorite jacket, just your size. I emailed a quick Q & A to Derrick before his show today at the Melting Point. Check it out.
What got you into music and writing songs?
I went to a John Mayer concert when I was 16 in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. That was when the radio station Star 94 put on the free concerts called “On the Bricks”, and I’m pretty sure there were 100,000 people there. I was amazed at how John Mayer could play and sing and at how much I related to his songs, so I decided that night that I was going to teach myself how to play guitar. I went home and grabbed my Dad’s guitar and taught myself how to play. Songwriting came as an outlet to what happened to me day to day. I wrote a lot of songs about crushes, prom, homecoming, relationships, and relationshits. Now writing is just necessary. Sometimes I get the feeling that I need to drop everything and leave town, and I’ve realized that feeling just means that a song is about to come out. Usually the song will be pretty enlightening and let me see exactly what I’m feeling and why. It’s cool.
What’s your process for writing songs? Any particular time of day better than others?
When I write a song, I sit down with my guitar or at my piano and just start playing. Whatever mood I’m in is instantly reflected in the music, so I just open my mouth and start singing. I usually keep repeating the same lines as they come out over and over to get the wording right. Occasionally I grab my notebook and write down what it was I was singing, but I usually go to bed and see if I can remember it the next day. If I can play the song the next day, I write it down; If not, it obviously wasn’t that good so I just forget it. I guess that’s my test to see if a song is worth anything or not. I usually always write at night. It’s like my brain switches on after midnight and I get very creative. Late at night is more conducive to my style of writing probably because I’m less distracted and it’s easier to tap into what I’m subconsciously thinking.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your songs?
My inspiration comes from my own experiences mainly. There is not much if anything that I make up in songs; I may exaggerate some details, but it usually all happened the way I sing it.
Any plans for an album?
I definitely have plans for an album! I have a small studio in my house that I have been using to record. The stuff that I have on myspace was all recorded at my house with me playing all of the instruments excluding the horns that appear on a few songs,but I feel like I have outgrown my home studio at this point. I want to go ahead and do a full album with equipment better than what I have at home. I have done some tracking at John Keane’s studio and I’m trying to decide now whether I should invest more money into my own equipment or just pay for recording time. It takes a little while with me playing the majority of the instruments, so I will try to do as much at home as I can.
Who are your influences? Anyone you really look up to locally?
I grew up listening to Billy Joel and Elton John, and they definitely had a huge impact on my music. In high school I listened to a ton of John Mayer and Jason Mraz. Learning all those John Mayer songs shaped my guitar playing, and Jason Mraz influenced me to have fun songs with crazy, fast singing, and plenty of innuendo… As far as people that are local, does Atlanta count? Because I am a big Butch Walker fan. He writes, plays, and produces, which is exactly what I want to do. And he does them all very well.
Besides music, what else do you like to do with your time? Any hobbies?
Well I got my real estate license a few years ago and got a house that I’ve done a lot of work on; it can be very time consuming. I’ve found I’m not bad at renovating houses… Oh, and I always love to play Mariokart on Nintendo 64, but that gets pretty competitive…
How did you get involved with the Songwriters in the Round show?
Taylor Lindsey is a good friend of mine, and she was in charge of booking people to play. She asked me if I would be interested in playing the Songwriters in the round show and I jumped at the chance to support such a good cause with such talented artists.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I always get a little nervous before I go on stage, so I usually pee like 5 times right before I hop up to the mic. Maybe I’m scared that I will have to go once I get on stage… I mean what happens if you are in the middle of a set and you have to pee? Can you just say “I will be right back” and hop off stage??
Derrick will be playing with Hillary Lindsey, Ashley Ray, Jedd Hughes, Matt Moore, Gabriel Kelley, Rachel Farley, and Hannah Dasher. Tonight’s show will have theatre seating on the floor. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for dinner and drinks.