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Interview:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. finding the fast lane in the studio
 

By GARY GRAFF
21st Century Media/Digital First Media, @GraffonMu

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Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott have only been together as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. for just four years. But that's been enough time for the Detroit duo to determine what they like doing best.

"I think Daniel and I are starting to realize primarily we want to be songwriters and producers," says Epstein, 31, who now splits time between Michigan and Los Angeles, where his wife works. "We love performing and will continue to perform, but I think we're really kind of honing in the fact that our strengths as musicians lie primarily in our ability to create melodies and to create new ways of putting together chords -- for us, not necessarily ways the world has never heard.

"But it's exciting. I think we're in a really positive place with what we've done and where we're going."

The growth can certainly be heard on "The Speed of Things," DEJJ's second full-length album and a work of even more ambitious compositional craft, lush arrangements and daring studio experimentation, as well as more "serious" subject matter. Epstein and Zott had help this time, recording with co-producer Ben West at his Aashrum Studio in Ortonville, but Epstein says that was part of their creative design, too.

"I think we challenged ourselves a lot to make things we thought were different and unique," he explains. "It feels more like one of those record people will appreciate more with each listen as opposed to an immediate record, even though there are some songs that are immediate on it.

"I think every band, if you ask them what they would want, it would be more to have made a record that people enjoy more and more with age as opposed to one that makes a splash and goes away, or one song that sticks and the rest of it ends up ignored. That's really what we're trying to do."

And even as they're on the road -- with a headline tour slated to start during mid-February -- DEJJ already has new music ready to come out, mostly for a mix tape that Epstein calls "a cool experiment," which will tap into the duo's hip-hop and R&B side with guest appearances by Marvin "Slim" Scandrick of 112, Asher Roth, Flint MC Tunde Olaniran and others. He and Zott are also "seven or eight songs" into the next regular DEJJ album as well.

"What's going on with us now is trying to find the balance of making sure that we're going to always be able to make serious work and make serious art and be taken seriously, but also still enjoy the process and going out and playing and making the music and trying to express to people that it's OK to have all of that," Epstein says. "It's OK to be happy one day and sad the next day, and you're not any less of an artist for laughing and you're not any less fun of a person for crying.

"The whole thing is just kind of a fun puzzle to work and try to solve, ad very exciting at the same time.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Flint Eastwood and Violets perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Masonic Temple, 500 Temple St., Detroit. Tickets are $20. Call 313-832-7100 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.

Web Site: www.thecrofoot.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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