For Greenville native David Dixon, music always has held a prominent role in life—whether playing for beach-music legends The Embers or jamming to Led Zeppelin songs with his friends as an adolescent. But what he is aiming for now is something he has always wanted after years onstage: his own solo album.
Dixon is a talented guy. He graduated from Berklee School of Music in 2003, and has since seen the world through the lens of a performing artist. Not to mention: He basically has had an instrument in his hands ever since he left the cradle. He gives credit to his violin-instuctor mother, who reared her son in the Suzuki method as an infant.
“The Suzuki method got popular with my age group,” Dixon mentions. “We were basically the guinea-pig generation for it.”
It’s a Japanese method of learning music that focuses on listening and ear-training rather than depending on sheet music. Being well-versed in Suzuki, by the time Dixon reached 8th grade, he noticed his ear was better than his peers. When his friend let him play guitar for the first time, he quickly comprehended his advantage. It was a defining moment. “I knew I wanted to play music [ever] since,” he recollects.
In high school Dixon was inspired by Guns N’ Roses, The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, and The Grateful Dead. “The guitarists in those bands were so good at constructing melodies,” Dixon says. “If you can play a solo everyone can hum along to, you’ve got something going on.”
Learning the craft from the best was the ultimate preparation for Dixon; it prepared him not only for college but his musical career to follow. In 2008-2011 he had the opportunity to play with beach music legends The Embers. “They needed a guitarist,” he says. “And my name and résumé came up.”
Quickly realizing what kind of exposure and experience he could squeeze out of such an opportunity made the decision a no-brainer. “It didn’t hurt to play for thousands of people with a good sound system, to be on salary and to upgrade my equipment,” Dixon mentions. “We also got to perform for the troops in South Korea two years in a row.”
A lot has happened since: Dixon moved to Wilmington, something he has always wanted to do. He formed The David Dixon Trio in 2013 with bassist Evan Bartley and drummer Carl Cox and released the trio’s first album, “David Dixon,” last year. It was a feat that has been in the works for quite some time. Culling from various influences, the album combines a solid mixture of blues, rock and soul. The freshman effort was a collaborative work of Dixon’s Berklee acquaintances and Wilmington artists as well.
The track “Seven Years” features guest vocals from Wilmington native Sean Gregory of Signal Fire. “Wrong Way,” a song with crisp acoustic work and a country twang, is a track with harmonies contributed by Rebekah Todd, a local artist and musician. A live version of the song was recently uploaded to YouTube, which garnered 7,000-plus views in as little as three days.
Other tracks like “Black Heart” show off Dixon’s vocal expertise and electric guitar skills. Kicking off with a guitar tone emulative of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the blues-heavy verse flows into a catchy pop chorus.
A milestone for Dixon, he went to great lengths to make the album happen. Dave Wolfe, Dixon’s roommate during his senior year at Berklee, helped Dixon produce the it.
“Dave was studying music production and engineering,” he tells. “He needed to study in the studio, so we basically got free studio time with state-of-the-art equipment. He learned the tools of the trade and I learned what worked with my guitar.”
The two co-produced David Dixon together, and sought out Ian Millard of Cape Fear Studios to be their audio engineer. Dixon and Wolfe both flew to LA to meet former Berklee companion Ryan Tucker in order to mix the album. When the two arrived back in Wilmington, they were short on cash but still needed to have the CD mastered.
“I knew the songs were good but I couldn’t cut corners with the mastering,” Dixon explains. “So I Googled prestigious recording engineers, and the name ‘Bryan Lucie’ came up.”
Lucie won multiple Grammys for his work with renowned artists like Ray Lamontagne, Dr. Dog, The Black Keys, The Arctic Monkeys, and Sigur Ros, just to name a few. The chances of finding an affordable price with Lucie were slim to none.
“To our surprise, Brian produced a rate we could afford,” Dixon details. “I don’t know what my product meant to him, but to me it meant the world.”
Aside from the production process, Dixon has been shopping his music to publishing companies. He recently signed a sync license agreement with Washington Music Publishing in Nashville. The Trio also joined forces with Home Grown Music Network, a company comprising bands, businesses and various other individuals that strive to promote local music.
“I’ve been on a market campaign for over a year now, promoting this album,” Dixon informs. “I finally got the ball rolling. Finally, people are starting to come to me instead of me being the one who knocks.”
The David Dixon Trio will be playing Wild Wing Cafe this Saturday, March 14. The show is free.
David Dixon Trio
Wild Wing Cafe
1331 Military Cutoff Rd.
Sat., March 14, 10 p.m.