Written by Emily Smith
Incorporating a signature vintage and soulful sound into his blend of pop, Derik Fein has developed a sincere sound over the years. He has his wide array of musical influences – old and new – to thank for his sound, including Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Amy Winehouse, Adele, and much more. “They take me back to a simpler time when it was just about the music and nothing else,” Derik tells us, “They’re sing[ing] from the gut with pain. I wish we had more artists like that today.” Authenticity is especially important to him when it comes to crafting a sound, which influences who he listens to and who he would like to work with in the future. “One artist that I particularly admire for her authenticity is Adele,” he says, “I would love to cut a record with Adele.”
Derik was especially inspired by these musicians in his younger years. He reflects on the first time he heard an Elvis record. “His voice gave me chills, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I picked up the guitar first and after a while of playing started singing.” A completely self-taught musician, Derik utilized YouTube and various other mediums in place of professional training. Eventually, after ages of practicing, he built up the courage to record a homemade demo tape of cover songs, which he handed to the manager of his local Starbucks in hopes of landing a gig there. Though he was initially terrified of performing in front of the crowd, the performance went by quickly and gave him an unmistakable feeling. “After the gig I was still high on the adrenaline and wanted to do it all over again.”
The adrenaline he got from that performance still hits him today, as he is currently performing and creating music while making his way through the industry. Over the years, Derik has learned to persevere despite the challenges he faces as a new musician. For instance, he has developed a new outlook despite people’s opinions. “Many people will tell you music is not a career and to get a real job. But if you’re passionate about it and work really hard, you will make it one day. Embrace rejection because no matter how talented you are, you’ll get a hundred no[‘s] before one yes.”
Derik also knows the challenges that a new musician faces when navigating the waters of the music industry without the life support that a major label can provide. Nowadays, the major pop acts are able to churn out album after album, since their labels can provide enough money and resources for artists to keep the fans satisfied with a couple of albums a year. For more independent artists, the album-making process is more time-consuming and expensive. Derik notes, “Today’s music industry has drastically changed. Now an artist really only makes a living out on the road so all of the expenses incurred on recording the music is mostly recovered on tour. People don’t know how expensive it is to record a song.”
If his time as a musician has taught him anything, it’s how to adapt and deal with the changing times. Instead of letting the rejection and frustration that came from the modern industry break him down, Derik took matters into his own hands and formed his own record company called Bodega Records, which he runs with his fiancé. Though the task of managing his own record company is no easy one, it has taught Derik how to make it with what he has. “[W]e don’t have all the resources that a major label would have, but it has taught me to be extremely resourceful and creative,” he says, “I love the freedom that I have to release music whenever I want.”
Will he eventually join a major label? Maybe. According to him, he would have to wait for the right time. For now, he is enjoying having control of his creative ventures after dealing with the mainstream industry for so long. Charles Bukowski once said, “You have to die a few times before you can really live.” That quote is a favorite of Derik’s, and one he has clearly embraced on his journey to becoming a musician.
With this newfound freedom to create music to his liking, songwriting has become a little more relaxed and less controlled. This freedom also enables him to inject his songs with stories of his personal experiences. “Almost all of my songs are based off of my own real life experiences, family members, and close friends,” he tells us, “If I run out of material or people to write about…I then rent an airbnb in the middle of nowhere and lock myself in a room for days to tune out the world and connect with my thoughts.”
Derik dives into these personal experiences on his album Vertigo. The album was released the month his grandmother passed away, which was a particularly heart-wrenching experience for Derik. “Just seeing her being wheeled out of the house in a body bag made such an impact on me,” he says, “That same day hospice came to empty her room and I sat in her room the entire day crying my eyes out.” This inspired him to write one of his favorite tracks on the album, “Sad Boy.”
Derik now has a new single out titled “Vows,” a sincere acoustic track which he hopes his fans will relate to.
As for the future, Derik hopes to sell out Madison Square Garden (and hopefully have Adele and Beyoncé in attendance) and win a Grammy. Overall, he plans to reach as many new heights as possible during his music career.
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