Typically when I interview an artist for a freelance bio, either they’re not based in NYC or their publicist is already frantic to beat down their own deadline—so phoners are often the way of the world… certainly efficient and, if you’re a good enough journalist, often as connected and revealing as a sit-down interview.
For burgeoning Jersey-based singer, songwriter and producer KDrew, I had a face-to-face last week. Not only is this young guy wildly talented, but he’s well spoken, business-minded (as co-owner of his label Indie Music Group) and awfully easy on the eyes… which never hurts.
Last week, he earned a spot as MTV’s Buzzworthy artist of the week, a major coup for an independent artist. Check out his fantastic New York-based apocalypse-themed video for “One” below; explore KDrew’s music here (recommended: “Body and Soul (She Got Control),” “One” and “Yesterday”) and website here. And now, read all about your new pop/rock/dance hero and remember… you heard him here first! *
The cable TV series followed the acting career of Vincent Chase and his posse of pals from Queens as they navigated the movie business in Los Angeles. In the real-life scenario of KDrew, a.k.a. Kevin Drew, the New Jersey born-and-bred artist is surrounded by a team of six fulltime staffers working for the Indie Music Group, taking on the industry by way of New York.
Incredibly, since October 2010, all seven—KDrew and manager John Levy, alongside operations, social media and marketing officials, a videographer and fellow musician—have lived under one roof in East Windsor, N.J., with a singular purpose: to propel the musician’s career.
KDrew’s could-be reality show squad is obviously onto something. In mid-January 2012, his single “One” launched on MTV as a Buzzworthy clip, a remarkable achievement for an artist sans major label backing or distribution. In addition, he has amassed more than 100,000 Facebook fans, appeared on Clear Channel’s syndicated “Elvis Duran And The Morning Show,” was featured in teen magazine “J-14,” and attracted 3,000+ home state fans for his first live solo performance in 2010. Add to that dozens of online features and blog posts singing the praises of the artist’s solid vocals, hitworthy songs and the rest of the package: an undeniably jaw-dropping set of rock-hard abs.
“The time we live in makes it possible to build a career through word of mouth,” KDrew says. “Music has become a new kind of democracy. You really don’t need radio; you can be seen and heard on YouTube. If something’s cool and interesting, people are going to share it. Today, you have a voice to show how you feel about things and what you’re doing. It’s become a great platform for artists and has created a new kind of freedom, a new individuality.”
Indie Music Group (IMG) was formed six years ago by KDrew and primary partner Levy, who adds, “We weren’t created by former label executives, so we’re definitely operating more on passion than science. Being independent allows Kevin to be who he is as a songwriter and singer. He wears what he wants and says what he wants. He’s not a manufactured artist—and people get that.”
In hand, the independent route forged by IMG allows KDrew to proffer his musical versatility instead of being pigeonholed into a dumbed-down one-dimensional stylist. For a kid that grew up with a professional musician dad and started experimenting with his eight-track analog gear at age 14—while soaking in favorites Michael Jackson, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Coldplay, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Celine Dion—KDrew is a natural-born master of pliancy.
“My sound in two words: classic pop,” he says. “So many acts influenced me and I want to explore all of those sounds, from rock and pop to hip-hop, dance and dubstep.”
Levy adds, “People are still asking, is he pop or urban or rock? Our goal is to get away from those labels—to deliver songs that are meaningful to an artist without having to choose the genre first.”
IMG is doing just that via a series of KDrew EPs, “Free,” Volumes 1 through 7, with one released each month to familiarize his burgeoning fan base with the singer’s diverse musical palette. Each EP offers four songs written, mixed and produced by Drew, with live guitars, bass, strings and percussion. “We live in a world where media is consumed so quickly,” he says. “This lets people get the big picture of who I am. To fill in the cracks on the Internet, my introduction needs to include a ton of material.”
Among highlights of the first three volumes is “Body & Soul (She Got Control),” an eight-cylinder dance track about an overprotective dude who spies on his girlfriend, only to discover her dissing a guy in a club and being true to her man. Midtempo “One In A Million” conjures a chug-along harmonic call to self-empowerment; atmospheric “Yesterday” soars as a Beatles-esque hook-packed power ballad, urging that we leave regrets behind and focus on the here and now; and rock-stoked “Dirty Dancer” is a slinky sexual salvo to that girl everyone eyes on the dancefloor.
MTV’s Buzzworthy “One”—with all potential to usher national radio airplay—is a kaleidoscopic stomp of sweaty beats and hooky synths with a lyric that implores, “If we only had one night to live in this world/why not love who you’re with.” The supporting video clip casts KDrew and his lady fleeing potential Armageddon in an eerily vacant New York City… hoping to somehow survive the night.
Five years down the road, meanwhile, KDrew is determined to more than simply survive in the music business. In addition to solo success, his ambition is to develop IMG with partner Levy as a launching pad for other talented artists to demonstrate their stylistic diversity. And yes, he counts on the seven-member “House of Indie” to remain the label’s group home… although with a few modifications.
“Today, the seven of us eat, sleep and breathe for the same cause, and we do a good job as a family,” KDrew says, and with a grin: “In time, I’d like to be sitting in our pool-house studio with a couple Grammys, hopefully with enough success that the seven of us own the whole block: the ‘House of Indie’ compound.”
KDrew adds, “We believe in changing the way the music industry works. We hope to not only open doors for the artists we eventually work with, but open a lot of eyes, too.”