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New EP from Bloomington's 'DT' is a joyous debut

Darrin Thompson_1.jpg
Courtesy Darrin Thompson
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The new EP “Milk & Chinese Food” from Bloomington’s Darrin Thompson, aka “DT,” is a celebration of joy.

That musical joy hit him so hard while attending Normal Community West High School, he offered to get a job to pay for new instruments he hoped to purchase. He was thwarted for a while when his parents insisted that he focus on his studies.

But he tells WGLT’s Jon Norton that things changed after he returned from a 3-week opportunity in Australia.

"I came back, my grandfather had a 1978 Fender Jazz Bass four-string sitting on my bed. And on the floor right in front of that was a keyboard. So, I picked those things up, started playing all these different riffs on the instruments, couldn't play them all at the same time. So, I said, ‘I got to start recording these ideas.’ And that's kind of how I got started recording music."

This interview with DT has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

WGLT: "Honey Child” is the opening track on “Milk & Chinese Food.” It’s so much fun it's almost like it’s a song that wants to celebrate fun.

DT: Oh, yeah, yeah, it's very much that. I got the idea while driving out to New York to do a friend's wedding for him. I literally sang it into my phone. And as soon as I got back home, I started working on that track. And the singer Tishiani? I had her in mind for the song as soon as I had the idea come to me.

Honey, did you hear that beat
That sax going nice all nice and neat, I said
Honey, did you hear that beat
Even Mama done hopped up out her seat, I said
Honey, did you hear that beat
Rhythm flow from my ears down to my feet, I said

So, when you're driving, and you're hearing this thing in your head, what was the inspiration for all this celebratory joy?

I'm not sure what this is called. But you know, some people, you could be in the shower, you get this amazing idea. Or you're just doing some kind of thing … like you're out walking, I was driving 16 hours to New York, and I was bored. And I'll sit there and beatbox in the car and just come up with lyrics or musical ideas. I had one that stuck and that's usually how it works for me.

You say that when you were growing up, smooth jazz was part of your father's repertoire. So that's how you picked it up?

Yes, that was a something I said at the time when I was a kid that “I was subjected to.” But now I really look back at those days fondly. But yeah, all the time in the car with him. It was Dave Koz, Kirk Whalen, Kenny G. You know, all those great saxophone players.

So how did that translate into the music you're making right now? Because this is not smooth jazz.

I think that's how it translates. The thing that I hear other people say about my music the most is “Oh, wow, it always sounds really, I guess the word they say is smooth or cool. Even though it's not smooth jazz. It just has a nice melodic character to it. I think those chord progressions … how the song sounds … kind of lend themselves to that smooth jazz influence.

The next song is called “When You Go.” I'm going to read a line. “But I'll still love you when you go.”

Yeah

And then the next line is, “I'll still love you when you go.”

(laughs)

And “I'll still love you when you go.” That's pretty much the whole song. Right?

Pretty much. The idea that I have in my head for that is, what's that one thing that you have this insatiable desire for all the time? For me, that's summer, you know, it's kind of that that thing for other people - what's that one thing that you just can't seem to get enough of? And that's kind of what the song is for me. I just absolutely love summer.

Where does the album title “Milk and Chinese Food” come from?

So, milk and Chinese food are two things that don't go together, right? That was the thought behind the music. All the music on here is quite different. “Honey Child” has a bit of that swing jazz feel to it. Then you have “When You Go,” it's more of a contemporary thing. And then you have the other track on there, “Slay,” which is very much an 80s vibe. So, a lot of artists like to have somewhat of a theme to their projects that they put together. And I really don't. If I like the sound of it, I'll put it together. And the other reason is that it’s a name that seems to have stuck with a lot of people. When I tell them that, they remember that for when it came out. And I'm easy to find that way because there's nobody else naming their stuff such crazy names.

You mentioned the song “Slay,” the third after the instrumental for the opening song and then a different take on “When you go.”

So “Slay.” Being a baby from the 80s I love that sound and that's the vibe that this this song took on for me and then literally just listening to it, it had this spunky kind of attitude. I just pictured it in my head. You know, ladies walking down the street, they know they look good, they feel good. They've really stepped out for their day and that's just the vibe.

Out and about she got that catwalk working
Heads all turning, everybody knee-jerking
Doing double takes, she the baby cakes
Her fashion makes, her fancy taste
Dudes tryna holla, she don't need your dollar
She got her own Prada, never ever felt hotter
She hit thirty thirty, no time flirty Ferdie
No playing games, just say her name

It's fun and it celebrates that ladies want to look good and feel good and be empowered and that's kind of kind of the thought that came to mind.

Darrin Thompson aka “DT” thank you so much for sharing this joyful album. For the last X amount of years it's been a really tough time for a lot of people right? And to have an album like this come out with so much joy … it's a nice breath of fresh air.

Oh, thank you. I really appreciate that. It's one of the things with my music. I just like to have fun and a lot of people can see that on Facebook and Instagram when I'm posting my little videos. I'm in those videos having fun with the music too. And it's just something that I hope is contagious for other people.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.
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