“I listen to a lot of soul music and a lot of funk,” says Dylan Chambers of his musical tastes. “I will listen to the Temptations as much as I listen to Prince or Parliament or James Brown. That’s my ebb and flow, those two types of music.”
Chambers, who handles guitar duties as well as the singing and songwriting, manages to cover both of those genres on his new singles “Some Kind Of Happy” and “Breakdown,” produced by his longtime collaborator Stefan Litrownik. The latter is a funk workout that revs up the intensity and angst, with Chambers cathartically belting over a relentless groove. But the former catches a much mellower vibe, ambling along amiably as a kind of emotional flip side to the other track.
That’s no accident, as Chambers explained to American Songwriter that the two singles originated from enduring the highs and lows of pandemic living. “’Some Kind Of Happy’ was me describing this anxious enthusiasm that I was starting to feel,” he says. “I went on a trip to Joshua Tree for my birthday in August and I was sitting out under the stars. I was actually watching a meteor shower. I was looking up and I just had this thought that came to me and said now is the time to reach the highest expression of yourself. Don’t be afraid anymore to really go after the things you want.
“I think there’s a lot of contrast that we feel during a pandemic. We see a lot of the things that we’re not able to do right now, which makes us want to do it even more, almost in a rebellious sense,” he continues. “I was sitting there just thinking, ‘yeah, you know what, now is the time.’ I’ve been afraid to do things for a little bit and I don’t know how to describe this feeling, but I’m feeling hopeful, I’m feeling enthusiastic, and to me the phrase that came out was that this feels like some kind of happy. I don’t know what kind of happy, but it’s definitely some kind. It’s seeing into the future of my life and feeling excited, feeling this creative hopefulness.”
But Chambers was only able to achieve that revelation after he had gone through a period of struggle. “‘Breakdown’ definitely was contrasting to ‘Some Kind Of Happy,’ because ‘Breakdown’ came out of me really feeling like I was losing my identity as a musician during this time,” he says. “I spent so many years on the road touring with other artists or doing one-off dates, always on a plane, always in a new city. And everything just abruptly stopped and I just kept thinking, well, who am I now without my shows, without that live connection. I did start to have what I would say was a little bit of breakdown. It was kind of in a spiritual sense.
“I needed to get right with myself and figure out who am I without all of that. Who am I as just Dylan Chambers, the human being, the soul, and not the guy with the guitar who wants to groove? Because I’m not really able to do that right now. And then ‘Some Kind Of Happy’ was like now I’m feeling a creative flow again and feeling excited for the future. There’s definitely contrast in there and I wanted them to feel that way musically as well, which I feel we captured.”
Chambers gravitates towards these genres in part because of the thrill of performing them. “It lights you up especially when you’re up they’re playing it,” he says. “I just had a rehearsal with my band the other day where we just started playing these songs together for the first time. To get in with these guys and to rehearse these songs, we played both of them, it just felt so good. Feeling that together as one, it transcends. Everybody in the room feels happy.”
Chambers is keeping busy by preparing for an upcoming episode of Jam In The Van as well as releasing another new single in May. One of his goals going forward is to keep displaying different sides of himself as an artist, something he certainly achieves with these two tracks. “As an artist, it’s your job to evolve constantly,” Chambers says of his philosophy. “I think there’s been a trend in music where It’s like everything’s gotta sound similar. Track 1 has to sound like Track 2. For me, a lot of my heroes, you have people like James Brown, who did funk and soul and in the ‘80s, he would add Linn drums and there was ‘Living America.’ And it was very strange, but it still had that core of who he was. A lot of my favorite artists did that. They developed over time but they still kept the core of who they are. And that’s a goal of mine every time I go into the studio and make a new single.”
Photo by Joshua Shultz.