Brandon Dyke is a progressive rock singer songwriter and guitarist from Greenville, SC. His unique vocals reflects the styles of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, David Gilmour, and Steven Wilson. Brandon‘s guitar work is inspired by players such as Alex Lifeson, Eric Johnson, David Gilmour, Trey Anastasio, Steve Morse, John Petrucci, and Joe Satriani. Inspired by his favorite band, Rush, Brandon writes songs with no boundaries or rules attached!
Brandon answered the Progstravaganza questionnaire, check it below.
How did you come to do what you do?
Well, I come from a musical family. My dad was a singer-songwriter and guitarist, my mom played piano and flute, and my stepdad still plays bass, guitar and sings. My brother is good drummer, world instrument player, guitarist and singer. I started playing guitar when I was 13 and took lessons at Seminole Music in Seminole, FL. My first guitar teacher, Tom, got me interested in the band Rush. I went out and bought every album to date after hearing Moving Pictures. I later started studying guitar with Steve Petrey, a great fusion-style guitarist who had played with Jeff Berlin and many others. Steve not only taught me every Rush song I brought in, he also introduced me to classical guitar. The first real band I played in was an alternative rock band called Brainstorm. My brother Nathan played bass and sang, I was on guitar and my friend Jason Rexroat played drums. We played our first show in the Ybor City scene in Tampa Florida. I was 15 years old.
When I was 16, I started a band called Interstate 7. We had an eclectic sound, but were really a progressive rock band with some of the influences that came along with the 90′s. We recorded an album at Bay Sound studios in Tampa with producer and engineer Dan Smith, and traveled to different parts of Florida for concerts. During that time I was studying classical and jazz guitar with guitar virtuoso and teacher, Joe Braccio, at St. Petersburg Jr. College. I learned how to refine my skills and technique on the classical guitar, and how to apply music theory knowledge to the guitar.
By 1997, the members of Interstate 7 moved on to different places in life, and I went on to finish my guitar performance degree at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. There I studied with Mitchell Turner and Keith Gehle, and really learned a lot about music interpretation from both men. At Toccoa, I met Aaron Shust (now a Dove Award winning artist), and we had a band featuring Aaron’s songs called Enconium. I played lead guitar, and we performed a number of concerts together. I also played in a jam band called Netless with friend and fellow music student — violinist, guitarist, and songwriter, Russell Hays. During the summer of 1998, I played lead guitar with a punk band called Punch Buggy Red. We also recorded an EP at Bay Sound studios.
In 2002, I moved to Greenville, SC, to teach guitar and play music professionally. I joined forces with guitarist Shawn Allen to play in a guitar duo called Spatha in 2003, and in 2004 we recorded an album together called Music for Two Guitars. Our music was played on NPR and other radio stations around the country. In 2005, Spatha played concerts in other parts of the U.S. and we were committed to stretching the limits of classical music. By 2006, I had been playing in an instrumental progressive rock trio called C.B.S. (Charlie, Brandon, Sam) for a few years. In addition to C.B.S., I played at the jazz clubs in town with a group called Unit 7. A few years later I played with a couple rock bands: the Joe Cuyar Band and Neapolitan.
So, 2012 brought me to the start of going public as a solo artist. In January of 2012, I released my first rock single called, “You’re the One I Can’t Live Without,” a song I wrote for my wife. The next month, I released my solo guitar album, Timeless Moments. In June of 2013, I released another rock song, “Hindsight,” and in January, 2014, I released my acoustic version of “Mission” by Rush. It was featured on the Rush Is a Band FB page and got over 500 plays in one day. I seem to get a lot of positive response from true Rush fans on my version of Mission.
What is your first musical memory?
When I was 2 or 3, I had a toy guitar that I would play with a lot. I also remember being in the car and hearing Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” on the radio. When the guitar solo came on I remember feeling really inspired, even at a very young age.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Life experiences, inspiring people, beautiful places, spiritual inspirations, any of the arts, other musicians and artists, books, and movies. It’s no secret I am a huge Rush fan and I respect the fact that the band can be normal guys, trust their musical instincts, and be successful on their own terms.
What message does the song on our Progstravaganza compilation carry?
“Hindsight” is about dealing with life choices and their outcomes. Even though everyone may have a slightly different interpretation of the subject matter, most can agree on freewill and the power that our choices have in our lives. I went through a time in my life where I had to make really critical and life-altering decisions. I had to weigh my options and choose a path. The song also deals with the unfortunate side of hindsight — dealing with things that happen to us that we don’t have power over, and the struggle of trying to live in the present moment while still being haunted by the past.
Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?
The only pre-determined pattern that I stick by is to trust my musical instincts and try to do the best that I can do. If it’s a solo guitar piece or a rock song, there is still a time of experimenting where I try to find the pattern for each individual piece or song. With solo guitar, you are somewhat restricted with the amount of fingers you have to physically play out your musical ideas. On “Son of Life,” my solo guitar tribute to Alex Lifeson, I knew I wanted it to be in 7/8. Once I played around with the first few chord shapes and the accents, I knew I wanted to compose the piece around a prelude arpeggio style. The rest seemed to happen while considering voice leading and experimenting with making the chord voicing sound unique.
What is your method of songwriting?
I tend to approach a rock song from many different avenues. A lot of the time I am jamming on a guitar and get a cool riff or chord progression. My song, “Sift,” was born from the opening riff with the Em9 chord (down 1/2 step in recording). As I played around with open voicings in the key, I had my verse, and then I used thirds on the 5th and 4th strings for the chorus. I was constructing the lyrics at the same time in my green notebook where I keep all my lyric ideas. When I was recording the song I decided to create two solos. The first was my 2nd take: unedited right after the first chorus (I like to play with unexpected structure), and the other I approached much like a symphony. It is the 7/8 section after the second chorus. I had written that 7/8 groove riff a few weeks before, but I didn’t know it would end up in “Sift.” I then composed a keyboard part to compliment the guitar riff. I layered the guitar part three times on different tracks, and wrote two additional guitar parts that enter at different times so it feels like it builds dynamically. I really like stretching the boundaries of normal sonic space and the limitations that can be put on how busy a part should be. I have learned that if you mix it right, you can make almost anything work. As far as lyrics go, sometimes when I get an idea about a song or concept of a song I just go write it down in my green book. I have blank pages with titles of songs there, too. A lot of times I have music first in mind for a concept and then lyrics are crafted from that initial idea. From time to time, it happens the other way around, I craft the lyrics and then I find the music that works with it. “You’re the One I Can’t Live Without” was first written on an acoustic guitar. When a song is already written like that, I can develop riffs and textures related to chord progressions and structures that are already present.
How do you see your music evolving?
For now, I mainly write, record, and produce my own music. Then Andy VanDette masters my final mixes. I like working that way. I am a full time guitar teacher and professional musician, and I have a family of 6. So, I get to work on my songs after everything else is done. That being said, I continue to learn as much as possible about recording and sound in order to be able to produce the best product that I can. It is a lot of hard work, but I appreciate working on my own time schedule. As far as my music goes, I have really been enjoying writing progressive rock songs. I love the freedom to bring influences into the style, and it’s a great genre to combine all the guitar styles that I have been playing for years. I am excited about finishing my album Headspace. Once the album is done, I plan on forming a band that can play the music live.
What advice would you give to other musicians, trying to make inspired music and get it out in the world?
Believe that you can do it! Trust your own musical influences but celebrate what you have learned from other artists. Have a strong work ethic and drive towards your goals. Never stop learning and growing on your instrument. Don’t let others tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are. Be super kind to people. People skills go a long way in the music industry and in life. Enjoy your music and don’t apologize for marketing yourself. Focus on personal excellence and try not to compare yourself with others too much. Life is short: write the music that makes you happy and that you believe in, because no one really wants to be a puppet dancing on a string and compromising your musical integrity for a bunch of shiny things.
What are you looking forward to?
The next Rush tour. Ha ha, no really. I am looking forward to a lot of things. I am playing a lot of music right now with different projects. I have played with C.B.S. for 10 years now, and am playing guitar and singing lead vocals. (Sam Burgess, bass and Charlie Adams, drums) Our original music is all instrumental progressive rock stuff, but we have been performing some rock covers by The Who, The Cream, Rush, The Police, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, etc. to get some gigs. I also play guitar and vocals in a progressive world fusion group called Trade Routes (Nathan Dyke, world instruments, drums, vocals, guitar; Robert Nance, fretless bass, percussion; Miko Amore, bass and vocals) with my brother Nathan Dyke. We play mainly in the Asheville, NC, music scene, but we want to branch out to other cities. So, I have some exciting projects to look forward to in addition to completing my album Headspace and forming my own band.
Brandon Dyke on the web:
Bands, send your music submissions for the Progstravaganza compilation series to firstname.lastname@example.org