Indie pick of the week: Derek Atkinson

Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

With strong vocals and instrumentation, Derek Atkinson’s music is a grungy blend of reggae and alternative rock, a sound he describes as “Sublime meets Johnny Cash.”

“It’s usually pretty hard to describe my sound, and I hear the same from a lot of people, because it blends so many different musical elements and ideas at once,” Derek said. “I’ve always listened to and experimented with lots of different sounds and styles, and I feel my writing reflects that. I try to keep things upbeat, positive, and constantly moving.”

Derek Atkinson’s sound is a reggae-rock infused “Sublime meets Johnny Cash.” Photo/Derek Atkinson
Derek Atkinson’s sound is a reggae-rock infused “Sublime meets Johnny Cash.” Photo/Derek Atkinson

Born in Chelsea, Mich., music was a big part of Derek’s life growing up. His father played guitar, mother played organ and he and his siblings were exposed to various percussion instruments. He has moved many times throughout the state, to places including Romulus and his current home in Warren.

“Growing up I thought everyone had a music room in their house,” Derek said. “My brother would teach me easy little melodies and riffs on guitar and by the time I was 7 or 8, I had my own.”

Throughout high school, Derek took guitar, piano, drum and vocal lessons, but credits much of his learning to studying the works of other musicians and 8-hour practice sessions after school. During that time, he learned different guitars, bass, drums, banjo, ukulele, percussion and keyboard instruments, eventually taking his performance to the streets.

Today, music remains a big part of Derek’s life. While he works during the day making websites, graphics and doing marketing, Derek puts a lot of time into his music career. He said he shares his music with others to make them feel good.

One of his songs, “Overtime,” was written about a past job, where he worked 50 hours a week, struggling to get by. He knew this was something others could relate to, and shared his sorrow with lyrics “when lunch time comes I punch the clock and hit the door, for an hour off the floor, making it 15 minutes more.”

Another track, “Carried Away,” looks at Derek’s love and passion for music and getting lost in a song. The video features him playing and him singing in the car, one of his “favorite places to get ‘Carried Away’ in music.”

“I’m always inspired by what’s going on around me and I’ve found that the more open and honest I am when I write, the better the songs turn out,” Derek said. “My lyrics are usually about what I’m actually doing or thinking about at the time, usually about music, love, nature, or peaceful existence. I also like using double entendre, plays on words, and saying many things with the least amount of words possible.”

Creative Commons has helped Derek get his music out there to an audience he said may have not otherwise heard it. Recently, Derek has put together his new live band,The Ohmbres. He currently performs in the Detroit area, but will be expanding his tour to Toledo and Chicago in the future.

For more of Derek, visit his website

Follow him on Twitter: @DerekBAtkinson

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