I’m Derek Lassiter, a vocalist and composer living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Born and raised in the South Bronx in New York City I heard a variety of music and rhythms coming from the apartments of our Cuban and West Indian neighbors. My mother listened to Soul, Jazz, and folk music on a console style record player and sang along to her favorite songs, at these moment she seemed happiest and I joined in. Soon I began to (re)write the lyrics of other people's songs, and TV commercials to suite my personal stories.
At age 11 I moved to the suburbs of Pennsylvania to live with my Grandmother. She had no stereo and only listened to a Country and Western station on a little transistor radio in her kitchen. I sang along to those songs as well. On Sundays I attended a Baptist church with a next-door neighbor and heard Gospel music for the first time.
These two starkly different environments had a profound effect on me as a person and as an artist. I’ve fronted rock, soul and jazz bands and sung in choirs. Music exists in space and time but has few other boundaries for me. I am as likely to draw from something familiar as I am from a new discovery.
In recent years I have become acutely aware of music’s ability to activate the spirit—to take us out of our heads, and feel a range of emotions. Once aware of this it became very important to me to write and sing songs that are about raising the human condition. I’ve spent the last couple of years writing, arranging, and recording an album titled Music Outside.
Recently someone asked, when did I first start singing. After a moment I answered; "I don't remember NOT singing!" Even so, Music Outside will be my first full length album. After the success of my EP Witness, which was released in 2006, it took sometime to figure out what I wanted to do next. After a series of starts and stops I began working with my co-producer for M.O., Art Khu.
The impetus for this collection of songs: at one point in my life I made the decision to give up music and art and concentrate on my 9-5 publishing job. This decision had a profound effect on my life and health. "Don't die with your music inside you" became a silent mantra. As I began the journey towards healing I met others along the way who were struggling. I dedicate this album to you--a reminder to get your own music outside.
Photographer: Derek Lassiter