Just be you. This is the hardest one because you will be compared to other artist all the time. You might even think that’s your lane, but do what makes you happy. If I had listened to others I would’ve been more like Jack Johnson than Davo Sounds.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Attack the Sound.
Formed in 2009 by army vet, singer/songwriter Davo Sounds (David Woulard), Attack the Sound (ATS) has worked tirelessly to leave a lasting impression on the Chicago music scene. Using elements of jazz, hip hop, blues, gospel and rock, ATS has coined a new genre, Chi-pop [alternative RnB].
An electrifying and smooth tone, supported by a dynamic live show, has cemented a place for ATS among Chicago familiars, affording the pleasure of working with artists like Isaiah Sharkey, Bianca Shaw, Taylor Bennett and JC Brooks. Not only has the music scene taken notice, in 2019, ATS appeared on ABC’s Chicagoland hit midday show, Windy City Live, becoming one of the few bands to grace the show’s stage. In 2020, Attack the Sound inked its first sync deal with Winding Way Record for the single, Love is War. That same year, the music video for Love is War (retitled Love:War), went on to win Judges’ Choice at the Midwest Film Festival. 2021 kicked off with the band winning Best Cinematography at the Best of the Midwest Awards for their music video Love:War. ATS is currently recording new music with Isaiah Sharkey, set to release fall of 2021, and preparing for Covid restrictions to be lifted so the band can play more shows.
Lead Vocals/Guitar — Davo Sounds
Guitar/Vocals — Viano
Bass — Netta Sherrell
Keys/Vocals — Niki
Drums/Vocals — Paris Jmal
Sax/Vocals — Vante
Trumpet/Vocals — Wei
Trombone — Royce Turner
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Davo: I was born on the west side of Chicago, IL as the 3rd child to a single mother of 4. With two other sisters and a baby brother you can imagine I was not the focus of my mothers attention. I learned that love isn’t always seen. A belief that was reinforced at weekly church engagements.
Paris: I’m the youngest of 6 siblings. They were all grown up during my childhood. Growing up, I kinda felt like an only child.
Viano: When I was 9, I saw a live band at church for the first time and became enamored with the instruments. I begged my parents to get me a guitar so I could rock like them. One Christmas at 11 they got me a guitar and I immediately set to learning and writing my own songs. I was always a bit of an attention seeker and what better way than to play music in front of people.
Royce: I am the youngest of 3 siblings of a single mother. Moved from place to place including hotels as a kid which was pretty cool, but boring at times. Regardless of where we were, we were always close to good music.
Nikki: I’m from Chicago, and I come from a tightly-knit family. I was lucky to have parents that exposed me to different activities whether it was music, sports, or art. Growing up, I was a mildly eccentric Jack of many trades.
Wei: I was born in Chicago and raised all over the place! Lol, my dad served in the navy and my mom just couldn’t sit still. The places I stayed that made me the person I am today are definitely Gary, Indiana, Detroit, Michigan, Augusta, Georgia and Chicago of course… all of those places influenced me musically in a dramatic way!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Davo: I believe I always knew I wanted to be a performer. I remember watching “Mooner Walker” and just trying to do all his moves. It was electrifying! Then I saw a commercial with Lenny Kravitz “Fly Away” playing on it and I knew I wanted to do music for sure. Just the way music can make you feel and I want to make everyone feel good so I hope to do that through music.
Paris: Music and art has been one of the only things that makes sense to me. Art is the freest action any human can express.
Royce: Music has been a vital part in my immediate family, dating back to my Grandad, who was a studio drummer out of Gary, Indiana, a truck driver as his profession and a veteran as well. I always had a variety of music playing in the house, from Steely Dan, to Bob Marley, Parlament to Norman Brown.
Niki: I met Davo in college. He was playing the guitar at a student showcase, and I asked him how I could do the same. He told me, I made 50 dollars, and became quick musician friends. This was back when Attack the Sound was less project and more dream. We both ended up living abroad, but years later, the stars aligned, we reconnected, and here we are.
Wei: Music has always been a big part of my family. Literally everyone can either sing, dance, or rap. You name it! Lol, so music was a no brainer but I honestly didn’t even entertain the thought of making it my career until I was 19 and pre-med. Everyone around me seemed passionate about their field of study and I didn’t. That’s when I knew I was a musician!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Davo: So there I was at this really cool restaurant in Chicago’s River North area and my buddy is a host there. He is hosting an open mic this particularly cold Monday night and I was not for it lol. I showed up late of course and decided to forgo playing my guitar and just sing Karaoke. I did and afterwards was met by the drag performer Chile. She is international and a regular at that location. Chile loves me, but that’s a given. She then introduces me to the manager and close friend of the Smashing Pumpkins! He tells me and his wife that he loved my performance and wanted to work together in the future. Why was he there?
Paris: Within my 3rd year of playing professionally, I got to play on a nationwide tour.
Netta: I’ve had some amazing things happen to me since I began my music journey, but I’d have to say my experience on Empire takes the cake. I got to work with some of my favorite Actors & Actresses including Terrence Howard.
Royce: Wow. So as a husky kid, I’ve had some talents. I had a lot of sports aspirations including basketball, football, and baseball. I didn’t have a team nor the desire to be a part of one until I moved into Harvey district 147, at Maya Angelou. By the skin of my teeth, I made the basketball team. And at the last practice before our first game, I dislocated my thumb, doing the suicide drill, of all things. Lol. Needless to say, I’m devastated and depressed, and boom, here’s music to take over my life. Now as starting instruments go, I had to choose between flute, clarinet, trombone, and trumpet. I chose the trombone because it looked really cool in comparison to the flute and clarinet, which just about every girl chose, including one of my older sisters. Not being able to do sports definitely skyrocketed my growth on the trombone to the point where I was performing with older middle school bands. Funny how I chose trombone on a whim and fell in love with music.
Niki: When I lived in Nicaragua, I performed solo at different venues, a couple of which were recorded on live tv. In the following days, locals recognized me on the streets and in the taxis. So random people were asking if they could take pictures with me, and I was branded the morena that sings.
Wei: That’s a tough one because everyday since i became a street musician has been pretty darn interesting haha, one event that sticks out is when I accidentally punched my childhood idol “trombone shorty” I didn’t know who he was at first glance and only noticed a saxophone case that looked exactly like the case I kept all of my money in, and instead of looking behind me, where it was located, I decided to run to him and snatch it from his hands and ended up fighting his entire band accidentally because of my stupidity. I knew a few ppl that knew him personally so they called to explain my side of the story to him after the fact but I’m sure he hates me now.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Davo: Geez I’ve made so many mistakes. I think the funnest though it wasn’t funny at the time, but I forgot my solo on stage and completely guitar hero butchered my songs lol.
Paris: When I first walked into my high school band room, which is where I learned how to play, I wanted to play the snare drum. Obviously because of Nick Cannon and just seeing the movie Drumline the year prior. I told my Director at the time I could play based on my knowledge of the movie. I was immediately placed on a more intermediate drum. I learned that day to be humble and have a willingness to learn.
Niki: It wasn’t funny then, but it’s funny now. When I was 11, I played in a recital. I’d almost gotten through the entire piece perfectly, but I made an obvious mistake at the end and paused before finishing. When my father pointed it out, I got so angry that I cried and told my mother. Exasperated, he asked, “If you took a math test with 100 problems on it, and you got one wrong, what would you get?” I answered an A. Then he scoffed, and that was the end of the conversation. The lessons learned were 1) mistakes aren’t the end of the world, and 2) when you mess up, play it off like you didn’t.
Wei: In middle school concert band, I had no idea that all of our concerts were televised, it took until I graduated for me to see myself on local access television acting a fool and talking on stage. And to this day I never talk on stage. You never know who’s watching!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Davo: Attack the Sound!
Paris: Attack the Sound!
Royce: Attack the Sound!
Niki: Attack the Sound!
Wei: Attack the Sound!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Davo: Diversity in entertainment is very important. Like anyone, I want to see people like me in my interest. Had I never known about Hendrix and Lenny I wouldn’t have felt comfortable playing rock music when I first started playing guitar. Once I knew there were others like me, I was so charged to want to learn more! For so long most of media was white washed and in ways it still is. But the few times I saw other cultures honestly represented, I wanted to know more. And I’m not talking like that damn “Gods of Egypt” movie (how are all the Gods and people white?) I am talking about things like “Living Color”, “A band called Death”, “Black Eyed Peas”.
Wei: As a child, some of my most cherished moments were spent watching tv or listening to music, and it always amazed me to see someone that looked like myself doing something out of our ordinary social norms like classical singing or ballet. Or neuroscience. So I know there are children all over the world like that. They aren’t used to seeing someone that looks like them doing something that they truly love to do. It’s very important for every race and gender to have a strong representation in television and music!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) I wish someone told me to practice chords. At some point I didn’t learn more chords and my writing and playing was so limited.
2) I wish someone would tell me to read more. You are more creative, the more you know so read everything. Fiction, non-fiction, Syfy, Fantasy. It all helps with telling a story!
3) Stay consistent. Make a writing schedule. Write new songs and short stories weekly about anything. I started to keep a journal to write my thoughts and help spark new ideas.
4) Take your time. Often we are in a rush to meet or catch up with our friends who have bigger followings. Chance made it after high school. 2 chainz made it after his master degree. It happens for everyone differently. Just be patient.
5) Just be you. This is the hardest one because you will be compared to other artist all the time. You might even think that’s your lane, but do what makes you happy. If I had listened to others I would’ve been more like Jack Johnson than Davo Sounds.
1) I wish someone would have told me to seek out a financial class (College).
2) I stayed husky in HS compared to the athletes. As a kid with mild/severe asthma, music saved my life. But I had talent and was scouted in HS to be a kicker, unfortunately undersized as a shooting big man in 2010.
3) Didn’t learn how to swim.
4) Didn’t socialize as much as I would like to.
5) Wasted effort and time with dead-end jobs that put my health at risk
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Davo: Relax in different environments. I enjoy and love traveling and sightseeing. This helps me recharge and reflect before I get back to working like a crazy man. I’m actually on a trip now that I think of it.
Paris: Move at your own pace and cater to your demographic.
Netta: Don’t compare your growth to others. Just remain focused and have fun.
Royce: Explore different opportunities and scenes. Generally, you never know what you like until you live in it. You can easily burn out or find yourself getting bored if you commit yourself to only one thing. “Too much repetition can kill creativity”
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Davo: My movement is already in motion. I help design and develop an app called Spotivity. The app uses geolocation to help parents and teens find youth programming. Geared toward teens 13–17, we want to bridge the gap of knowledge for the resources in our neighborhoods. Spotivity used buckets to group services. It’s a free app and available on the Apple app store and Google Play store.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Paris: My wife to be Shantel “Sharmon” Jarmon. Prior to meeting her, I didn’t believe I could make a living in the music industry. She gave me the game!
Netta: My friends at Hamilton. I managed 180 direct employees in a corporate setting. Although it was an amazing experience, I was more inspired to pursue playing bass and really growing musically. Without them, I’d probably be lost.
Royce: I would be nothing with my community of mentors, who taught, challenged, and pushed me beyond what I could imagine for myself as a kid. My mom, who’s my rock, and my biggest fan has been with me for my highs, and lows. It’s safe to say that we helped each other love music more.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Paris: Do everything with pure intentions. No matter what your moves look like, the universe honors and blesses a good heart.
Netta: What is for me, is for me. Don’t get angry if someone else gets something I wanted. It will ALL work out. It can be so easy to want to give up because of this, but keep pushing. Whatever is for you will be more amazing than you could ever imagine.
Royce: “It takes a village to raise a child”. That’s the quote, but think further. You can create your optimal village. When I think about this now, it’s shifted to what my impact will be on the village, past, present, and future.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Davo: I would love to have a private lunch with Jay Z, Kanye or Mark Bronson. I want to pick their brains on how to navigate the industry from point A to B. I follow their stories to try and piece things together. What were the moments that they knew they would make it and what did they have to do to stay consistent. My list can go on but it’s mostly made of producers and hustlers I feel most connected to.
Paris: My younger self. I feel like I study my field (and myself in general) enough today. Where if I knew only a small amount of the knowledge I do now, I’d be way more ahead.
Netta: Stevie Wonder.. We all know why…
Royce: Unfortunately I can’t just pick one. I would like to sit down and chat with Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, and the people involved in making Motown the powerhouse it was. India Arie takes the number one spot, as she has been my biggest musical hero. I pray to perform with her one day and be an understudy of hers.
How can our readers follow you online?
Paris: All social media platform @parisjmalmusic
Niki: Instagram @nikinobodyy
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!