Trust your instincts. You are going to meet a lot of shady people in this business, don’t fall for the name dropping or the flash. If working with someone doesn’t feel right, it’s ok to walk away. It won’t be the only opportunity you have.
As a part of our series about Stars Making a Social Impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Derik Fein.
Derik Fein is a recording artist based in Nashville, TN his music ranges from acoustic pop fare, bathed in R&B and Blues
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I picked up my first guitar at 13 when I traded in my iPod for my friend’s broken guitar. I fixed it up and taught myself to play watching YouTube videos. I turned to music to help with the anxieties of growing up in a broken home, being bullied and feeling like I was misunderstood. I grew up in Miami, Florida to a Cuban mother and Jewish American father. Needless to say, my childhood years were interesting and as the youngest child, I often felt forgotten. My teenage years were dark, trying to make ends meet while pursuing a music career and ended up being near homeless. I was couch surfing with friends and strangers until my sister took me in and I lived on her couch for a while until I met my now wife and partner, Vanessa Santos. We’ve relocated to Nashville, TN and the community instantly welcomed us with open arms. Since arriving to Nashville I’ve had biscuits every day.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? Can you share the story with us?
My grandmother always believed in me and as I was often left with her, I would accompany her on daily shopping trips. On one trip we entered a convenience store where I was drawn to an Elvis Presley CD. I was 12 and remember being moved emotionally in a way I’d not yet experienced. This inspired me to express my emotions in a musical way which is the only thing that felt natural. I was never good at expressing how I felt and music gave me an outlet that I credit for saving my life.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
How much time do you have?! As an independent artist and partner at our record label, Bodega Records, mistakes are part of the journey. Many of my lessons however came from my business dealings with other people. In this business, you will encounter many dishonest and selfish people who have a hidden agenda and will f* you over if it means they can make a quick buck. Due to all of those shady people and companies I’ve encountered, I decided to do things my way and with the support of my wife, we launched our own label. A mistake I made early on in my career was naively believing everything these industry “professionals” said and never fact checking on my own. At times I allowed some people to try and change my style and meddle in my personal life which I let go on for far too long. There is a difference between someone wanting what’s best for you and your career and someone who is driven by their ego thus taking you in a direction that you don’t feel comfortable with. What I learned is that you have to speak up for yourself and set boundaries, otherwise your silence will unfortunately enable that bad behavior. Confrontation is unsettling however it is crucial for any artist looking to sustain in any business. When you speak up for yourself and are clear on who you are and your boundaries, you will then see that those that you are meant to work with and care about you will respect that.
In our work, we often focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each. I would say that my mind takes a toll on a weekly basis because I’m always in my head about my newest song and whether it will be successful. It’s a vicious cycle that unless you are aware of it and caring for it can lead you to a dark place. I try to meditate in the morning so that I set my intentions for the day and also check myself when I feel my negative thoughts are starting to get the better of me. I also work out 3–5 times a week to help me stay fit and energized. However, as we are living in the age of social distancing and our gym is closed, I go on early morning walks with my wife and dogs to stay active.
Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
I’m an advocate for mental health and I’ve learned that speaking about it has been a great support system for me and my fans because mental health doesn’t always have visible symptoms. I released a song called Don’t Matter which tackles this particular topic. I want to use my platform to bring awareness to those people who feel like no one is listening or feel like no one understands them. I wrote Don’t Matter as an open letter to my fans to let them know that I understand what they are feeling and to remind them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Raising awareness with my platform and through my music has not only brought me closer to my fans but has helped many who were struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. This has been the most fulfilling part of my journey.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I chose to be an advocate for mental health because I knew there were many people like me who struggled with how to manage the thoughts that lurk in their mind. A dark point in my life came in 2018 when my grandmother passed away. I had finally broken free of people who were mismanaging my career and was working on my debut album while seeing my grandma slowly deteriorating. I wanted to show her that all these years of hard work would pay off and I wanted to celebrate the release with her because she had always believed in me. She passed two weeks before my album was released and in the middle of all of the grief I still had to keep working on promotion and social media that I think I just burnt out and hit a breaking point. I was depressed and remember questioning life’s purpose. Being able to cry without shame and express myself to my wife is when I realized that not everyone has a shoulder to cry on. That’s when I knew that advocating for mental health was important to me.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
Just last week a fan wrote to me and said my song stopped her from committing suicide. She told me it gave her life meaning and purpose again. I get chills every time I read messages like these. Now more than ever it’s resonating with people stuck in quarantine.
What are your 5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
The five things that I wish someone told me about the music business is:
- It’s not like in the movies. You don’t magically get discovered and then become famous. Stories like this happen 1% of the time. 99% of it is a lot of hard work, determination, consistency and follow through.
- You’ll get 100 Nos before 1 Yes. If you reach out to someone at a label or a streaming platform — know that you aren’t the only person trying to get their attention. Most of the time you won’t even get a response. That doesn’t mean that your music isn’t good. Keep grinding, the right people will be worth the wait.
- Social media is just one aspect of the business. Social media only shows you the finished product. It doesn’t show you the hard years of work that person had to put in to get to that point. Don’t measure yourself against someone else’s ruler. I know many artists & influencers who aren’t as happy as they look or as ballin’ as they claim to be. Many are faking it until they make it.
- Trust your instincts. You are going to meet a lot of shady people in this business, don’t fall for the name dropping or the flash. If working with someone doesn’t feel right, it’s ok to walk away. It won’t be the only opportunity you have.
- Your music won’t be for everyone and that’s ok. Make music that you can be proud of. The gimmick artists that make music for the trends are just that. One year from now those artists will be replaced by the next trend and then the next. When you make music that you can feel good about you will sleep a lot better at night!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
I know that May is Mental Health Awareness month, but I think would be most impactful is if the government recognizes mental health as a medical issue that can be 1. Covered by insurance companies and 2. Supported by corporations. While having President’s day as a day off is nice and all, what do you think it would say if there were a national mental health day that people had off.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
It’s been a tough year but I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’m grateful for that. When life gets challenging, how you look at the situation and react to it can change the end result.
What are the best ways our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!