My name is David Arredondo. I go under the artist name “My Boy Elroy.” I’ve been in the music industry since ’93 as a 9-year-old drummer with a 3rd wave ska band. Those early experiences proved to me that music and performing was my calling.
This initial blog is about what it means to be passionate and hungry and how that leads to success as an artist in this industry. Outside of social media and before greed or manipulation take hold. It’s nothing that I believe is too lofty a concept for anybody thriving to be an independent artist. Whether it’s using your voice or your instruments to “speak” with your heart and bear your soul, as long as you keep moving forward and take action, things will always fall into place.
I have had so many miraculous instances where opportunity seemed to present itself out of thin air, but really, it is all about finding a way to unlock barriers. And when the door of opportunity opens, I know I am ready to walk through it without fear--this is what I have been preparing for....
Before I moved to Chicago, I was living in Colorado with my mother and sister who owned and operated a second-hand shop circa 2001. There, I graduated High School and immediately pursued the best musicians and performing artists in town to see where the musical adventures and flow of life would take me next. And so it was....
I joined a band as a drummer with some friends in my class and had a good little run. After splitting, they joined another band with other friends and invited me to come to their show. They were opening for Mamas Cookin,’ whom I was super excited to watch. The very first song--a mix of funk, rock, blues, and hip-hop with soulful vocals gluing it all together--was pure heaven at a little venue in the Colorado mountains.
At some point they announced over the mic “So we heard there is an amazing beat boxer in the house tonight!” And there’s me, all stoked about the possibility of another beat boxer in the building. I looked around and realized they were actually addressing me.
I turned bright red, adrenaline pumping through my veins as everyone shouted, “Get up there!”
And that was it.
As surprised as I was, nothing could have stopped me from showing that room what I could do. This is how opportunity happens, shamelessly abrupt and beyond your control. Be ready for that door when it opens.
That night I made some amazing friends with the Mamas Cookin’ band. They eventually asked me to join them on a short tour to be their featured artist and to help sell merch. I was so stoked--my first touring gig! At the end of the 8 show mini tour, we ended in Crested Butte, CO at a first annual music festival. On the drive over, they told me about the headlining Chicago band and thought that I would really like them….Grammy nominated Liquid Soul.
At that moment, their name triggered the craziest memory. I was 13 and at a thrift shop with my family, casually looking through a rack of shirts. After flipping through a section, I came across a black tee that read “MAKE SOME NOISE” on the back. On the flip side was “Liquid Soul” emblazoned in white and neon green. I loved the message, and as a beatboxer, the name resonated with me so much that I ended up leaving the shop with that shirt as my only purchase. How freaking nuts is that?!
Mama’s Cookin’ and I opened a few spots before Liquid Soul. I was all pumped to hear them and sure enough, they had me dancing, screaming, and jumping up and down like no other band had done in years. I was smitten by how funky and tight they were. I found out later that the other show we were playing that night featured Mr. Mars Williams from that very band, who would be the special guest joining us on sax.
Before Mars came up on stage, I performed a harmonica beat box that really seemed to interest a few members of the group. So much so that after my set they asked if I would be interested in flying out to Chicago to feature on their fifth album (there’s that door again!) So November 2001, I flew to Chicago for the very first time, to record with Liquid Soul. I was in heaven not even knowing where this was going to take me. All I knew was that I was in the pocket of something amazing.
After completely falling in love with Chicago for one glorious week, I flew back to Colorado where I had to figure out where the wave of life was going to take me next. Although I loved Chi-town, I didn’t have the connections locked down enough to move to a big city. It’s just not my style. I was always a fan of playing it safe and having a tight network first so I didn’t run into that “oh, shit what am I going to do now that I’m broke with nowhere to call home?” thing.
Two weeks later, I decided to screw it all and go back to San Diego even though most of my friends had moved away (or had kids then moved away) since that was where I had the most connections. Literally two days before I bought my plane ticket, “Ring!-Ring!” (Or should I say “knock-knock!”) I get a call from Mars asking if I would like to go on an 8 show tour in Colorado since I was already on the album. This time I would fill in for the DJ by beat-boxing all the sounds, so you bet your ass I walked through that door!
Amazingly enough, as we were driving through Colorado, we were passing my family’s neighborhood at the time, so I asked if I could pick up my records in case we were ever at a venue with turntables so I could open up with a set. They suddenly all turned their heads and asked me to repeat myself.
“You’re a DJ?”
I couldn’t be more excited to confirm that I have been since ’98, and even more so, loved to scratch vinyl. And so what might have been our 5th show of the tour, I got the chance to play a vinyl set for the band. One by one they peeked out of the green room excited that a new found relationship between all of us was born.
At the end of the tour, the band went back to Chicago, and I felt like I just got the best opportunity of my life to date--again--and needed to figure out what I was gonna do with my life for the next few years. San Diego was still on the table. And then, less than a week after returning from the tour….”knock-knock!”
It was Mars Williams again, but this time he seemed much more beat-around-the-bush trying to find the best way to communicate to me a simple question…one that would change the course of my story forever. He asked me:
“Would you have any interest in leaving your situation in Colorado to move to Chicago to be the new DJ of Liquid Soul?”
I was a deer in headlights, completely freaking out! Not only so excited to get to tour all over the world with this monumental, fated band, but to actually be stationed in the pumping heart of HOUSE MUSIC! I have never felt more excited to walk through a door. And so it happened. I sold everything I owned and consolidated my life down to my two turntables in their flight cases and a bin that I used to fill with as many clothes as I could pack around my mixer. And that was my life.
February 2005, after staying with the bass player and his girlfriend on their couch for a month (bless their hearts), I was able to find a place to rent where the first thing I owned was a pillow and a box spring mattress. Meagre as it was, I was in Chicago! I spent all the money I received from touring with Liquid Soul, on new House music and scratch records, ramen noodles, and whatever could get me out to the best clubs a few nights a week to enjoy a couple drinks, meet as many connections as humanly possible, and to say:
I am here. I am driven. And I want so badly to be a major part of the music scene in Chicago!
One random day, I came home with some groceries to what appeared to be a block party in my neighborhood. A tent was set up with a full PA and I noticed there were no artists in sight. One lone guy in the tent said that nobody was playing and he was in the middle of hooking up an iPod. Hoping to exploit an awesome opportunity, I offered to get my decks and play for free. At this point I hadn’t even played a gig in Chicago as a solo artist and was buzzing to get my feet wet. The lone guy was happy to give me this chance, so I grabbed all my deep and funky house records along with some mushroom jazz and down tempo hip-hop, and played for about 3 hours. By the time he came back, the entire block was in the tent getting down and lost in the beats.
As I was wrapping up, the lone guy approached me and said “So, I’m booking a show coming up this month and have been trying to find the right opener for a band at the Riviera. I think you would be perfect.” My eyebrows raised and I asked “Oh yeah? What band is that?” To which he replied “Have you ever heard of Massive Attack…?”
Closing the evening, I played an all vinyl set of downtempo hip-hop, deep house, and drum & bass and finished with a 10 minute beat box performance through a vocal processor--you can say the entire time with butterflies in my stomach and ants in my pants--but that was the beginning of so much more to come in my musical career as a solo artist in Chicago.
All the Doors
From that show I met a group of new friends at Smartbar who saw me play with Massive Attack and we immediately became friends. I began playing gigs at Vision where one of them (RJ Pickens) was doing the booking and residential DJing. We eventually joined forces as a DJ duo we later named "Carbon Copy" because of our strikingly similar appearance lol.
From that point on, the snowball became bigger and bigger. I was playing with Liquid Soul all over the city, the country, and eventually a world tour for a handful of shows. Getting exposure became much more frequent. I also started incorporating beat boxing with my DJ sets to differentiate myself as an entertainer because, why not, right?
If there is anything to learn and share as someone who has achieved a level of success as a full-time musician, it is that to find great opportunities, you don’t have to work your ass off doing something that doesn’t make you happy. Be fearless, walk through the open doors--and have fun doing it. Even if you don’t think it’s going to be something huge or that pays well. Because, who knows? Maybe one day somebody just might call you out to show a room full of fans what you can do and BOOM!….it’s over baby. <3
Thank you all for reading a bit of my story and letting me share some of my life with you.
David “My Boy Elroy” Arredondo
Here are a few things to consider specifically because it has worked for me on a personal level:
Be kind to those around you.
Show support by going out and being a part of the community that eventually makes the city and it’s amazing vibe.
Stay open to all the possibilities that are awaiting you once you put your guard down and welcome the infinite and at the same time keep an eye out for people who might be out to take advantage of your kind nature. There is a fine line between playing the gig because you are a passionate artist and after a while they recognize that, so they want you to keep doing it for free.
You are worth something. Find out what that is, and use that to support your life doing what you love!!
Hang out with successful people and learn as much as you can from them.
Some Inspiring Quotes that have helped along the way:
“People who work for a living, are just as valid as people who play for a living.”
“Whether you think you are, or you think you aren’t, you’re right.”
“If you want a better life, start telling the truth.”
“What story do you want people to tell about you?”