MUSICIAN / LATE BLOOMER / STORYTELLER
A self-described “late bloomer with an explorer’s heart,” Dwayne Jarrell boldly announced his entrance onto the roots music scene with the eclectic debut, West Coast Diaries. Now, the Bay Area-based artist is readying more new music and gearing up to play live. “I never give up. I am constantly seeking new perspectives on the world and my place in it. I want to be 80 years old and still learning new things,” Dwayne enthuses. He continues: “I started taking music more seriously and writing songs after a long, twisted life journey took me to Northern California, where I discovered I'd always belonged.”
Dwayne’s music feels instantly comfy, like sitting in front of a fire in your favorite sweatpants. Threads of Americana, folk, country and alt-country’s storytelling traditions, along with some deep blues, are woven deep into his musical fabric. His songs recall artists such as Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, and Son Volt—he named his studio band "Truer Sound" after a lyric in Son Volt's "Windfall.”
Dwayne grew up as one of 8 children, attending an evangelical church in Pennsylvania’s bible belt – a tough row to hoe for a gay kid. Although he was second-youngest, he was the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and even went on to earn his master’s. For better or worse, school always came easy and set him up for a safe path to a corporate career as a way out of an ill-fitting environment. That path of least resistance, along with a deep lack of self-esteem, led him to swap his musical ambitions for financial stability.
In spite of his safe career choices, Dwayne remains a restless soul always up for an adventure—to date, his travels have already taken him to 6 continents. He gladly left home for Upstate New York to earn his degrees. Upon graduation, took a job sight unseen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He later ended up in Chicago for 17 years where he landed in a long-term relationship and built a close network of good friends.
When that relationship ended, his wanderlust prevailed, and Dwayne packed his car and headed to San Francisco, California to live with friends for the summer. Instantly, he felt at home. This time would be crucial to his self-growth. Dwayne looked at his choices in boyfriends and realized his bad relationships were a pattern rooted in his self-esteem struggles. He took time off dating to decide what was important in a partner, and when he got back on the market he quickly found the man of his dreams. The couple have been together for more than 7 years, and their wedding took place at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park, the site of their second date.
Upon finding true love and a strong sense of purpose and identity, Dwayne began exploring his dormant musicality. He’d grown up in a family of performers, and always longed to share his music but lacked the confidence to make it happen. For years, he dabbled in guitar and loved singing, but both talents quickly progressed when he forced himself to learn to play and sing at the same time. In 2017, inspired directly by his new husband, Dwayne began writing songs, and he released his first album, West Coast Diaries, in the fall of 2021.
The aptly-titled, 9-song album is confessional and intimate. The first half chronicles Dwayne’s romantic redemption, and the second half explores earned wisdom. The sweetly weary Americana on “Late Bloomer” metaphorically examines life lessons through the lens of watching carefree kids zip down ski slopes. The stately piano ballad “Errant Love” explores the patterns of making poor choices with partners. Though it’s a fictionalized story, Dwayne’s lyrics here feel emotionally raw. He sings: What she couldn’t tell him/What he couldn’t hear/Was that she didn’t love him/And hoped he’d disappear.
The centerpiece of the album is the achingly beautiful, “The Robin (For Mei Mei),” a song written for Dwayne’s 20-year-old niece who took her life the day after calling her grandfather to wish him a happy birthday. Writing it was his way of processing the tragedy, and he performed it at the memorial service. Dwayne’s gifts as a lyricist are on full display on the reflective “Scott Peak,” and the song features some of his finest poetic insights: When I was a child I craved all the new things/Surfaces smooth, imperfections concealed/But beneath the veneer of tailored perfection/Is a jumble of wires, rough edges and nails.
For West Coast Diaries, Dwayne was joined in the studio by producer Danielle Goldsmith (Blake Mills, Genevieve Stokes, Gary Bartz), and a band of studio musicians who had never played together before but instantly had a strong ensemble chemistry and intuitively understood Dwayne’s music. The Truer Sound is Jules Leyhe, lead and slide guitar; David Adamiak, bass; and Christopher "Butch" Butcher, drums. Special guest musicians on West Coast Diaries also include Joey Muller, keys, on “San Francisco,” “Penguins,” and “Errant Love,” and Jake Blount, banjo, on “Penguins” and “Scott Peak.”
Up next, Dwayne will be releasing more music, and taking his boldly emotive Americana to the stage in 2023 and beyond. As he moves forward, he reflects back with gratitude to a defining moment in the studio when the musicians were excitedly discussing potential album artwork for the recordings. Dwayne recalls: “I remember marveling that they were saying what we were putting down could be considered a full album, and not just a set of demos. It was my first time ever in a studio, and my first time having the confidence to finally call myself a musician.
The Truer Sound consists of:
Jules Leyhe - Lead & Slide Guitar
David Adamiak - Bass Guitar
Christopher "Butch" Butcher - Drums
Joey Muller - Keys on San Francisco, Penguins and Errant Love
Jake Blount - Banjo on Penguins and Scott Peak