John Stewart is emerging from the shadows. Although the DJ and producer is more accustomed to working behind the scenes, he now curates one of Dallas' most popular weekly dance parties every Sunday in Deep Ellum, with the help of hip-hop artist and collaborator Blue, the Misfit. Stewart serves as DJ and promoter for the ALL/EVERYTHING party, which highlights an individual artist each week. Kanye West, Drake and Beyoncé have each been featured in recent months, with a combined party for Biggie and 2Pac taking place last weekend. Here Stewart discusses his road out of Dallas, and back again.
Dallas Observer: How would you describe the work you do in the Dallas music scene?
Stewart: By trade I’m an audio engineer. I’ve worked as an engineer professionally for eight years now. My client list includes Kanye, John Legend, Macklemore, Kid Cudi, Freddie Gibbs, Stokely Williams, on down to most of the people in the local scene. And everything in between. On top of that, I DJ as well. That parlayed into me throwing these ALL/ EVERYTHING events. I got tired of dealing with other people. I knew I could provide something that was stronger than what I was plugging into, locally. Beyond that, I’ve done a ton work in the start-up world. I’m always the idea guy. I dream it and someone else figures out how to do it. That’s been my life.
How did you find a passion for engineering?
I was rapping back in the day. The first time I went into a proper studio and saw Protools, which is the industry standard software that everyone records with, I was enamored. I knew that I had to figure out what it was. And from that day forward, it was just me wanting to learn. I ended up dropping out of college; I was going to music school here, at MediaTech, for recording.
I’d been messing around with recording software since I was a freshman in high school. I’ve been making my own music forever, but I was never in a professional environment. So to me it was never something that I saw as a career path and said ‘no’ to, I was just ignorant to it. I didn’t know it was a thing.
What's your engineering approach to collaborating with musicians?
In 2013, I executive-produced a folk album. It was banjo and cajón and just super acoustic music. To me, music is music and audio is audio. There’s a level of respect that you have to have to touch a genre, to work on a song and do it justice. But I try to be very transparent, in that I don’t necessarily have a style. Whenever I’m mixing a song for someone, it’s my job to make it sound like I did nothing. I work my ass off to allow the song to just be the the song.
Have you been based in Dallas your whole career?
I’ve been back in Dallas for two years. I was here from 2009 to 2011. I’ve lived everywhere. I came here from Colorado. I was born in Kansas, but I’ve lived in Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado and in different places in each of those states ...I came back to Dallas because there was no more work for me in Colorado. It was just time to leave.
Is there a unique quality about the Dallas music scene that you feel like sets it apart or a reason that you’ve stayed here?
The really awesome thing about Dallas is that there’s nothing that’s [set] in stone. There have been touches of success in the industry and some wildly incredible successes in the music industry, but it’s not every week or every month. There’s not a constant conversation and there’s not a "sound" to Dallas…in most genres. There are so many creatives here and there’s nothing that’s been defined as, "This is what Dallas sounds like." So to me that’s the interesting part.
And the Dallas market is young as a city, not necessarily age-wise, but as a city. And there’s just a bunch of wheels that have to turn in order for the city to be functioning at a high level. It’s currently happening, but there’s still a maturation that is necessary in the scene here.
What's your relationship like with Blue, the Misfit?
Blue is my brother. We've known each other since like 2009. Back when he was "only producing" and I thought I was rapping. We mesh well because we can count on each other to provide the type of party and vibe that we individually enjoy and want to sell. Our selections are similar and our styles and approaches to DJing are similar. Working together ends up feeling like working with a clone of ourselves. Think the movie Multiplicity: If he's DJing, then I'm running around making sure everything for the party is covered. It's seemless.
What's the appeal of a party like ALL/EVERYTHING?
I think the night owes its traction to the fact that we have removed all ambiguity from the equation. You know exactly what you're getting before you walk through the door. Because of this, we end up with a room full of people who are all there for two reasons: to enjoy music from an artist they love and to party.
I think this is an idea that can be applied to most markets, Dallas just happens to be where we launched.
Do you already see this sort of themed night anywhere else?
Kind of. To our knowledge, there were no pre-existing, regular parties of this nature in Dallas before we started. Since we launched, we have definitely seen a few things that have made us raise an eyebrow, but we attacked the market so quickly and efficiently that the city knows that this is our slice. Theme nights have forever and will forever be something that can work. If execution is the piece that is copied and pasted from our parties, we certainly won't complain.
Would you take it on the road?
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We’re very actively pursuing it. Right now, we think the most beneficial way to do it is to go to different cities where other parties are already poppin', and do a trade. So we bring their party here, and we take our party there. But plug in with people that are already movers and shakers where they’re at. So we’re slowly building that, we’re in touch with a few different cats in a few different cities. Everything so far has been super organic.
ALL GUCCI MANE EVERYTHING takes places at 9p.m. Sunday, June 5, at RBC, 2617 Commerce St., rbcdeepellum.com, $5.