DURHAM’S MUSIC SCENE: ‘You just have to fail 1,000 times,’ says DC’s award-winning music producer

Music producer and Durham College professor Jeff Dalziel teaches his music business class at Durham College. Photo credit: Tara Sottile

Growing up, two time award-winning music producer Jeff Dalziel was surrounded by music.

Dalziel found passion through his father who was a musician in a band and then moved into music management.

“I was always surrounded by artists and stuff at our house. That’s what the cool kids did, sort of learn how to play piano, guitar and drums. I was a kid and just kept at it. Luckily I turned it into a job,” Dalziel says.

Being a music producer wasn’t always in the books for him. It all kind of happened by accident, since he was more technologically-driven.

“I was privy to that whole new computer thing before most people so I’ve been making music on computers before there was even a Mac,” he says.

Dalziel worked in film and TV, but in the end he went back to his first love – music. His work and experience in music led him to becoming a professor at Durham College in the Music Business Management program.

“I like to get back and have a break and come and just try to help the new generation, it’s kind of awesome,” he adds.

He was awarded Producer of the Year by the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) and the Country Music Association of Ontario, both in 2018.

“The second time I won, we were convinced that there was not a chance of winning this year. It’s the first time that the award has gone to a producer that has produced an independent artist,” says Dalziel, who has worked with Nelly Furtado, Lights and won his CCMA award with Washboard Union.

What he wants students to know is artists don’t necessarily have to be signed by a record label.

He also wants musicians and artists to know to keep going with their passion and to do everything they can to make music.

Dalziel explains he’s only as good as the artists he produces.

Jeff Dalziel is animated as he makes a point with his Music Business Management class at Durham College. Photo credit: Tara Sottile

“I tell people, anyone can be a producer. You just have to fail 1,000 times and that’s pretty much it. So I don’t think I’m any better than anybody I know,” he adds.

He believes a good producer is someone who’s experienced, has made mistakes in the past and is able to learn from them.

Dalziel doesn’t just produce country music, he’s worked in many different genres. He says country is the flavour of the month to some degree and people are spending a lot of time and money in that area.

“When it switches and comes back to rock I have just as much history so it’s obvious that being a multi-genre producer is certainly helpful,” he explains.

Dalziel doesn’t have a favourite style to produce. He prides himself on enjoying the end product regardless of the genre.

“It’s still music for me, which I try to pass on to other producers and other people in the industry. I try to teach producers and other music industry people that you aren’t in high school anymore, so you can’t be cliquey,” Dalziel says.

He wants other producers to know that if you want to create revenue for yourself, you need to be able to move around and at least try different genres.

One piece of advice Dalziel offers is artists can’t take on all the work themselves. They need to find people to help them. For example, he says artists should seek assistance with social media channels to offload some of the work.

“If you’re trying to wear too many hats, you don’t have enough heads. Trust me,” Dalziel says.