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East St. Louis blues musician Dylan Triplett sings of love and loss on debut album

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Dylan Triplett
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East St. Louis blues singer Dylan Triplett's troubles have informed his art, and now the 21-year-old pianist and songwriter is ready to release a debut album of covers and his own music.

Blues singer Dylan Triplett’s career was upended when the coronavirus pandemic shut down performance venues and derailed the release of his debut album, “Who Is He?” — a recording of covers and original music.

Over the past couple of years, he’s been through tough times, experienced homelessness and lost loved ones, and he's moved to Nashville. This weekend, Triplett returns to St. Louis, where he'll perform at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups.

The 21-year-old East St. Louis native's path to success began when he was a boy singing in his church choir. Since then, he's collaborated with Alonzo Townsend, Marquise Knox and other blues musicians.

Though the album was recorded before the pandemic, Triplett said his journey is reflected in the album, which draws on blues, jazz, gospel, soul and R&B.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Chad Davis spoke to Triplett about his life and his music.

Chad Davis: Your debut was initially set to be released in 2020. A lot has happened since then. Talk a little bit about what happened with you and what happened with that project.

Dylan Triplett: It was rough for me. That was the first time in my life that I was ever locked in one place for a long period of time.

Anybody that has stepped on a stage and has had a crowd in front of them can understand that and can agree with me on that. It changes everything about you. It did not make me feel good. I was going down an emotional path, and I was rough. And I mean, I didn't know that it was that dark until I started to actually see the light in the situation.

Davis: Can you talk a little bit about some of those experiences?

Triplett: As a Black man, it is very difficult to be comfortable anywhere that I am, anywhere in the world, it does not matter. I've experienced homelessness in the past two years, I’ve grown mentally, and I’ve grown emotionally. It was very difficult to explain what I was going through.

But now that I've been through it and I'm out of it and I'm not there anymore, I’m without a shadow of a doubt so happy. I'm so happy that I am where I am right now because without that stuff, I probably wouldn't be here right now.

Davis: Is that something that a listener can expect to hear about on the record, things that touch those emotions?

Triplett: Yes. And it’s rough in itself because the drummer that played on the album, he actually passed away. He was a big mentor of mine, he was the reason why I'm in Nashville now.

Montez Coleman, he was my biggest supporter. He was my road dog. He was my guy that was in my ear telling me the truth and nothing else. If anything, I needed somebody to tell me what I needed to hear instead of what I wanted to hear. There were people around me telling me what I wanted to hear.

Davis: What do you think stands out as the perfect summation of like, who you are?

Triplett: The first track, “Barnyard Blues,” is most definitely me.

It's like me talking about life, and it’s talking about how you can go through your entire life being humiliated, being talked about. But whenever you get the real person to step in, and whenever you finally come out of all of that, and you show them that you are somebody, you really show them that you are there and you really present right now. They can't do nothing but be quiet.

Davis: Do you think that kind of is something that you have had to prove yourself?

Triplett: Yes. Not only to prove myself, but I feel like I've had to prove St. Louis that. It's like me growing up doing this stuff at a very young age, I've had a lot to prove growing up, I've had to prove myself significantly. I've had a lot of rejection, I've had a lot of heartbreak, I've had a lot of setbacks. I've had a lot of the ups and the downs on the music business side of things. But at the end of the day, I know for a fact that once I step in, all eyes on me. It ain’t even me being cocky or anything like that, but it's more so me showing myself that I am worth something and everybody around you will see it when you show yourself that you are worth something.

Davis: What other songs stand out to you as a representation of who you are?

Triplett: Another song called “Brand New Day, Same Old Blues.” It’s not my original song, this song was originally by Annika Chambers, another very big-name blues performer in the Chicago area. And I asked her, “Can I redo the song?” because it hadn't been released through her. And she was like, “Yeah, go for it.” And I did it, and it pretty much spoke about my entire life.

Davis: What do you want people to gauge from the performance, and what do you want people to gauge from your album?

Triplett: I'm gonna perform the entire album from beginning to finish. And I want people to see the realness in person, I want them to experience the real me in person for the first time in rare form.

The album is the same exact thing, just in digital form. I want it to be real, because the blues ain’t nothing but real stories. They're real, it's real stuff. It's about real experiences, real moments in life to where you can agree to. Music is nothing if you can't agree to it, if you can't connect with it. I want people to have that connection and I want it to be limitless as to how it connects. I want it to cross all boundaries.

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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