Photo by Chris Miller

2019 COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC AWARDS Winner of ‘BEST SINGER/SONGWRITER’ & ‘BEST AMERICANA/FOLK’

By Noe Gutierrez

Derek Jordan Gregg has found the thing he wakes up for in the morning. It’s a source of value in his life and make’s his life worthwhile. It reflects his inner self as an individual and expresses his faithfulness. It creates a mental state in which he feels at ease. It was never forced on him and was undertaken willingly, giving him satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life. DJG is music.

The Coachella Valley’s musical present and future is in the capable hands and voice of DJG. We spoke with DJG to celebrate his dual CVMA win.

CVW: How did you feel after winning the 2019 CVMAs for ‘Best Singer/Songwriter’ & ‘Best Americana/Folk’?

DJG: “I felt a strong sense of pride and honor. I’ve been focusing on my solo career for the past year or so, primarily, so I feel like my efforts and my focus have not gone unnoticed. I feel appreciated. It’s rare to feel that way as an artist.”

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CVW: How is your new solo music coming along?

DJG: “So very well. I’m working with Nathan NaCaál, former drummer for eevaan tré & The Show. The album is taking longer than I had anticipated but this record will be my magnum opus, at least in this point of my artistic career. This particular body of work holds the finest songs I’ve ever written. I’m so excited to share but also completely horrified that the recordings won’t do the compositions justice.”

CVW: You’re now a desert music scene veteran after establishing The Hive Minds and your solo music. What can you say about your journey from Oregon to now?

DJG: “It’s been a ‘trip’, ha-ha.”

CVW: Your guitar work is complimentary to your vocal style & lyrics. How have you developed the craftsmanship of all three to coincide?

DJG: “I feel like a lot of people who write songs on guitar really just use the guitar as an accompanying instrument…never yearning for improvement or trying to do anything of interest, ya know…like they just want to sing and the guitar is a necessary tool. To me this is disrespectful to such a wonderfully unique instrument. My craft is my guitar, my vocals, and my words. They’re all important to me and I take them all seriously.”

CVW: The Hive Minds have been together for several years now. What has kept that band resilient? Any updates on new shows or music?

DJG: “Well, Sam Gonzalez has only been with us on bass for a year or two whereas Sean Poe (drums) and I have been together closer to six years. I think respect and consideration has kept us tight, not to mention a solid foundation of friendship and good memories. We’ve been on an unofficial hiatus while I do my solo thing and Sean and Sam work on Avenida. But we’re getting together soon to talk about the direction we’d like to take for the coming year. A few things are for sure, we will be back, and we will be back with some new material. We’re currently looking for a dedicated bass player. Sam would like to focus on rhythm guitar, keys and synths, as well as the impressive vocal work he lends to the group.”

CVW: You’re constantly performing and are a highly sought after artist. What are some of your upcoming shows & residencies?

DJG: “Funny you should ask; I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted into the Sammy G’s family in downtown Palm Springs. I’ll be playing there from 12 – 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday starting October 4th. I’m also at Moxie Palm Springs every Saturday 6 – 9 p.m. I’ll be hosting the Palm Canyon Roadhouse Jam Sunday, October 8th and I’ll be on CBS Local 2’s Eye on The Desert October 10th.”

CVW: This area seems to be close to busting out and becoming the mecca for music we’re predestined to be. How close is our music scene to truly becoming like Austin, TX or Seattle, WA?

DJG: “It’ll take a lot of work and A LOT of camaraderie on all of our parts. But I definitely see it headed that way if we play our cards right. A scene needs to be so tight and so talented that it treats every unit like an irreplaceable link. We’ve definitely got the talent, but we all need to work for each other and work with each other. I know we can.”

CVW: You are distinctly well-respected by many musicians in the desert. I’ve had conversations with artists like Courtney Chambers and Robbie Waldman who have shared their admiration. Who do you look to for creative motivation when needed & why?

DJG: “Did other musicians really say that? Ha-ha, I’m kidding. I look everywhere for motivation, there’s so many talented artists in this desert, but really, life, experience, pain, beauty…that’s where the music comes from.”

CVW: What would be the ultimate residency in the Coachella Valley? DRG: “I mean, I gotta say, I’m pretty excited about Sammy G’s. That’s been one of the hotspots as far as live music in the valley goes for at least a decade. If I play my cards right, I may land a couple evenings there as well but as I said, I’m just happy to be part of the illustrious family. Not only am I lucky enough to do what I love so often but this is going to help a lot as far as resources go to bring me into the next phase in my career. Trust me, big things are coming.”

CVW: Your songs are introspective & delve deep into the subject matter of you. Where did you learn about that vulnerability & why is it important to you?

DJG: “I’ve always been humbled by the beauty of one’s vulnerability. I think that it takes the strongest person to be vulnerable, especially without being pathetic. Or to be fragile but to never break. These songs are definitely an observation of my experience here, but they are also directly related to or at least are metaphors for situations other people can relate to. My body of work, especially my solo work, is a statement on the human condition for myself and for the rest of us. I’d like my listeners to understand but also to feel understood. Everybody wants to feel like they’re understood. I guess I’ve always been able to detect bullshit. If something comes off as feigned it’s a big turn off. Art should be naked and unafraid.”

CVW: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

DJG: “Man, I think I’ve talked enough. Sorry for being a little long-winded, I’m just very passionate about what I do. Thank you so much for letting me share a bit about my Ikigai (reason for being).”

Listen to The Hive Minds 2016 EP Really Don’t Mind the Waiting on iTunes, Spotify, iHeart Radio and deezer.