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Exclusive Interview With Dror Marko

Today we'd like to introduce you to Dror Marko, an international guitarist born and raised in Israel.

By Honk MagazinePublished 2 years ago 11 min read

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dror Marko.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, How did you come by your stage name?

Well, when I play a solo performance, my stage name is literally my name – Dror Marko. When I’m part of a project or accompanying other artists or bands, each one has its own unique name, of course, including my personal projects. But you know what? Maybe I should start thinking about a stage name before releasing my solo album. You gave me food for thought...

When did you discover your love for your craft, and what made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in it?

As a kid, back in my hometown in Israel, I spent countless hours listening to music. I was really passionate about it. I grew up with two older brothers who were listening to very different styles. One was more rock-oriented and the other one listened to pop and Top 40. I used to steal their CDs and listen to music all day, alternating between Metallica and Spice Girls, hahaha... My father, at the time, used to listen to a lot of Latin music. My friends were into anything from Funk, R&B, Ska, Reggae, and Progressive Rock, and on the radio, you could mainly find what we, Israelis, call "Oriental Music", which is a kind of mix of Arabic and Greek music, but sung in Hebrew. So basically, I grew up listening to a variety of genres, and I was like a sponge.

My love for music led me to start playing the guitar. I was practicing all day, studying with some local instructors, and playing with local artists and bands. The idea of pursuing a career in music was always there since I was a teenager, but I believe I got the courage to make this decision after moving to Brazil. Let's face it - Music isn't the safest profession, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing in the world that would give me more satisfaction and fulfillment. So, there was no other path. Also, living for 4 years in Brazil far from my family and friends gave me the opportunity to avoid judgmental attitudes (even though my family is pretty liberal) and to be true to myself and my desires. During this time, I have changed drastically, stylistically speaking. My focus shifted toward Jazz, fusion, and Brazilian music and I got the chance to play with bigger artists each time. I have become more mature, and after I was granted three scholarships to study at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, I have decided to start even a bigger journey and moved to the US, expanding my career further.

To what or whom do you accredit your sense of style?

I believe that musical style is created by a mix of the music you listen to, the music you practice, the musicians you play with, and your experiences on the cultural level. In my case, I guess that the opportunity of living in Israel, Brazil, and the US has made me a very diverse musician. I'm heavily influenced by Brazilian artists such as Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, and Djavan, as well as Fusion artists such as Weather Report, Yellowjackets, Sixun, Larry Carlton, Scott Henderson, and Oz Noy; I have always listened to old school Funk and R&B - Earth Wind and Fire, Rufus, Stevie Wonder, and like most guitar players I have my classic Rock and Blues background as well – Stevie Ray Vaughan, Queen, Deep Purple, Rush, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan. I also spent a great deal of time learning Straight-Ahead Jazz - Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Jim Hall. And of course – I always have my Middle Eastern roots in my back pocket.

Of course, I must accredit my sense of style to all my instructors and mentors I have had during the years as well - Mateus Starling with whom I have studied at Starling Academy of Music in Brazil, my instructors at the Musician's Institute - Dean Brown, Scott Henderson, Peter Hume, Dan Gilbert, Jeff Colella, Ian Robbins and many more. All of them helped me significantly to shape my perception of music overall.

But probably, more than anything, I accredit my sense of style to my fellow musician friends, with whom I have learned and still learn every day. I was fortunate to share the stage with so many outstanding artists and session musicians. When you get the chance to play a Samba gig with Brazilian musicians, the next day Filipino disco music and then Jazz you end up learning a lot from these experiences. At the end of the day, every interaction I have had with a fellow musician, instructor, or even student of mine had an influence on the way I play and approach music at some level.

On your current project, how did you come up with the concept?

Currently, I'm working both on my solo album and on an experimental and innovative World music project called "One Globe Radio" with two incredible musicians - Mika Mutti and Fabio Rocha. It might sound like a cliche, but the idea of our project is to create music without borders - a mix of Jazz, Brazilian, African, and Electronic. Among other things, we use digital percussion instruments in this project, played by video game controllers and digital midi-based instruments. It is pretty cool and unique. We have already got recognition in the media and on the Radio and have been showcased on major festivals like Levitt Pavilion’s and LACMA’s as well as important concert venues like ‘The Baked Potato’, ‘The Blue Whale’ and ‘Townhouse Venice’.

What are some of your greatest challenges, and what is your greatest attribute when it comes to your work ethic?

Wow, there are so many challenges that come to mind... for example, learning tons of songs for the last-minute gig. Nowadays, I'm used to it but, in the beginning, it was shocking to memorize 30 songs or so in 24 hours. Another challenge is building your name to the point where people remember you and want to reach out for their next project, performance, or recording session. This is not an easy task, since there are a lot of great musicians out there. Keeping up with social media nowadays is also a challenge. It is important to interact with your followers and colleagues, and sometimes I'm so busy doing music in "real life", that I forget to post something. Another big challenge is keeping your motivation high and dealing with failures in a healthy way. Musicians naturally tend to be more harsh, critical, and judgmental with themselves to begin with, so if we had a bad performance, we might take it hard. I used to be like that, but as the time passed, I realize it is just part of the process. On the practical aspect, I have also learned how to deal with these situations - let's suppose you played a bad note on a jazz gig - What are you going to do now? The note has already been played; people heard it. So, you can either make your "disappointed face", or you can transform this note into something good. John Scofield is a master of these situations - he would play the same note over and over again till it sounds like it was intentional. As instrumentalists, we spend a great deal of time working on improvisation - scales, phrasing, rhythmic variations, dynamics, motive development, interaction, etc. but we also need to know how to literally improvise our way when we get into trouble.

When it comes to your work ethic, I believe my greatest attribute is my discipline. I think that some people romanticize music a bit too much, and it is seen by many as a field that depends exclusively on motivation and inspiration. There's some truth in this idea, but I came to the conclusion that my growth and progress should not be affected by my mood or lack of inspiration. So, every day, unless I went to sleep late because of last night's performance, I wake up at 5 am to practice and work on my upcoming projects, even if I don’t feel like doing that. I believe that persistence and consistency is the key to achieving your goals.

Are you the best at what you do, in your opinion?

Music is not a competition. I would be lying if I say I never compare myself to others, I'm human, but the more I play, the more I understand that there is more art than science in this field. And if this is true, we shouldn't be thinking about music in terms of who is better or who is the best, but who can contribute and bring something to my art, which can make it shine and become greater.

I can say that I'm proud of what I have accomplished so far in my career. I had the honor to perform, tour, and co-produce with amazing artists, with whom I never imagined I would work, such as Jessica Sanchez (Runnerup of American Idol), hit R&B-band Surface, legendary drummer Marvin Smith (Sting, Sonny Rollins; Tonight Show with Jay Leno band), Ryan Gallagher (The Voice), Jerry Leoni (Drummer of The Lettermen), Peggi Blu (American Idol-Vocal Coach), Janice Javier (finalist of The Voice of the Philippines), Bryan Termulo (runner-up in Pinoy Pop Superstar), Top Filipinas singers Geneva Cruz and Dessa and many others. As a studio musician, among other projects, I have recorded the guitars for the 1st place winner of both categories of “Best song” and “Best Production” at the 2019 European Intercontinental Music Awards. I also had the chance to work as a musical director for Janice Javier’s band and assisted in directing the official Carnival band ‘Filhes da Martins’ in Rio de Janeiro. As an arranger and transcriber, I have prepared professional charts and transcriptions for top artists like Jessica Sanchez, Janice Javier, Surface, Bryan Termulo, Ryan Gallagher, and Dessa.

So, I don't know if I'm the best, most likely not, there are amazing musicians out there. But I'm just happy to be able to work with great artists and especially to be surrounded by world-class musicians which I can call friends.

What are your plans for the near future?

Well, as I have mentioned I'm working both on my solo album and my world music project, so you can expect some great music that is yet to be released. I'm also working on my guitar video lessons tutorial and original E-books, focusing on my own method and approach for music and guitar in particular. As far as performances, I'm still performing on a regular basis, but there are a couple of very big shows with well-known artists that I’ll be playing with. Unfortunately, I can't tell you all the details yet. Stay tuned!

Is there anyone you’d like to thank, any shoutouts?

The list is too big, and I would be taking a risk of forgetting someone, but I just want to thank everyone who took part in my journey so far - All my fellow musicians and friends from Brazil, Israel, and the US (and all over the world, actually), my bandmates, my friends and instructors from the Musicians Institute and Starling Academy of Music, special thanks to the Filipino community in LA with which I work devoutly, my family and friends for all the support and of course - my amazing wife, Aruana, who is always there for me.

How can fans find you?

You can find me on social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Soon I’m going to launch my website as well, where I will be giving updates about all my current and upcoming projects and shows. As soon as my solo album is ready, you will be able to find it on Spotify as well.

What suggestions do you have for other artists like yourself?

There is an interesting saying I have heard about the idea of luck or being lucky. Essentially, luck is a mix of preparation and opportunity. If one of them is missing - there is no luck. So, my suggestion is to be always prepared, sharp, and ready for any opportunity, audition, or last-minute gig. As I have mentioned, I think that persistence and consistency are the keys. Other than that - don't compare yourself to others. Be the best version of yourself - Better than last month, last week, or even yesterday. You should also learn about the music business - understand what the role of every person in the industry is, how to make and maintain connections etc. Another thing that I have learned as a session musician, is that sometimes artists and producers don't look for the best in a certain area, they just want you to "solve a problem", so don't try to over impress with your ability but try to focus on what the music needs. In that way, you will get a second call as well. Oh, this one is important - appreciate local artists and don’t underestimate less experienced musicians. First, all of us have been there at a certain point, so it doesn’t make sense to look down on our colleagues. Second, you can never know how things will turn out - who would see you play (live or online) or how your network will be influenced by a certain connection. It is kind of crazy to think how I ended up playing with certain artists... One gig led to another; one artist led to another. So, take seriously every opportunity and be active as much as possible. And of course - just be nice and a fun person to be around. What else... Try to be surrounded by a group of musicians who will take you forward. Try to create an environment that feeds you, inspires, and challenges you. Also, take both the online and the local scene part seriously. As an example, I managed to create a name for myself in the local circuit in LA, but I didn't invest as much in the online part at the time – which I regret. So, make sure you give attention to both. Besides that, investing in some nonmusical tools can be helpful sometimes - for example the fact that I speak not only English but also Portuguese, Spanish and Hebrew helped me to connect with many musicians. In addition, it is important to simply know your options in the market - you can perform, tour, record, produce or arrange music, if you are a good reader, you can sight-read in some productions or musicals, and so on. It is important to be versatile as much as possible. And last but not least - Always be connected to your passion, and don't forget how and why you started this journey in the first place. This notion has always given me a boost of energy and motivation.

keep up with what he is up to now be sure to check out his new update or follow him on Instagram.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drormarko/?hl=en

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