Musicianship seems to have gone the way of penmanship, a lost art. However, all is not lost. Young musicians are bringing back the glory days when artistry took center stage. Dannis Winston represents the glamour of bandleaders reminiscent of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Cab Calloway. He is a singer, songwriter, musician, and bandleader of the Winston’s Crew Collective. His soulful sound set a sexy mood for Mr. Refined’s 2nd Annual Bougie Brunch. We recently had the pleasure to chat with the man of many talents, Dannis Winston.
Mr. Refined: You have achieved much in a short time. The thing that astonishes me is that you grew up in foster care. How did you even think you could be an artist and nurture that dream while in foster care? It seems so implausible.
Dannis Winston (DW): I was in foster care for the first 5 years of my life, so the thought of being an artist I didn’t think about. I was just a kid that liked to sing and dance around the house. It wasn’t until a couple years later when I entered my first talent show that I thought I could become an artist.
Mr. Refined: Who influenced you musically? Did you have a mentor in your childhood and as an adult to help navigate the music industry?
DW: Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston influenced me as a kid because of how big they were in the late 80’s early 90’s. As I got older Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Nat King Cole became a huge influence. The amazing jazz vocalist Jean Carn and music director Bill Jolly have both been great mentors for me in this industry. Both still to this day help me tremendously.
Mr. Refined: You were trained in classical opera. Why the switch to jazz/pop?
DW: I am a fanatic classical music and opera guy, but as I began to discover my range and other parts of my voice jazz and pop allowed me to explore other sounds.
Mr. Refined: How did you go from Dannis Winston, singer, songwriter to bandleader of the Winston’s Crew Collective?
DW: It was a natural progression. Most artists in NYC start out performing live shows with musicians to get their name out there. So I’ve had a band since I was 17 years old. It wasn’t until I went through multiple generations of my first band that I finally got the formula right. I picked a couple of musician friends and rehearsed them for a couple of months so we could be good enough to play private events and weddings.
Mr. Refined: What is your proudest accomplishment?
DW: My proudest accomplishment has been performing with Dionne Warwick and the O’Jays.
Mr. Refined: You are also an entrepreneur. What is your business and what inspired you to start your own business?
DW: My business is called DWP (Dannis Winston Presents) which is my roster of bands that I have put together in order to perform in the live event and wedding industry. I was inspired to start my own business because I wanted more control on how I was presented in this industry. I began working with some of the top bands and agencies in New York, but felt that I wanted to bring my own sense of style and artistry to a live event band and knew that I could because of previous experience.
Mr. Refined: What advice do you have for young children and artists who want to make it in the music industry – something you wished someone told you earlier?
DW: Study as much music as you can and then study the business of music. Do not make any business moves without thorough research. Always go back to what truly inspires you. I do that very often and it helps me to stay focused on why I’m pursuing this.
Mr. Refined: What’s next for Dannis Winston?
DW: Developing more bands for live events and weddings, but also releasing original music with a couple of the artists that work in the bands.
Mr. Refined: Where can readers find you?
DW: Currently, readers can see me perform Thursday nights at Rock Center Café in Rockefeller Center through August. They can find me on social media at:
Facebook -Dannis Winston
Instagram – Dannis Winston