10 Questions with ... Dave Koz
March 18, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Well, it's been quite a wild and fun ride... I started out playing in my older brother's band, doing weddings and bar mitzvahs when I was 15. I always played with musicians much older and more experienced than me, and it was a great training ground. One thing led to the next and I ended up playing in other artist's bands, like Bobby Caldwell, Jeff Lorber and Richard Marx. From those gigs I somehow wound up getting signed to Capitol Records in the late 80's. My first album came out in 1990 and thankfully, it coincided with the popularity of 'Smooth Jazz' radio stations, and next thing I knew I had a solo career! It was surreal! Since those early days, I've had one mantra, and that is to constantly grow and try new things, be as flexible as possible and not get complacent. Things have changed so much, and so have I. It's been a wonderful journey with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns...and I wouldn't change one note of it!
1. What Got You Interested in music? What inspired you to pursue a career as a recording artist?
My mom was musical, she wrote songs and played the piano. She was very much the kind of mom who was gonna force her kids to take piano lessons! Of course, I hated it, as did my brother and sister. But ultimately we were very thankful to my mom because those early days of piano lessons were the genesis of my musicality. In fact, I still write a lot of my music on piano. I wasn't very good. In fact, I sucked! But it led me to drums (as a rebellion)... on which I sucked even more! Finally, when I was 13, I found the saxophone in junior high band, and it was as if I had finally found a long-lost part of my body. I was immediately hooked. It became my most trusted friend and ally. After 37 years of playing the instrument that has changed. But never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I'd be doing this for a living all these years. It's all been a wonderful dream.
2) Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
I grew up in a household with a lot of varied musical tastes. My mom and dad were listening to the classic singers like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Ella, etc. My brother was all about Progressive Rock and Jazz with Genesis and Steely Dan blaring from his room. And my sister was all Pop... Chicago, Peter Frampton, Cat Stevens etc. So I had it from all angles. For me, though, it was the horn bands like Tower Of Power, Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire. I listened to a ton of sax players too: David Sanborn was a God to me! Tom Scott, Grover Washington, Jr., Phil Woods, Cannonball Adderly, Charlie Parker. I also worshipped folks like Herb Alpert and Burt Bacharach for their ability to do it all. To this day, those two men are who I would consider true life mentors.
3) You did had a six-year stint doing "The Dave Koz Morning Show" on 94.7 the Wave with Pat Prescott. What made you decide to go from playing saxophone, to doing a morning show, and eventually starting your own syndicated radio show?
Funny actually, most of the things that have happened in my life like this are happy accidents. A friend in the radio world (who would later become my boss) Paul Goldstein mentioned to me an idea he had about an artist in the format hosting a radio show. He asked if I'd like to do a demo and of course I said yes.
That demo idea became "Personal Notes" which debuted on the air in 1994. It eventually morphed into what's now called "The Dave Koz Radio Show" which is still on the air, uninterrupted on the radio now for almost 20 years!
Along the way, another mutual friend Frank Cody (who was consulting with The Wave at the time) approached me about the idea of hosting the daily morning show so I jumped at the chance. I was especially wanted to share the airwaves with my dear friend (and true radio genius) Pat Prescott. We did the show together for six years, which was pretty amazing for a musician who likes to sleep in! Finally, I had to give it up and refocus on the music side of my career, but I loved every minute of it, and learned SO much!
4) What makes the Dave Koz Radio Show unique to other syndicated radio shows?
What has driven the show all these years I believe is that it's ALL about the music and the people who make it. This show celebrates the incredible musicians who don't often have the outlets to share the passion for what they do. I have such great appreciation and love for these folks that my purpose, in a sense, is to be cheerleader every weekend letting these amazing musicians share their great work for our very loyal audience of weekly listeners.
Over the years, we've had just about everyone on as a guest from Stevie Wonder to Phil Collins, from Quincy Jones to Smokey Robinson, David Sanborn, Kenny G and a ton of new artists as well. I love doing the show! it's one the favorite things I do.
5) Please tell us about your weekly TV series "Frequency?"
It was a PBS show that lasted for a couple years, currently on hiatus-but very similar to my radio show, it was a weekly tv show that highlighted artists from a variety of different genres who had current projects coming out. I got a chance to do a lot of in-studio interviews, which were done from the historic Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood, where so much iconic music has been made over the years.
6) Your recently performed with Richard Kincaid on his new song "I Wish That Was Me" which is currently moving up the AC charts. Please tell us about this new release?
A mutual friend of Richard and mine put us together for this project. I heard the song and I was really impressed by the quality of it on so many levels. Richard is a wonderful songwriter and storyteller and I love how much space there is for saxophone in this song. I was honored to be involved, and it's great to see that Richard is getting a lot of well-deserved attention with this release!
7) In today's world of multi-tasking and wearing many hats, how do you find time to show prep and what sources do you use?
I think the key is having the right team of people in all aspects of my business life. I have a fantastic producer for my radio program named Tony Sisti. We've been working together for almost 20 years, so he knows me and what I like to talk about so well, we've honed the approach over the years. When all else fails, I can always fall back on talking about the music. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing more important.
Being an artist in the field myself, it allows me that ability to give our listeners that sense of being backstage, or behind the scenes of where the music is really happening. As a true fan myself, I let my general passion for the music lead the way to the right artists and topics.
8) How are you using new music technologies to work with the music you program on your station, in production, and in your personal life?
There are so many new ways to be turned on to new music: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, you name it. I think being as open as possible to all sources is the key. The days of record labels as being the only source for new talent are long gone. There is so much incredible music going on. We are living in great times for the music world, even if the music business is still on somewhat shaky ground. The radio business too... but there is still amazing music being created and often in the most unlikely of places.
9) Please tell us what it was like going from a major label, to starting your own label Rendezvous Entertainment?
I was on Capitol Records for 20 wonderful years. It was amazing and special for me, to be a part of such a heritage label. I started Rendezvous in the early 2000's as an alternative place where great artists who were disenfranchised could find a really cool place to call home. We sold Rendezvous to Mack Avenue Records about five years ago. I currently record for Concord Label Group and I feel the same way about these folks as I did about Capitol. There is such an incredible history of recorded music there, and they are wonderful people who are passionate about the music they release.
We've just completed a new project called "Summer Horns", which is a tribute to the great horn section bands of the modern era, like Tower Of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Sly and The Family Stone, and James Brown. It's a collaboration project that features sax greats Richard Elliot, Mindi Abair and Gerald Albright. Plus there are some great guest vocals from Michael McDonald and Jeffrey Osborne. It was such a blast to record! We chose all feel-good, classic songs. We'll be out on a Summer Horns Tour together all Summer. I can't wait!
10) What are the biggest changes you would like to see happen in the music and radio industries?
Well, to me there are really two businesses now: one that swings for the fences with artists like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Adele... and then there's the other side of the business which is more niche artists. There are so many deserving artists in this end, fighting to get a little piece of a much smaller share. I'd like to see the music and radio businesses put a little more resources into this thriving area of the music world because I truly feel that is where the best music is being made.
What do you do in your spare time?
Because I travel so much and spend so much time on the road when I am home, I lead quite a boring life! I love going out to dinner with friends, having family days with my four nieces, seeing movies (I love movies!) I do love wine and I'm learning more about winemaking.
Currently, I have a philanthropic wine called "KOZ" that's available at California Pizza Kitchen and West Coast Whole Foods Markets that raises money for the Starlight Children's Foundation. The organization helps kids who are in the hospital for long periods of time. So far, we've raised thousands and thousands of dollars for Starlight from the wine. And by the way, it's GOOD!
Who are some of the artists we might find on your MP3 player?
I love Bruno Mars. I'm crazy about Elton John, Janelle Monae, listen to a lot of singers too, Sinatra, Dean Martin. Love classical too, Yo Yo Ma, Joshua Bell. Jazz too, like Chris Botti, Kurt Elling, Miles Davis, and you can't not have some Stan Getz in there for those very important moments!
Do you have any great road stories you'd like to share?
I do remember the first time I went to Malaysia at the very beginning of my career. There was a song on my debut album that was a big pop hit there called "Emily."
Well, I get to the airport in Kuala Lumpur and I come out of baggage claim to a throng of young people, screaming. I turn back to see who they were screaming for? I thought I might've been on the plane with Michael Jackson or something! Turns, out they were screaming for me! I mean, there were about a 1000 people (mostly young girls) there to see me at the airport. Surreal! I'll never forget that feeling.
Who has had the biggest impact on your life?
My parents. They were both in the medical world, and have now since passed. Even though they weren't professional music people they always let my brother, sister, and me follow our passions and what made us most happy. They stood by us with love and encouragement. All three kids would up being in the music business. Not one doctor! :)
What is the one truth that has always remained constant throughout your career? Do you have any advice for upcoming musicians or radio personalities?
Be authentic. Be you. No one can do that as good as you can. No matter what, being who we all are, in our own unique way is not only beautiful, but by doing so, we can't ever be let down. As long as you remain true to yourself, you are always a winner.