It was a taped performance at Madison Square Garden from 1973 that inspired the Boston, Massachusetts singer songwriter to start playing music, and now on April 8th, Dylan Rockoff will be performing a sold-out show on that stage.
“It was the first time that I felt really captivated by a performance,” explained Rockoff. “My mom had the DVD of The Song Remains the Same (Led Zeppelin’s live performance from MSG) and when I saw it, watching Jimmy Page play the guitar, watching Robert Plant on stage singing to a sold-out MSG and watching just those four people on the stage making a sound like that, it wasn’t just them playing music, it was like making a spectacle. That was the first time I ever felt the power of music and the power of a performance. Just the power and the effect it can have on somebody because I felt it in myself. And it made me very emotional, specifically I remember during “The Rain Song”, which is one of my all-time favorite Led Zeppelin songs, and it’s one of those moments where you get chills down your spine and through your body because there’s something so visceral about it. That was the moment where I felt super inspired, and that I wanted to make this a living. I had gone to concerts, my parents took me to the Backstreet Boys, N’SYNC and Bon Jovi, but I never saw a band that I truly connected with until that Led Zeppelin concert. It was game over from the moment I popped in that DVD.”
Ever since that moment, Dylan Rockoff has been striving non-stop to create and perform his music, leading up to the release of his debut EP These Old Streets. “The inspiration for These Old Streets came from growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, with my mom and dad, two brothers and my sister, where we all went to the same high school and we kinda just lived small. I knew there was a bigger world outside of my town. My parents grew up in Connecticut and New Jersey and spent a lot of time in New York City and were around big city environments. They always encouraged us to go out and leave this little town that we grew up in, but I knew that there were a lot of people that I grew up with that really didn’t want to leave that and that’s okay, that’s right for some people. But I felt like I had to go out and experience the big city.”
“There are different levels of satisfaction in the writing,” said Rockoff on his songwriting process.“I think I always write for myself, it has always felt right to me. If it doesn’t feel right to me and if I don’t feel that I am emoting true emotions from myself, then it’s not going to feel natural to the listener. I feel like that’s number one. You have to write for yourself first, but I think there’s a balance you can strike for writing for yourself and writing something that others will connect with. I think it’s the fact that if you truly feel what you’re feeling when you write a song, someone else is going to connect with that, and they’ll be like ‘Oh, I feel that too.’” When writing These Old Streets, Rockoff explained that after figuring out a riff on his guitar, he would ask himself a series of questions, “How does this make me feel? Do I like the way it makes me feel? Can I put it in a place in my life? Where I am when I feel this kind of emotion or hear this music in my head?”
“I try to write to things I feel inspired by whether they are things I see on the street or movies that I watch, or other songs that I hear. It’s rare that something I feel inspired by manifests itself into a song because it’s hard to communicate exactly how you feel. I’m hard on myself so if I don’t feel that the emotion that I felt at that moment isn’t accurately captured by the music that I’m writing or the lyrics that I’m writing then I kinda put a halt on it, because this doesn’t feel natural. It’s all about being organic and natural to me. Sometimes the favorite songs that I’ve written happen very fast, they’re down and I write them in two or three hours and that’s like the most satisfying thing in the world. It’s not frustrating then because you don’t have to sit back and go “I know this song has potential and I don’t realize it yet.”
However, the challenges do not halt for young Rockoff, who is a student working a job as well, as it’s a constant struggle to balance (and find) the time for everything like putting aside time to write or trying to find a weekend to get away and record or finding time to talk to his manager and work out promotional and marketing responsibilities. “It’s definitely challenging because you want to release your music in a way that most people are going to connect with it and it also goes with the way that you write and how you record it,” Rockoff offered his insight. “As a musician, I’d say 99.9% of us are perfectionists in the sense that we’re never truly satisfied with the work that we put out. I can’t speak for everyone but I think many would agree with me. I know for me personally that I’m never 100% satisfied with the material I complete because it’s a work in progress and there are things you can change. When you go in to record music, it’s a snapshot of time. It’s the emotion and the feeling that you have towards that song but it’s always changing, trying to capture that effectively, especially when those songs are in their infancy. But I think all in all, it ended up being a great success. I wouldn’t change it.”
When asked what was his plans and hopes for the future, Dylan Rockoff smiles as he thinks about it all in his head.
“I’m very rarely satisfied with the things that I do, and I think that’s a blessing and a curse because I always want to push myself to go further. I was so blessed to be able to have the opportunity to perform to a sold-out crowd at Webster Hall when I supported The Maine. I was able to take that moment and relish it on stage, and when it was over, I was okay. But I need more. I’m not going to stop there and just be happy because I performed at a sold-out crowd at Webster Hall. That’s not the way I operate. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be truly satisfied.”
Amazingly enough, to bring a perfect closure to our interview, Dylan Rockoff adds to the end of his sentence with a laugh – completely unaware that in the future this would be coming true sooner than he could ever imagined – “I’ll be happy when I’m playing a show at Madison Square Garden for tens and thousands of people in 2019 or 2020.”
He was only off by three years.
Catch Dylan Rockoff open for Bon Jovi on April 8th at Madison Square Garden!