JJMax’s excellent medley

JJMax is a former law school student who was raised on a heavy diet of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.   

“It was the lowest-hanging fruit,” he says. “I already knew all the songs. When you hear the horns playing those songs, it is the most magical thing you could experience. It gives me chills to think about it.”  

After law school, the artist began performing jazz and singing classics with 14-piece bands. Since moving to Dallas, he has changed his style, playing an upbeat pop-rock medley reminiscent of an early Maroon 5. While he still has a day job, the musician spends his weekends at venues. He will release a new EP in October or early November.   

“More and more musicians are going to come out of Dallas because there is a culture here of quality over quantity,” he says. “The music scene is undervalued. Great musicians come out of the universities here. There are so many talented musicians in DFW.”  

Watch JJMax perform here.

Decibels with Desabelle

For Edward Desabelle, music was the lifeline in a course load filled with physics. He began playing seriously at the University of Texas at Dallas — bonding with friends over jam sessions in the dorm rooms.

He now plays in East Dallas with his blues-folk-rock band, Desabelle. The group’s influences are endless, ranging from Norah Jones to Jimi Hendrix.   

“You take little pieces of what you like and make a collage,” he says. “It becomes you. We all try and do bad impressions of our heroes. We emulate our heroes in the worst way possible.”  

Desabelle is excited about Dallas, saying the city is “starting to become itself.” The Dallas native seems proud of the relationship between musicians in the city.   

“Musicians are like a dysfunctional family,” he says. “Everyone plays for or with everybody. I would say the music community in Dallas is close. Everybody is rooting for each other. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but mostly it is people looking to get inspired by other people.”   

Ryan Berg: 250 shows a year

Ryan Berg sits outside White Rock Coffee, sipping an iced latte. Before he was a musician, he was a barista. He started playing open-mic nights at White Rock Coffee and remains a local favorite.   

“I have a really high-pitched voice, and that was something that I was made fun of throughout junior high and high school,” he says. “Now, that’s where I make my bread. That was my struggle and my strength.”   

Berg has played full time for four years. He began working with 13th Floor, a Dallas-based booking agency that helps hire local musicians. Berg plays 250 shows a year and is adapting to being a full-time artist.  

“It’s not living the dream all the time,” he says. “A lot of people think it’s the shows, but a lot of the work is at home doing not-so-fun stuff.”   

Berg has faith in Dallas artists. 

“I played in Austin for a couple years, and the level of competition is so intense that it’s hard to make relationships with other musicians,” he says. “Dallas is a melting pot in the best way. Everyone gets along.”   

— SARAH NUNEZ-LAFONTAINE


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