The most fitting label for Dezmond Meeks is entertainer. Yes, it is an ambiguous and untelling title to address one's art form. Saying someone is an entertainer can mean many things: the person may be a singer, a musician, a dancer or an actor.
Meeks is all of these things…and sometimes all at once.
A native of Pineville, La, the then 21-year-old pop/soul musician was performing regularly on Bourbon Street when his first wave of success came in the form of the cultural tsunami that is "American Idol," on which he was a 2005 quarter-finalist.
Since then, every time Meeks rode in a surge, the tides of opportunity have pulled him back out before he had a chance to touch land. In his time since Idol, he headlined a two-year theatrical tour playing Sammy Davis Jr., performing in major cities across the states. He's also performed nationally as a musician, and just this summer made a return to television placing again as a quarter finalist on NBC's "America's Got Talent."
Now, with a new EP, The Prince of Soul, an international tour schedule, and a long-awaited LP due the spring of the New Year, it is likely the next current that calls for him will not be success…but stardom.
Where Y'at sat down with Meeks to discuss his latest EP and upcoming tour, what the new year holds and his love for New Orleans.
WhereY'At: When did you first discover you wanted to be a performer?
Meeks: I've always known that I wanted to be a performer. From the age of three, I was singing solo's in church. My Grandfather was a singer as well so I had the influence early on. My first performance was early... too early for me to remember how I felt. I guess I felt good about it... good enough to continue for the next 25 years or more.
WYAT: What has been your most rewarding performance to date?
Meeks: My most rewarding performance would have to be when I performed a duet with Sebastian Bach at The Vegas Rocks! Magazine Awards this past August. That was cool because I didn't even know we'd be actually singing together until I showed up for the sound check and he handed me his mic before grabbing another to join me on the song. To top it off, we had Steve Stevens (Michael Jackson/Billy Idol) on guitar, Carmine Appice (Ozzy/Pink Floyd) on drums, Sean McNabb (Twisted Sister) on bass; we did a tribute to Hendrix that night, closing the show with "Fire." Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a rocker at heart so to sing a duet with a rock legend was a real treat for me and the after party was even crazier!
WYAT: If you could perform alongside any other musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Meeks: My first choice to sing with someone would be Mariah Carey. She's been my biggest vocal influence and inspiration since I was a little kid. However, I totally think Jimi Hendrix and I could have really ripped the industry a new one with a smashing duet.
WYAT: Who are your musical influences?
Meeks: There are so many who have inspired me over the years but my biggest musical influences came from Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and many more. However, it all started in church. I grew up C.O.G.I.C. and UPC so I had some of the greatest singers from The Clark Sisters, Mary Mary, Kim Burrell, Mickey Mangun and Donald Lawrence within my reach on a weekly basis.
WYAT: What is your writing process like?
Meeks: It comes in different ways for me. I could hear a melody in just about anything in everyday life and find a way to put it into a song. Very rarely will I just sit at the piano for hours trying to come up with a song idea. By the time I actually make it to an instrument, the song is already written. I personally like to deal with matters of the heart... aka Love songs. I think that's a subject we all can relate to in one way or another
WYAT: You have shows booked in Japan later this year. What is your fan base like abroad?
Meeks: From what I can see, I already have a stronger draw in many other countries outside the U.S. Particularly in Canada, U.K., Middle East, and Australia, and I'm expecting to touch down in Tokyo during the first part of January.
I met Ryoji from the Japanese Hip Hop/R&B group Ketsumeishi through a good friend of mine in Las Vegas a couple of months ago and this is kinda how the ball started rolling for me there. They have been the "Black Eyed Peas" there for quite some time now and have many number-one hits. I'll be featured in a collaboration for their next record which we will be working on when I get there.
WYAT: What new musicians are you listening to at the moment?
Meeks: My favorites right now are Janelle Monae, Jesse Jay, Foster The People and Vintage Trouble.
WYAT: You have been a finalist on "American Idol" and the latest season of "America's Got Talent." What do you think will surprise your fans from these programs?
Meeks: The fact that I am a writer, producer and musician all for myself... unlike a lot of the other people who have been on these shows. It's kind of annoying to see so many people get praised for being a "one-trick pony"—I intend to keep reinventing myself and proving TV wrong.
WYAT: If you could sum up the theme of the The Prince of Soul in one word, what would it be?
WYAT: What can your fans expect from you in the new year?
Meeks: Well, I have many goals for 2012 including my first performance in another country. I'm really excited to see what opportunities lie ahead for me in England and Japan. I'm also working on a BIG film going in to it's fourth sequel... gotta keep it a secret for a little longer, but know that I will be playing a new character in massive sci-fi movie franchise with an all-star cast.
WYAT: You recently performed in New Orleans in September, and are looking to perform sometime during Mardi Gras - what do you enjoy most about playing in our city?
Meeks: I just love the fact that everyone is there to have a good time. It's not like Vegas where people are more focused on how much money they can flaunt or like New York where everyone is way too busy. I love being in New Orleans because what you see is what you get with these people. They keep it real and want me to do the same.
I'm looking to return to the Big Easy for a show during Mardi Gras—stay tuned.