Dedry Jones is a small business owner on the South Side of Chicago. His sells music from his shop Music Experience. It’s far left of what technology allows us to do these days. If I want to hear an album now, I just go to my phone, open my favorite streaming service and voila new music. The novelty and gratification of actually searching shelves and digging for music is almost gone. Jones has preserved this experience and has enhanced it. Some 15 years ago he created The Experience, an event where an artist is invited to Chicago for an opportunity to meet with fans, share their story, perform and sell their music. Jones has preserved and created a way for artists and fans to stay engaged with each other in a real way. He has interviewed notable artists such as John Legend, Tye Tribbet, Chrisette Michelle and Chaka Khan.
This year, Jones has been able to take it one step further. He has officially opened up his idea to the world. The Experience was recorded at a live taping on WTTW. It has always been a dream of his to be able to move to television and it has been realized. We spoke with Jones about this accomplishment, his love for music and why it is important for the artist and fan connection to be strong and fulfilling.
Congratulations on such an amazing accomplishment. Talk about how it happened.
In September a good friend, Sandria Washington sent me an email introduction to one of her friends who attended The Experience with Gregory Porter with her in June. Her friend, Juliette Buford from WTTW was interested in talking about The Experience. So, Juliette and I met through email, then talked via phone and set up a meeting and went from there. So, it was friend who had a friend who reached out to me after seeing attending The Experience.
How did it feel to know that something you have dreamed about for so long was finally happening?
It’s funny that initially, I just thought it was cool but then at maybe at my fourth meeting or so, I was standing on stage, in the studio, listening to everyone talk in tv lingo. I was there with my future director, producer, lighting director, stage manager and a couple of other people who I wasn’t sure what their job was and it dawned on me… this is really happening. I felt absolutely amazing knowing it wasn’t a dream anymore. It was actually for real. I drove back to work from the meeting with the continual thought; this is really happening. It was such an amazing moment. Kind of surreal on one level but kind of calming to know it was actually finally happening.
Where does your love for music come from?
Music surrounded me as I grew up. My friends all loved music. We tried to sing as a group in the basement which is hilarious to me now because you do not want to hear me sing. And all of our families loved music. Music was a staple in everyone’s house from listening to the music at basement parties or in the back yard or just as background music. We listened to the radio intently. Herb Kent was a superstar to us all. I listened to Herb every day.
Why is it important for you to provide this type of interaction between artists and their fans?
I remember a seventeen/eighteen year old girl standing in front of Patti Labelle at The Experience getting her CD signed and she just started shaking and crying. It was at that moment that I realized that getting/having a real “in person” interaction with an artist, for even a few seconds, was so important to fans. I have seen so many variations of that incident (without the tears) that I grew to know that The Experience was actually important to real fans because it made people feel as if they actually had a connection with someone who they have admired for years. And with people relating that they preferred The Experience to an actual concert, it confirmed that the interaction, however brief, was important.
Who has been your most memorable interview, thus far?
I think several interviews have been memorable for different reasons.
If I look at the entire interview, my most memorable one was probably Ashford and Simpson, my all-time favorite group. Or Donna Summer. But I must admit that after 90 plus interviews, the most memorable single moment was when I asked Lyfe Jennings, what makes your heart smile and he answered, “I can pay my son’s health insurance now.” I was and am still totally floored. I had to hold back the tears. It was such an incredibly moving, unexpected and honest moment.
How was the preparation for a live taping different from how you usually produce your event?
I am so used to pretty much doing everything myself and making all of the decisions. Television is so much different. There are so many more people involved. And I actually had to take direction in reference to certain things. Staging, lighting, blocking is all different. Research is different in the sense that there is a time limit on my interview so I have to make very conscious choices about what we talk about, etc. I have been used to flying by the seat of my pants sometimes and changing my interview direction on the spur of the moment but I can’t really do stuff off the top of my head on television. It’s also a lot more work than I thought. The most different thing is I told everyone what to do before but now people tell me what to do because what worked for me before won’t always work on television. Different medium. Different rules.
What are your top three albums of all time?
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
Donny Hathaway Live by Donny Hathaway
Blue by Joni Mitchell
Who would you like to invite to The Experience?
Tina Turner. She is just so important to the history of music. Performing, none better. Historically, singing with Herbie Hancock, Ike Turner, acting with Mel Gibson, killing R&B, pop, rock music and so much more – who could do all that?
I would also love to do the best female singer around, Patti Austin.
I would love for the show to be picked up for several seasons and for us to find sponsors. Television is very expensive. I have a specific direction that I would like The Experience with Dedry Jones to take and if I can make that happen you will see the biggest smile you have ever seen. I would love to be the instrument for exposing new talented artists and seasoned artists who just can’t seem to get the exposure that they deserve. There so many talented artists that NEED to be heard.