There’s a new kid on the block at WTTW making his premiere Thursday, July 13. The Experience With Dedry Jones will make its television debut redefining how music fans connect with some of the most critically acclaimed musicians and artists on the scene.
The one-hour program hosted by Jones is filmed in the same studio as WTTW’s long-running, national music series, Soundstage. The Experience viewers will enjoy one-hour of Jones interviewing musical guests bringing out unknown facts, great stories along with live energetic performances throughout the one-on-one conversation.
The show opens up with the theme music composed by Felton Offard. Executive produced by Barbara Allen, Juliette Buford and Dedry Jones, the first four-shows will feature award-winning contemporary Jazz, R&B and Funk musician, Brian Culbertson; songwriter and Soul singer, Avery Sunshine; Grammy nominated R&B singer, Will Downing and Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban jazz pianist, composer and producer, Roberto Fonseca.
Jones is no stranger to the music industry. A music retailer, he is the owner of The Music Experience—a popular brick and mortar store located in the South Shore community. He will be celebrating 27 years in business this year and has worn several hats over the last two decades, heading up independent retail coalitions and consulting on various independent music projects. Noticing the rapid changes in the records and retail business—Jones had a concept to try something different that would help drive sales outside the walls of the traditional record shop.
“Nearly 16 years ago, the first Experience was supported by a group of local retailers, that’s how it happened. They funded flying in the artist—the whole thing with promoting the CD. The Experience was never about a performance, it’s been about selling a CD,” said Jones. “That’s where it started from and as time went on, people think for the small charge they should get a concert. This is wrong, that’s not the purpose of The Experience at all. It’s worked out in the end. It’s about promoting an artist and promoting their current release.”
Chicago has a long and rich history of cultivating great musicians and bands and considered by industry standards, a market to break music—influencing the rest of the country. At one time, there was nearly 100 Mom and Pop [independent] owned stores in the Chicago region. With the industry’s slow response to Napster and other viable ways of music downloads, unauthorized sales through bootlegs and big box retailers undercutting physical releases—many indie stores closed shop. There is only a handful of stores standing.
Jones admit there were hiccups along the way of keeping the doors open but his incredible knack for curating music led him into building a music series that would bring artists and musicians live and direct to his consumers. Partnering with record labels, he and his team would choose the venue, pre-sell the artist’s new full length and treat the audience to an in-depth interview along with a brief performance. Today, much has changed with major companies taking a backseat to independent labels in support of The Experience.
He reflects on the changes. “Now it’s really about getting somebody to say, ‘Ok, I’ll send the artist in.’ I don’t want to say they’re not supporting because that’s wrong because if they give me an artist on a promo day then they are supporting. It’s not like before when they would literally pay for it. They would pay for the venue, the staff and unfortunately, they don’t do that anymore,” he explains. “Every once in a while, you may get a label that will but it’s so rare because everything has changed for them. They don’t have the staff anymore like they used too or the dollars. I’ve had to make adjustments—similar to the retail world, you make adjustments or you’re done.”
The Experience has built an in-house fan base of followers looking forward to attending some of the retailer’s events. Some of the musical guests that have graced the stage with Jones include Chaka Khan, Lalah Hathaway, Maxwell, Earth Wind and Fire, Ledisi, Jerry ‘Iceman’ Butler and legends that have passed—Natalie Cole, George Duke, Donna Summer, Al Jarreau and Nick Ashford.
Not one to hold back his opinion, Jones has his favorites.
“Ashford & Simpson because they’re my all-time favorite group. It took six months to get them. They were very good. Fred Hammond was probably one of the better interviews and I know his was a standout because I’ve watched him. Sometimes, I don’t watch my interview but with him I looked at it a lot because he was so entertaining as an interviewee. His performance was super good.” The first music retailer to host an in-store with Avery Sunshine, she is on this unique list of favorites. “I think her interview on WTTW is probably the best it has been with me.”
Executive producer of The Experience, Barbara E. Allen is an award-winning filmmaker, earning several regional Emmys. Her production company, Little Passage Productions has produced familiar documentaries including Paper Trail: 100 Years of The Chicago Defender (2005), DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis (2010) and Color Blind: Rethinking Race (2012). An alumnus of Columbia College, earning her bachelor’s degree in communications/film and TV—Allen was invited to participate as a night fellow at Stanford University’s journalism program.
She met Jones through a colleague. “The station’s executive producer, Juliette Buford saw an Experience and thought it would make a great TV show. They brought it to Channel 11 and we came together. We thought, ‘We could make this work.’ It changes a bit but we tried to keep the essence of the show.”
Allen says although the logistics of the production changes from its original intimate venue to a live studio—it was important to maintain Jones’ charisma as a host.
“I want to introduce a new audience to Dedry so that they can get to know him and enjoy him like we do. Our audience at PBS is a different audience. They’re expectations is different. Let them get to know artists and have fun. It’s very up-tempo and a lot of fun. I hope people get up and dance in front of their television,” said Allen.
Jones feels it’s important to maintain that authentic voice and focusing on music and musicians that move people. He tries to identify talent that fit this range and depth.
He says, “What crosses my mind is who I like and who I think is a talented artist. Two weeks ago, I was in a Joni Mitchell mood for almost two weeks. It really depends on the artist. The color of your skin, doesn’t make you sing better. It’s what makes sense to me. I’ve turned down artists that people would say ‘What’s wrong with you?’. It has to sit well with me for whatever reason.”
For four weeks, The Experience With Dedry Jones will bring a refreshing perspective on how music lovers view and connect with the show’s featured guests.
Rarely being phased by the glitz, glamour and hype of the business—the reality of new-found fame will become evident for Jones as viewers tune in on Thursday evenings.
“What’s exciting for me is how excited everyone is especially people who are regulars of The Experience over the years. Until I saw the first show, I was very nonchalant and it hit me, ‘It’s for real, for real.’ I didn’t want to think about it. When you see it, it really is a television show. The fact that all of the artists were so excited also adds to it.”
THE EXPERIENCE WITH DEDRY JONES, begins on Thursday, July 13 at 10:00 pm, with rebroadcasts the following Sundays at 12:00 am. The programs, recorded in WTTW’s Grainger Studio over the past year, will also air on WTTW Prime 11.2/Comcast 370/RCN 37 on the following Saturdays at 11:00 pm.
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