If you haven’t heard Dante Thomas’ story firsthand, you might not believe it. Could Salt Lake be any further from New York City? It’s not just night and day; it’s almost heaven and hell, depending on where you are from. But one eighteen-year-old took on the impossible dream only to make it possible.
The story starts in Salt Lake, lands in Port Authority of New York City, only to find him back again doing press in said city talking about his career with one eye on the past and one on the ever so bright future.
Is this trip to New York City better than your first?
Whoooooooo. To say the least. (laughs) Sometimes I’ll walk around the same areas I was at when I first came to New York and think, ‘Man, I’ve come a long way.’
I’ve been to Salt Lake and the differences between that and New York City is night and day.
That’s the truth.
What gave you the nerve to say the hell with it, I’m going to New York?
You know what? If you are starving, you are going to find food. Music was my food and I wasn’t going to get fed in Utah. There are no record companies in Utah.
You could have joined SheDaisy.
(laughs) Country music is big there and so is rock. R&B isn’t.
What made you decide on New York and not California since it’s a lot to home closer?
When I graduated high school, some of my friends where going to college, some the military, and some were even getting married. So I knew none of that was for me. So I was working in this Italian restaurant washing dishes, and one night I went home and was looking at my cds and they were all either being recorded in New York or their record companies were in New York. I knew right then that New York was the place for me. I bought a one-way bus ticket the next day to New York, went to my job and gave them my two weeks notice, and then went home and told my family. My mom asked who I knew in New York and I told her that I knew this kid named Joe in Brooklyn. Actually I didn’t know anybody, but if I would have told her that she wouldn’t have let me go. So the two weeks came, I spent two and a half days on the bus, and ended up in New York’s Port Authority.
Getting off of anything in New York is scary.
I know. It was like the Fourth of July. So many lights, people, cars, walking and talking. I was blown away. The energy was amazing.
It has to take some serious confidence in yourself to take that risk. Who or what gave you that?
Truthfully it was my mom. My mom gave me the strength. Before I was born my mom was coming up in the ranks as an opera singer. She met my dad, had my sister and had me. So she kind of gave up her dreams for the family. As I got older, I played football and baseball, music became more important to me. It was just this thing I had to do. I always did it but I never got as into it until I got older. What happened was I finally told myself that my future wasn’t here and that it was in New York. You never know what role you are supposed to take. Your life is what you make of it. So I took that step. You have to take that step.
Is your mom living through you now?
Vicariously. (laughs) She loves everything. She tells me every time she hears me on the radio and every time she gets on the web sites and reads messages from fans who say how much fans they are and how much I inspire them. She tells me how proud she is of me and now she knows it was right to give up her career.
Is it weird that all of the sudden you are going to take on the role as a role model?
You know what is funny is that someone asked me if I was ready to be a role model and I asked them, ‘Is anybody ever ready to be a role model?’ No one is ever ready, but do I have something positive to give back? Yes. I’m a believer in leaving this place better than how you found it.
Is it funny to get people asking you for advice on how to get started since your story is just full of luck?
What works for one might not always work for others. I would never suggest someone just go to New York. If I would have known then what I know now, I probably would have never did it. But it was the not knowing that made me do it. It wasn’t a safe thing to do. I could have been killed, kidnapped, or whatever. That is reality. It was god who guided my path. It was a humbling experience.
How long was it before you finally hooked up with your dream?
Well the first night in New York I slept in the Port Authority, the next night I slept in a safe house for kids. I stayed there for a week and then they found me a place in the Bronx. While I was living in the Bronx, I started doing block parties for dj’s. I started doing open mic nights and that is where I started running into people and found my managers. My manager got me a place in Brooklyn, that was two years later and I hadn’t been home at all. I talked to my family maybe three times. I never told my mom how bad it was because I didn’t want her to worry. I started losing myself in my roots and went home for six months, came back, and it still didn’t happen. I went home the last time and I noticed some of my friends had lives and things are happening for them. These were people who weren’t responsible at all in school and now they are in college, they own houses, cars, and are happy. So I actually stopped singing. I quit. I went back to school to become an electrician. I was working nine to five building garage doors. So my manager called me one day and told me it was a shame that I was giving it up because he has always felt I was talented. He asked why I was giving it up and I told him it wasn’t paying my rent. That was the bottom line. He asked me to give it one more chance, that way I’d have no regrets. So he brought me back out to Jersey, six months later I’m waiting outside of the Hit Factory for Pras, and the rest is history.
Have you been writing for a while?
There was a friend I had in Utah and he was a big influence on me. He had been writing for a lot longer than me, probably since he was twelve, and when I met him I was sixteen and he was twenty-four. I was singing melodies and he told me that I should start writing my own stuff. I started writing and I just got better and better.
Do you write off the top of your head or play?
Lately I haven’t been able to sit down in front of a piano. So my piano skills have diminished a bit, but sometimes I write on the piano. A lot of times it’s an experience that I’m going through and I’ll have a melody in my head. I won’t even have words, I’ll just start humming words and it might sound like gibberish in the beginning. The melody tells me what I’m supposed to say.
Like you said before, you hid things from your mom. Now what does she say about all of this?
Well, she was upset with me, but not for long. She told me at the end of the day you had to be a man and every man has to choose his own path. My mom is very much into me making my own way. That is what my mom taught me.