Locally Grown: Dylan West

Interviews with South Dakotans finding success outside their college major by Kyle Hallberg. 


University of South Dakota graduate, Dylan West, is not your typical beertender at JL Beers. With a degree in Contemporary Media and Journalism, an emphasis in Strategic Communications, and a minor in Political Science, he found himself employed by Capital Services, but still wanting more out of life. That “more” was not hard to find, since his love fell with music and producing, more so than dark beers and IPAs (though he does love a good IPA).

West, also known as Disco James, has switched his career path, found himself a recording studio and produced songs for some of the biggest names, in the time span it takes most of us to finish the entire Grey’s Anatomy series.

Through the help of social media, I was able to discover some of his music, and set up an interview with the Pierre native, who is making a name for himself outside of his college major, and even further outside of the Midwest norm.

How did you get started?

Dylan West: I was about twelve and my brother came home for the summer and built a studio in the garage. “He asked me to record a few tidbits for his songs, and I just kind of fell in love with it.”

So do you write, too?

D: I can do everything.

Okay, so speaking of music, let’s talk about other people. Favorite band?

D: I gotta say Smashing Pumpkins – just because their 90s style always caters to me.

Favorite non-vocal musician?

D: Flume. His song Tennis Courts single-handedly warped the way I think of music.

That is pretty cool that you can pinpoint one thing that changed your future in music.

D: Honestly, I have a handful of songs that define me in certain ways.

Favorite singer of all time?

D: Shawn Mullins. I was fourteen and driving across South Dakota by myself and his album was playing over and over again – it was a very defining moment in my life. I just knew then that music was my calling. His album spoke to me, you know? Do you, be true, and find your spiritual being.

That’s a very good answer. You say you write, as well as produce. What’s your favorite key to write in?

D: F major or E minor.

Do you have a specific place you create?

D: In my studio, with a microphone in front of me, a mini keyboard and my machine, that is the best way to write, when you can create on the fly. It’s all about what sounds right. For example, you can play the same three chords every day and nothing will ever come of it. And then one day, it feels different, it speaks to your heart…I think that’s the definition of inspiration.

West is currently working on a new album for release, one he says is different from his previous sound, but in the best way. So, if you haven’t heard his creative additions on SoundCloud, Kid Cudi’s album, or on E!’s Total Divas, you can be sure to hear it straight from him in the next couple of weeks.


West was a pleasure to work with, as well as an incredible source of inspiration – reminding me that while academics and school is important, finding your light does not always correlate with those things, and that is perfectly fine.


Meet the Interns: Kyle Hallberg