Artist Interview: Elf/ Dream Rovers
Tell us about yourself and your music
Dream Rovers started as Persian Rovers in January 2007 in Tehran, Iran. The first album was a covers record that included some old songs from 1940’s to 1970’s and among them were country classics such as Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” and Merle Haggard’s “Hungry Eyes”.
Persian Rovers, which later changed to Dream Rovers, was founded by the singer/songwriter Erfan Rezayatbakhsh (elf) who got hooked to country music after receiving a CD for his birthday which contained 101 country classic hits. At the time he was a Persian pop singer/songwriter and just formed a pop band with his sisters and some friends named “Checkmate”.
Being born and raised in a country with the least amount of connection to country music, his enthusiasm and love for the genre motivated him to quit the Checkmate project and pursue his dream of becoming a country music artist.
elf started by recruiting his Persian pop fellow musicians and teaching them how to play country songs, which he had taught himself by listening to American country songs. After a few changes in personnel he finally met Ahmad Motavassel, who was a rock and metal guitar player. Despite his completely different musical background, Ahmad’s extensive knowledge and dominance of the electric guitar along with his enthusiasm for country music made him the main member of Dream Rovers besides elf.
Dream Rovers recorded an original album named “Off the Road” (all in English) which is going to be released only in Iran in early April 2017 although was recorded back in 2011. The delay is because of struggles they have as a band in Iran which plays an exclusively American music as well as some other factors such as elf’s immigration (first to USA then to Canada), the music market situation in Iran etc.
In 2012 while elf was searching for country festivals to perform in, he accidentally found out about East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass Old Time and Country Music program. Having been active as “the first country music band in Iran” for a while he applied for the programmed to learn abut country music in its homeland. elf’s application was accepted and he was awarded two scholarships, thus becoming the first ever Iranian student in the program’s history. 2 years later in December 2014 elf graduated Summa Cum laude from ETSU.
Right after graduation, elf moved to Canada and in November 2015 Ahmad joined him to make a new start for Dream Rovers.
By February 2016 Dream Rovers has released one single in Persian named “I’ve Been Everywhere” and are working on their new original album which contains songs in both English and Persian.
Talk to us more about your latest release
The song called “The Girl I Know” is an international song in the true meaning of that word. elf wrote the lyrics while standing by a street in Tehran, wrote the melody while on a train from Kerman, in south of Iran to Tehran and recorded the song in Johnson City, Tennessee.
While studying at East Tennessee State University, elf was informed that Chas Williams was coming to Johnson City to record an original written by ETSU students. “The Girl I Know” was chosen by Williams among all the songs submitted by the students.
“The Girl I Know” was recorded at ETSU recording studio in spring 2014 and produced by Chas Williams.
What inspired you to write this release?
Same as all of his songs, elf gets inspired by everything that happens around him. “I get the main idea from what I see in everyday life and then just add more experience or imagination to it.
It was the same for “The Girl I Know”. Meeting one of his friends who was a very beautiful girl and waiting for her “by the street” wearing “brown boots” and a “leather coat” with “shaved face” is what actually happened. But the rest of the things described in the song, such as people looking or smiling at them while passing by and the emotional attachment to “The Girl” and thinking that “maybe years ahead” she will be wearing his ring are imaginations added to the story for sake of a romance song.
Any plans to release a video?
A few months after recording “The Girl I Know” I talked to my friend in Radio and TV department at ETSU about making a music video for the song. It was almost the end of the semester and most students were getting ready to leave for their hometowns. I myself was graduating that semester, therefore we didn’t have enough time for shooting the video and editing it. After lots of negotiations with RTVF students with whom I had previous cooperation as an actor in their movies Ryan Renfro made the video in Johnson City in the late November 2014.
Any plans to hit the road?
Unfortunately having concerts is geographically not possible for Dream Rovers. Knowing that elf resides in Toronto, Canada and Ahmad lives in Tehran, Iran, being on the road as Dream Rovers is not an option for now. However, the band is producing more songs and currently they are preparing their new album to record.
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
Well we really do not think about “branding” ourselves. Instead, we are more focused on producing good quality and authentic country music. Especially nowadays that mainstream country music sounds nothing like country, it is so important to us to record REAL country music both to preserve the true country sound and introduce the real country music to Iranians.
However, if I want to give an answer to this question, I would say that there are lots of things about Dream Rovers that really stand out. Being the first country music band in Iran, Being considered as the pioneer of the genre in Iran, etc. these are things that don’t come easy.
The aforementioned along with the quality and authenticity of the country music produced by our band, have turned the name Dream Rovers itself to a brand in the Eastern Country Music scene. That is what has taken us to the country music magazines and website around the world from Iran to Germany to the USA.
Who have you been listening to lately?
I always listen to various artists and even genres. However, lately I find myself quite often listening to Marty Robins and the soundtrack of the video game “Outlaws” written by Clint Bajakian. and of course Iranian pop songs from 1970’s and 1980’s.
Tell us about your passions
I am a planner. I am always planning for something better. knowing that there is something good waiting for me in the future and I should plan to reach it, fills me up with energy. Everyday routine is a poison to me. That’s why I have moved from Iran to the USA and then to Canada. To escape from routines, as I always say, taking risks is dangerous but routines are fatal.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Erfan!