At first glance, slickly coiffed singer-songwriter Derik Fein looks a bit like a crossover of a '50s greaser and a British Teddy boy. His pompadour and tailored styling nod to a time when classic cars and guitar rock reigned, but upon closer inspection, the Miami native is just as much a product of the modern era as he is of the golden era of rock 'n' roll.
"And baby you can be my Lana/I can be your James Dean/Spin your whole world around/And out of them blue jeans," he sings on "Fast Life." Fein is just as inspired by Dean, the young actor who molded the rebel archetype, as he is by Lana Del Rey, the millennial singer-songwriter whose records are all about chasing after her own bad boys.
Fein says Del Rey is the exception rather than the rule — he finds it difficult to relate to the majority of today's mainstream artists. "My whole vinyl collection is '50s and '60s [records]. I don't really know how I even got drawn to it. I kind of just grew up listening to that stuff and it just incorporated itself into my sound. The pompadour, some people have asked if it's just for commercial purposes, but I actually wear a pompadour every day. The way you see me in my music videos is actually how I am every day. I don't really see it as an act; I see it as sort of way of life."
Fein has taken the troubadour approach to sharing his music with the world. He tried out for The X Factor some years ago but course-corrected and went the DIY route instead. "At the time, I was a little naive and I was just getting into this, but I'm kind of glad that I didn't get accepted [on the show] 'cause it wouldn't have allowed me to develop my sound... I kind of just like being in control of my own creative direction."
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He started his own record label, Modern Diversity Records, with his fiancée and business partner, Vanessa Santos, and is reaching his growing audience directly by cutting out the middlemen. His videos have racked up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. "Fast Life," which he and Santos shot on an iPhone, has garnered more than 54,000 views in two months. Fein will donate all streaming and download proceeds of the song to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
Though his musical approach is inspired by the old school, he recently received a reminder of the miraculous power of the internet when he was approached by the estate of Elvis Presley to collaborate on a project. The King's "Love Me Tender" was recently adapted into a children's book, and Fein was asked to record a lullaby cover of the classic Elvis ballad. "They were snooping my social media and they saw a couple covers. They thought I had the look and sound, so we ended up doing some cool stuff together."
Derik Fein. 8 p.m. Thursday, January 4, at the Wynwood Yard, 56 NW 29th St., Miami; 305-351-0366; thewynwoodyard.com. Admission is free.