There are some interviews that top your list as a journalist because you know the level of impact the story will have once told—and then there are interviews that simply touch your heart and soul. This is both. On a beautiful August afternoon, I had the pleasure of speaking to Derrick Hodge who has not only made an incredible mark in the uber-competitive music scene worldwide, but who has just as much humility and love for his Denver community as he does prestigious offers for his talents.
Hodge moved to Denver from L.A. seven years ago with his wife who is originally from here. Ever since, he’s been enjoying the unique energy of the city, the mountain air and the family vibe that only Denverites can project. Hence, why he says his home in Green Valley Ranch is where he feels most comfortable making his music. It’s also where he loves to be just “dad” to his 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.
Hodge is never afraid to try something new and embraces challenges head on. He’s performed, written and/or recorded and collaborated with such A-listers as Herbie Hancock, Timbaland, Mary Mary, Rihanna, Jay-Z and even Kanye West. His producer accolades stem from award-winning scores for feature films to the Oscars and arranging music for this year’s Super Bowl. No matter what’s on his plate, Hodge has an innate way of leaning into his passions, honing his craft and living unapologetically through his work.
Originally from Philadelphia, Hodge grew up in an area just outside New Jersey that he recalls had a hot bed of talent—from music to fine arts to sports, he was exposed to many trailblazers. Known to always beat to his own drum, Hodge says his need to follow his own heart and remain curious in everything he does is what ultimately helped him in his career. “I just live my life and create as I go. Nothing is off limits. Being curious is what brought me here to Denver and it’s what keeps me going. No matter how big, small or prestigious a project is, I always revert to my inner self and stay curious. It’s about honesty and staying true to myself.”
Music in Motion
This year, Hodge helped take some historical steps when he produced and co-conducted the music for the first all-Black orchestra performance at the Hollywood Bowl. As a two-time Grammy award-winning bassist and Blue Note Recording Artist, Hodge has touched almost every genre of music in some way—from rap, jazz and R&B to orchestras and symphonies. His third solo record, Color of Noize, is also making headlines on what it means to fully express one’s self. It’s about acceptance of yourself and everyone around you.
As a prolific composer, musical director, bandleader and producer bassist turned advocate, Hodge’s goal is to capture the unapologetic moments in everything he touches. “Music is all about storytelling,” he says. “You have to stay true to your heart because that’s what people need right now.” And, right now, he feels really connected to Denver.”
Hodge is excited about all roads that lead to bringing joy and awareness, which will also include some events he’s spearheading at the end of this year and into 2023 that are unique to Denver. “I want to celebrate the vibrance of the people here in Denver with block parties, art festivals, cook outs and local workshops. It’s all about connection.”
Trusting the Process
When it comes to his creative process, Hodge says he enjoys the hybrid aspect of it all. “Composing, performing, directing, arranging…, I never lose sight and focus solely on one thing. I love it all and I feel that an open mindset will guide me where I’m supposed to be.” He says everything is about balance and letting the opportunities come to you. “A lot of people say that I should just focus on my own music and playing the bass and go solo—but I feel there’s a lot more out there when you’re able to help others shine doing what they love to do. It’s what fills my soul.”
His music making comes from something bigger than himself. “My approach to music is very simple. I shut everything out. Other people’s expectations of what the end result will be and just listen to my own thoughts. It’s better to get out of my own way (my head) and let the score or lyric move me in the way it’s intended to be. I try and focus on where it is rather than where it’s going.”
Ultimately, Hodge starts and finishes every project with an open mind and the hope that whatever his interpretation reveals will become a part of the listener’s own perception of the project. “Music is whatever you feel it is and what you get out of it. Artistry is an individual journey.”