Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? It is apt that songwriter and producer Billy Dorsey should name his debut gospel album MARATHON, because he has been running all of his life.
His latest long-distance stretch is from Atlanta back to Houston, where he has just finished shooting a music video for the upcoming album's first single. "MARATHON is the future of gospel music," he said by phone from Mobile, Ala., the current rest stop on his way back home to Houston.
When Dorsey is not running, he serves as an outreach pastor for Lakewood Church.
"Ministry is definitely in the forefront for me," says Dorsey. But he is not only a gospel recording artist; he is also a songwriter and producer for artists like 2 Chainz, Day 26 and Maino. He also just won a Grammy for producing for Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae -- but more on that later.
Home Base: Dorsey started his MARATHON at an early age. The son of an Air Force father, Dorsey spent much of his childhood moving around to different cities and states. He was born in Arkansas and lived in Illinois, Louisiana and even Germany before settling down in Houston to sign a record deal with Polygraph Records as a member of the gospel group Serenity. The deal, unfortunately, would not last -- but more on that later.
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "Opportunity," he says. Where other artists, songwriters and producers might run away to the New York or California shores, Dorsey cools his heels in the Bayou City, where he says there is great camaraderie among musicians and the musically-related.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Egos," he says. "You have a lot of people that think they're bigger than they are."
Good War Story: Not long after signing their first recording contract, Serenity was dropped from its label, and Dorsey found himself homeless, living in a friend's recording studio in the Fifth Ward community.
Despite being dropped from Polygraph, Dorsey wasn't legally allowed to record, so he found a loophole. He had learned the art of production, he said, from "watching the producers that we worked with when we signed our first record deal."
With this knowledge, and with the help of a producer friend who provided him housing in his studio space, Dorsey began writing and producing for local artists such as Slim Thug and Lil Keke. His second big break -- or first, depending on how you feel about that record deal -- came when he got discovered by Jonathan "J.R." Rotem's Beluga Heights record label; thus began work producing for national acts such T.I. and Plies.
An even bigger break came when Rotem gave Dorsey an opportunity to produce for Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae's sixth album, Rehab: The Overdose. That collaboration resulted in the 2012 Stellar Award for Rap/Hip-Hop Album of the Year.
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Prince, The Hits/The B-Sides
- Jodeci, The Show, the Afterparty the Hotel
- Al Green, Greatest Hits
- Mumford & Sons, Babel
- Tupac, All Eyez on Me
First Song You Fell In Love With: "Stay" by Jodeci. "I was at the age where I had fallen in love," Dorsey said of the track that explores first-time infatuation. "I could relate to it."
MARATHON will be released globally today.
See who else has joined The Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.
THE ROCKS OFF 100 2013 ALUMNI
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism