‘With The Uplift, I wanted a name that kind of represents where people should be going and aspiring to after lockdown, as opposed to dwelling on it. The brilliant thing about music is that it can change your emotion within seconds.’
For Dantae Johnson, accomplished singer-songwriter, producer, one-third of the Three Bears Ent. music production, company, and founder of The Woods Studio, music is very much a way of life.
While the past year has been a particularly difficult time for the music and entertainment industry, Johnson is fortunate that his life and work primarily take place on London City Island, where he lives and runs The Woods Studio, which has remained in operation throughout lockdown.
Johnson moved to the Island four years ago and launched The Woods shortly after, with an ambition to promote and nurture home-grown talent. ‘Since moving to the island and setting up the studio, we’ve really been building a community,’ he says.
“Since moving to the Island and setting up the studio, we’ve really been building a community.”
Members of this community make an appearance on The Uplift, a Spotify playlist exclusively curated by Johnson and The Woods Studio team. This includes Jasmine Thompson, a 20-year-old Island resident who is signed to Atlantic Records. Thompson, who has been making music since the tender age of 10, had a smash hit over the summer with Funny, featuring DJ and producer Zedd. Another London City Island resident who also makes an appearance is award-winning producer Will Simms, AKA Love Harder, who has clocked up millions of streams on Spotify and YouTube with his catchy track, Oblivion, featuring singer-songwriter Amber Van Day.
The opening three tracks of The Uplift were penned by Johnson himself (under the alias Dantae The Kid) or produced with close collaborators. They set the modern, upbeat tone of the playlist, which features a mix of ‘fresh and classic cuts’, such as the 1983 megahit P.Y.T by Michael Jackson, and the 80s-infused nostalgia of Blinding Lights by man-of-the-moment The Weeknd.
‘We tried to create an energy journey [in the playlist] like you would if you were in a club,’ explains The Woods Studio manager Stephen Rutter. ‘All these things are evoking your memories of good times. We’re trying to create an undulation of energy throughout. Hopefully it helps.’
During stressful times (pandemic or otherwise), music has the power to comfort us, reset our minds, and lift our spirits. It provides a strong emotional reaction and connection, and can make us laugh, cry, dance and sing at the top of our lungs.
For Johnson, lockdown has encouraged him to get his personal collection in check, and not be caught up in the ‘hamster wheel’ of trying to stay on top of the latest thing. Having said that, discovering new and obscure musicians is his passion. The artist who rounds off The Uplift is American ‘genre-bending’ singer Samoht. His beautiful, soulful track Be OK provides the perfect end note of the playlist. It’s poignant yet positive, with the simple mantra-like chorus of ‘I will be OK’ encapsulating the universal sense of optimism for the near future.
‘Samoht is literally about to blow up,’ Johnson says enthusiastically. ‘For me, Be OK is the theme of the entire playlist. That song has been very instrumental in helping me personally over the past year, so I just wanted to share it with everyone.’
Jasmine Thompson, Jack Munsch / press