By Jillian Hare
Edited by Steve Yusko
For Brad Doggett, success in the music business no longer means sending out dozens of demo tapes to record labels.
The 20-year-old student is using YouTube as a virtual resume that has led to thousands of fans, signing offers, concert opportunities and the chance to open for rapper WyClef Jean at The NorVa Theatre in Norfolk, Va.
The Internet sensation covers pop music's biggest hits from artists like Rihanna, Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake, and posts the videos on YouTube. The songs are diverse, but the style is all John Mayer - a smooth soft-rock voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar.
His unique cover of Lil Wayne's rap song "Lollipop" been viewed over 350,000 times, and his style has caught the attention of people in the music industry.
Doggett is also in the band Earthtone with Corey Smith, Jon Q, Brad Oblivion and J.R. Booker. The band's song "I Love Music" has proved so popular that they're headed to the recording studio in the hopes of creating a five-song Internet download.
The Carolina Reporter talked with Doggett about his life, his unusual style and his future plans.
Q: When did you first start singing?
A: In elementary school, all the kids were pulled out of class to sing with the chorus teacher. That year, every single one of my friends dropped chorus except for me. In middle school, I tried out for and made boys ensemble, and when I hit high school I made the advanced a cappella choir that gave me classical training and shaped my falsetto.
Q: Since your lyrics are rap-based and your style is more pop, which style of music do you lean toward?
A: I look up to John Mayer, but I would have to say he is the only guitarist I listen to. The rhythm and pop melodies of R&B have really captivated me more than anything. I try to emulate R&B beats with my guitar and sing catchy melodies on top.
Q: How do you decide what songs to cover?
A: I only cover songs that I like. Usually, if a song is stuck in my head all day, I'll sit down and figure out how to play it. One time a band asked me to cover one of their songs in exchange for putting me in their top friends on Myspace.com. I listened to their songs, and I just couldn't do it. I hate playing songs I don't enjoy listening to.
Q: What opportunities have you gotten from broadcasting on YouTube?
A: I never took it too seriously until I got a message from Columbia Records asking me to open for WyClef Jean. I was also offered a record deal from an indie label based out of LA. Recently, I went up to New Jersey and did a track with the artist Chiba, one of the last rappers to get voted off of VH1's "Ms. Rap Supreme." I would say that almost every venue I have played has been because of YouTube. It's easier to ask places if you can play if your resume is just a click away.
Q: What venues do you enjoy playing at?
A: Playing colleges is a great route for artists because the schools bring out a lot of new people to hear your music. I have played some great college venues: Virginia Commonwealth University, Georgetown University, Randolph College, George Mason - and we have upcoming shows at Christopher Newport and James Madison University.
Q: How did your band Earthtone come about, and what are the goals of the group?
A: The story of Earthtone started out as a bunch of artists pursuing different goals and dreams. We strive to represent change in not only music, but in society. We all came from different places and had very different lives. The acoustic guitar seems to take the harsh stereotypes out of rap, while the rapping adds an awesome edge to the acoustic guitar. We ultimately want to bring music back to the stage where your mother, your grandmother and your friends could all rock to the same music in the car.