High hopes

Minot man signs with New York record label

Submitted Photo Dalton Johnson set his goals high and now he is taking the necessary steps to achieve them.

A young Minot man with a love for music has taken the leap of a lifetime and landed an independent record deal with Bentley Records in New York.

Dalton Johnson began on the piano when he was a child. His mother has a great passion for music and Johnson said that passion rubbed off on him.

“She told me I could do whatever I wanted to do, like my dream could come true,” Johnson recalled, “if I just stuck to it, and it was music. My mom has always been my biggest fan.”

He spent a lot of time playing on the keyboard that his mother kept around. Pictures of him playing on the piano and keyboard were still around the house, reminding him of where he started and just how far he has come.

He still plays the piano, but it’s quite different than the traditional one. To make his music, the instrument he has now also doubles as a synthesizer, so he can change the sound of the keys. Instead of sounding like a piano when he plays, he can make it sound like a flute or a violin. The synthesizer plugs into his computer and works with the software that he uses to help him produce his own music.

One year and five months ago, Johnson contacted the secretary of state to start his own company. His personal record label is called Illa Flo Records. He records under the stage name $.H.E.L.T.A., which is an acronym for $teadfast Hustler that Everyone Listens to Always. His music is currently released through his own label. He gets it out any way that he can, and “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Besides being a producer, he raps. He started when he was 14 and would rap with his friends, just doing it for fun. One of them was passionate about the guitar and had an amp and speakers for it. They went over to his house and with his friend playing on his guitar, Johnson recorded his first song. From that point on, he used whatever equipment he could get to make his music.

“For the last year and a half, that’s when I really started giving it my all,” he said. “I’ve just been really trying to learn to play the piano as best I can and then finish one great song, and then use that as the building blocks for rapping.” He raps every day, finding different instrumentals, beats and songs. He described it as his outlet, wanting his music to impact people emotionally and impact the world. “Some of it’s like my personal stories.”

About a month ago, Johnson took a huge leap forward and sent in a demo of four of his songs to Bentley Records, an international record label based on Wall Street in New York City. They get several demos submitted every day from all around the world. When they listened to Johnson’s music, he got a call back about three weeks later.

Bentley Records told him that even though they wouldn’t be able to offer him an exclusive record deal, they could represent him as an independent artist. Johnson “got brought on for a distribution and marketing deal for one year.” They also agreed to represent him and publish one album to be his first commercial album with major backing.

“It’s good to hear from somebody who’s an executive at a record label that they see potential in me, y’know? So it’s basically a no-brainer to sign up with them,” he said. “Since age 14, I’ve been doing as much music as I could and it almost seemed too good to be true when the CEO reached out to me.”

Bentley Records is one of the biggest record labels that works remotely with their artists, so Johnson will not have to move to New York. He and Bentley Records can communicate through email, and he was given his own Bentley Records email address. “It seems more professional that way.”

Over the last 14 years, Johnson has been teaching himself how to rap and how to produce his own music. He described rapping as his forte right now. Some musicians that really inspire him are Eminem and Dr. Dre, how they linked up and created a mutually beneficial relationship. His favorite band is The Beastie Boys, which is also his mother’s favorite. He really likes Three 6 Mafia and the band Sublime. On a personal level, he can relate to the singer Wiz Khalifa, both being born at the hospital in Minot.

Currently, Johnson has music posted under his stage name $.H.E.L.T.A. on YouTube and other major platforms, like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, Google Music and Apple Music.

He’s thinking that he will probably release some other singles and he also mentioned that he may attempt to put out a couple of mixtapes. After that, he said he would get down to the grind of working on the album.

When the first year with Bentley Records is up, he has the opportunity to be reevaluated with progress and development. Then he could possibly sign to be an exclusive artist, meaning that Bentley Records would be the only record label that can represent him. Working as an independent artist, he has the freedom to produce other music with his own record label or work with others.

Johnson is interested in science, and if he hadn’t taken the musical path, he said he probably would have gone into the medical field as an emergency room doctor or something of the like. High school graduation put a lot of pressure on him and he had a choice to make: music or doctor. He had to decide just how much time he was going to put into his craft.

“If somehow I can do something to get closer to accomplishing my goal, then I do it,” he said. With his determination and “staying steadfast,” he can reach his goal and continue setting new ones to make himself a better musician.


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