Viki Dee’s philosophy on music is simple: “Music should be fun or romantic. If it’s not a love song, it should be a fun song.” It has served her well in her career as a singer and studio artist and has certainly has kept her busy – singing all around the Mid-Atlantic, starting up a new band, cutting a third album, submitting tracks to TV shows, and jetting off to Europe for the first time in her life. She says, “I was given a gift.”
It runs in the family. Her father was a singer and trombone and trumpet player. He also composed jingles for commercials. His main passion was as a bandleader. Dee says, “He was my mentor.” He was all she really needed. She says she did take clarinet lessons for school when she was really young, but never for singing. It was all natural talent and it’s all she needs. She has a soulful, expressive voice that sounds good on everything from big ballads to jazzy dance numbers. As a songwriter, she says, “I’m a hopeless romantic.” Her songs usually carry an uplifting or poignant message. She’s cut produced albums Drive and Exposed, filled with smooth songs of love, breakups, and wider messages about the environment and ambition.
She has raised three children, Roddy, Lauren, and John (CJ), in two previous marriages and says she wanted them to continue the family tradition, but they took up more conventional careers. She says, “My daughter can sing, but she never pursued it like I did. I’m very proud of them – but they’re not at all musical.”
Her songs are filled with breakups and new romances, but one thing she’s never had a problem with is being out or not or even labeling herself. She says, “I’ve never really struggled with my identity. I think that for me it’s always been that you just happen to fall in love with a person, whoever that person may be.” She regularly plays at venues and dances for the LGBT community, especially in Rehoboth.
Her most successful song is the uplifting “Chance to Dream” which has been featured on the SyFy and Lifetime TV networks and has been picked up by producers in Canada and California. It closed an episode of the SyFy drama Haven. She sings, “I’ve waited a lifetime for maybe the chance to dream.”
That optimism is hard earned. She says, “The lyrics of the new material trouble me. I find a lot of it unnecessary. I think music should never be offensive.” She remembers when her daughter was small; she never wanted to turn on the radio given the language and themes that some of the songwriters dealt with.
In her own career, she keeps positive and will soon return to the studio to cut her third album. She says “It will be the best one ever. I’m excited about a lot of songs I have written.” She intends to submit most of this new material to episodic television as well. With her soulful voice and emotional lyrics, it’s a match made in heaven.
Dee was born and raised in Baltimore and recently moved back to the city from Rehoboth – a move that usually happens in the opposite direction. However, she says, “I love it. I love urban life, the diversity, the amenities, and the convenience.” She says she doesn’t really miss Rehoboth because she gets to go back to sing every weekend. The only downside to her mind is “that beautiful ocean” and the chance to see it every day.
One great new opportunity with her return to the city is a new band full of old friends. She says, “These are guys I’ve known for a long time. We’ve regrouped and found each other again.” The the six members have named the group Lookin’ Up. Dee says, “That’s how we feel life should be. I want to send a positive message.” She’s closest to her long-time collaborator on saxophone whom she calls “Johnny Sax.” She says, “I couldn’t imagine being onstage without him. He’s my main squeeze – musically speaking.”
She plays with them around Baltimore but also picks up a lot of work at private events. Facebook calls her music “Adult Contemporary,” but only because it forces artists to pick a genre. She says, “Honestly, I play everything.” It’s served her well at every kind of event from a 90th birthday party to a wedding. Most people find her online on Facebook or her own website – myvikideemusic.net, which she updates every week to let everybody know where she and the band are playing. She has regular gigs at a number of venues around DC, Maryland, Rehoboth, as well as invitations up and down the east coast from New Jersey to Florida, though she says she’s lucky to find plenty of venues and events in her hometown. She’s never been a fan of getting on the road for months at a time.
The life of a professional musicians is tough enough as it is. Dee says, “It’s hard on relationships. Life is not conducive to trying to sustain a marriage. You sacrifice a lot.” She adds, “For every investment a musician makes, it is their own investment. Nobody matches our 401k.” But for Dee, there never was another choice. She says she knew at 5 years old that this is what she wanted to do.
And while the backstage sacrifices have taken their toll, performing onstage has been easy. Stage fright is a foreign concept for her. She says, “I only get nervous if I feel like I’m going to be challenged that day by something different. Even then, I know how to remain poised on the outside, very calm. On the inside, I’ll just be repeating: Viki, you got this. You can do this.”
A big moment for nerves but also the highlight of her career came at Bill Clinton’s Inaugural Ball. She performed with her father’s band. It was a night of big band classics and dance numbers, one she will never forget.
Music is a huge part of her life, but it’s not the only part. She say in her free time, “I do a lot of writing. I love to bike. I love to walk. I don’t know an Italian woman who doesn’t love to cook. Cooking is therapy to me.” Like her music, she insists she loves to cook everything and likes everything she tries. The foodie in her is looking forward to her next big project – a marathon trip to Europe, including a visit for the first time to the home of her ancestors in Italy with some cousins. She said, “I’m getting to know my crazy Italian side.”
As for the young singers who want to follow in her footsteps? She says, “Follow your own journey. I think that everybody tends to have someone that has influenced them in their lifetime when it comes to music, but everybody that writes is absolutely an individual. Just be you.” It’s a been long journey for Dee, but her career proves that it is possible to be a professional without moving to LA and trying to get on American Idol and without touring the globe for months on end. People are hungry for good music made by passionate musicians wherever they land. Dee adds, “I love what I do. It is always worth it.”
You can find Viki Dee on Wednesdays at Parker’s Tavern in White Marsh, Maryland and at the Green Turtle in Hunt Valley, Maryland. In Rehoboth, she alternates Fridays between The Pond and The Rehoboth Ale House. She has additional gigs every week and the schedule is available at vikideemusic.net. Her CD’s are available on CDBaby at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/vikidee.