About 20 years ago, Duhamel “DJ DU” Cassell was spinning records in New York and New Jersey. Top 40, rock and Latin beats were his specialty. You would never catch him playing Garth Brooks or John Michael Montgomery. Not in those parts.
That all changed when he was discovered performing at a corporate event and asked to move out west, where he would bring his skill set to, of all places, a country bar. He was assigned to spin an even mix of top 40 hits and country songs until one day he thought, “Why not just combine the two?”
I suppose you could say the rest is history. I also suppose you could say that DU was at the forefront of the current country-dance movement. These days, stars such as Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert are embracing the incorporation of country and dance. Acts like Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan are mixing up country and hip-hop.
“There’s definitely an infusion going on. Even though I’ve been doing it for years and years, some of these bands are bringing validity to what I do,” says DU.
However, DU also believes that there’s a fine line to walk when it comes to integrating country with other types of music. He recognizes that not every song is meant to be mixed.
“I’m very respectful of the genre. I won’t play with George Strait. I pay homage to the greats.”
DU’s love for country music began during his time at the Arizona country bar and still prevails to this day. In fact, if you get in his car country music is all you’ll hear.
Aside from that, DU is simply passionate about opening the doors of country music and letting others in. He feels that infusing country and dance will attract new listeners and allow them to embrace country music.
“People are blown away because they never thought they liked [country music]. I’m bringing this market of country [music] to a whole different set of people. People that would never, ever listen to it before are saying, ‘You know, this stuff ain’t that bad.'”
DU believes that country music is really about words and melodies and he promises to stay true to both of those things. His main objective is to get his audience to dance and have a good time – and do so to the music they love.
“It’s fun. At country festivals, after hearing great bands, [people] are ready to shake it up a little bit. They want to be able to dance – and dance to what they’re familiar with,” says DU.
DU’s success is constantly growing. In 2012, he performed live with Kip Moore at the American Country Awards, he recently provided direct support to Carrie Underwood and he will be a part of the Alabama and Friends At Sea’s 40th Anniversary Cruise in late October.
In addition, he just celebrated his first commercial release with a dance remix of “Little Umbrellas” by Nashville’s own Sarah Darling.
The passion and energy that DU exudes during his performances, and the fact that his set is always live, is what he hopes will lock audiences in and keep them coming back. Although no musical style is off limits, country music is where his heart truly resides.
“I’m surrounded by great people, great music, great fans and there’s no genre I’d rather work around.”
DU is scheduled to perform at the first ever Delta Country Jam in Tunica, MS, on Oct. 4 and 5.
Oh, and did I mention that he’s open to mix requests? If you have one, you can contact DU directly on Twitter at @DjDuMusic.
DU also publishes a free mix each Tuesday – or “Duesday.” To listen, visit his page on SoundCloud.