California native Dominic Balli’s chosen musical identifier--as purveyor of “CaliRockReggae”--quickly gives one a glimpse of the sonic style residing within the man’s output.
“Art is an expression of who you are,” Balli says. “I’m just a half Italian, quarter Greek kid from California, but somehow inside of me there’s this little reggae dude just trying to get out. The most common comment I hear is, ‘I don’t even like reggae, but I love your stuff.’ I love that because it means that my music has become accessible to fans that might otherwise totally shy away from anything even reminiscent of reggae.”
That accessibility led fans to snatch up more than 20,000 copies of Balli’s independent debut, Public Announcement, making it one of iTunes’ Top 30 reggae albums of 2008. Such visibility on the sales charts combined with Balli’s electric live show, afforded him the opportunity to perform on stages around the world, alongside a diverse set of artists including Ziggy Marley, Natasha Beddingfield, Jason Mraz, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, George Clinton and the P-Funk, Hawk Nelson, Lecrae, and Barlow Girl.
But a handful of oft-repeated phrases have come to uncover a great deal of truth about Balli, both on a personal and professional level.
Consider the saying “You can’t always get what you want.” Balli’s life has a parallel example. “When I was 13 years old, I wanted to play the drums, even though I was a kid who had no sense of rhythm at all,” Balli says. “My dad told me that if I took guitar lessons for a year, he’d buy me a drum set. I resisted, because I thought only country singers played acoustic guitar!
“I reluctantly started the lessons and eventually fell in love with the guitar. I never did get that drum set.”
The phrase that seems to be informing Balli’s work most these days, and certainly on the title track of his new full-length project American Dream, is “be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” The inspiration and insight found within that song (featuring P.O.D. frontman Sonny Sandoval) came from Balli finding just enough of what he’d been working for his entire life: success.
“For me, I basically grew up my whole life with that kind of goal in mind: whatever I want to do is possible, and it’s all about me,” Balli says. “It was all about the steady job with the nice income, and when I got married, it’d be great to buy a house and have brand new cars and really nice clothes. It was all about setting up my life to be comfortable, which is at the heart of the American Dream.
“A year and a half ago, my wife and I bought our first house, and for the first time in our marriage, we didn’t need anything; we weren’t going month-to-month on paychecks,” he continues. “And when the comfort and ease of that life style set in, it started to kind of rob my joy, rob my faith, rob my purpose in life. This complacency, especially spiritually, set in. Though I would’ve never said it, it was almost as if I didn’t need anything else, including God.
“In early 2010, I realized that my life isn’t all about me and my dreams and what I want to do and my comfort and my safety and my stuff,” Balli notes. “It’s all about loving and serving other people and the God who made me. When I realized that, it started to change my life and my perspective, and ‘American Dream’ came out of that.”
“American Dream” kicks off Balli’s new project with thought-provoking clarity, but he knows (and shows) that some of life’s most important lessons are the simplest ones. Case in point (and yet another familiar phrase) is the track “All We Need Is Love,” a song brought forward and recast from Balli’s previous project Public Announcement.
“There are a whole lot of good things we can do and in this life,” Balli notes, but at the end of the day, if we don’t have love then we are absolutely nothing. Abide these three, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. Love is the greatest commandment of all. I don’t want my life to be marked by just doing good stuff. I want it to be marked by love, and actions that are done in love.”
In the end – and as can be evinced by the thread that runs through Balli’s project, be it on songs like “Louder,” “Again and Again,” “Take My Love” and “You Are There” – love can and should inspire us, lifting us up to levels we couldn’t reach alone.
Dominic Balli has realized love’s presence, has balanced his life and his work, and stands ready to tell the world about his “American Dream.”