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Featured Performer

JimmyT49   Dukes


Talking to

Valana Spencer

In the Spotlight today is JimmyT49 Dukes, a self-taught musician, singer, songwriter, and producer from Virginia.


A real-life welder by day; a talented Second Life guitarist and blues singer by night.


JimmyT brought his music magic to Second Life fourteen years ago.


Motivated by his preference for R&B music mixed with a solid rock element, he performs original music and our favorite  popular cover tunes: his powerful voice and charismatic personality draw crowds capable of crashing regions.  

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JimmyT:   (taking a bite from his cheeseburger) Hey, this tastes great.

Valana:  (laughing) Welcome, JimmyT, and thank you for meeting with me at the Love Spell Bar & Grill. It's so amazing to have you sitting here with me today for this interview with Toggle For Music.  Could you tell our readers about your background—were you an established artist in RL before you got here?

JimmyT:   No, well, not established. I had recently picked up a guitar in 2001 and started messing around in the Blues rooms on a program called PalTalk. Anyhow, life as it would be, I wound up leaving for about a year to attend college at night, and when I came back, everybody was gone from PalTalk, that I had jammed with. You know all the different performers, singers, and guitar players.   So, they told me, "Oh yeah, everybody's all over at this Second Life," and I'm like, "What? What the heck is a second life?" Long story short, one of the gentlemen that I jammed with over there invited me over that evening—told me how to load the viewer and create an account. That night I ended up having, I guess, like an impromptu audition with a venue and a venue owner by the name of Cavevub Milk. That was back at Old Salts Pub days; like I said, I auditioned that night, and two days later, I did my first show right there at Old Salts.

Valana:   Are you from a musical family?


JimmyT:   No, not really, but my mother was one of those people; I kind of got a lot of different things from my family, my father's side, as well as my mother's side.   I got my curiosity, engineering prowess, and ability to do things with my mind and hands, if you will, from my dad. My mother, on the other hand, was the artistic one. Anything she touched, anything she took on, decided she wanted to accomplish, she was able to learn how to do it. Albeit painting, airbrush, cake making, woodworking. You name it;  she was like a Jane of all trades when she passed. But as far as music, no, I think my dad noodled on the guitar a little bit when he was young, but that's about it. I think I am about the only musician in my family.


Valana:   When you first started performing live in SL, what were some of the challenges you faced then? 

JimmyT: Most of the time, it was technical issues trying to get acclimated with, okay, what I hear in my headphones, is that what the audience is hearing? Am I too loud, am I too low, am I too present, not present enough, is it edgy? And I still chase that today. I'm never happy with my sound, never. It changes from show to show (laughing) because I have a mixing console in front of me. I have all these buttons that I can play with, and I do.

Valana:   Do you remember your first Second Life gig - the venue and how it went?

JimmyT:   Yeah, that was Old Salts. That show went really well; I think because I was new on the scene, I guess many people were curious about the new guy because there weren't a lot of us on here back then performing. I mean, there were a lot of singing venues, Karaoke clubs. I think live music as we know it today was pretty much in its infancy. But everybody was really helpful to one another, you know, so when I went out to do my first gig, there were a lot of people who showed up and were very supportive. But, of course, at the time, I was married, and she would accompany me on some of the songs. That was pretty cool in the beginning as well. But yeah, it went well, very well.

Valana:   Did any performers help you when you first started?

JimmyT:   Oh my God, there have been a few; let me see. One of the very first performers that helped me, and oddly enough, I've had to question: Is there competition among performers? Specifically in genres of music, you know, like rock, do they compete, do the blues kind of compete? I'm sure there is some competitiveness, but not as it would be in the business world where you are trying to scratch your way, you know, to better things. So I guess we're all out trying to show a little piece of ourselves, if you will. For the vast majority, I would say musicians in here help one another in here on a daily basis. I mean, I try to; every once in a while, there was a group of individuals that recently got in contact with me, and basically, I sat down at a round table (chuckles) with like six singers one afternoon on a Sunday, like we are today.


It was a lot of fun; they had a lot of questions about different aspects of streaming, leveling, what kind of equipment to use, how do I do it. So that still lives on in here, but I would say probably the most helpful person and one of the most influential would be srv4u.conacher, The Preacher Man. He's the one that initially, when I came in, I just knew a few cords; I didn't have a large repertoire of songs at all. Most of them were originals, and he was one of the cats that really pushed me to kind of spread my wings a bit. Stretch out and take a little more risk. So, Yeah, him and Ditritus Rau. Ditritus is the one that turned me on to one of the pieces of equipment that I based my sound on for the last 12 to 15 years prior to going to amps and stuff. Jeff Plumday is another one, an amazing, amazing guitar player."

Valana:   Following on from that, is there a gig you remember above all?

JimmyT:   (laughing) Yeah, there is a couple, some good, some bad, but I like to remember the good stuff. I did a show at Junkyard Blues; it was my first or second show there, and I was so excited. Everybody had been building up for this thing for a day or two, and I was ready, man; my voice was warmed up, and I was ready to kick butt. So I get in there, people are just piling in and piling in, and BOOM, the sim crashed like five minutes in. I still have my stream going, trying to log in. In between songs, I'm like, "If Ya'll can hear me, I'm just going to keep going" Folks started rezzing back into the sim, and moments later, it crashed again. It crashed like three times. We wound up putting the stream in open chat, telling everyone to put it in their browser and enjoy. I finished the show, not even in SL."

Valana:   You have a huge repertoire of songs - Do you find yourself adapting each performance to the venue you are playing - or do you have a fixed schedule and see what requests come up?

JimmyT:   (thinking for a second) Yeah, I usually just wait to see what's gonna come up. I've never been one for trying to do a song list both in RL or SL; used to drive my band out here in the world nuts because I would call the song out right off the fly. We would have set lists, but one of the things I learned early on is once you have a set list, your kind of locked into whatever kind of feel you think might have been a good fit prior to going in.


Ya know, sometimes people want to be chill and mellow. Other times, ya know, they want to raise holy Cain. If you go in there with a list of soft songs, you're gonna bore the hell out of the people who are there wanting to have some hoop-hollerin fun. So yeah, I usually go with requests or at least genre requests. Ya know, people want to hear something rockin; sometimes they want to hear something smooth and groovy. So yeah, I never know what the hell I'm gonna sing before I start singing. Usually, the first song is probably within the last two minutes before I go live on the stream.

Valana:   Would you say your own music style has evolved over your performing years in SL?

JimmyT:   Oh yeah, without a doubt, without a doubt, I started out, my interest in guitar, believe it or not, started out in the hard rock metal genre, stuff like Dokken, Joe Satriani, I guess you would call it 80's metal, Ratt, ya know I was an 80's child, early Metallica that was the stuff I really enjoyed. But, when I went to pick the guitar up and was learning my cords, that was way beyond (chuckling) beginner level there, so I didn't really explore it. Then I fell into the whole "Oh, I kind of like this blues type of sound, southern type of sound." So it has evolved because so many people request so many genres during a show that I've had to learn so many different styles of music. Everything from R&B to full-blown metal, country, rock, blues, and even a little funk. Now anytime I sit down to write, it's like I have this mess of all this put together in a bucket, and it comes out. So it is like a funky, bluesy, rockin country thing, I don't know. But yeah, it has influenced me doing this big time.


When I play in SL, there are times when here in my studio, I might have a whole room full of people behind me sitting back in here in the studio on the couches and chairs, chillin'. Playing in Second Life definitely made me more comfortable doing what I do. I'm not as self-conscious about every single note (chuckles); yeah, naw, that I used to be because all that does is take the life away from it if I'm too concerned with the technical aspects of everything, ya know, did I hit that properly, is that the right scale? I know I screw up all through a show, but that happens live and depends on how I feel. Like, I did a little thing after a show last night for some friends on video, and I don't know what the hell got into me, but I felt really good, and probably one of the best renditions of one of the songs that I do, maybe that I have ever done. So, it definitely changed the way I play. It definitely changed the way I look at music too.

Valana:   Do you ever get nervous before an SL gig? Does dual streaming make that better or worse?

JimmyT:   Umm, nervous...maybe not in the normal sense of the word, like stage fright or anything. I don't necessarily get that. My philosophy on that is it's not because I am arrogant about anything like "Oh, I can't make a mistake" I know I am going to screw up. Hell, I might forget my lyrics mid-song. Who the heck knows? I guess I worry about the sound quality, so that kind of makes me nervous. Sometimes what I hear in my cans, i.e., my headphones or on the Nearfield Monitors in the studio, depending on how I want to play that night. There is such a sonic difference between what I hear in the headphones, what I hear in the monitors, and I'm always nervous. "Is what I'm hearing actually what's being transmitted? Does it sound like this? Or does is it sound darker or lighter?" That is probably the greatest source of anxiety, if you will, if you want to call it that, that I have. 

I have only dual-streamed a couple of times; a lot of it has to do with time constraints and being able to schedule something with someone. Now I have had guys here in the studio that have played with me across the internet into Second Life. But they have been physically here, in the studio, live with me. I did a dual stream with a gentleman by the name of Tukso Okie. Badass looper, man. This guy is really talented. Anyhow, I could hear him; he could not hear me, so it was probably more unnerving for him. I just rolled with it. The end result, because I record all my streams by default, apparently his girl recorded the stream too, and it was...I was impressed. So, I don't have a lot of anxiety about dual streaming.

Valana:   How does performing in SL differ from performing in RL?

JimmyT:   Well, one of the things I noticed about playing in Second Life is even though we're all sitting behind a desk, potentially or sitting back over the laptop, whatever it is we find ourselves doing. There is more of an engagement between the folks in the audience and myself. They're not sitting at the table over drinks talking about the work day or joking about so and so's shoes or whatever. Well, they might be, I don't know, but I don't hear it. (chuckles) Not your shoes, you always have such nice shoes. It seems to be more interactive here than it is in the world. Your just basically background music for whatever is happening at the bar that night. Which is okay in and of itself; I don't mind; it's a lot more fun when the audience is engaging you. That's what I find happens more often in here than it ever does in real life. After the show, people come up and want to introduce themselves and things like that; yeah, you get a lot of that in the RL. During the performance, it's nice to actually listen, read, and hear what is being said by the audience clearly. A lot of times, what is happening in the audience will dictate what the heck I play next.

Valana:   If you were mentoring a new live performer in SL, what's the most important thing you'd recommend that a new person should learn and know?

JimmyT:   "Reverb, (chuckles) Reverb, I get heavy-handed at times with it, I know, and I am probably notorious for it, but I can't help it. Honestly, 

I think one of the greatest things aside from a person's natural abilities or skills to sing or play is to project the sound as a whole piece. As a component, not two separate components that have been meshed together. Like, there are singers in here that have absolutely exceptional voices, devastating singers, yet, when they perform live, their music, their background music, has a certain space that it lives in because of its Reverb and the way it was mixed. When the voice is not within that space, that is one of the things I chase constantly; I know I don't always get it right, but I chase it every single show, every single song. Without having the ability to put your voice in the same space with the music, it just sounds so disjointed. So the one thing I recommend to the folks coming in and new; is if you can get a DSP, Digital Signal Processor, some plug-in or something that can add a little something a little reverb, a delay to put your voice in the same space as your backing it will come across so much better. It really does."

Valana:   Is there anything you would say irks you the most as a performer in SL? (aside from annoying interviewers).

JimmyT:   (laughs loudly) I know by God they are everywhere, no, annoyance? Hmm, I think one of the things that does annoy me, it's a trend that I am beginning to quietly pick up on and see a little more often, talking, you know, I talk to a lot of the musicians in Second Life, a lot of them are on my friends' list. I go to their shows; they come to my shows. However, there are a few people in Second Life with a mindset know to backtrack to an earlier point that was made, that competition in here has no place. All that does is create an environment, man, that kills creativity. It kills it.


There are a few folks that I am noticing have this mindset that they are this or that, they are a rockstar, they need to... I don't know; set the ego aside. I wish there were less ego in here. I have my ego, but it's not about this, not about music. I really don't. I am constantly, every day, trying to get better at what I do or maintain what I have gained so far. I don't have time for ego. Who's better? Who does this better? Who does that better? It doesn't matter. What matters is, do people enjoy coming and listening? If they do, the rest is BS. It doesn't matter, so I think the most annoying thing I am seeing in Second Life is that many of the attributes we see in RL are starting to shine in here, and it needs to stop. It really does.

Valana:   Finally, in closing, is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

JimmyT:   Well, I definitely have a lot of gratitude. This room I am sitting in is a direct result of the time I have spent and still spend in Second Life. I would not have this; I would not be doing this, sitting in front of a mixing desk with my monitors and all my gear and stuff. Of course, most of it has been handed off to me by people with too much stuff they no longer use. (Chuckling) So they always bring me their stuff. I'm not going to complain. So my gratitude is that I wouldn't be sitting here if it weren't for the folks in Second Life, period, and I really appreciate it.

Until next time, JimmyT

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