Dressed to the Nines
Austin artist Dror on his unique style
by Lauren Jones
Photographs by Holly Cowart
From his retro suits and crisp button-ups to coifed hair and smooth voice, Houston-born artist Dror brings an air of nostalgia to Austin’s music scene. While singing and songwriting have always been his passion, the recent University of Texas graduate has spent the past few years developing his own style, pulling inspiration from a variety of genres.
“I love a lot of soulful singers like Amy Winehouse and Sam Cooke, plus growing up, Ne-Yo and Usher were really popular. I think the music I’m making now is a fusion of it all: modern R&B, hip-hop and pop,” he says.
As a child, Dror (born Jonathan Dror) tested his musical prowess in theater and choir and also tried his hand at writing.
“I would write songs and test them out on my family,” he recalls. “I would ask who wrote this one and see if they would guess a real singer.”
Despite not taking proper voice lessons until the end of high school, being around talented artists and attending a bevy of concerts is something that helped develop his unique sound.
“As a kid, I would save up allowance money and put it toward concerts,” he remembers. “Houston is such a big city, everyone would come through. That was the first time I fell in love with seeing performers.”
Come college, the singer joined an a cappella group and produced his first song, one that became an overnight sensation. It was the fall of 2014 and Snapchat had just piloted its campus story feature, selecting UT as one of the first two schools in the nation for its trial run. Dror’s attempt, a UT-focused anthem called “Put ’Em Up,” went viral, receiving over 20,000 views in 24 hours.
“People started tweeting about it,” he says. “Yik Yak was also a forum at the time, and people would talk about it on there. I realized it had the potential to get more attention, and thus I turned the hook into a full song and ended up filming a video with some athletes I was friends with on the football team.”
With lyrics such as “Put ’em up for the Texas / Put ’em up for the fight / Put ’em up for the burnt orange / And put ’em up for the white!” and “You know we counting down to game day / Hook ’em, Horns / Tailgating all through the night till early morn,” the song perfectly encapsulated the UT experience and overwhelming campus pride.
After his original success with “Put ’Em Up,” Dror took a step back to discover who he wanted to be in the music industry. He interned at Sony Music during his junior year and made it to a fourth callback for NBC’s “The Voice.”
When it comes to describing Dror’s style, he has a timeless quality that plays to an era of days past, but with modern influences, much like his personal taste in music.
“I credit my style development to my mom and my sisters,” he says. “I grew up in a house with three women who loved fashion, and they helped me be very open and take risks. I want to be able to look back at a picture in decades and not question what I was thinking.”
Dror also frequents vintage shops like Houston’s Top Vintage, invests in high-end finds and even pulls pieces from his dad’s closet to complete his look. His good-luck charm, a pair of cowboy boots, comes from his grandfather, a man who was “always dressed to the nines.”
“After my grandpa came to visit my parents in Texas, he absolutely fell in love,” he says. “So in this random apartment in the Middle East [Dror’s family is from Israel], there are dozens of cowboy boots and steers on the wall.”
His classic style is showcased in his most recent videos, for singles “Tryna Be” and “Cookie Cutter,” both of which are self-directed. “Tryna Be” was written one evening in college when he stayed home from a party everyone seemed to be attending.
“I started thinking about who I wanted to be as a person, as an artist, and how I wanted my life to look,” he says. “I think there are plenty of people who are struggling to find themselves and do what is popular, but if more people were true to themselves, we’d all have a better time.”
The video is very cinematic, with influences from artist Lana Del Rey and director Wes Anderson and clothing from the 1950s.
“This was my first video, so I wanted it to be a really strong introduction of who I am,” he says. “From writing the plot to casting to wardrobe to directing the shots, I enjoyed it all.”
“Cookie Cutter,” his second single, is similar in message.
“I wanted to write about my own experience growing up,” he says. “I never wanted to have a job I wasn’t passionate about, come home and call that my life.”
The video has a vintage vibe, with a nod to the dystopian movies like “The Truman Show” and “Pleasantville,” and depicts Dror’s childhood and life in a picture-perfect world.
“We filmed in Austin and Houston,” he says. “There are a lot of picturesque houses over by 43rd Street, and in Houston we got to film in the childhood home of James Baker, George H. W. Bush’s best friend and his Secretary of State.”
So what’s next for Dror? The singer-songwriter is hoping to make it big and get a record contract.
“I have a stockpile of music I’ve been holding onto,” he says. “I’ve also started talking with management companies and have had labels reach out.”
Sounds like exciting things are just around the corner.