Tulsa Native Grows Music Career

Managing Editor

GRAMMY APPEARANCE: Derek Blankenship, nephew of Owasso High School head football coach Bill Blankenship, stands on the red carpet at the 2017 Grammy Awards, on Feb. 12.

Courtesy photo

A budding music producer with ties to Tulsa made his way down the red carpet at this year’s Grammy awards on Feb. 12.

Tulsa native Derek Blankenship is the nephew of Owasso High School head football coach Bill Blankenship, and his grandparents are Owasso residents.

Derek Blankenship moved to Los Angeles in 2012 and, thanks to a series of “right place at the right time” moments, has worked as a production assistant for the Grammys since 2014.

For the 2017 Grammys, Blankenship walked the red carpet, representing himself as a producer, musician and composer, walking with the likes of John Legend, Ryan Tedder, Carrie Underwood, Lady Gaga, all of whom he spoke to briefly.

“To be walking among those artists, it was a dream come true,” he says.

Since moving to L.A., Blankenship has been working to build a career as a music producer, operating under the name The Northern Lights.

Blankenship has been playing music since he was six years old when he took up guitar lessons and was in his first band by fourth grade.

After graduating high school, he attended Baylor University, pursuing a film and digital media degree, but left after a couple years, questioning what he ultimately wanted to do with his musical aspirations.

He took the next few years deciding on his next steps, gaining the advice of those in the music industry, “asking myself if this is what I really want to do,” Blankenship says.

In 2012, he made the jump to L.A. with $1,000 in his pocket, he continues.
Through some serendipitous situations, Blankenship secured a job with Universal, wearing a number of hats as a tour guide, errand runner, and production assistant on shows such as The Big Bang Theory and The Voice.

“That opportunity allowed me to get my foot in the door, network and meet people that I admired,” he says.

All the while, Blankenship still pursued his own music projects by mixing and composing music, selling it online, and gaining a following of more than 40,000 people on SoundCloud.

Many of his albums have received high ratings, including, in 2015, his album Teenage Wasteland, which was named top album of the year by New Retro Wave.
As his exposure rose, he began receiving attention from artists looking to collaborate.

Currently, he is working with Dana Jean Phoenix, a Canadian musician, and with Vast Hill, a band from Sydney, Australia, creating music for their upcoming albums and spending upwards of 16 hours in the studio each day, he says.

But, as far as he is concerned, there’s no where else he would rather be.

“One thing that L.A. has taught me is that I don’t want to be an actor,” he says. “I love working behind the scenes and working with artists.”

As Blankenship continues to advance his dreams, he is eager to encourage others to do the same: “I just want people to know, don’t let anyone tell you no; just go for it.”

Updated 04-05-2017

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