Dotan Negrin decided to ditch the world of “9 to 5″ and turn his passion for music, travel and people into a career. Check out the interview!
What do you get when you cross a piano, a passion for travel and a desire to meet people? You get a ‘Dotan Negrin’ that’s what.
After numerous failed start-ups and dead end jobs, Dotan decided to get a truck, pack up his upright piano and hit the road. Since 2010, Dotan has played his piano for audiences everywhere-from the streets of NYC to the Grand Canyon of Arizona.
His blog, Piano Across America, documents his musical journey across America. While he has incredible and insane journey has garnered a ton of press (even in Australia!), Dotan remains on a higher mission. His ultimate goal is to show people across the world that you don’t have to spend your life in a cubicle. You can choose the life you want to have, follow your own dream and have fun in the process.
In our interview we ask him about life on the road, the diversity of America and whether he has a ‘special someone’ back home.
You have traveled across the United States playing the paino for people in public places. But if you could go anywhere in the world and play, where would it be and why?
This is a tough question because there are so many places I want to play. I am currently thinking about driving down to South America and playing for people there. But I think the ultimate place to play piano would be to bring a piano to the depths of Africa to some of the poorest countries on earth where kids have very little to hope for. I would love to see peoples eyes light up as they hear the piano for the first time, as they touch the keys and understand the power of music.
Oh and finally, playing piano in outer space would amazing! How about on the moon?
Where would you NEVER want to play?
I don’t think there is a place I would never want to play. I think the Earth has provided us with infinite amount of places to play piano.
As a traveling musician, life on the road can be a pretty lonesome experience. Do you have a ‘special someone’ back home?
I don’t have that special someone back home. Personally being alone can be a very beautiful experience. When I’m traveling, Brando is a great companion, although, I cant have an in depth conversation with the little dude. In the beginning of my trip I did get lonely. Playing piano is the best ice breaker and whenever I reach a new city I would usually make friends and meet people pretty quickly. Brando is another great tool to meet people.
Because you are good looking traveling musician, do people ever ‘hit on you’? Do you use the piano as a pick up line?
I have in fact had many people of both sexes hit on me. In New Orleans, I had an interesting looking man with long earing come up to me and buy me a mojito while I was playing. He stuck around and listened to me for a while and then spoke to me for a half hour before he had to go back to work.
I’ve also met plenty of girls while playing piano. In fact, Brando is the best chick magnet. All he has to do is just sit there looking all cute.
When you are not playing the piano and traveling, what do you do in your spare time?
I’m usually updating my blog. Talking to people about travel and music via the internet and practing new tunes on the piano. I also like cycling and motorcycles.
The United States varies so much culturally from region to region, what are some of the most interesting or shocking cultural differences you have noticed in your travels?
Iowa was pretty shocking. I was only in Iowa for 2 days and it was dramatically different than the rest of the country. I got to go to the Iowa Country Fair and everything was surrounded by Agriculture and Farming. I got to see a side of America that I only imagined or read about.
Have you ever gotten in trouble (i.e. arrested, lol) for playing in a certain places or cities?
I’ve never been arrested. But I have almost been fined $500 for playing in a National Park. I have also been told to move by many officers and security guards. Actually the day I was told to move from City Hall park in Manhattan, I was moving the piano and hit a pothole which made the piano fall back. I tried to catch it, but it landed on my left hand. That was a mess.
You seem to love your dog and your piano. If you had to choose, your dog, Brando or your piano?
Are you serious? There is absolutely no way for me to answer that. I don’t even know. The piano came first. But I love Brando so much. He is my road warrior.
What artists and types of music do you listen to while traveling?
I listen to all music. I love listening to Classical, Jazz, classic rock, and 90’s grunge. But many time I like to drive in silence. Maybe even do some meditative breathing while driving. I’m not a huge fan of the radio unless its something I like to talk about. I don’t like advertisement as I think they clutter the mind.
What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you while playing your piano in a public place?
The weirdest thing that has happened to me while playing piano in public is while I was playing in Seattle at Pikes Place, I was underneath a tall totem pole and there was about 50 people listening to my music when suddenly a few birds shat on my head. It was really funny and slightly embarrassing, but I played along with it.
There have been many weird and surprising events. Like when I was playing in New Orleans and all of a sudden 140 people walk by with a marching band. I decided to chime in and play with them.
Do you ever miss having a ‘regular income’?
I sometime miss having a regular sustained income, but I love what I do. Playing piano on the streets, especially in NYC, can be lucrative and I enjoy the interactions I have with people. Unfortunately when the weather gets tough and there are no people, I don’t make anything. Its very inconsistent and can sometimes be a lot of work for little money.
On the side I also sell stuff on Ebay, do delivery jobs, help people with handywork around their houses, and do any kind of odd job I can find.
If you had to pick a regular job, besides the arts, what job would you choose to have and why?
I would choose being an online entrepeneur. I’m all about making my own hours and living on my clock. I would set up web sites and try to figure out ways to set up an automated passive income. There are so many amazing opportunities on the internet. The hard part is finding them.
Have you ever played the piano ‘under the influence’?
I never played under the influence on the streets simply because it can be too dangerous when moving. But I’ve played after having a few beers before at home and it could sometime lead me to finding new and interesting ideas.
You have tried (and failed) at doing many things, but ‘Piano Across America’ has been nothing less than a great success. Why do you think that it is?
I think its because of my passion for the things that I do. I love playing piano, meeting people, and traveling. By combining my work with my play, I can work every day and never get tired of it because I love it so much. With Piano Across America, I think we have been relatively successful, but I think there are so many challenges and ways to top my previous adventures. There is so much work ahead of us.
You love to meet different kinds of people and sharing your passion with them. What have you learned about people in general in your travels that you want our readers to know?
One of the main things I have learned is that the world isn’t what people think it is. Many people take the things they hear from other and the things they see on TV as face value for what the world is really like. I disagree with that and in fact—don’t watch TV. I question EVERYTHING I hear and look for facts and truths. I believe that you don’t truly know the world until you go out there and see if for yourself. I would love to document that experience and the conversations I have to show the world what I see through my lens.
People are generally good—EVERYWHERE. Wherever you go in America, people are good. Some people may not be as open to talk to strangers, but most people are good hearted and its very comforting to know that.
So many people travel in groups at our age. What are some of the benfits of traveling alone besides meeting people?
The benefits of traveling alone is that there is no competing of interests. I just go without asking questions. I follow my impulses and let the life guide me. I do whatever I want and can make all the decisions. On top of that you become very introspective for a moment and start to learn about yourself. In fact you will learn more about yourself when you travel alone than when you are home. Why? Because you are constantly faced with challenges to survive, meet people, and live. When you are living a routine lifestyle at home, you don’t get that. Its just routine. I feel that I am more confident, happy, and know where I’m going more than ever before.
Traveling with people can also have its benefits, like sharing an experience with someone else.
You give a lot of great tips on motivating people to follow their dreams, what is the greatest tip you can give for people on the fence about following their own dreams?
Many people say this, but I think its huge. Face your fears. Recognize them, make a list, and go out and do every single one of them. It will remind you that you are a living human being and it will keep challenging yourself every day. Life isn’t supposed to be hard. Following a unique path of your own isn’t easy either. But if you find ONE THING that you’re truly passionate about, nothing will stop you. I can guarantee that.
You have our ‘about us’ on Nomadik Nation, what makes you Nomadik?
Everything that is written in your about us section is the life I hope to lead. I want to be a role model for a new type of thinking in the world. I want to inspire people to pursue their dreams no matter what it is, and to be “Nomadik” in a sense of trying new challenges every day. Never stop challenging yourself because the day you become too comfortable is the day you start to decay.