My Ideal Dinner Party

Nicc Johnson
Jul 5, 2019 · Unlisted

my answer to the age old question “who would be your ideal dinner guests?”

Breaking it down

I’m a firm believer of surrounding myself with people that have a positive influence on my life. While that can mean different things depending on the context, I’m narrowing this list down to the context of my professional life. People that either inspire or motivate me, but all who I’d like have sat at my dinner table for a good conversation.

Taking the role of dinner host seriously (albeit a bit too far) I was mindful to select people, I believe, would enjoy each others company and could learn from each other, or at the very least enjoy their respective stories from struggle to success. This of course makes this list just that much harder, because I’m now trying to gauge the emotional intelligence of people I’ve never met. But fuck it, It’s my party!

It’s hard not to overthink this. I pictured the seating arrangement, and without fail, the music that would be playing on the background. Of course I did!

The Criteria

To give this list a bit more structure, I narrowed down my guests by a series of attributes or “filters”. Each person had to tick the box on all 6 of the following;

My sector: People that work in and around music and/or are involved with Startups/running their own business.

Emotional Intelligence: It’s a great dinner party when all guests are good at listening and are happy to engage in conversation with each other. We have no time for “me me me” or the opposite, being mute throughout the dinner.

Quirkiness Score: borrowing a line from one of my guests “That what makes you different, makes you special”. For fun I’ve added my quirkiness score for each guest (5 being super duper quirky).

Self Made: I’m interested in the journey. In a podcast I once explained that I believe every “No” brings me closer to the “yes”. My guests did not enjoy overnight success. Perseverance got them to where they are today. I deeply respect that.

Kindness: I believe that despite this crazy world we live in, you can be successful and still be kind, genuine and respectful. All of my guests have shown either kindness, humility, respect or a combination of the 3.

Alive: keeping it relevant to our times but also because I’m manifesting for this dinner party to actually happen :)

My Ideal Dinner Guests

While I write this, I’m listening to a selection of songs I’d play at my imaginary dinner party. I might turn it into an actual playlist. If I do, I’ll be sure to post an updated link here. Current song “Marvin Gaye — Inner City Blues

In no particular order;

Richard Branson. Not surprisingly, he’d probably be on the list of many. Without a doubt, incredibly successful, but that’s not why I’d offer him a seat at my table. Richard started with music. As a founder he took many risks, and failed many times, but he had vision. A vision that led to one of the strongest brand names in the world, and it all started with music. He continuously talks about being kind to others and treating people with respect. Side note: when I decided to start Muru Music, he was at the top of my list of investors I’d want to have onboard.

I’d love to have him over for dinner and talk about the early days of Virgin and hear some of the crazy stories, like when he signed “Stereophonics” or all his crazy publicity stunts and of course — who wouldn’t want to go to Necker Island. Post dinner I’d get the Chess board out and talk strategy. Quirkiness Score: 3

Idris Elba. I mean James Bond! Possibly one of the coolest dudes around. This man is going from strength to strength. While I can only have admiration and respect for his path, I’d invite Idris (aka DJ Big Driis) over because of his passion for Music. At 19, Idris was a DJ while auditioning for acting roles. I’d love to hear more about young DJ Idris and his auditions before landing “Stringer” Bell on the Wire. You should check out “How clubbing changed the world” where he talks about the influence of club music. I grew up in Ibiza and was a professional DJ myself for 16 years. Club music shaped my life and my career, so understandably I love love love this documentary (you should too).

Admittedly, Idris was on the top of my list of advisors I’d have on my board. I’d love to have him over for dinner, to talk about his early DJ career and his upbringing and it would be funny to share the anecdote where I tracked down his personal assistant and DJ agent — and the awkwardness that pursued! Post dinner, the decks are set up and ready to go. Quirkiness Score: 3

Bjork. Funnily enough, I’m not the biggest fan of her music. However, I’m blown away by Bjork as an artist and a creative force. She is hands down one of the most important creative people in music and she is suuuuuper quirky, which I love. She is the artist I imagine the writer James Baldwin so beautifully describes in his essay “The Artist Struggle for integrity”.

When Bjork met Attenborough” anyone? While she is definitely the most introverted of the group, I feel she would have so many interesting things to add to any conversation. We often confuse highly creative people with crazy and weird — until they have a measure of success. I don’t think Bjork cares much about what others think of her and I commend her on her career.

I would love to have Bjork over for dinner and learn more about her creative processes. Post dinner we’d brainstorm some crazy new ideas for her future projects. Keep being quirky and amazing Bjork. Quirkiness Score: 5

Garrett Camp. In terms of Startup founders doing amazing things, I consider Garret at the top, alongside Richard Branson. Garrett is the co-founder of Uber. Of course, everybody knows Uber, but before Uber, there was Stumble Upon (now a web browser that served up content based on your preferences (Pinterest before Pinterest). Garrett is big on content discovery. So am I. The right content at the right time can be life changing and it’s a big part of our mission at Muru Music.

Despite his big successes it’s his actions that inspire me. From buying back Stumble Upon from investors to course correct, to publicly dealing with early teething issues with Uber.

Like Richard, Garrett signed “The Giving Pledge” to focus a large portion of his wealth to philanthropy through “The Camp Foundation”. I’d love to have Garrett over for dinner to talk personalised content discovery, the very early days of Stumble Upon and Uber and the philanthropy he is focusing on. Post dinner, we’d discuss the biggest issues that can be solved by technology and I’d teach Garrett how to DJ. Quirkiness Score: 2

LionBabe: Technically I’m cheating here, because LionBabe, the group, is actually two people. But again, my dinner party, so shhh. LionBabe consists of multidisciplinary artist Jillian Hervey and dj/producer Lucas Goodman. I’m a sucker for a great voice and there is always plenty for me to talk about with a fellow DJ, so this is a no brainer. I love their style and have been rocking their music since I heard “Treat Me Like Fire” back in 2012. They are talented and good looking and release music that to me has the perfect combination of soul, funk and hip hop (beats) that I love in my music. Okay, i’ll be honest — I also have a bit of a crush on one half of LionBabe!

I’d love to have Jillian and Lucas over for dinner to talk about how they came to create LionBabe, early musical influences and in Jillian’s case growing up with a celebrity mother — Vanessa Williams. Post dinner, you know Idris, Lucas and I are going back to back on the decks. Quirkiness score: 3

Last but certainly not least;

Pharrell Williams. ‘nuff said. As a massive hip hop fan, Pharrell and his partner in crime, Chad Hugo were the soundtrack to my life in the late 90’s early 00's. The Neptunes were a constant source of amazing music and then of course there was N.E.R.D. too. Pharrell has worked on so many creative projects, beyond just music and coincidently also worked on music with LionBabe.

The slogan of his multimedia company I AM OTHER “That what makes you different makes you special” is something I fully endorse. The most beautiful thing about growing up in Ibiza was the tolerance and acceptance we all had for each other. Race, sexuality, gender, religion, or economic class — it made no difference. If you were a good human, you were part of the tribe (I cringe at how hippy I sound when I say that ;)

Back in 2017 I attended the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park (NYC). Stevie Wonder, Green day, Pharrell and a bunch of other artists performed. Pharrell didn’t get his own slot (I can only imagine because the show was running late) so Stevie Wonder, towards the end of his set, called Pharrell out to join him to perform “happy”. Here we got a glimpse of a beautiful moment — Pharrell forgot the lyrics to his own songs — he admitted that the nerves got to him as he found himself next to his musical hero (his words).

I’d love to have Pharrell over for dinner to talk music — from hip hop to hard rock and everything in between and obviously i’d have to ask him about the crazy hats he designs and wears. Post dinner, we’d brainstorm hard on how we can create the ultimate personalised music experience with Garret. Then Lucas and I would create a melody that Bjork, Jillian and Pharrell could riff to. Quirkiness Score: 4

After the Chess, the DJing, the singing (lots of singing) and brainstorming on new ideas, it’s time to call it a night. Uff, and what a night it was.

Here’s to Richard, Idris, Bjork, Garrett, Jillian, Lucas and Pharrell for inspiring me. Thank you.

Who would be at your ideal dinner party?


Nicc Johnson

Written by

:: Founder :: Musicologist :: DJ :: Music Tech Nerd ::

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