Rising Music Star Rob Dexter of Kings County: “Why it is critical that we keep and expand the arts & musical programs in our public schools”

Yitzi Weiner
Sep 27 · 12 min read

I would want to influence the continued push to keep and expand the arts, musical programs in our public schools. How often do we hear that public schools have to cut musical programs due to lack of funds and a lot of times those are the first to be eliminated? The arts are so important in the development of younger students, not only in creativity, but helps students mathematically. It’s just a matter of investing in our children’s future and that is priceless.

Originally from Long Island, NY, Orlando, FL-based Kings County creates hard-hitting rock n’ roll with infectious hooks. Inspired by an eclectic combination of The Beatles and Herb Alpert, their songs blend edgy hard rock with strong melodies. The band’s music is somewhat reminiscent of 90’s hard rock artists, but with a decidedly modern twist. Kings County has worked long and hard, and that diligence has begun to pay off. Last year, the band entered and won an iHeart Radio original song contest with “Take it or Leave It,” which is also on this upcoming album. Their prize was the opening slot for Bon Jovi’s sold out date at Orlando’s Amway Center. According to Kings County vocalist/bassist Rob Dexter, “Playing a sold out show at a 20,000 seat venue was definitely a career changing time for the band, along with seeing all the positive live reviews of our show. We’ve played for some big crowds while performing at Disney, but nothing like 20,000. It was a lifetime of dreaming all rolled up into one badass night.” Additionally, Kings County has performed with Ted Nugent, Styx, Hootie and the Blowfish, Joan Jett, Cowboy Mouth, 38 Special, Duran Duran, The B 52’s, Fuel, and Foreigner. Dexter and guitarist Bill Kania met in the ’90s, when they were both musicians for illusionist Criss Angel. They began playing for Disney World as the house band in 2000 at Disney’s New Years Eve 1999 show, alongside Styx, Hootie & the Blowfish and the B52’s. The band still plays occasional gigs for Disney today. Kings County was also the house band for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the team’s 2011/2012 Season. The album’s first single is “Blood Stained Adrenaline,” due out on August 30. The accompanying video will be released a week later, on September 6. It is a raw, hard-hitting song about life, death, and the constant struggles of hardcore drug addiction. Coincidentally, a close friend of the band’s who actually participated in the video died from his own addictions…just three weeks after finishing the taping of the video. “We’ve lost a lot of friends and fellow musicians along the way to addiction, and those losses inspired me to write this song,” Dexter explains. “We invited a close musician friend to join us in the shooting of the video for ‘Blood Stained Adrenaline,’ who also happened to be a chronic opioid abuser. He succumbed to his addiction just three weeks after we shot the video. He was a dedicated musician and a very talented singer, but his life had spiraled into a dark and soulless hole and he had become disconnected from family and friends. After years of abuse, his heart finally gave out, and he died suddenly and alone in 2018. A talent lost and a friend gone; a family member laid to rest way before his time.” Not all of the nine songs on the album have such heavy subject matter. There are also songs about being strong and living your best life (“Sacrifice,” “Take it or Leave It,” “Dying to Live”), struggles in romantic relationships (“What Now,” “7 Reasons”), maintaining a long-distance relationship (“Judging Distances”), and even a dream (“Delicious Consequences”). “This album has been a long time in the making,” Dexter concludes. “It’s a labor of love and we are proud to put our name on it. We’re really looking forward to having it reach the masses, one person at a time.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born and raised on Long Island, New York to a middle class family. We lived in a small town in a strong family community about 40 minutes outside of New York City. My Father who was basically poor growing up always instilled in myself and my two sisters that whatever you do in life, work hard and take pride in it. He was a dedicated provider who commuted back and forth to Manhattan as a civil engineer. My Mom was fortunate enough to stay home with us while my Father worked. It was definitely a simpler time but I didn’t see my father much as an adolescent other then an hour or so during weekdays but we always had the weekends together. My dad loved music and enjoyed playing his albums such as Herb Alpert and Pete Fontaine on this record player. There was always music playing in our house and that’s where my love for music and being a performer began.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My family was a musical family. My grandfather was a working musician back in the day playing the saxophone and keyboard and although my Dad was also a musician he never took it to the next level. He would play and sing goofy songs on his ukulele for us as young kids. At that point I was destined to play some type of instrument. A lot of musicians say their turning point towards a career in music was when they first saw the Beatles on television but my story was different, way different. My parents took my sisters and I to see Yes with The Carpenters in concert on Long Island. I was pretty young at the time but the moment the lights went down and stage lights went on and the loud music started I was hooked. I remember thinking, I want to do this, I want to be up there. The flashing lights, the smoke and most of all the attention and applause from the audience. From there on I knew I wanted to be a musician and I never looked back.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The saying better late then never pretty much sums up my musical career. I’ve been fortunate as a working musician to make a living at it including some very cool projects such as playing bass for illusionist Criss Angel. My most rewarding and interesting story happened recently with my current band Kings County. We are a rock/hard rock band based in Orlando, Florida where we perform around 160 shows a year and played as a house band for Disney and The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Our big break came last year when a friend told us about iHeart Radio was having a contest for original bands with original music to enter their music video. I basically blew it off thinking, no one really wins these things and certainly not us. A day before the contest was to end I saw the ad for it again and thought, what the hell, you got to be in it to win it so I entered our video for our song “Take It Or Leave it”. 3 days later I get an email from the local iHeart radio station asking for my cell number. I was thinking, they don’t call you to tell you you lost. 2 hours later we find out we won the contest and the winner gets to open for Bon Jovi here at The Amway Center in front of 20,000. What an amazing turning point for the band. A lifetime of dreaming all rolled up into one badass night. Not only did we rock the place, we were getting great reviews from magazines reviewing the show.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made happened later in my musical career while I was on tour with my previous band. We were performing three nights in Orange Beach, Alabama. The venue paid us with a check each night. After the first night of playing we spent the next morning looking for our bank to deposit our check. Luckily there was one locally in the town we were playing in. I proceeded to the front door of the bank and little did I know by the front door of the building there was a garbage can and behind the garbage can was a foot and a half long rat. As soon as I opened the door and saw the rat it panicked and ran into the bank at top speed. All I heard ladies screaming and workers standing on desks. They were actually standing on there desks. I must say whether it was appropriate or not, I burst into laughter, sorry, I couldn’t help it; you don’t always see a foot long rat making a deposit. I ended up going back to the bank the following day and I was told that the rat ended up climbing inside one of the desks in one of the offices. They didn’t have the key for it, they literally had to get a locksmith to open the desk and release the rat free. The lesson I learned was this: Next time, get paid in cash.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

My band Kings County has been making some “Real” noise for the last couple of years. Not only performing for Bon Jovi and winning the iHeart radio original music contest, the band is set to release our debut CD on September 27th. We’re excited because our new material is the most focused and strongest songs we’ve written to date. We try to write about real situations, real life struggles that anyone can relate to. When your audience can personally connect with the song topic, the more likely they will gravitate to your music and your band as a whole. We’re excited to get the music out to the masses, one person at a time if necessary.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Obviously, every person has a story to tell and every culture is different. Without diversity such as in music, everything would sound the same. Everyone pulls from different genres in creating their own sound. Take the Beatles; they were waiting for American records to come to port because of their love of American music such as Little Richard, Elvis, and Smokey Robinson and with that diversity in music, they created their own unique sound. They were influenced by black music, early rock n roll from the Blues that came from Mississippi, The Delta, and those musicians that clearly influenced today’s artists. That’s why your early on influences are vital in developing an upcoming artist, and the diversity of your early on musical heroes. Even myself, I was influenced by trumpet player Herb Albert and his unique sound at an early age. I took the diversity in his style and feel and developed it into what I play today, even though the music doesn’t sound the same.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

A. The music business isn’t a 9–5 job.

When I first started out I never realized the effort and sacrifice it took to survive in the music industry. You’re basically on call 24/7.

B. You have to wear many hats.

I wished someone had told me you have to be skilled in many facets of the business other than playing an instrument. You have to be an accountant, booking agent, graphic artist and not to mention a creative musical writer.

C. Be patient.

Nothing in life that is important to you or worth having happens overnight. Anything you do takes time to develop and mature.

D. Open your ears and close your mouth.

When I was a young musician it was so important to learn from other more experienced musicians of what to do and not to do. You need to listen to become a stronger player.

E. Play with as many musicians and styles of music as possible.

When you play with a variety of musicians and musical styles you ultimately develop your own style in the end. The more diverse the musical style is, the better chance you’ll develop a unique style of your own.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Drug use and drug addiction is widespread in the music business let alone in our own country with the prevalent opioid abuse. Nothing worse, I’ve seen first hand, when a musician experiments with legal or illegal drugs. You will never thrive in the music industry if you’re high on drugs and could quite possibly end your life.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would want to influence the continued push to keep and expand the arts, musical programs in our public schools. How often do we hear that public schools have to cut musical programs due to lack of funds and a lot of times those are the first to be eliminated? The arts are so important in the development of younger students, not only in creativity, but helps students mathematically. It’s just a matter of investing in our children’s future and that is priceless.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

That’s an easy question for me. It would most certainly be my father and my parents in general. As a child my father instilled values and the importance of hard work and taking pride in whatever you do in life. My parents always backed my interest in playing music even from the beginning. My father bought my first bass and stressed the importance of also getting a good education because an educated musician will make for a more successful one. Although, both my parents have passed on, I continue to thrive and push for success with the lessons they taught me so many years ago.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Live life to the fullest and never take anything for granted.”

It’s not just a life lesson, but also the way I live my life. Every day we’ve been given this “gift” of life and I’m not about to waste it. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s easy to become complacent and discouraged and stray off course, but these life lessons are there to knock you back on target. You can reach for the “stars” as long as you keep your feet grounded.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I’m glad you asked this question and it’s an important one. I have no interest in sitting down with a celebrity or a famous person because personally they had no real impact on my life like my father did. It would be great to get one more chance to sit down with him now that I’m older. I would thank him for all that he sacrificed and fought for to ensure that our family succeeded. To also tell him that everything he taught me I’ve passed onto my own son now, that’s hard to put a price on. Although, he is not with us physically, I always think of him and am forever grateful for him.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Kings County website: www.kingscountyofficial.com

Facebook: facebook.com/kingscountyband

Instagram: kingscountyofficial

Twitter: @kingscounty3

YouTube: Kings County

Thank you for allowing me to share my story with your readers.

Robert Dexter, vocals/bass Kings County

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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