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New album expands Homewood resident’s musical repertoire


As Homewood musician Dolph Chaney began work on his latest album, he got a compliment and a bit of advice from his producer: “I think you’re Elvis Costello, and you don’t have The Attractions.”

While the comparison to the legendary singer-songwriter flattered him, Chaney said the producer’s comment also reflected the potential he saw in Chaney’s work. 

Dolph Chaney, pictured at his home in Homewood, is a musician who recently released his latest album. (Provided photo by Kerry Hill)

Through this musical collaboration he created the album “This is Dolph Chaney,” his second on the label Big Stir Records. A longtime solo artist, the experience presented Chaney a chance to widen the scope of his creativity by including other ideas and players.

“Up until ‘This is Dolph Chaney,’ for the preceding 20 years, I had played all the instruments for all my recordings,” Chaney said. “Now, being in my mid-40s, I’m able to have some perspective and recognize where I excel and where I don’t, and where other people can help.”

Chaney has been recording and releasing music for years, and this newest album includes songs from throughout his career that have been reimagined and diversified.

Homewood musician Dolph Chaney’s newest release is the eponymous “This is Dolph Chaney,” released on Big Stir Records. (Provided image)

While growing up in Indianapolis among a musical family, Chaney said he started playing piano at age 8. When he was 13, he picked up the guitar and, once he felt comfortable strumming, started writing songs.

“I was recording at home with a little boom box, and making up songs that I wrote in study hall, mostly about food and my teachers,” Chaney said.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from University of Houston, which Chaney said enriched his songwriting talent. 

Next he earned a master of library sciences degree from Indiana University Bloomington. Now Chaney works as a trainer for Ex Libris, a Des Plaines-based company that creates library software. He’s also a certified project manager.

In 2008, Chaney moved to Homewood with his wife, Kerry Hill, who he said grew up in neighboring suburbs. Hill works at South Suburban Family Shelter in Homewood as manager of community education and outreach.

Chaney has performed at events supporting SSFS, including at Flossmoor Community House and Irwin Park bandshell in Homewood.

“We moved to Homewood because Kerry has ties here,” he said. “We love the community. We’re big fans of the mothership Aurelio’s, Flossmoor Station, Eat Rice, Siam Thai. We love our diverse neighborhood. We love the blend of the pace of life — it’s just right here.”

Chaney and Hill have a black Labrador-boxer mix named Jayna, along with three cats named Eli, Clementine and RayBob.

Releasing his album during the pandemic has prevented Chaney from promoting it by playing in person at live venues. So he adapted, performing about 20 live stream shows throughout 2020, all broadcast from his house in Homewood.

With musical influences that include The Beatles, Matthew Sweet, Seal, Sade and Bill Withers, Chaney said his musical hallmarks include “big melodies, really loud guitars and probably too many words for the average pop song. That’s the sweet spot that I operate in.”

Chaney’s dense lyrical style displays a deep vocabulary, along with his wit and intellect. It might be that blend of characteristics that in 2016 landed him a spot as a contestant  “Jeopardy!” 

Though he came in third on the trivia game show, Chaney remembers the experience fondly, and has since become part of a fellowship of former contestants.

“One of the best things about being on ‘Jeopardy!’ is that there is this big community of contestants who have become some of my best friends,” Chaney said.

Group members grieved together after the death of longtime show host Alex Trebek in November 2020.

While Chaney has a serious side, his music shows off a humorous style of writing. He said he enjoys listening to lyrics that play with comedic and serious elements, including songwriters such as John Lennon, Harry Nilsson and Lyle Lovett.

“All the writers that I really like aren’t afraid to include humor in the toolkit,” Chaney said. “It’s important not to take yourself so seriously.”

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