David Vandelay started playing at Soda City Market when he was about seven years old. Now 17 years old, Vandelay is making his own music and releasing his first EP, all while sticking to his roots and continuing to play at Soda City.
Vandelay is a student at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, a state-funded boarding school in Greenville, S.C. Despite moving outside of Columbia for the most part, Vandelay said that Soda City presents a welcoming atmosphere, so he continues to play there on weekends.
"The atmosphere is just amazing," Vandelay said. "Whatever business I set up next to, they always bring me water."
Over the next few months, Vandelay will be releasing his first EP, including his original songs "Hot Pursuit" and "Sweet Pacifist." He and his team are hoping to release a single per month starting towards the end of April.
According to Vandelay, his sound is inspired by artists such as Conan Gray, Olivia Rodrigo, Charlie Puth and Bruno Mars, whose sounds he considers to be perfected. He said he feels like his music fits into the pop genre with a teenage to young adult target audience.
"I want to establish my brand as this fast, upbeat pop guy," Vandelay said.
While many of the songs on the EP are based on difficult feelings like fearing loss or breaking up with an ex, Vandelay said the words are offset by upbeat melodies. The songs are not all fully related, according to Vandelay; some are true stories, while others are strictly fictional.
"It is much more about the feeling you get rather than the poetic lyricism of them," Vandelay said.
Vandelay's music journey began when his father, Dean Vandelay, taught him how to play the piano.
Dean Vandelay played piano while in the Peace Corps, and he wanted to share that with his son. Once the younger Vandelay's musical interest grew, his parents took him to the Young Musician's University, an afterschool program in Columbia that teaches children to play.
Though Vandelay's parents did not expect him to do much more than play the piano, Dean Vandelay noticed his son's vocal talents throughout his time in the program and realized it was time to shift to performing at Soda City.
After getting their start at Soda City, David and Dean Vandelay started performing together at local restaurants and country clubs in Columbia. According to Dean Vandelay, his son's talent and creativity have encouraged him to pick up new instruments to bolster their performances.
"David really is the inspirational one, so David inspires me to learn more about music," Dean Vandelay said.
Dean Vandelay shared that he expects great things for his son's career as he graduates high school and transitions into a new stage of his life.
"Even if he weren't my son, I would still be in his corner all the way. I really do think he is an uncommonly talented musician and songwriter," Dean Vandelay said.
In the summer of 2022, the younger Vandelay went to a music camp at the University of Miami, where he was introduced to his current producers, Erik Gunnarsson and Camilo Salas. Both Gunnarsson and Salas are master's students at the University of Miami, and once they heard Vandelay's music, they said they knew they had to work with him.
While teaching the camp, Gunnarsson and Salas connected with Vandelay's song writing skills, finding them clever and engaging.
"In one take, he performed a really, really convincing vocal performance," Gunnarsson said.
Both Gunnarsson and Salas were impressed with Vandelay's maturity as a songwriter and performer, particularly his thought-out plan about what he wants for his music and career. Their main goal in working with him is simply to make great music with him, according to Gunnarsson.
"I think, for us, it's really about how big David matures (as) an artist and kind of comes into his own," Gunnarsson said.
After graduation, Vandelay will be traveling to Spain for a year before he pursues a college degree. He has been accepted to the University of South Carolina's music industry studies program, which he said is one of his top options when he returns in 2024.
In the meantime, Vandelay said he intends to continue writing songs and promoting his new music.