Kehlani just released a new album and from what I’ve heard, it’s dope. If you’re Saint Lucian and you’re into that type of thing, you also peeped a familiar name on the credits: Johann “Yogi” Deterville. And if you’re not Saint Lucian, yes, you guessed right. He is a Caribbean man.
Johann “Yogi” Deterville hails from the small fishing community of Anse-La-Raye in beautiful Saint Lucia. A quiet posture, never seeking attention to himself, does not compel him to reveal that on his small island, he is damn near music royalty. He is the prince of the late Petronilla Deterville; a woman who can be deprived of no credit for her work in championing music education on the island. Then again, it’s not something he needs to add weight to his name and accomplishments, but it is an interesting fact all the same.
A true reflection of his moniker, Yogi, Johann has dedicated himself to honing his craft at a level where he has attained such prowess/flexibility that he has been afforded opportunities to work with the likes of “Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Daniel Caesar, and Keshia Chante, amongst others.
Johann answered a few questions to help us on our quest to understand how a young man from a small section of a 238 square mile island has managed to begin scribbling his name into the international annals of popular acclamation.
Country of Birth
Country of Residence
How did you start producing music?
One of my childhood friends made beats and that’s when I first got introduced to music production. But I really got interested and started learning more about it, after meeting with Ronald Boo Hinkson at his studio. It was made possible through a youth group I was part of at the time, in Anse-La-Raye.
Tell us about how you grew up and what would you say are the most poignant experiences you had growing up that have shaped your craft .
I grew up in the small fishing village of Anse-La-Raye. I’d say my family was pretty musical, hence my love for music. My mom had me in piano classes from 5. I also grew up in the church. Once I was old enough I started playing piano at church with the choir. As well as performing at hotels etc.
The most poignant experiences, hmm I’d say it was playing in church and being with the choir a lot. I learnt so much about arrangements and song structure, as well as harmonies; stuff that I never realized would help my future.
What tools did you start with?
When I first started out, It was on the family computer haha. I’d use the computer to experiment with beat making. If I’m being honest though, I only spent 20 mins trying and I’d quit after that.
What tools do you currently use?
Currently I use Fruit Loops/FL Studio for Production. Sometimes I use logic for specific things. I also use Protools for recording/mixing and Sound Design, which I’ve been doing a lot more of lately.
What is your favorite software?
My favourite software hmm, I’d have to say FL.
Tell us what 5 of your favorite sounds to use are:
My 5 fav. Sounds are: Pianos, Analog Synths, Strings, Guitars, Lo-fi anything.
Have you had any formal training?
Yes I have. I’m a classically trained pianist (though I haven’t been keeping up with my playing hehe) as well as trained in Audio Engineering.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a music producer? Did you ever feel like it wouldn’t materialize?
Honestly, I really felt something when I first started recording with my brother in our bedroom, on a cheap computer mic. Haha. It was nothing crazy, but that moment really ignited the flame, I would say. I just remember thinking to myself, man this is what I wanna’ do. I never felt like it wouldn’t materialize. For some reason, something deep down inside me knew, somehow, someway, I’d make something of myself doing it.
What philosophy inspires your production process?
Everything around me. My mood, what I see on social media, and what I hear.
What inspires your style of music production?
I’d say growing up in church. I love chords! Even when I produce hip-hop records, I still end up having some sort of cool musical element in there. And I think that stems from growing up playing in church.
Which Caribbean musicians, artistes or producers would you say have shaped your style and craft (if any)? How have they done so?
There are so many of them that inspired me as I was learning and venturing into music. Penn & Ace, Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, Shayne Ross, Kayo (helped develop my hiphop influence), Infinate, Michael Robinson, and Zionomi just to name a few. These are all people who I’ve worked with or who have inspired me in some way.
I also have to make special mention of a few people who aren’t from the Caribbean but have helped shape my sound or inspire me in some way. Savannah Re, spending so much time working with her has really helped define my sound as It matured, that sound that you hear from me today. Jordon Manswell (Mariah Carey – GTFO, Daniel Caesar – We Find Love etc) another close colleague/friend of mine who I’ve also worked closely with. T-Minus (London -Young Thug ft. J.Cole), Blem – Drake etc) that guy has golden ears and last but not least Boi-1da (Rihanna – Work, God’s Plan – Drake etc), who is one of my biggest inspirations as far as music producers go.
Boast a little and tell us about some of your credits:
If you know me you’d know, I dislike talking about myself in that regard. Haha. But here we go. Over the past few years I’ve managed to work with the following Artists/Producers: Savannah Re, Jessie Reyez, Kayo, Infinate, Smallz, Quake Matthews, Kardinal Official, Michael Robinson, T-Minus, Boi-1da, Babyface, Daniel Caesar, Kehlani, Tona, Keshia Chante. I’ve also scored commercials for AirCanada Jazz, Exxon Mobil and Sportsnet just to name a few.
What has been your lowest point during the journey thus far?
There are so many of them I’ve lost count. But I would say my lowest, was when I was dead broke, and couldn’t pay rent. I wasn’t making money off of my career yet, as I thought I would’ve. My personal life was a mess, and I was depressed. I had also lost my legal status in Canada because my work permit had expired. I had to make the decision to sacrifice my freedom to travel ANYWHERE, while I figured out my career. Looking back it was all worth it. I never gave up and I kept my eyes on the prize. I had amazing friends and family who supported me through it all.
What has been your highest point?
My highest point, hmm I’d say it was being recognized by one of the biggest producers in the world, whom I have the pleasure of calling a friend: Boi-1da. He was the reason I was even able to work with Kehlani.
I’d like to also mention that seeing the support I got from Saint Lucia, was equally as high as being recognized by 1DA. I love Saint Lucia and the people. I boast about my country everywhere I go, you’d almost think I was an ambassador or some sort (eh ehm. Hint hint hahah).
Tell us a little more about how you came to work with Kehlani
Like I had mentioned earlier, this all happened because of my brother, Boi-1da. I was at home one day and saw that he was calling me. He said that Kehlani was in town, and was wondering if I’d be down to engineer the session. Just like that! I canceled everything I had that day, packed my equipment up, and made my way to his house. He lived 20 mins away from me so it was a quick trip. During that session we recorded 2 songs, which turned out to be ‘Serial Lover’ and ‘Grieving’. 1DA hadn’t finished the production on both these songs as yet. So a few days later he sent me the beat session and asked me to make breakdowns/Bridges on both songs. Both 1DA and Kehlani loved what I did. In April of this year, 1DA hit me with the news that we had two songs on Kehlani’s album. So glad that its finally out and its being received so well. Besides being an amazing producer, 1DA is an amazing human being, and I am forever grateful for him.
What advice would you give to a young Caribbean musician, artist, or producer who is desirous of joining the fraternity of internationally acclaimed craftsmen that you have just been ushered into?
Master your craft, so that you have something to bring to the table. Stay focused, and always be ready to learn. Most importantly be humble!
What lessons do you think they should take from your experience?
DONT GIVE UP. It will get hard, it will feel like nothing is happening, but just stay the course. Slow progress is better than none at all.
Johann is not the first Caribbean or even Saint Lucian artist who has gone on to carve out a bit of space in the annals of international acclaim in the face of foregoing the traditional, “big” career choices of doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Still, his-story is climaxing in a season where we are being forced to encourage our children to look beyond traditional approaches to living life, considering careers and working. His story couldn’t capture this any better. A computer, possibly pirated software and a broken mic a decade and some odd years ago, exposed him to the possibilities of how he could apply his knowledge of music to create. This has led him to make his imprint on popular culture, today. The possibilities for our children who now have even greater access to technology and knowledge are endless.