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John Kirtland Is True Dallas Renaissance Man

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Brendan Higgins
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John Kirtland (credit: KTVT/KTXA)

John Kirtland (credit: KTVT/KTXA)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - John Kirtland is an unassuming man, but one with a Midas touch. He might be the DJ calmly spinning tunes in the corner of a Dallas lounge — maybe some remixed Bush or Alpha Rev. But that is just a side gig.

Kirtland is working with the City of Dallas to transform a piece of downtown. The city is putting a park across the street from two Dallas high rises. Kirtland bought and is now renovating The Beaux Arts buildings. They will be connected, offering ground-level retail and hundreds of new apartments. “It’s an iconic building. It’s the old petroleum tower,” Kirtland said. “It’s something that needs to be put back together.”

But, as much as this huge project means to Kirtland, it is also just a side gig. Because those Bush songs that he spins, he owns. Toadies, The Polyphonic Spree, Sara Jaffe, Bob Schneider — those are just some of the more than 4 million albums that Kirtland Records as sold. That gig has been profitable since year one, and provided a happy home for artists.

“This has been a really positive experience for us,” said Tim Delaughter of The Polyphonic Spree. “We’ve been on quite a few labels over the past few years. I’ve got to say, this is one of the best relationships we’ve had so far.”

Not many people know about this quazi-schizophrenic little empire that Kirtland has cobbled together, but Lisa Holland with the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts has seen kids benefit from his success. “He’s so chill and he’s so laid back,” said Holland, “but actually, there are all these gears turning and firing all the time, on all cylinders.”

Kirtland has used his skills to produce $1 million worth of fundraisers for the Dallas school. He is a big deal. But he will not say that. “What excites me is working with true artists,” Kirtland said.

And then, after talking about his DJ skills, real estate development, and record company ownership, Kirtland casually mentions another side gig. His old band is getting back together. You might remember them. Kirtland was — and is again — the drummer for radio and MTV darling Deep Blue Something, who scored a hit in 1995 with the song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Their new album drops in December.

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