FACE PUTTING A TO THE VOICE
DJ Face of Faceforward Entertainment is Blowing Up
Photo by K. Wilkins Photography / Story by Cathy Baldwin Is there any music you won’t play? It’s not a big stretch to say that
Raymond Burnell has the smoothest voice on the Outer Banks.
“I’ve sounded like this—like Barry White—since I was 16,” he laughs. His sisters, however, became the singers in the family,
traveling the country with a gospel group, while Raymond headed off to college in Virginia to study pre-med.
Somewhere between pre-med and Raymond’s move to the Outer Banks, he fell on hard times. He had a bad car accident and broke “a bunch of bones” in his face, dropped out of school, became a door-to-door salesman, and couch surfed. Fate intercepted when a friend hooked him up with a job at the Hampton Inn in Corolla cleaning rooms.
He started working around the clock: washing dishes in
one restaurant by day, waiting tables at another restaurant by night, and working as the night auditor for the Hampton Inn through the night and into the morning hours.
And then one night in 2006, Raymond met a deejay at
a bar. “The guy didn’t have any stage presence,” recalls Raymond. “He paid me 50 bucks to get the crowd hyped up. And I was like holy s***! I want to do this for my life.”
That deejay sold Raymond his turntables, and DJ Face was born.
At the same time, Raymond was getting promoted at Hampton Inn, going from housekeeping to night auditor to Front Desk and finally to Director of Sales. “I became obsessed with being the best salesperson in the world. I wanted to show people I was going places. I wanted them to say, ‘Wow, this guy should be promoted!’” says Raymond. “Once I focused on really doing this, my life kicked into high gear.”
“In 2010 we shattered the sales record and won the 2010
Hotel of the Year award from Hilton,” says Raymond. “It was the ultimate vindication.”
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He broke out the turntables occasionally, but only as a hobby. “Deejaying wasn’t something I took seriously,” says Raymond. “Not until my first wedding.” He worked the wedding of a good friend and it was—in Raymond’s words—“a disaster.”
“It was so bad, I was like: I’m never doing this again,” he says. “And I didn’t for a while. Then I started spinning old school hip hop at Sundogs.”
I tell my deejays, this is not your house. You’re playing for the people. People want to have a good time. They’re on vacation, and they want to have fun. That’s how you keep business— make it a living and not a hobby.
That being said, if I hear “Sweet Caroline” again I will jump into traffic!
“Uncle Ike’s suggested I do karaoke, and it was a nice change,” says Raymond. “It’s like every customer experience I’ve ever had led me up to that point. You’re constantly interacting with people. I was getting exposed to new beats and new music I’d never listen to…a lot of Toby Keith,” he laughs.
As DJ Face, Raymond’s popularity kept growing in Corolla. “One second I was deejaying in one place, and the next I’m in three,” says Raymond. “I was starting to get a reputation as an entertainer.”
And he was falling in love with his new endeavor. “It’s a
great feeling, making people happy,” says Raymond. With his time in high demand, he started Faceforward
Entertainment so he could hire and manage deejays for all of the gigs.
In July Raymond gave his notice at the Hampton Inn. “I
just can’t stick with the safe thing,” says Raymond. “I have to try. If you get the opportunity to do something you love, you should do it. This is it—this is that thing. My wife looks at me, and she can see that my happiness has gone through the roof.”
He’s got five guys working for
Faceforward Entertainment now, working seven nights a week during the summer.
And he’s gotten back into deejaying weddings, having vastly improved since that ill-fated premiere.
Of the future, Raymond says, “I’d love to be a regional
power—the go-to provider of entertainment. I want to create famous people—have deejays that get so good that they become the James Earl Jones of voiceovers.”
This fall you can catch DJ Face running the Silent Disco at the Mustang Music Festival. This will be the second year for the Silent Disco, after MMF attendees raved about the experience. (Editor’s note: Google Silent Disco.) “It’s a spectator sport,” says Raymond.
For Raymond, deejaying is much more than playing the right music and getting people to dance. “There’s a moment in every night when people just stop caring—it’s just pure energy and people are having such a good time that they forget themselves,” says Raymond. “For a moment everybody is equal. And that might be the happiest a person ever is.”
We know. It’s hard to hear the smooth voice of DJ Face through the paper. So scan this to hear it for real.
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