Interview: The Effortless Flow & Style of Justin Rarri

A year ago today, no one knew who Justin Rarri was – he had just 17,000 Spotify monthly listeners and his single “W2Leezy” hadn’t yet caught the attention of music listeners and platforms around the globe. Fast forward to today, and the 17 year-old Rarri has collected over 50 Million streams across his catalogue with more than 600,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. The Bronx artist has firmly supplanted himself as one of hip-hop’s most exciting rising stars, as the genre continues to dominate the charts in this new decade.

Tracing back the origin of when he decided he wanted to pursue a career in music, Rarri credits the first time he heard A$AP Rocky’s “F**kin Problems” with Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, at age 11. “I just remember I fell in love with the beat, so I found out how to find beats through YouTube, and from there it clicked. I fell in love.”

From there, his eyes were set on rapping, unlike his friends who were content with the normal affinities of adolescence. “Growing up, all my homies was playing video games and I was the one that was always writing. That was my play for the day, just writing and listening to beats.” Having grown up in a non-musical family, the process of becoming a musician was a path that he took on his own, day-after-day, crafting a melodic-trap sound derived from and inspired by some of Rarri’s favorite artists as he grew up, especially Kodak Black and Young Thug. “Those were they guys I kept on my phone and my speaker. I grew up singing to melodic shit, and I listened to other artists, but a lot of my shit is influenced by the South.”

The grind of writing and working in the studio paid off just five years later with Rarri’s first viral hit, “W2Leezy,” produced by SumYunGhai. The success of “W2Leezy,” in Rarri’s eyes, came as a result of their collaborative process in the studio.

“Most of the time, I’m with my main producer (SumYunGhai) and we start from scratch and both get into it. With “W2Leezy,” I was very into that, I wanted the guitar, and I kinda picked the 808s on that. Me and my producer are in tune together. After I get it, though, I make my song, I don’t take too long. Like 30 minutes max. I be freestyling. That comes to me easy. A lot of engineers in the rooms always be surprised at how fast I work.”

Out of nowhere, the infinitely smooth song caught fire on Spotify and YouTube, putting Rarri on the radar of major record labels around the U.S. as the song racked up more than 20 Million streams by the end of summer. The attention of top label executives did little to distract Rarri, though. “To be honest, when that came out, I realized everything was coming together…that felt good, but I was still focused on working. I was still worried about the next move, making a bigger song and moment than that.”

Ultimately signing to Interscope Records in the Fall, Rarri released his debut EP “4EVARARRi,” in late 2019. In 2020, Rarri has continued his momentum with “Strong,” his February single that hit more than a million views on YouTube in less than four weeks, and “RICCHEZZA,” his new single and video that dropped everywhere today. Both are expected on an upcoming 12-song EP that’s slated for later this year.

Strong” is packed with lyrics as Rarri barely takes any breaks over the production, similar to a lot of the music he’s released thus far. Rarri views his extensive, smooth flow as a key to his success so far. “A lot of my fans view that as my thing. They realize how good I am with flows and lyrics. That’s one of my signature strong points. Any song, even if it’s lit, speaks real shit. My fans, they pay attention to what my lyrics I say. Also my versatility – I can go from straight singing to some real trap shit.”

That versatility is nowhere more evident than today’s release, “RICCHEZZA,” perhaps Rarri’s most dynamic song to date. Over an uptempo flow laced with Rarri’s effortless, constant lyricism, the song heats up quickly just like a New York spring, as the cold wears off and we head toward a summer that will include plenty of new music from Lil Rarri.

With his eyes on making a career rather than a moment, Justin Rarri isn’t phased by growing expectations following his 2019 viral hit. Rather, he continues to keep his eyes forward to what’s next: “My music, it keeps getting better. “W2Leezy,” was some chill shit that I made that in ten minutes. I’m not a person that can’t catch the songs – every time I’m in the studio, I got hot shit. Now I’m at the point where I’ve gotta release more, faster. I’ve got a whole bunch of hits. My fans know too, I already got big songs that’s ready to come out, and I already know they’re gonna do bigger numbers.”

We think so too.

Interview: Sam Feldt Reflects On A Rollercoaster Year

A year ago this past June, I met Sam Feldt on the Elsewhere rooftop during Bakermat’s show. A friend of Bakermat’s, who had him opening for him on his world tour, Feldt was there to check out the set before his own show at Lavo later that night. I turned to Sam and told him “we should do an interview sometime,” to which he said “Next time I’m in NYC, we’ll make it happen.”

364 days later, a lot had occurred, including a life-changing leg injury that came after a horrific scooter crash in early summer of 2018 that put most of his 2018 tour plans on hold. Post-recovery, Sam has also released his 2019 Magnets EP which holds his latest hit single, “Post Malone,” which has already claimed 25 million streams on Spotify in just over a month and sits in the top ten on Spotify’s premiere playlist, Today’s Top Hits.

I sat down with Sam at SoHo House in Chelsea for an exclusive interview before his June return to Lavo, to look back at the past year in retrospect since we’d first met.

 

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

 

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: In your personal life and career, does any moment or accomplishment stick out over the last 364 days? 

SF: One positively and one negatively. Around this  time I had a scooter accident that really impacted my summer. I wasn’t able to perform for two months and had surgery, recover and learn how to walk again. it was pretty drastic and really impacted also my look on live and my career and everything I’m doing. When you realize it can be over in a split second, you start to appreciate everything a lot more. So that’s something that I learned that was actually very valuable to me. 

I think positively, I’m very impressed how well my new track “Post Malone” is doing right now. It’s at almost half a million plays a day (update: it’s now doing 1.2M per day), which is very rare, also for my music. So I’m curious to see where this goes, music video will be out soon. I went to Sirius XM and iHeartRadio in New York, and everyone was really excited about it. Who knows, it might be a new hit. 

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: Most of the music you’ve put out so far falls into the tropical house lane, and is generally very chill. Is that a reflection of your personality and your taste? 

SF: I started Sam Feldt around five years ago, and before that I was already DJing and producing under a different name. I used to make EDM, very hard kind of stuff. You can feel and hear that my heart wasn’t really into it, and so I said to myself, after struggling and failing, that I was going to create a new name and under that name I’m only going to put out what I love, what I love listening to myself – that was Sam Feldt.

The moment I started doing that was actually the moment I got signed and my success came, so it’s one of my biggest tips that I have to aspiring producers: make music that you personally love and listen to, that you can listen to 100 times before getting bored. 

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: Are there any tracks that you’ve released in the last few years that made you nervous to put out because it was different? 

SF: It’s always your gift to the world, the thing youv’e been working on for months. Then you put  it out and you never know what people are going to say or think. Overall, I think over the last year, the response to my tracks have been really positive – I don’t have a lot of haters, luckily. 

But yeah, these weird collaborations, like one I did with Akon, you never know what people will think, and there were people who said “This is not the Sam Feldt or the Akon that I know,” but I like pushing the boundaries and I like seeing where Sam Feldt ends in a way.

Also what I did with the album – 24 tracks ranging from 90 BPM hip-hop almost, to clubby 128 BPM foot-to-the-floor club bangers, all on one album – I think that really showcases how diverse Sam Feldt can be, and how open-minded my fans are, in welcoming all of that music. 

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: Funny you mention that, because I was wondering if there was a big difference between your live show set that incorporates band members & instruments, and your club/DJ sets. 

SF: It’s different because when you play with the live band, the set has to be structured in a way, because they have to know what to do and when to do it. You have to rehearse like a band, with a setlist. My live sets, because they’re instrumental, they tend to be a bit more melodic, and the club sets tend to be more bassy, deep, and groovy. 

For my DJ sets, I’m very free – I can play longer, usually, I can switch it up and really read the crowd and adapt to it. So, it’s a very different way of playing.

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: So you really are flying by the seat of your pants at a club set, because you’re reading the crowd. 

SF: That’s it. For instance, Lavo is already a different crowd and club than Marquee, and if I were to play a Brooklyn venue like the Bakermat one, I’d play differently. I think that’s the most important job you have as a DJ – that people are having a good time. You see that one thing works, and another doesn’t, you have to change it up.

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: Thinking about all of the artists you include in your DJ set, do you feature any artists more consistently than others in particular? 

Yeah, there are a couple of artists that align well with what I try to do during my DJ sets. They’re melodic, have a happy vibe, they’re energetic and we share a similar fan base: Guys like The Him, Lucas & Steve – I can play almost all of their tracks in my set. But, I’m always looking for new talent, I’ll play any new song as long as it’s good. 

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: Today marks six years together with your girlfriend Michelle, who is half of the DJ duo Cat Carpenters. What’s it like maintaining a relationship with someone who is also a DJ and tours? 

SF: It’s actually really cool and interesting. People tend to think it’s hard, but it’s not anymore. We’ve known each other now for six years, and in the beginning, when we had just met, I wasn’t even touring yet. So, we really grew and the first couple years were a lot harder than it is now.

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: As musicians, do you lean on each other for advice when you’re making music, or do you try to keep it separate from your relationship? 

SF: I think she’s definitely a big factor when it comes to listening to things in the studio, and snippets of things that I’m working on. She has a good ear, and helps sort me through the demos I get on heartfeldt.me, the submissions for my radio show. She’s just started as a DJ, so I help her out with production sometimes as well.

She also works for a startup that I own, called Fangage, running operations there. She’s with me now in New York, and it allows us to travel together, be very flexible, and still keep the businesses running that we have together. I think we’re a great team.

 

For more sam Feldt, check out our first Q&A from last fall where we discussed Sam’s life outside of the DJ booth:

Interview: OTR Ditched His Master’s Degree To Pursue Music

It’s fairly common in today’s day and age to hear about a musician foregoing college to pursue a career as a singer or DJ, or chase the dream with their band. It’s far less common, though, to hear about a student walking out on their Master’s Degree to do the same thing. Such is the story, though, of 25 year-old artist/producer Ryan Chadwick, better known these days by his moniker OTR.

Chadwick, a former Master’s student of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, ditched his degree after his department started to fall apart at the seams right before he was due to begin his Master’s thesis, meaning all of his coursework was otherwise complete. He could have transferred to another school, but while this was all happening, Chadwick had been making music in his bedroom with whatever scarce free time he had left. With a sound comparable to Petit Biscuit and ODESZA, who he’d discovered while abroad on an internship to Japan, his latest remix of Micky Valen’s “Meet Me” had started to catch industry attention on Spotify.

Looking at the entire confluence of events, it was as if there was writing on the wall to give music a chance at being his career, and he did just that. A few years later, OTR is one of the new signings bringing a fresh sound to Capitol Records-affiliated dance label, Astralwerks, home to artists like Illenium, Alison Wonderland, FISHER and Young Bombs.

I caught up with the up-and-coming producer to learn more about his story and the inspiration behind his music’s familiar-yet-fresh sound.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

<h6 style="text-align: left;"EB: You’re from Ohio, which is pretty far away from the influence of EDM culture. Did growing up in a midwestern culture shape you as a person in a way that now affects your music? 

OTR: That’s a good question. I think so – even just like recently, with some branding stuff, I’ve noticed that I’ve started to maybe disagree with my managers on some things. Being from the Midwest, we had a lot of indie rock culture – Twenty One Pilots came from Columbus, Ohio – that’s what I grew up with.

Going to Cincinnati for college around 2013, there was a big resurgence of Skrillex and all that. But I still had that early indie rock culture in the back of my mind, even though I was still experiencing all of the new styles that mainstream EDM culture was producing at the time. 

In turn, I was really in tune with Empire of the Sun and things like that, and it’s really shaped my sound and brand. There are a lot of open spaces and corn fields where I’m from, and I want that reflected in my story. I think that’s a little bit different than most of EDM culture right now. 

EB: In college you had an engineering internship in Japan, and that gave you the freedom to travel around and experience a lot of new cities and cultures. How transformative was that trip and experience for you? 

OTR: Going into Japan, and leaving, as a person I did a 180. I was a last minute replacement, so going Japan, I didn’t really know anything about the culture. My university sent me as a way to maintain ties with the company over there, so I just learned everything as I went. Everything there was very new to me, I was trying to absorb as much as possible. Because of that, those experiences stick with you for a longer period of time because they are so new. 

At the same time, a lot of artists that I was discovering over there shaped my musical tastes. I discovered ODESZA and Porter Robinson while I was over there. As I was trying to learn as much as possible over there, I was listening to music in a new way, because my brain was in overdrive. It really catapulted me into the things that I enjoy right now. 

A lot of what I was perceiving over there in Japan couldn’t be described in words; it was non-verbal. I couldn’t really speak the language, so everything I was observing was visual, and what I liked about those artists was that there really weren’t any lyrics, especially in the earlier stuff. It was more like a soundtrack to the things that I was experiencing over there, so I was really taking note of the big, atmospheric, drone-type sounds. Things like vocal chops instead of words made a lot of sense to me, because it felt visual – I didn’t really make much sense of things from a lyrical standpoint, so it matched my surroundings. 

In general, I also came from a background where I liked piano a lot, and Porter Robinson especially uses piano in his production, so that was something that I could really relate to. I actually bought a mini keyboard in Japan to pass the time on the trains and after work. In my spare time, I was able to teach myself the things he was creating. As I was learning what he was making, I was able to develop my own taste in piano playing as well. 

EB: What was the first song that you put out that got you enough attention to believe it could be more than a hobby? 

It was always smaller steps for me, but I think the first time I was excited about a song getting traction was “Port” because it made it on to HillyDilly. Overnight it got 10,000 plays on SoundCloud, and that was massive for me. I don’t think anything even had 200 plays on a song. I think that caused me to really think about it and how serious I was taking music. 

From there, the one that really got me more involved on a day to day basic was my Micky Valen remix. That one definitely really got me working more toward this being a full-time thing. I didn’t really understand then how Spotify worked, but I was getting on a few Spotify playlists, I think one of them by Austin Kramer (Spotify’s dance playlist curator), and Micky Valen was really excited about it. I was trying to figure out what it meant, and then I realized that the playlist had hundreds of thousands of people subscribed to it, and that it could actually be something. That’s when I really started working at it. 

EB: At that tipping point, when you had to decide between two careers, was it really a difficult decision, and how did your family react when you decided music was going to be your career? 

OTR: That’s actually kind of a good story, because at the time I was in grad school for Aerospace Engineering. I had just completed all of my coursework, but I was supposed to go into my Master’s thesis. The department I was doing my Master’s under kind of collapsed – most of the teachers in my specific field of studies were leaving or had already left, so I had nobody to do my thesis underneath. Then, this remix came out and started doing really well, so I told my department that until they figured out their stuff out with my education, I was going to focus on music, since hiring people could take two years to fill the program. 

Luckily, even though my parents were a little bit concerned, they understood that I was frustrated with my department. I told them that I could always go back and finish if this didn’t take off by the time they got the program in line. I had a few other opportunities to make sure that I would put food on the table, too. Everyone was really supportive, and I was lucky that they were so understanding. But it just happened at a really good time, when the department was failing me and music was not – that made it kind of an easy decision.

EB: As you look on the rest of the summer and the rest of the year, do you have any goals in mind or things that you want to accomplish this year? 

OTR: I really want to build a world where everything fits together. I’ve been really focusing on that with the rest of my singles. That’s where I had trouble in my prior music, so moving forward with the rest of my music and branding, Astralwerks has been a great help in understanding my vision, and putting that on paper. I want people to react in a certain way and understand the picture that I’m painting. If people do that, from there I think everything else will fall into place. 

EB: What is that vision of this world in your head that you’re trying to create? 

OTR: It’s more cinematic. You saw in the first single artwork, there’s that kind of beam going up into the sky. I think that’s cool because it ties in my aerospace background. A lot of it is nostalgia based, and almost dreamy in a way. For example, I wanted to be an astronaut, but I’m color blind so I can’t be one – that’s my excuse, that I can’t be one because I’m color blind and not ANY other reason. I can put little easter eggs of my prior self into this world and it ties it back in a more artistic way.  

Interview: Jake Miller’s Latest EP Reflects “The Best He’s Ever Been”

“YOU’RE REALLY GOING TO FEEL JAKE MILLER IN THESE SONGS, BECAUSE IT’S ONLY ME.”

 

If you saw Jake Miller on the street, chances are you wouldn’t immediately think he’s a singer. The 26 year-old Florida native more closely resembles a a fit professional body builder than he does your average, string-bodied singer/songwriter. But for every ounce that Miller could theoretically pack in a physical punch, he brings as much passion, thought and energy to the musical table, too.

Grinding as a musician since 2011, when he won a national talent competition sponsored by T-Mobile and Samsung, Miller’s been experimenting with his sound, moving from pure rapping in the early days to a pop singer/songwriter approach as of today. In that span, he’s bounced around a few label partners looking to find the right partner that maximized his talents and aspirations, but has ultimately come to find himself at peace most when he’s simply allowed to create music independently and on his own time.

In 2018, Miller’s career began to heat up once again with a handful of single releases, including May 2018’s “Better Me, Better You” with Clara Mae. Despite the song’s catchiness, it wasn’t a song that Miller wrote himself, ultimately leaving him feeling unfulfilled. By August he’d inked a new deal with Sony’s RED Music, which allowed him to take the reigns on his own career and drive his own ship, creatively.

Following a couple more collaborations with Justin Caruso and New Jersey pop-rock outfit The Stolen, Miller released his first single written under the new RED partnership, “WAIT FOR YOU,” in November, and everything’s looked different since. The focus single from his Spring 2019 BASED ON A TRUE STORY. EP reached #35 on Top 40 Radio in April, and continues to pave the way for people to become exposed to the new-look Jake Miller.

Each of the songs on the BASED ON A TRUE STORY. EP were written and co-produced by Miller himself, giving Miller’s audience their most authentic Jake Miller experience to date. I caught up with Miller to talk about his musical journey and what it’s been like regaining full control over his career. Listen to Miller’s EP and check out our interview below the player.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

EB: what made you pick up a microphone when you were young and why’d you decide to begin your career with rapping? 

JM: “I loved rapping early on because of Mac Miller. He was young, just a suburban kid like me and I could just kind of relate to him. So, I started rapping, I did it in a very non-traditional way. I was writing shit about anti-bullying and suicidal awareness – storytelling through my music, but rapping.

I would take all of my poems that I’d written in high school as my senior project, and I would record them and turn them into rap songs. That’s how I started making music. But I’ve always loved music, and I always have been kind of playing it with my dad, but I never really saw it as a possible career till I was 19 or 20 years old.”

 

EB: Now you’ve ditched that for full-blown singing – why the switch? 

JM: “I wanted to try something new. A lot of people were telling me early on in my career that I should convert from rapping to singing, and a lot of label people were telling me that if I wanted to have a radio hit, I’d have to cut out the rapping. Back then, it was pretty hard, because that’s how I started and that’s what my fans knew me for, and loved. Looking back, I think it was a good decision, just because times change, music changes, and I think singing is just what I like to do more, now. If they never told me to stop rapping, I probably would have naturally, anyway.”

 

EB: That transition from rapping to singing – was it difficult to find your voice and your range? Was it natural for you to just start singing? 

JM: “It wasn’t natural at all, and I’m still finding my voice and range. I’m still trying to get better. I’ve only been to a few vocal lessons, and I’m a stubborn learner, so I didn’t really pick up anything I learned in those lessons. one of these days I should probably get more serious and go to a vocal coach, and really try to nail that down, but you know, every day i’m trying to get better. I’m taking care of my voice, discovering new vocal exercises and warmups before shows. It’s all about getting better and becoming a better artists.”

 

THE CREATIVE VISION, THE ARTWORK, THE MUSIC VIDEOS AND THE MUSIC – I’M NEVER GOING TO GIVE THAT FREEDOM UP TO ANYBODY EVER AGAIN.”

 

EB: You said you discovered singing as people pushed you in that direction. After having been with a few different label teams – what was it about the type of environment that you needed, or people you needed to be around, to feel most comfortable to get to where you are?

JM: “I just needed to be alone. I needed to be by myself, and not have anybody whispering in my ear, what kind of music I should make, write about, what I should stay away from – if I should rap, or sing, or yodel – I want to do whatever I want to do. it’s really nice now, being in my room by myself, not having any pressure. If I’m not in the mood to write, I stop, and if I’m in a room and the mood’s right, I’ll sit down at the piano and pick something up.

Walking into these studio sessions, and having an hourly rate, and knowing you have to get out of there by 6 O’Clock, it was way too much pressure, felt like doing homework. So I would much rather do it by myself, no pressure.”

 

EB: Your song “WAIT FOR YOU” is currently getting a lot of radio love – what’s it like hearing your music on the radio? 

JM: “That’s everything to me. When you’re making music and you see the physical CD, that’s one thing, and then seeing a vinyl is one thing – but to hear it on the radio is huge. It’s so much different then just hearing it over your Spotify, or iTunes, or your headphones. Those are classic things. Being able to hear something on the radio is so classic – it’s very official.

When I heard it for the first time, I was in Florida and I was with my parents. We were driving through this zoo where you just drive through and animals pull up to your car. There was a giraffe halfway sticking his head through the window and my song came on, which was crazy and weird – it was unforgettable. 

When you’re able to hear yourself on the radio you say okay, I’m doing something right. I don’t know how far I’m going to be able to take this but it’s on the radio, and that’s something that 99.9% of people won’t be able to say.”

 

EB: What excites you most about the current chapter of your music career? 

JM: “What excites me most is that I think I’m the best I’ve ever been, and I’m only getting better. I think I’m about to put my best music out, and I really hope that the world connects with it as much as I do. There’s a lot of songs in there that mean a lot to me, musically and emotionally. There’s a song called SKINNYDIP, I can listen to it and cry honestly. That rarely happens when I listen to other music, so if that happens when I do it through my own music, then I know I’m doing a great job.

I think “SKINNYDIP” is a really cool intro to the EP, then “NIKES,” “WAIT FOR YOU,” and just a lot of cool uptempo songs, slow songs – something for everybody…Different things that I’ve never tried. I have a saxophone on it, a choir, just cooler sounds and I’m a more experienced producer now so i’m working with better plugins, better sounds, jazzier chords, better melodies, lyrics, I definitely think I’ve taken it a step further with this EP.

 

EB: You’ve been a musician for almost a decade, and even longer unofficially. You’ve performed with worldwide stars and you’ve traveled all over. What’s one lesson that sticks with you as you look over your career so far?

JM: “Never give up the steering wheel of your ship – always be the captain. Never think that anyone’s ever going to step in and work harder toward your dream as you are. Always take things into your own hands – if you want things done, do them yourself. That’s not to say that you can’t have people around you, and a team around you – I have an amazing team, a lot of people who work day and night for me. But, I’m the one that drives it. Once I give that up, that’s all I have as an artist.

The creative vision, the artwork, the music videos and the music – I’m never going to give that freedom up to anybody ever again. When I did that, I didn’t feel like a true artist. I wasn’t connecting with my music, because other people were writing the songs.

When you don’t connect with the music, other people aren’t going to connect with it when they listen to it. I knew it just had to come from my heart, so I took it back, and said I’m going to do it by myself – I’m going to write it, I’m going to produce it… You’re really going to feel Jake Miller in these songs, because it’s only me.”

 

Interview: Introducing Alexander 23 and His Dirty AF1s

As one of the more polished songwriters coming out of the burgeoning bedroom pop movement, Alexander Glantz sets himself apart from a crowded industry full of kids-on-keyboards trying to make hits in their parents houses utilizing lo-fi equipment and sample sounds. Channeling his multi-instrumental talent, he uses everything from drums, bass, guitar, and piano to create music that feels a step above the rest. Written under the moniker of Alexander 23, the resulting music sounds far closer to fully-formed pop than the majority of his bedroom counterparts. Alexander’s first release, “Dirty AF1s,” made an immediate splash hitting Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist in mid-March, and the song continues to gain traction across playlisting and the blogosphere.

Signed to Interscope in 2018, Alexander 23’s music also caught the attention of fellow singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin, who’s hit song “Let Me Down Slowly” spurred a sold-out North American “Outrunning Karma Tour” – and he tapped Alexander 23 as his opener. Since then, Alexander 23 has been playing out his new music in front of a rabid Alec Benjamin fanbase of 16-20 year olds, who have immediately accepted the 24-year-old into their circle with open arms.

Intrigued by the song and his energy, I caught up with Alexander before his April 11 show in NYC at Irving Plaza, to learn more about his project. Read our interview below and check out the brand new music video for Dirty AF1s that dropped today:

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

EB: Tell me about how you got into music in the first place. I know you’ve done a lot of touring and you’re a multi-instrumentalist, but where did it start? 

AG: I saw my dad playing guitar when I was 8, and I was like that looks cool, I wanna do that, I think girls will like that. I tried it and I hated it, so I quit. Then the next year, I picked it back up and started a band with my friends. That was kind of it, that was all I really cared about since then. I did other stuff, I played basketball growing up and I loved that. But I was never good enough to make that a career. So I just played in bands my whole life, the most recent one broke up a year and a half ago and I was writing and producing full-time.

Then one day, I just couldn’t really take it anymore and needed to start writing more music again. In August, I stopped doing all that and since then, I’ve just stayed in my house by myself and wrote songs about things that I’ve experienced.

 
EB: You’ve got your first single out, Dirty AF1s, this year. Tell me the story of the person that inspired Dirty AF1s.

AG: Everything in the song is exactly true, and was all written the day after a certain special girl left my house in LA. She actually left her toothbrush hanging in my bathroom, and I just looked at it – and this sounds so corny, but I looked at it and went to my studio setup in my dining room at the time, and just went there and did the song all at once, it just all came out.

I moved from New York to L.A. a year ago today. I actually went back today to the apartment I was living in, which was a crazy experience. I moved away from someone who I really loved and cared about. She came to visit, then went back to New York, and that’s how the song came about.

   
EB: What was it about writing in a band that you didn’t like, compared to having your own solo project?

AG: I am a huge fan of collaboration, but if you’re in a band, you’re equal parts and you don’t have full autonomy over the creative stuff. Which is sometimes a fun challenge and is sometimes incredibly frustrating. So it’s nice to be the final yes/no power on your own.

I haven’t really worked with people on this music so far, but if I were to, to have that final yes/no power is something that I need personally and creatively.

 
EB: Do you feel like when you sit by yourself in a room, you can branch out more than if you were in a band?

AG: Definitely. I think especially with pop today, everyone is so much more open to genre-less blending culture of music. It’s super exciting for me as a pop artist, because pop is finally returning from – it used to be there was the genre pop, and now pop really does mean ‘popular’ again, which is so exciting as an artist because I can do whatever I want because if it’s cool and people like it, that’s pop.

 
EB: Has pop has broadened from the general population idea of every single person knows the music, to having different pockets of fans in this day and age?

AG: Definitely. I think the internet is the biggest reason for that. I’ll stumble upon massive artists with millions of followers that I’ve never heard of. These people have their entire careers built, and are completely going and are a hundred billion times bigger than me and I haven’t heard of them. That’s the coolest thing ever. There really is room for everyone, it’s not how it used to be where there were x number of radio spots and if you didn’t have one you weren’t killing it.

 
EB: Who are some artist whose careers have inspired you over the years?

AG: As a kid growing up in the suburbs playing guitar, John Mayer was always the number one. I learned every song of his and played them. I think I learned consciously and subconsciously about songwriting from doing that. And then, as I got more into production, when I hear something and I like it I ask myself if they produced their record. Kevin Parker from Tame Impala became a huge inspiration, Mark Ronson too. It’s definitely eclectic, I grew up listening to a lot of different music. 

 
EB: I think a lot of  people appreciate good songwriting, but don’t really realize how difficult it is to form a song. For you, where did the inspiration come from to really focus on the songwriting aspect rather than just performing?

AG: I like to say, I think it’s – not “easy” – but I’m going to use it for the sake of this expression – I think it’s easy to write a good song, and I think it’s near impossible to write a great song. I don’t think many other things are like that outside of the creative world. You can do a good book report and a great book report, and maybe it’s not that different. But a good song, okay, what does that do for you? A great song could break your career.

I play guitar, piano, bass, drums – but I’m not a super-savant at any of those instruments – It’s never been my superpower. I consider songwriting my talent. Also to go back to the genre-semantics side, I can make the beat in pretty much any genre, because I know that my personal taste and songwriting will tie it together, and it’ll sound like an Alexander 23 track no matter what. I have some songs with real drums, no drums, 808 drums, no guitar, all guitar… but I think the songwriting of course is what ties it back together.

   
EB: What’s the earliest memory you have of belting a song out in the car? 

AG: I actually have a good one. I was going home from baseball practice one day, and my friend’s dad was playing “Free Bird” in his minivan, and we were driving down this road – you know the automatic doors? – he opened up both the doors on the side and the wind was coming in, we were all just screaming “Free Bird.” That’s definitely the earliest memory of screaming a song that I have. 

 
EB: Scrolling through your Instagram, I can definitely tell that style is a part of your brand. How would you describe your own personal style? 

AG: I would describe it as if you could combine a grandpa with a fifth grader. I like to say that a lot of my style musically is professional DIY, too. I like to make stuff but I like to do it up a little more than the DIY. Cleaned up. I want people to think “That could’ve either taken ten minutes to do, or ten years to do, and I don’t know which one – but it was definitely one or the other.”

 
EB: Where do you stand on artists having outfits for performances versus just going up there in whatever you’d been wearing for the day?

AG: It’s just up to you. Whatever the music calls for. I love style, I love making my own cover art and lyric videos and stuff like that. It’s all solely driven by the music, so whatever the vibe is, matching it is always cool.

 
EB: You’re wearing a necklace with 23 on it, obviously a nod to your artist name. Where did the 23 come from?

AG: I was born on the 23rd, that’s the first reason. I’m from Chicago, and I grew up loving basketball and playing basketball, so that’s the second reason (Editor’s note: Michael Jordan wore the #23 for the Chicago Bulls.) The third reason is I was 23 when I started writing all of these songs. That’s kind of when everything started getting traction, so I decided to commemorate it and combine everything into one.

 
You can catch Alexander 23 on tour with Alec Benjamin across North America at the dates below:
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Interview: Tayla Parx is Writing Her Way Into Music History

“MY CAREER HAS BEEN THE LOVE OF MY LIFE SINCE I WAS TEN YEARS OLD.”

 

If you’re a fan of musical mega-hits, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve heard some of Tayla Parx’s work over the last year and a half. In 2018 alone, the LA-based singer-songwriter was credited as a co-writer on four top-10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and all of them were huge; “Love Lies” by Khalid and Normani, “Thank U, Next” and “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande, and “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco.

As an artist and performer in her own right, Parx is also very accomplished: in 2007, she played the part of Little Inez in the film adaptation of Hairspray, and has also appeared in television shows like Gilmore Girls, Victorious (with Ariana Grande), and True Jackson, VP. Truly born-to-entertain, being in the spotlight has always been a part of Parx’s DNA. She’s been on stage since she was little, calls her career the love of her life “since she was ten years old” and is a demonstration that being a triple-threat entertainer is more than a paying job – it’s a vocation.

During her time in LA before for her next tour run supporting Lizzo, Early Bird Music chatted with Tayla to get the story behind her beginnings as a songwriter, actor, and singer, the secret-sauce behind her songwriting style, and motivations behind her own artist project, which now includes her recently-released and highly-anticipated debut album, We Need To Talk. Press play and check out our interview below.

This interview has been lightly-edited and condensed for clarity.

 

EB: Take me all the way back to growing up – how did you get into show business? You’ve done acting, singing and songwriting – what was it like as a kid, going through that process?

TP: Well it first started off while I was in a dance class with Debbie Allen. She had a dance academy, and I decided to go there with a best friend just because I felt like, “Okay I sing, but I gotta know how to dance if i’m gonna be an artist one day” and I didn’t know when that was gonna happen, but of course that it would.

Then one day, Debbie Allen walked in and she saw me and asked if I knew how to sing – I said yes; if I knew how to dance – and I show her I dance. Then she asked if I knew how to act, and I couldn’t even fathom being an actress at the time. She said, ‘Well I think it’s kind of like reading a book, read this as if you were each character.’ Then all of a sudden, I was introduced to this whole new world, of manipulating your voice and being able to see this whole different side of what makes me an artist, in all of its different aspects.

Eventually Debbie convinced my parents to move me to LA – this is already after I’d been performing at The Kennedy Center from 9-11 [years old], so I was on stage from the beginning of my life. From that point, my mom was sneaking me into auditions, reading the boards and blogs online and finding out how I could get my opportunity. The first room that I snuck into was Gilmore Girls, and I ended up booking it, but also getting caught when they realized that I didn’t have an agent. So they called some agents right there on the spot. They said I got the job but I needed an agent, so I sat down with three different people, and I told them, whichever agent could even get me an audition for Hairspray, that I would sign with him – that it didn’t even matter if I got the role, and that I just needed the opportunity.

Fast forward a few months, I was able to audition and book the role, which meant I was an actress, officially. But I missed music, even after Hairspray kind of catapulted my life in to that direction of acting and doing more roles, and Nickelodeon- which where I met Ariana – different things like that. I’ve watched my life make these interesting twists and turns and it all makes sense looking back on it.

 

EB: Now both of your careers have taken off, and you’ve written number one songs with Ariana. How did that friendship develop and how did you stay in touch?

TP: In the beginning, nobody really respected either of us in the music world, they saw us both as child actors. It was before we’d proven ourselves and solidified ourselves as songwriters and music creatives. I met her because I was on her show [Victorious] and I was on another show, True Jackson VP, that filmed on the same lot for a bit.

A few years later, we lost touch, but I met Tommy Brown (TB Hits) and the very first [songwriting] session we ever did was for “My Everything,” but Ariana wasn’t there. It wasn’t till down the road that she even found out that I was the co-writer on the song, because mind you, the last time that we saw each other was on the set – she had no idea I was writing music at that point. That was a nice re-connect, but we lost touch AGAIN and didn’t link up again till this album (Thank U, Next.)

Usually I’m very particular about who I write for. So once I do an artist one time, I don’t usually want to write with them again. Usually I’m like, Ooh that was a really cool experience, now I want something fresh and brand new. But the thing that made me curious about what was going on right now in her life was that I knew that she was going to be approaching music in a different way than she had ever done before. It’s fun to be a part of her evolution as an artist.

 

“EVENTUALLY I REALIZED…THAT I HAD SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO ADD TO THIS EQUATION, AS AN ARTIST.”

 

EB: As far as your evolution as an artist, did you start with songwriting with a full intention to only write for others, or did you always have your own singing career and artist project in mind?

TP: I used to always go back and forth on if I wanted to be an artist, or if it was something that would satisfy me. Because I write A LOT of songs, and artists can’t release that many songs per year. So, I felt like if I was just an artist I would be stunting my writing, right? And if I was just a writer, I would be stunting my artistry. From that moment, I had to make a decision to say hey, first of all, timing is everything – it’s been something my life has taught me over and over and over again again – that I’m not really in control of the plan. If I try to control it, then I would never be where I am now. I think from a very young age, I had the realization that everything that is meant to happen will happen.

At that time, I was concerned with being the best writer that I could be, starting off and mastering one thing, versus being mediocre at a million things. I wanted to be the best songwriter I could be. In order to do that, you have to humble yourself and take yourself out of your own emotions, because as a songwriter, everything is about someone else. All of your emotions, and your feelings, and your history goes out of the door when you’re having that conversation with an artist as a songwriter.

That’s one of those things where I just learned people to have a story, and eventually I realized I’d talked to every type of artist there is to talk to, from the legends to the newer superstars, and that I had something different to add to this equation, as an artist; something that I felt could be a part of taking music where it’s going to be in the future, versus just being a fish, kind of being a part of the stream.

 
EB: You’ve written a ton of songs for other people, so when it comes to your own artist project, what does it take in a song to realize you want to keep it for yourself?

TP: Well I think it always starts with, either – I’ve produced a lot on this album as well, and you can hear that it sounds slightly left of center, because I’m not following the rules that a typical producer would follow. The same way that I don’t follow the same rules that a typical songwriter feels they need to follow.

There’s certain rules like the way you lift a hook, or a way that you structure your song, and it has to be structured a certain way, whether it’s the verse into the pre-hook, into the hook, or starting off with a hook. There’s so many different ways to flip the formula that we’ve created over the years as creatives.

Right now we’re at a time in music where we are able to do that more than ever, and more importantly than that, the fans want it and are excited about it, and want you to do something different. I’m extremely happy to be an artist right now in this day and age, and to be coming out at this perfect time when fans are begging for something new and fresh. I go out of my way to do whatever I want to do, and those things are usually quirky and colorful – things that people might not feel are “radio” at first… Until you realize it’s stuck in your head all day.

 

So I’m taking that artist approach, but also using the top songwriter inside of me to find the middle ground. You’ll never probably hear anything that’s like, a bit too weird, but you’ll also never hear anything that’s just too straightforward, in regards to my artistry, because I found myself having to be placed in those boxes as a songwriter all the time. It’s fun for me to shoot for a target and jump through flaming hoops [as a songwriter for others]. But as an artist, it’s a completely different approach – it’s about being free.

 
EB: One of the songs that sticks out to me of yours is “I Want You.” Tell me about where you were at in your life when you were writing that song.

TP: I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to be free and not having to think of a significant other. I’ve never been the type of person to be in a relationship ever, because my career has been the love of my life since I was ten years old.

I think that during this whole entire process, with this album, it’s been discovering myself. In the beginning of the album, and also at that time in my life, I was very much still focused on me, and it didn’t really matter how it made somebody who might’ve loved me, feel. But I was very honest about that, and that’s what that song is about. Just being like You know, I think I finally got your message, and I’m not going to let me let you down, and it’s okay because it’s not worth me losing my freedom. And then you listen to the album, and you see that change, you see that switch, you see that ending up seeing that maybe I fucked up this time.

 

EB: Along with the album, you’ve got an upcoming tour supporting Lizzo. Are you excited to hit the road again to play the album out live?

TP: I’m so excited to be touring, especially with Lizzo, touring with a female. I just finished up the US and European ABC (Andy’s Beach Club) Tour with Anderson .Paak, and it was a lot of guys on tour. It was so fun, because they’re like my brothers, you know.

But now, this time to have the different change in pace and work with all of these amazing females on the road, travel, and meet so many different kinds of fans, will be icing on the cake. It’s fun to meet the Tayla types and see how your music is affecting them, and I’ve got so many people that found out about me because of this last run that’ll be back at the show again. So it makes me feel good that they liked what they saw the first time.

 

EB: Since you’ve always been in show business, does performing a concert come as naturally as acting or writing?

TP: There’s a little switch that flips after the moment of me freaking out, which usually happens two minutes before I jump on the stage – no more or no less than that. It’s just those two minutes because I have to wait, and I just wanna go now! – I start to get really impatient and antsy. When I get out there is when everything’s okay again, when my heart stops beating as fast. It’s when I’m yeah, okay again.

I didn’t know at the time, before I started, if live performance was something that I would even like. I like the idea of something being perfect, and live performance isn’t about being perfect. So, it’s a complete different approach and something I’m having fun learning. I think that anything I do is because it’s a challenge. I’m naturally good at performing, but I have to take that idea and become great at it, the same way that I did at songwriting – because I always have to take things to the max.

You can catch Tayla Parx on tour supporting Lizzo this Spring. Check out tour dates below, including two Brooklyn Steel dates on 5/12 and 5/13, and Terminal 5 on 5/23:
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Interview: Meet the New Rising Prince of Pop, Isaac Dunbar

Age is but a number for Isaac Dunbar, who’s already out here breaking on to the music scene in a major way. The 15-year-old budding star hasn’t even been to prom yet, but three singles into his career, his thoughtfulness and wisdom shine both in his music and in conversation. He’s already proving that he’s well-positioned to take a shot at the pop throne in the coming years, and he’s not even creating music full-time, yet.

Right now, he’s in the middle of his high school career, complete with all of its struggles – just listen to “freshman year” – but he’s already got his sights set on touring, modeling, and even starting his own fashion brand. This ambitious teen is ready to become a creative powerhouse, and if his newest release “mime” is any indication, he’s going to be hard to stop once the wheels really get rolling.

Check out the video for Dunbar’s single and our Q&A below the jump:

EB: What was your inspiration for writing “mime?” It seems like a retrospective on a really bad breakup from an emotionally manipulative person.

ID: The inspiration behind “mime” was derived from a relationship that my best friend’s sister was in during the summer of 2018. It was a very nasty and toxic relationship where everyone could see all of the symptoms of this guy being absolutely terrible, so I wrote this song as an empowering gift to her.

EB: Are love songs are easier to write in the heat of the moment?

ID: Never. Not for me, at least. I am a very observant person, and I try to put myself in the shoes of everyone in a situation. When in the heat of the moment, most people act very impulsive and never capture the full picture of a situation because there are so many emotions in the way! So I usually like to wait months after something happens to really tell the story in a perfect and alternative way.

EB: In each of your music videos you seem to be a natural with an engaging on-camera personality. Have you always felt comfortable in front of a camera, or did it take getting used to?

ID: Actually until about eighth or ninth grade, I HATED having photographs taken of me – never mind filming music videos for possibly billions of people to see! Growing up, I was always on the heavier side so I faced a lot of insecurities within myself, but I finally got over them and I got used to being myself in front of the camera. One of my favorite aspects of being able to do what I do is actually filming videos and having photo shoots! I never would’ve thought that three years ago.

 

Hear ye, fans of Chloe Lilac, we have finally found a male counterpart worthy of high praise within the bedroom pop scene: Isaac Dunbar.

EB: In terms of your growth as a songwriter and singer, how has being in high school changed your perspective on relationships, self-confidence and your own personal goals?

ID: Being in high school has showed me that people are constantly changing. Always. It showed me that people may feel a certain way for a minute and believe that’s how they’ll feel for the rest of their lives – but then the next day they’ll feel a completely different way. That can connect to my songwriting because it helps me feel the complexity of situations, and how emotions are so fluid.

For example, if I went through a situation where someone talked bad about me, I could write a song about how angry and bitter I might be at the person. But then, the next day I might write a song about how I feel remorse for them because they might have stuff going on at home. It’s crazy how situational songs can have two sides to them, if you think hard enough.

EB: If you weren’t pursuing music as a profession, what do you think you’d be doing for a career?

ID: I would probably be either a chef or a stylist. I still want to go to F.I.T. and study Business in Fashion and Fashion Design so I can create an independent clothing brand while also doing music.

Check out more from Isaac Dunbar on SoundCloud and YouTube:

 

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Interview: Yoshi Flower Opens Up About His Midwest Roots & Influences

Since signing a deal with Interscope Records in August of 2018, Detroit-native Yoshi Flower (born Josh Smith) has been on a roll. In October, he released his debut project, the 13-track American Raver Mixtape, while on tour across the United States with singer/songwriter/producer SG Lewis. The mixtape cleverly reworks the USA Pledge of Allegiance into a narrative that commentates on his own experiences while growing up in an average middle-class Midwest American family.

With the music from American Raver being shared along each stop of the tour, Yoshi’s visibility rose quickly. With a growing fan base that appreciated his ability to create relatable music that defied the convention of genre, he’s gone from the relatively anonymous “Who?” opener on tickets as support, to a budding and innovative musician making a name for himself in his own self-defined league.

Of late, Yoshi Flower has been headlining his own American Raver LIVE tour in January and February across select US cities in support of the project. He’s also just released his first track of the new year this past Friday, “Dirty Water.” Combining live bass (a first for him) under a delicate guitar riff, the song eases its way through the verses but builds quickly at the chorus, culminating with Yoshi’s near-screaming vocals, invoking chills as the track’s emotion translates through your body.

Watch my interview with Yoshi Flower below, where he discusses staying focused on his own art, growing up “in the middle,” and the genres that have had a lasting impact on his musical taste.

Interview: EDM Wunderkind Whethan Keeps Getting Better With Age

“I ALMOST FEEL LIKE I CAN’T GO TO SLEEP AT NIGHT UNTIL I’VE DONE SOMETHING SUPER AWESOME THAT DAY, WHETHER IT’S MUSIC OR ART-RELATED.”

On Friday November 9th, Ethan Snoreck, known better as producer/DJ Whethan, will release his first-ever album project when he drops Life of a Wallflower – Vol. 1 EP. The EP falls on the back of his recently completed Life of a Wallflower Tour, which spanned 29 different stops in the US. The L.O.A.W. EP is eight songs long, and includes four new songs for his very dedicated fan base to vibe out to: “Wallflower,” “Top Shelf (feat. Bipolar Sunshine),” “Together,” and “I Miss You.

Having opened shows for close friends Louis The Child on their Last To Leave Europe Tour in the first few months of 2018, followed by a South America trip to Lollapalooza Brazil, that fanbase now truly spans the globe and continues grow. “To go literally all across the world, and not just to look at everything, but to see people react – itʼs still so surreal to me to be able to do it so young, and because of music. It never crossed my mind that it would ever happen, especially this early on,” he said of his first legitimate journey outside of North America.

It’s easy to forget that Whethan’s accomplished all of this – three headline tours, global touring, and over 300M Spotify streams in his catalogue – at an historically young age. At only 20 years old, Whethan’s music has come a long way from its beginnings creating dubstep and alternative rock flips. 

Just because his skill and style has evolved doesn’t mean those roots have been lost, however. On the contrary, Whethan recently made the most of an opportunity to bring back some of his earliest influences in his latest collaboration, “Every Step That I Take,” with Tom Morello and Portugal. The Man.

With his singles like “Be Like You”, “High”, and “Savage”, there’s always been a darker, heavy side of Whethan’s repertoire that he hasn’t been afraid to showcase to supplement his characteristically bouncy, future-bass tunes. 

In his eyes, Whethan suspects that those esoteric stylistic tendencies making up what his “signature” have roots in what he grew up on in his childhood home. “I think weʼre all a giant compilation of our interests and our inspirations. So I think all the music I listened to as a kid, through my parents – a lot of alternative and hip-hop music – I think that probably was what influenced my subconscious into liking the styles of music I like, or the sounds that I like. I love deep, gritty bass and sub, and I think that’s mixed nicely with this pop-ish vocals with a little bit of future-production that it is now.”

There’s no doubt when hearing “Every Step…” those same characteristics shine throughout the new track, and it’s easy to imagine that the rest of his repertoire will show up in the upcoming EP as well. 

Listen to Whethan’s biggest hits and read the rest of our interview below the playlist break:

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

EB: When youʼre finally mastering the tracks to a project like your upcoming EP, and youʼre putting it all together, does that take a lot longer than coming up with the initial ideas for the songs?

ES: “Iʼm usually really quick at getting the initial idea there…When I’m thinking of a song, I feel like a lot of times I can envision in my head where I want to start it off and where itʼs going. But then itʼs that final 10% that takes a little bit longer. 

The really tedious stuff is all the little drums fills, or effects that you add to transition you into the next part of a song. Thatʼs the stuff that takes a little more time because itʼs a lot of trial and error. You kind of have force every part to form into the next part perfectly, or at least to how you hear it.”

EB: Is it ever difficult to shelve a song or project that you thought was really great because you’ve then later come up with something that you think is even better?

ES: “I think it is tough. Iʼm constantly changing and outdoing my own songs. Iʼm starting to see the actual causes of that now, because I’ve had three or four years of producing music non-stop, and thereʼs some songs that Iʼve made a year or two ago, or three years ago, that I have a connection to – but Iʼve definitely outdone them by now. I just keep making music until I outdo it all, and then the stuff that feels really good, I put out.

It is kind of hard to throw the old ones away, but Iʼll never ever throw them away. I think they can and will find new light, to come back and be fresh in their own way.”

EB: Originally you never set out to be a live performer or dj, but now you’ve had three headline tours before the age of 20. as your craft as a DJ and a live performer grown as quickly as your music and production ability?

ES: “I’ve always leaned a little bit more to the production side, so my brainʼs always going to focus on making music rather than playing it out. But, I do play so many shows now that it would be stupid if I didnʼt want to make these shows really good and fun for me and everyone else.”

“Iʼm getting better and better every tour, just trying to put on the coolest show I can, and getting more and more resources as time goes on to be able to put together crazy visual arrangements, stage setup, and really show people this world that Iʼve wanted to bring to them through my music.”

EB: You spend a ton of time in the studio and on the road – youʼre constantly working. How do you keep yourself energized through long sessions?

ES: “It depends, because Iʼm always in different locations and spots. In the early days it was all just in the car, in planes or in the bedroom, on my computer making music. I think itʼs really just the addiction I have to making music, where I just want, Iʼm just looking for that thing that’s going to make me happy. I almost feel like I canʼt go to sleep at night until Iʼve done something super awesome that day, whether itʼs music or art-related.”

Interview: Sam Feldt Is Building A Legacy That Extends Far Beyond His Music

“Platinum award-winning musician,
radio show host, main-stage festival DJ, venture capitalist, and philanthropist”

At first glance, that might seem like a snippet from the start of a long-winded bar joke. In reality, they are the calling cards and notable titles of one extremely ambitious Dutch house producer, Sam Feldt. At just 25 years old, the multi-talented Feldt (real name Sammy Renders) has parlayed his early accomplishments as a globally recognized DJ into a diverse variety of new opportunities that extend beyond recording and producing music alone.

Among his many ventures include two peer-to-peer technology platforms for engaging with fans, a new non-profit for creating sustainability in the entertainment industry, and a digital radio show with global reach. Press play on the latest episode of Sam’s Heartfeldt Radio and scroll down to read my exclusive interview with one of the music industry’s most active and visionary young stars.

This interview has been lightly-edited and condensed for clarity. 

EB: Toward the end of june You broke your leg in a scooter accident, forcing you to cancel tour dates and multiple major festival appearances over the remainder of summer. Now that you’re back to full health, what does it mean to finally get back on the road to see your fans and perform again?

SF: “Playing for my fans is everything to me, and that fact became even clearer when was forced to retire from it for two months. There’s nothing I missed more. I’ve always loved playing every show I’ve done, even when there were just 10 people there at the start of my career. Every show is special and unique in its own way and as long as I can DJ, I’m happy. I’ve been dreaming about becoming a DJ since I was 11 years old and to be able to play all these huge festivals and stages now really means the world.

EB: What did you do during that two-month period to keep yourself busy? Were you able to work on new music, and did that time off give you any new creative perspective?

SF: “During that period, I spent a lot of time in the studio. I managed to finish six brand new Sam Feldt tracks that will all be coming out this year or early next year. Having two months of dedicated studio time (instead of producing on the road and between tours) really allowed me to get into a more creative flow and experiment with different sounds and techniques.”

EB: One of those new songs you created was the recently released single “Heaven (Don’t Have A Name)” featuring vocals from Hollywood actor Jeremy Renner. How did you two get connected, and what was it like collaborating together?

SF: I was working on this new song and then my publisher reached out to me and said Jeremy was interested in collabing on it. I was flabbergasted, and of course I said yes. When I then heard what an amazing singer he was, I was even more convinced. Overall, the collaboration was a very smooth process, with Jeremy recording vocals in Los Angeles, with the two of us basically sending versions back and forth until we hit the spot. It just so happens that Jeremy’s cinematic voice fit well on a trap style track.

EB: Your new live set incorporates an actual, physical band. Tell me about the inspiration for putting together a live crew to play with you on stage.

SF: “A lot of my tracks were made together with the band in the studio, so the Sam Feldt Live experience is the most genuine Sam Feldt set one could ever witness. The music that comes out as “Sam Feldt” is, in reality, usually made a team project with multiple musicians involved, like the trumpet, sax and guitar players in my band.”

EB: Aside from the busy tour schedule, you also host a weekly radio show – Heartfeldt Radio – that’s shared on your website and on streaming services. What has it been like as a radio host, sharing your favorite songs, artists, and mixes with your fans and the broader music community?

SF: “I love it! Playing shows, you can only reach so many people, and with my radio show the possibilities and reach are endless. Even people from countries I’ve never been to can listen to my music and the Sam Feldt sets, which is great. I also love receiving demos and other products from fans via Heartfeldt.me, my online community, that I use in my radio shows a lot.”

EB: At Amsterdam Dance Event (A.D.E.), you’ll be hosting your own special fan event at the National Maritime Museum. Tell me more about what you’ve planned that will add to your legacy as an artist, and why now was the right time.

SF: “The past two years during A.D.E. I hosted editions of the Heartfeldt Pool Party concept, which is awesome (and I will continue to do in the future) but I believe after everything that’s happened this year with the accident, I owed it to my biggest fans to do something special and even more unique. That’s why I invited a select number of them to come to a show for free, instead of buying a ticket, all taking place in a unique historical building in the center of Amsterdam. It’s my way of saying “Thank you for sticking with me through these tough times over the summer.”

EB: By the end of the week at A.D.E. you’ll not only have performed, but participated in a couple of conference panels as well. In particular you’ll be a part of panels titled “Artists Empowering Their Community to Create Change” and “The Future of Plastic.” What are you looking forward to about those discussions and why did you pick these in particular to associate with?

SF: “At the start of this year, I made the promise to my fans that I would use 2018 to become a more sustainable and eco-friendly DJ. Being part of A.D.E. Green and the panels you mentioned is part of a bigger movement I’m trying to start. During this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event, I will actually be launching the Heartfeldt Foundation, which is a non-profit that aims to become a platform for sustainability in the dance and entertainment industries.

I’m also taking other steps personally to make sure I reduce the impact I have on the planet such as investing in CO2 offsetting projects in Ethiopia, driving an electric powered vehicle and removing all plastics from my artist rider.”

EB: On top of everything else you have going on musically and with your foundation, you’re also gearing up for the big launch of your peer-to-peer loyalty program, FanGold. Can you tell me more about your role in the venture and what excites you about getting involved?

SF: “Over the past few years, as artists we’ve all seen our reach declining as social media algorithms prevent us from getting in touch with fans. To combat that, two years ago we launched Fangage, a service that provides tools for artists to get closer to their fans and become less dependent on third party social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Today, Fangage is going well and we are servicing almost 30 top artists and influencers.

The new FanGold project is going to be my next venture that aims to not only bring artists and fans closer, but also allow them to reward each other directly. Instead of paying Zuckerberg 10 Euros to promote a post on Facebook, artists can now pay out these 10 euros to their fans for sharing and promoting the content. We’re basically cutting out the middle man (again) and shifting power back to where it belongs.”



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Interview: Loote Talk “Cry-Jams” and Songwriting As A Duo (Video)

Since being paired up on a group project by their songwriting professor at SUNY Purchase in 2013, Jackson Foote and Emma Lov Block have been virtually inseparable. Not as a romantic couple, as many have wrongly assumed – but as a musical duo, equal partners in their now five-year old pop music project, Loote.

The summer following that life-changing school project, both Foote and Block moved into the city from Westchester and decided it was time they dedicate their efforts toward this musical endeavor full-time. In doing, the two dug in on career journeys as both songwriters and performers in their own right, and were both talented and fortunate to secure and finalize a publishing deal by the beginning of the fall that same year, a fast rise.

After two years of working on their own project and writing for many others, Loote released their own debut EP, single. in June of 2018 – an ode to relationships, especially those failed and passed, painted through the lens of two close partners that share both similar relationship experiences and artistic chemistry. “That’s what both of us have gone through over the past year,” Foote said of the EP’s love-and-loss theme. “Our working relationship has outlasted each of our personal relationships. We’ve watched each other go through breakups and return to the single life, and not know what we’re doing. You realize how shocking it is at first, so that theme resonated with both of us. When our two personalities come together that’s the thing we naturally connect on the most.”

The EP has clearly struck a cord with the listening public, as its songs have gone on to collect over 90 million streams, including their first major streaming single “High Without Your Love,” (2017) which now boasts over 40M streams, as well as 2018’s “Your Side of the Bed” a 30M stream, Top-40 radio single that’s led them across the country on both a tour with K-Pop star Eric Nam and a radio promo tour as well.

Foote and Block’s biggest claim to fame, though, isn’t even a single they wrote for themselves: alongside Ari Leff (more commonly known as rising pop artist Lauv) the duo co-wrote one of 2017’s biggest hit songs, Cheat Codes’ and Demi Lovato’s single “No Promises,” which has gone platinum nine times around the globe with over 415M Spotify streams. The two have established an impressive early repertoire within the pop realm to begin their musical careers, and show no signs of letting off of the gas.

Loote performs & explains when they first heard “No Promises” on radio:

“It’s crazy that we are where we are, but there’s so much more we want to do and accomplish,” said Foote of the journey Loote’s taken so far. “I’m so focused on the future, though, that I probably don’t appreciate where we are compared to where we started as much as I should.”

Noting back to a fifth grade yearbook Block’s father found in her childhood home, this path has been the plan all along, in Emma’s eyes. “I was the kid that said ‘All I want to do is music’…I wanted to act, I wanted to do music, to be a rock star. What kind of eight-year-old says that nonchalantly in an essay?”

As for where Block and Foote have their sights set for the project, Loote is shooting for the stars. “First for me, the vision is stadium pop superstars,” says Foote as Block nods her head in conceptual agreement. “I’ve been picturing that for a long long time, and that’s still what we’re aiming for and what we plan to achieve.”

Watch Early Bird’s interview with Loote at Island Records’ studios in the video above to hear more about their creative process as a duo, and to catch exclusive footage from their recording session for “Back Together.”

Special thanks to Island Records for collaborating on the video interview edit.

Listen to our new, Loote-inspired playlist of the week, “Cry-Jams”:
You can check out more show highlight galleries below:

https://earlybirdmusic.blog/2018/06/22/gallery-loote/

https://earlybirdmusic.blog/2018/09/14/gallery-loote-st-ives-09-13-18/



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Interview: Dream-Pop Artist Rynn Talks “Tokyo” and Gaining Confidence as a Songwriter

This past Friday, L.A.-based pop singer/songwriter Kathryn Kempthorn, better known by her artist name Rynn, released her official music video to her summer single “Tokyo”, which was also featured on our 7/20 edition of Early Bird’s TGINMF – Best of New Music Friday playlist series. Intrigued by the song, Early Bird caught up with the young musician to hear more about her latest single “Tokyo,” and to give fans a more detailed picture of her musical and personal development as she’s started to come into her own as an artist. Watch the new “Tokyo” video, and read our full Q&A below the photo gallery, where we discuss her education at Belmont in Nashville, how adversity has helped her grow as a songwriter, and her recent move to sunny Los Angeles, the epicenter of the creative industry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSbJr-MQPg8

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

EB: You went to school and spent your formative years at Belmont University. How did Nashville impact you as an artist and as a songwriter?

KK: “It definitely helped me learn about and focus on the art and craft of songwriting. Going through the songwriting program at Belmont is very storyline driven. I was exposed to a lot of country at that time, which is not anything I was interested in before being in that environment. It exposed me to a lot of really great songs that I never would have been exposed to otherwise. There are so many clever country songs that have the coolest twists in them. Many other genres donʼt have that type of storyline or as much of a plot twist as country songs do, which I love.”

EB: Was there a particular lesson or moment that stuck with you, and made it click that songwriting was going to be your main gig?

KK: “I think itʼs something that I always loved. One of the main things that stuck out to me was that they were like “Itʼs not always who has the most raw natural talent, but a lot of the time, whoever sticks around long enough and is persistent enough, and keeps writing. Those who are the people who are going to make it.” I remember it was Freshman year, and there were around 20 of us in the room. Our professor said “Thereʼs probably only going to be five of you who actually end up writing songs for a career. Thatʼs because a lot of you are going to, for whatever reason, give up on it.” Now looking back, thinking about all those people who were in that room, itʼs so true. And even personal experience, just writing and writing and writing, for every twenty songs thereʼs maybe one that turns into something.”

EB: What made you want to pursue the solo artist route?

KK: “I think a lot of it was just that Iʼve spent a lot of time writing by myself, especially in Nashville. I guess I just didnʼt really meet a ton of people who I felt like I necessarily clicked with on a musical, artistic level. I think because there was a lot of country, and I was still really trying to figure out what I wanted to do in general, I spent hours and hours and hours in my bedroom by myself, messing around with sounds, learning Logic, and discovering my sound on my own.”

EB: When you were discovering your own sound, and when inspiration hit, what was that process like for you? When you had an inspiration that made you want to write something, did you put it in your phone, a notebook, etc.?

KK: “A lot of the time itʼs just typing notes in my phone/ranting. Almost like poetry, itʼs tons of lines about anything and everything. A lot of the time Iʼll open up a Logic session, and start messing around with synth sounds and a bit of a beat, and then go through those little poetry notes as I start to make a song. Then, Iʼll ask myself if thereʼs anything from those rants that I could pull out to form a song, and I start to build it from there.”

EB: What’s it like being at school and being a musician, trying to have to write songs –  maybe in a dorm room or an apartment, when you have a bunch of other people around?

KK: “I would just wander around campus and try to find some abandoned stairwell or something that I could play in. I was also fortunate that a friend of mine from my hometown moved to Nashville around the same time. She didnʼt go to school, so she had an apartment, and when she would be at work, I had a key and I would go in, bring all my stuff – my computer, guitar, and keyboard – and would write at her house. So that was definitely a saving grace during my freshman year.”

EB: Tell me a bit around the background of “Tokyo”.

KK: “It happened on a trip to Japan a couple years ago. There was a bit of a toxic guy relationship, and then I realized that there were a lot of emotional and other issues involved in that. That kind of all blew up at once, and then I was supposed to do a study abroad trip in Japan for a month, so everything fell apart. I left for Japan, and basically had a mental breakdown, and bawled my eyes out for a month. I didnʼt really talk to any family or friends back home, and the hotel we were staying in didnʼt have Wi-Fi or anything connected in the rooms. No Netflix either, so I basically just listened to one Coldplay album on repeat, cried and reflected on life, and really got into the emotional place of figuring out what went wrong in that relationship, what I wanted, where I wanted to be in life in the future and moving forward. I was very much re-discovering myself in that period of time that I was in Tokyo.”

EB: Coming out of that, after that reset period, did it change you as an artist in any way?

KK: “A little bit. I feel like a while before that trip, I realized I had turned my emotions off for a while. I was like “everythingʼs fine – itʼs fine,” and I think on that trip, 20 years of emotions let loose and I finally realized it was okay to express emotions as they happened, rather than burying them for so long. Since then, it’s kind of helped me process things, and I’ve tried to express myself through writing about things going on in real-time, rather than burying those emotions.”

EB: After that trip to Tokyo, you released your EP, and it gained some traction – at least “Islands” did. What has the song “Islands” done for your progress as an artist?

KK:  Islands paved a way for me to do music, and was confirmation that I could do it. I released that literally the week after graduating, and I was like “Iʼm just going to put this out here, and try to do the writer/artist thing for a year or so.” After a year, if nothing was going on with it, I was going to happily move on and get some other job – I was a double major in songwriting and music business, so I could have gotten a music business job and been happy. At least with the EP, I was able to put everything into being an artist for a year. Seeing how I was able to continue to grow paved the way and brought in the confidence for me to pursue the artist and writer things long-term.”

EB: When you were telling your friends and family that this is what you wanted to do, to pursue music as a career, what was that conversation like?

KK: “My parents were supportive. Ever since I was a toddler, my mom enrolled me in music and dance lessons, and always encouraged me to explore and develop my creative side. When it came time for college, my dad was never against me majoring in songwriting, but he also really encouraged me to get a business degree, to have something to fall back on. My mom encouraged me to make sure I still got the songwriting degree, because she saw that that was such a deep passion of mine, and studying it in school would give me the time to truly focus on developing my craft. 

As school went on and the longer I was in Nashville, my parents were able to see and understand that there are many other paths and ways to “make it” and that I could have a career in songwriting without having to be one of the few mega-stars of the world. 

EB: now that youʼre living in L.A., how are you keeping yourself busy when youʼre not writing and making music? What are you doing for fun, and how are you connecting with the city of Los Angeles?

KK: “I like to take dance classes sometimes, over at Millennium, which is one of the main studios here. I do boxing classes, too, which I love. Longboarding, too. The beach is always super fun. Itʼs almost an hour away, but on the weekends I love going up there. Iʼve gotten involved in a church around here that’s helped meet people – thereʼs so much to do in L.A., so I can fill every day with finding a new activity.”

EB: Compared to what it was like living in Nashville, in terms of connecting with the city, do you think that youʼre more of a natural fit for Los Angeles, or do you feel like Nashville was were you really clicked?

KK: “Nashville is still probably one of my favorite cities, with how small it is, and how easy it is to get around. I feel like Nashville is almost a giant high school, in a way: Everyone knows everyone, you go to the same coffee shop every day, run into the same batch of people. Thereʼs a comfort in that, but thereʼs also something so exciting about how thereʼs just an endless possibility of things in L.A. So I donʼt know… L.A. is definitely the right move for this phase of life, and I feel like I made the right choice by moving here.

I almost like L.A. more because I feel like people understand all the aspects of doing a creative field in life. It’s better than, letʼs say Ohio, where the day-to-day of a songwriter/artist is a foreign concept for a lot of people. Here (in L.A.), everyone kind of understands the creative lifestyle more, which I like. Itʼs super fun to just experience all that L.A. has to offer. I donʼt know if itʼs the place forever, but I definitely love it right now.” [END]

fans can expect a few more releases to drop before an eventual EP in early 2019, which she hopes will also include alternate versions and remixes of her singles.


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