Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
Iʼve been in Philly, PA for the past 5 years or so. Thereʼs tons of music happening in Philly. House shows are still a pretty big thing here and a lot of art collectives and shared loft situations are forming, which host some cool shows and events. Also have new venues like The Met poppin up. Itʼs hard to keep up with all of the Philly bands. XPN, which is U Penns radio station, does a good job of showcasing local talent.
How did you first start playing music?
Hittinʼ pots and pans… like most kids. After a few long years of making rubberband / tissue box guitars and cutting cassette records with my big sister, I discovered my motherʼs old acoustic guitar in our basement. I began writing songs before I actually figured out any chords. I guess you could say I was a monophonic guitarist…for like 2 years haha. My sister dated some cool musician dudes who got me started on drums and guitar. The first band I joined was a big band / swing band that played a lot of Count, Duke Ellington and songs from other famous jazz composers.
What’s been happening recently?
Mostly been hiding out and recording in my studio in Philly. Just finished a film score with my buddy David Carls aka Branx, which was a lot of fun. Synthy Sci – fi kinda vibe. Iʼve also been producing / collaborating with some cool Philly, Nashville and LA artists.
You have an album soon to be released on Gramatik’s Lowtemp, what has influenced the sound and songwriting for this album?
I feel like there are primarily 2 kinda vibes happening on this record. One being a sort of classic soul and Motown vibe and the other having a more modern dancey feel. Two of the more classic artists that I always have on heavy rotation are Al Green and Sly & the Family Stone. Slyʼs vocals on the album ‘Freshʼ have definitely influenced some of the more soulful vocal moments in my recordings. For the more dancey side of things, I would say that Prince and Justice are two pretty big influences. Also, Jamie Lidell is a recent re-discovery that Iʼve REALLY been diggin. Heʼs an all around fantastic artist who always seems to keep things super soulful and fresh.
Like most songwriters, things that I experience and things that I hear and read about influence my writing. I try to be conscious of what Iʼm going to release in regards to lyrical content and message. I donʼt mean tip toe-ing around and being careful with my words, but rather choosing to release the songs that may be able to effect listeners more. Iʼm not releasing music for myself. I can listen to myself without releasing anything (I know from experience). I think that qualifies listeners as being perhaps the number one influence on my songwriting.
How did you go about writing the music?
I usually start with a melody or some sort of hook. I rarely sit down and decide to just write a song. Most of the ideas come randomly when Iʼm taking a walk or on an airplane. Iʼve noticed that there is something sorta neat about writing and creating while 7 miles up in the clouds. At least for me anyway. Every now and then I will start writing to a beat or a loop if it really sparks something immediately. There are certain drum grooves that almost imply harmony and / or melody in an interesting way. Sometimes all I need is the right groove and a song immediately starts to take form out of thin air. Drummers who can lay down this sort of foundation are absolutely priceless. Iʼve only met a few.
Where and when did you record/produce and who with?
Most of the songs were recorded by my lonely ass self through out 2019. There were a few instances where I had someone come by the studio to track another instrument live with me in order to capture a certain feel, but this record is sort of my first true solo record.
What programs/instruments did you use?
I used Logic Pro X as my main DAW. I think of the computer and DAW as the storage device that has replaced tape . And all of these analog instruments and devices are being crammed through the butthole of the computer and stored as 1ʼs and 0ʼs. I donʼt think I will ever fully understand how this is possible, but itʼs pretty freakin rad.
Please tell us how you connected with Gramatik and how the experience have been so far:
My good homies in Exmag, particularly Eric, introduced me to Denis several years ago when they were all living together and making records in Brooklyn. I remember the first time we met we were watching YouTube videos and getting excited about the musical moments. When other people react to the same specific musical moments in a very similar way that I do, itʼs almost inevitable that we will end up collaborating at some point. So eventually I got my good homie Orlando Napier to link up with Denis and the 3 of us recorded some tracks. Fast forward a few years to Gramatik Red Rocks summer 2017… around this time, Denis and I reconnected and started talking shop. I sent him a track or two, and he sent me 57 tracks, which I was to learn for the 3 hour long set at Red Rocks the following week. That was an intense 3 hours to say the least. I didnʼt even realize how severely bad I had to pee until the family photo was taken after the set. Fortunately, everything has been downhill from there and we continue to make more and more music together each day it seems. We are currently working on a blues record called ‘Future City Bluesʼ, which Iʼll be released later this year.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Iʼm currently listening to the new Tame Impala record, which I very much like. Jamie Lidell – ‘building a beginningʼ has been on heavy rotation. Revisiting Justice ‘audio, video, discoʼ. Iʼm always trying to keep up with what my friends are releasing as well.
What do you like to do away from music?
I like to take walks. Each year from ages 20-30 I became a little less active in sports and exercise until I eventually arrived at walking. Outdoor walking only, none of that mall stuff. But seriously, if I donʼt walk at least a few miles a day, I have a tough time focusing on anything. Itʼs a great way to break up the day and give your brain a much needed reset. I recommend it to everyone, especially those who are staring at screens all day.
What’s planned for 2020?
2020 is the year for releases. Thatʼs been my plan anyway. Iʼve become pretty overwhelmed by the amount of music thatʼs been collecting on my hard drives that I need to do something with it before I explode. Denis and I have a project in the works that will basically serve to recycle all of the tracks we make that donʼt find their way onto an album or a film that we are writing for. There will be all sorts of styles ranging from funk to spaghetti western soundtrack style recordings.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
I donʼt think I have a single particular favorite food, but I do eat an awful lot of ice cream. When Iʼm not in the studio, I like to hang out on the city streets. I also enjoy floating down a nice creek or river with fishing pole in hand. I usually visit with family if I have a few days off.