Digging into the creative process, Byta speaks with artists, musicians, producers, DJs and anyone involved with music creation. A conversation about how they create, collaborate and share music. From studio setups to routines, and the first person to hear about the next 'big' work.
Where are you based?
Henderson KY, was raised in Evansville Indiana. Or find me on my back patio grilling.
How, when and where did you start making music? Are you primarily a musician or a producer, or do something else?
I started when I was around 14 years old, just scribbling rap songs. It was without method but I found kinship and made groups from that. When I was around 16 I put out a cd with some high school pals. Around 18 I was part of a collective called Betarhythmics, we did EVERYTHING in-house. There was 9 of us. We pressed our own t-shirts, did our own production, recording, art. From there I started on a “solo” path If you could call it that as I have always found joy in working with specific producers when making an album. I myself only have talent when it comes to writing and performing. I do have a great love for art direction but I don’t have talent when it comes to creating the visual art just the ideas behind it.
Who would you consider some of your biggest influences when it comes to your “sound”?
I try to hide who influences me so they don’t pop up clearly in my music. Andre 3000 is a big influence. But I think the biggest influence was discovering the indie rap scene in the early 2000’s. Anticon, rhymesayers, def jux were all influential in showing me the path I was able to walk. I don’t feel confined to that blueprint so much anymore but I definitely use tools from that era still. I’m heavily into Bon Iver and I have pulled from that more recently as far as the vibe of songs I’d like to put out into the world.
Explain your creative process. Do you have a routine?
I have a rough time finding time to write but if I get an instrumental passed to me that motivates me I have a hard time doing anything other than writing. I will write an entire song in one go typically. Sometimes I’ll have a chorus bopping around in me head that I refine multiple times but the verses are usually charging through. When it comes to recording I am notorious for having demos for years that I start off absolutely hating the initial version of then hearing it a year later and recording like six new versions of and fall in love with. I make music very manic.
What is your “studio” setup?
I am not sure this answer will excite you or not. But. I am extremely bare bones. I have an m-audio interface. An iMac. Protools and a AT 4040 mic. I am not a nerd at all when it comes to the studio. I want my recording to be done as soon as I start and cannot stand sitting in the studio. I love the final result of work but I’m a get in there, get it done, get the hell out type of guy. I’m fortunate to work with people like Eric Hunter and Alxndrbrwn whom ARE studio and gear nerds who love finally tuning things. Without their know-how I would not be where I am.
What is your process when working with other people? How is collaboration different in the studio vs working remotely?
I will typically get the music before I write. So that I can format my verses to complement the music. Sometimes the music is in demo form as well so that elements get added to complement the verses and chorus’. When collaborating I always speak visually of where I want the sound to go or what’s hitting me at that moment to inspire me. “I want this song to sound like a fall morning after getting in a fist fight the night before and reflecting on it” and somehow I get a beat back that feels that way to me. We trade notes back and forth on mixes and I try to not be picky as I have a perfectionist’s brain when thinking of polish. When I get a good mix I have a group of people I run the song through to get feedback. Sometimes that will result in us re-recording or rearranging which verse comes first.
At what point(s) are you comfortable letting other people hear what you are working on?
I feel comfortable with letting a close-knit group listen in the very early demo phase. I have a problem with letting the public hear anything without the context of a full album. Which I feel works to my detriment. I am not a wildly prolific artist. I love for songs to have the context of an album and I really don’t like singles. I find them hard to pick because I love all of the songs that make an album. I think that singles in the 2000’s have contributed to the fast-food nature of music. Which absolutely says a lot about my age.
Do you share your work in progress (streams or downloads)? Any technical frustrations?
Sometimes I will sneak on Facebook live and play three songs in a row and then delete the stream fresh after just to get a pulse on a small audience and see the feedback.
How do you know when a track/album is finished?
When I feel like there isn’t anything else I need to say. Or could say. As long as there is a good round sound to the album.
How do you listen to the final mixes/mastered work?
The masters are always sent to me and I will listen to them on studio monitors as loud as it can possibly go around 3 times. Then in the car. Then in headphones.
How important is pre-release security when sharing new work?
To me, it is one of the most important things. I do not want leaks of anything because I love my albums digested as a whole so that the vision is seen as opposed to the corner of a canvas where people fill in the blanks.
Who on your team gets to hear the final versions first and why, what formats do they each need?
Sage Francis is always first in line. He would probably prefer I burnt them on CD for him. One time I sent him WAV‘s and he sent me a long email asking for MP3’s to start. I feel that. Eric Hunter (the guy that produced the bulk of my earlier music and some newer stuff) is also at the forefront. He is brutal with criticism and I absolutely need that. I’m currently working on stuff with Alxndrbrwn and he gets everything before anyone.
Outside of your inner circle who are the people that will need to hear the new tracks next?
Strange Famous Records has a good fan base on Bandcamp. I prefer Spotify. I am fortunate to have a fan base that follows pretty closely and those seem to be their preferred areas to digest. Physical media is king!
Anything you are working on, anyone you are working with and want to share?
Thank you for asking! I am working on some stuff with Alxndrbrwn we are tapped in and I feel it’s the best stuff I’ve worked on as far as my writing style on it. We are making it a seasons themed album. But in a tricky way. 3 songs per season. Morning/afternoon/evening. We are currently thinking of unique ways to bring this out with merch packs that give more feel and spotlight to the album. Alxndrbrwn has been wonderful to work with and is so good at making notes and taking direction while also providing me with direction in a way that feels progressive to the music we are making.