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Zanda Elwood

Artist

My name is Zanda Elwood and I’m a Hip-Hop artist from Melbourne. I’ve been releasing music and kicking up a storm in the underground circuit since 2013. I’ve opened for artists such as Madchild, Obie Trice and TechN9ne. Music is personal to me, but nothing makes it better than sharing it with the world.

Zanda Elwood

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?

I’m based in the South-East of Melbourne, Australia.

How, when and where did you start making music? Are you primarily a musician or a producer, or do something else?

I’ve been around music since the day I was born, my dad bought me my first acoustic guitar when I was about 3 years old. Over the years I played guitar growing up though I continued to be a huge Hip-Hop fan (again, thanks to my dad for that one). When I hit highschool I somewhat made the decision to focus on Hip-Hop/Rap music. I felt that I couldn’t exactly sing like the rockstars I grew up listening to, but I still wanted to make music and be the front man. So primarily I’m a musician/songwriter.

Who would you consider some of your biggest influences when it comes to your “sound”?

Honestly, my sound is really spread out. I don’t like sticking to a certain sound when I make music. My goal is to create my own sound through the inspirations I had growing up. My main influences in Hip-Hop growing up were artists like, Eminem, Notorious B.I.G, 2Pac, Bliss N Eso, The Hilltop Hoods. But as I got older I started to find more artists like, Mac Miller, G-Eazy, Joe Budden, Post Malone, Russ and Jelli Roll. Though I still listen to a different variety of music. I’m still a huge fan of bands like, Guns & Roses, Bon Jovi (again, thanks dad haha), ACDC, Ed Sheeran, Luke Combs, Muse and so on. Honestly I think my songwriting stands out more due to the fact that my variety of listening isn’t restricted to one genre.

Explain your creative process? Do you have a routine?

For me the beat comes first 9 times out of 10. I like to sift through the beats I get sent from producers and see which one speaks to me the most at the current time. The beat has to match the mood I’m in, the beat is honestly one of the most important components in music and a lot of rappers forget that when it comes to selection. Sometimes I’ll write for days, others I’ll write for a couple hours. Though no matter what I’m doing or where I am, I’m always writing notes in my phone of random bars I come up with inside my head. It’s like a curse sometimes because I get lost in my thoughts and don’t always concentrate on conversations because of it. Though I just can’t seem to help myself sometimes – but that’s how I feel the best music is made.

What is your “studio” setup?

I record out of SP Records in Melbourne with my Engineer, SLothy. We’ve been making music together since 2020, but we’ve known each other for about 8 years now. The studio is amazing, I don’t exactly know the gear but whatever you hear that comes out of that studio always sounds professional, has international sound quality and is run by a team of some of Australia’s best. So it’s always a privilege to represent SP.

What is your process when working with other people? How is collaboration different in the studio vs working remotely? 

When I’m doing features, or collabs or anything of the likes it usually works well. If the other artist is from Melbourne and they can get to the studio with me then that’s perfect. Otherwise if they can’t due to being in another city, we simply talk on the phone. I’ll wait for the song to get sent to me, if I’m digging it I’ll jump on the song. It’s extremely rare that you’ll find me in another studio, and it’s also extremely rare to hear me on a song with an artist I don’t exactly mess with. If that makes sense? I did a verse for a kid named Mitch Montano not that long ago – he’s based in Queensland so he recorded his bit from home and sent the stems to SLothy so we could work. The song came out great. Though I always prefer to record a collaboration with that person in the room. Though I don’t write with that person, I just bring what I’ve got ready.

At what point(s) are you comfortable letting other people hear what you are working on?

Back when I was starting out it was mainly my friends who I did show my unreleased stuff to. These days the camp I work with at SP have probably heard 70% of the unreleased stuff I have in the bank. It always depends on the song, there are certain songs that only myself and SLothy have ever heard, as well as the other people that generally come down to the studio while I record. So these days I’m always comfortable to show my unreleased music to people – just depends on the song and who that person is.

Do you share your work in progress (streams or downloads)? Any technical frustrations?

I always like to keep my streams public with my fans, I don’t have any shame sharing that my “latest song cracked 1,000 streams” on Spotify in a couple days. Those numbers aren’t huge, but any success is success, it’s always a WIP but streams aren’t hidden, anyone can check your monthly listeners so why lie? I’m all about progression.

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How do you know when a track/album is finished?

Once SLothy adds his touch in with the mix and master and I’m happy with the vocal recordings we generally bounce the track and leave it. I’ll listen to it for a few days and see if there’s anything I need to change or re-record. But generally speaking, I tend to write songs, record them and stack them away. Some get saved for future releases like albums or EPs and some get stacked away as singles that will be coming out over time. I know the track is finished when myself and SLothy are happy with how it came out. Transparency is important, so if SLothy isn’t digging it, or I’m not digging something he’s done to the mix, we always tell the other. That’s how we always ensure the best work and know that the songs finished, because we’re both happy for it to be released in the future and have both our names on the work.

How do you listen to the final mixes/mastered work?

I listen to all my final mixes and mastered work firstly at the studio, at the end of the session when the tracks are emailed to me, I’ll play them for a couple days while I drive or through headphones while I’m out and about.

How important is pre-release security when sharing new work?

I haven’t had any horror stories yet (thank god) but I’m always careful when I share work, usually you’ll only hear it from my phone or if we’re in the studio we’ll open up my session folder. Otherwise no one has any of my unreleased work unless they are a part of the team that works alongside me.

Who on your team gets to hear the final versions first and why, what formats do they each need?

Excluding myself and SLothy, the people that hear any final versions of a song before it’s released are a select few. My live drummer Lil Gerbz has a stack of my unreleased work, though he needs it in order to create the live drums for when we play shows. But in reality I show my partner first,  she’s always honest with me and tells me if the song is a bop or not. Due to her not being a musician her opinion is always taken on board. I want the outside listener to enjoy what I’m making. Other people include my videographer ZacoBro, Matthew Craig and Frank Tremain at AUD$ and a very few selection of friends. Anyone who gets sent one of my unreleased songs always gets it in WAV format.

Outside of your inner circle who are the people that will need to hear the new tracks next?

Whoever makes sense to hear them, whether that’s a friend that isn’t exactly in my music circle or it could be industry people that we work with.

Anything you are working on, anyone you are working with and want to share?

Right now I’m working on a range of single releases for 2022, I want to showcase the different styles I have behind the mic and show people that I’m just as diverse as the next artist. But secretly, between us? I’m working on my debut album slowly too.