Interview with Shierro

Interviews, Music
Photo credit: Shierro

by Monica Ng

Look out for continuous new releases!

The perfect storm…

I forget now if came across the song Quiet Storm while creating a reel on Instagram or if I discovered it through a Spotify shuffle. No matter, I’ll always check out the profile of the artist on socials and check out the rest of their music after I discover a song I love. Shierro (and his aliases) has such a big collection of beautiful songs to enjoy – whether you are just chilling or wanting to pump up your day with some positive vibes.

Contact

Instagram: @shierro_beats
Facebook: @shierrobeats

Music

Shierro’s self-described music genre: “Lofi Hip Hop, “Jazz Hop” and “Chill Beats” includes too many tracks to name. A few recent tracks include: No Worries (Shierro), When I Close My Eyes (Shierro x Yestalgia), Digital Sunshine (Shierro x Yestalgia), Changes (Eaup x Shierro), and Garden of Dreams (Yestalgia x Lawrence Walther x Shierro).

Check out the Spotify links below for quick access to his music:

Shierro
This is Shierro
Shierro Discography

Photo credit: Shierro

About

Based in the Netherlands, Shierro is a beatmaker and producer. He’s constantly experimenting with new sounds and pumping out individually produced and collaborative tunes.

Interview

Me: Hey Shierro! It’s so cool to have this opportunity to interview a musician with millions of streams across music platforms. I was looking for good chill/lounge music for a long time, but I couldn’t find anything that I could listen to for hours until I came across your music.  The nice thing too, is that you do a lot of collaboration work – so there’s always a fresh different sound. BTW – love your self-promo hoodie in the picture above!  How did you get into producing your own music and what’s your favourite part about collaboration work?

Shierro: Hi there! Thank you for having me here. As for the first question, I started producing music in the late 90s, which was more dance-oriented, to be more specific – I was producing hardcore house, which was a huge musical genre in the Netherlands and even evolved into a unique subculture which I could best describe as the ‘gabber scene’, which I was part of, so making music in that style was an obvious choice back then. To take little step back, when hanging out with friends, someone introduced me to making music on the computer. I gave it a try and I was hooked right away. Unfortunately, the internet wasn’t that big at the time and there were no tutorials online about how to do things like we have nowadays, so I just dived in and learned along the way. Getting my music out there was also a bit of a struggle, as I had to burn CDs with my demo tracks and send those to labels, hoping I wrote down the right address and wondering if I would hear from them ever again. There was no social media, there were no streaming platforms or any other places to showcase your music like nowadays. It was a tiresome and uncertain process and after a few years I just lost interest making music – the producing part of making music mainly, as I picked up the guitar as a hobby. Then a few years back, my nephew Roelo (artist) asked me about the music program I used for making my music back in the day, and asked me if I could help him getting started making some beats.  I booted up the program and the spark was ignited again and I haven’t looked back since. 

About my favorite part working with other artists, well, for starters, I am really good at starting new musical projects, but I am terrible at finishing songs, so having someone working on the track with fresh ears and new vision is amazing. Blending styles and make something happening is just an awesome thing. I also learn a lot from the other artists as well in the process, and it is just cool to meet like-minded people and build a connection with them.

Me: It’s cool that Roelo is into beat making as well. I see that Momentum is a collab between you guys and you have other ones too. I recently discovered and just interviewed Canadian musician Nathaniel Sutton. When I listened to his instrumental music (produced under Defend the Rhino) I thought of you and how amazing it would be if you guys did a collab – hint, hint…

You produce music under different aliases such as Kid Kio and Moon Ghetto. Are you trying to achieve something in particular by doing so and what differentiates your projects?

Shierro: Releasing under different aliases gives me room to experiment with different styles and also more opportunities to release music. Shierro is my main alias and tracks released through that range from more poppy and jazzy upbeat lofi to more dark, ambient and experimental. These tracks are more produced and detailed. I think the Shierro tracks have a more distinct sound – at least that is what people tend to say. Kid Kio releases are your more traditional cozy and dreamy lofi hip hop, and as Moon Ghetto I release more soul influenced and jazz hop kind of beats.

Me: All of your music is great. For me, which song I listen to depends on my mood. I really like the artwork and animation clips for your music on your socials.  I don’t see any credits for them, so wondering if you are the digital artist?

Shierro: Haha, no. Most animation clips are provided by the labels, so I just post them.

Me: Well that clarifies that! I’ve used so many of your tunes in my IG reels and stories. I love the organic feel and vibe of your music. What inspires your music?

Shierro: That’s a difficult question for me to answer, but mostly when starting a new musical project I have a particular mood in mind. Sometimes I want to make something upbeat and jazzy, and sometimes I just want to make something more complex, melancholic and nuanced. I want people to feel something when they listen to my music. That is something that really inspires me and keeps me going.

Me: You are definitely successful at creating moods. I don’t fully understand how music is produced. Do you start with a particular instrument sound in your mind and build on that? Can you briefly describe the process?

Shierro: Every artist has their own way of starting a new song, but what works for me most of the time, is to start with a chord progression, setting a stage and build everything around that. Then come the countermelodies, effects, arrangements, bass, percussion and so on. I approach making music like painting a picture, visualizing the progress and the story as I go. It is a bit hard to explain, but I hope this makes sense, haha.  

Me: It makes total sense. What I love about life is that there’s always something new to learn. I’ve heard of chill and jazz music, but what exactly is lofi?

Shierro: ‘Lofi’ comes from the term “lo-fi”, which comes from “Low Fidelity”. When making Lofi Hip Hop, the quality of the sounds are lower than the usual contemporary standards, making it sound warmer, more vintage and more organic. And this is the aesthetic we want to create when making lofi beats. It just gives this more cozy, warm and chill feeling.

Me: Very cool. On September 11, 2021, you posted that Quiet Storm hit ten million streams on Spotify. Congratulations! It’s one my favourite songs so far. I listen to Disconnect, Weightless and Wintersun (Kid Kio/Majko) a lot and play your music at work in the background. Forget traditional elevator music! What thoughts go through your mind when your music is reaching so many ears?

Shierro: Thank you. Well, Quiet Storm surpassed 20 million streams, which are crazy, crazy numbers.
It is really hard to describe the feeling, knowing so many people listen to your music. It is just so surreal! To be honest, when I take a peek at my streaming numbers, I mostly just sit and stare at my screen thinking “This can’t be real.” It really excites me and motivates me even more to keep making music.

Me: Wow…20 million – that’s absolutely fantastic! You aren’t only a super-talented musician/producer, you’re really nice too.  I was surprised to get a response back from you on my comment about buying your track When I Close My Eyes. You wrote “Really? I just could send you the track for free, haha. Although, I appreciate it very much!” I write about this a lot, but meeting genuine and positive people around this world makes me happy. It feels good to know that kindness still exists.  On that note  – fill in the blank: “If everyone _____________, the world would be a better place.”

Shierro:  I wouldn’t say I am a super-talented musician/producer at all, haha. When I think of someone super-talented, I think of someone who does something with ease, without even trying. As for me, well, I still struggle sometimes working on my music and have so called ‘beat blocks’, but this also keeps me motivated to keep learning new things, think outside the box, see progression and move forward, but thank you for saying that.

For filling in the blank….”If everyone was less ignorant and more understanding, the world would be a better place.” It sounds a bit pretentious, but you never really know what is going on in someone’s life, and what personal battle they are fighting at the moment.

 Me: …and modest too! So true that we don’t know what’s going on with people, yet people are quick to judge others.

Here in Canada, our local independent music doesn’t get much, if any, airtime on radio stations. I stopped listening to the radio a long time ago because they always play the same old songs. I’m so proud of musicians for the music they create for the world. Seriously, our world would be so quiet without music like yours. I feel that it’s my life mission to share amazing music. Do radio stations in the Netherlands support local independent music? Also, what are some of the challenges that you face when promoting your music?

Shierro: Well, I guess it is the same over here. Music is mostly looked at as a business, rather than art and the big radio stations ‘force feed’ the music you have to listen too, which is mostly pop music and the same old songs on rotation.

Promoting music as an independent artist is really hard. Things to ask yourself (especially when just starting out) are: Where do I even begin? What should I expect? What should I pay for promotion and what services can and should I use? Should I even pay for promotion? How do I get on big playlists? What labels could be interested in my music and what labels are best to be avoided? And the list goes on. It can be a very humbling, intimidating, uncertain, exhausting, soul crushing and sometimes expensive experience to even get your music out there and build some good momentum. I am very, very, very lucky that I’ve found some solid music labels that are willing to release my music, so they take care of the promotion for me, and I can just focus on making music. But yeah, before that happened, promoting my music was a big struggle and challenge. Knowing a lot of amazing indie artists who are still in this phase of getting their music out there and struggling, makes me feel a bit bad. If you’re an artist going through this, my major tip would be building a solid network of like-minded artists can really help you create more opportunities for your music to get exposure. Don’t think you have to do it alone.  I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for all the amazing people I’ve met along the way.

Me: That’s a great tip for other artists. I love discovering new musicians through my get-to-know-you question – if you had to pick only three, who are your favourite musicians or greatest musical influences?

Shierro: Kurt Cobain, as listening to Nirvana songs made me pick up the guitar, which helped me learn music theory. There are a lot of 90s hip hop artists I love, but picking just one, in this case hip hop group, I will go for Wu-Tang Clan, as I really love those dusty and grimy 90s boom bap hip hop beats. You can hear their influence in a lot of my music. Last, but not least, my nephew Roelo, because he is the reason I fell in love with producing music again. Maybe not the answer you were looking for, but in some way this makes him one of my favorite artists…and of course he is my nephew, so hey….

I have a lot of favorite artists and that list is growing as time passes by, and my musical taste is all over the place, but for the sake of only picking 3, I will go with these.

Me: Fan Uncle…That’s awesome! In your interview with Music Authentic, you said “I think my music is better enjoyed when being alone and in your own comfort zone, not in a setting where there is a lot of energy and other things going on.” With this seemingly endless pandemic, what do you do to de-stress and find your peace?

Shierro: Sitting in the studio and making music is one of my favorite things to do. It helps me close off from the rest of the world and create my own little bubble. This is very de-stressing. Also, I love gaming. I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore gamer, but when I find a cool game, I can be lost in playing it for hours on end. Hearing myself say that out loud, makes me realize I need to go outside a bit more and touch some grass, haha.  

Me: Too funny…yes, a world exists outside of gaming. It’s fantastic that you’re constantly releasing new songs. I especially love it when you release a new tune on Fridays – it’s such a great way to end the week on a positive vibe! What projects are in the works?

Shierro: There are a lot of projects in the works as we speak. I am working on solo material for all my aliases, but also have some cool collaborations going on with artists like: Azido 88, Ale Fillman, Yestalgia, eaup, Loraina Kenyon, Majko, Roelo, Monocloud, Lawrence Walther, Bequem, 7&Nine, KO WIN, Elijah the Alchemist, Jam’addict, Fred Paci, to name a few. 

Me: Exciting! Lots to look forward to. This has been fun and it’s been great getting to know you. I know you’ve been super-busy producing music so I really appreciate your time and enthusiasm for this interview. Everyone, you know the drill: check out Shierro’s music – stream, buy, whatever…and don’t forget to give him a follow on socials. Our world needs music.

Shierro, is there anything that you would like to share?

Shierro: Thank you for having me here. I want to say, I am really thankful for everyone who is listening to and supporting my music. I really, really, really appreciate that. So thank you all for your support and positive vibes!

–End—

Here are some videos to check out!

Nathaniel Sutton

Interview with Nathaniel Sutton of Defend the Rhino

canadian music, Interviews
Nathaniel Sutton
All photo credits: Brandynnleigh Photography

by Monica Ng

Nature calls…

I came across Defend the Rhino thanks to a follow by Cups N Cakes.  Cups N Cakes (IG: @cupsncakesnet) is a volunteer run promoter of Canadian indie music. I’m huge on Canadian music and nature, so when I saw the drone footage of a beautiful landscape with incredible ambient music on Cups’ post, I took a listen to the song and was instantly hooked. I write this a lot, but I get so excited when there are many songs that I like from the same artist. It’s very satisfying to be able to dig deep and delve into their entire discography.

Contact

Instagram: @defendtherhino
Facebook: @defendtherhino
Twitter: @defendtherhino
Bandcamp
www.nathanielsutton.com

Music

Make Do (2022) – Album
A+ (2021) – Album
Wing It (2020) – Album
Glisten (2019) – Album
Fabricated (2018) – Album
Static Breeze (2017) – Album
There’s No Place Like Home (2016) – Album

Nathaniel Sutton
Photo credit: Brandynnleigh Photography

About 

Nathaniel is composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer based in Edmonton, Alberta. He produces music under his own name, but created Defend the Rhino for his ambient and cinematic music. Nathaniel is passionate about scoring music for films and videos and embraces opportunities for the creative process.

Interview

Me: Hey Nathaniel! It’s always an honour to interview musicians whose work I’m a huge fan of. You record music under your own name – which based on my listen is alternative with lyrics. My favourite songs produced under your name are Perfect Time and Wing Tech 3000. What motivated you to produce music as Defend the Rhino?

Nathaniel: Hi Monica! I appreciate the love! I originally began writing music under my own name, using a portable digital recording studio (a MRS 1608 16-Track Digital Recording Studio to be exact) and it produced very lo-fi recordings onto CD, but helped me create my first recordings as a musician. I started writing music based on indie-rock influences such as Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie. As time progressed, I discovered more artists and my list of influences grew. I started to really get into instrumental post-rock artists, one of those being a band in the UK called, Mogwai. Once I discovered Mogwai, I bought their whole discography. I knew that I’d love to attempt to make music like that someday.

Defend The Rhino was born this way, I pieced together instrumental melodies and riffs that I just loved, and built onto those sounds using drums, bass and even synth. Using this method, There’s No Place Like Home became my first release and Mint 400 Records helped me release it, which was a wonderful experience.

Me: It’s great to hear how your project started. I checked out Mogwai and can definitely hear their influence on a few of your songs. I recently sent off my interview questions to Shierro – a super-talented beatmaker/music producer from the Netherlands. I told you that you guys should do a collaboration piece.  That would be wicked! Have you done or plan to do any collaborations?

Nathaniel: Actually, yes! So, after releasing my second album Static Breeze with Mint 400 Records, the label asked if I’d be interested in having some of their artists provide vocals for some songs that I produce. At that time, I had four unreleased songs that I wrote but they didn’t make it onto any albums. I thought this would be a great way to collaborate with artists on the roster. And so Fabricated became a collaboration, featuring Fairmont, Tiegan, Young Legs and aBIRD. It was such a fun experience and I would absolutely do more collaborations down the road. I follow Shierro now, he’s on my radar for sure!

Me: I’ll have to take another listen to Fabricated now that you mention the collabs and looking forward to collab work between you and Shierro.

I’ve danced alone in the forest so many times to Bucket List. There’s something so invigorating, happy and hopeful about that tune. You said that it’s your favourite song as well. I love that so many moods are expressed through your music, but I’m especially fascinated by the organic feel. I’ve used so many of your tracks in my IG reels and stories and I haven’t run out of songs yet.  What inspires your music?

Nathaniel: Haha, yes! I thank you for using my music on your reels and stories. Bucket List is definitely one I’m proud of, just the way it builds up and explodes at the end. I love those kinds of songs. Actually, Mogwai is a lot like that, they’re a huge inspiration to me (have you noticed!? Haha). Other inspirations include a great soundtrack to a film. It’s my opinion that a great soundtrack can make even a mediocre film look amazing. One of my favourite movies of all time is Big Fish, the movie itself is just a nice and wholesome flick but the soundtrack makes it so much better. Danny Elfman and Nick Ingman worked together on that one. I love it.

Me: I do sense that Mogwai is a source of your inspiration lol. The first thing that I thought of when I saw your name were the poor rhinos being poached for their horns.  Then I saw one of your posts about Sedan, a rhino who had died.  How did you decide on Defend the Rhino as the name for your project and how does it tie in with your music?

Nathaniel: Yes, it’s so tragic. At the time when I was deciding on a name for this project, they had guards protecting the last male Northern White Rhino, Sedan, it broke my heart.

When I began this project, it was nameless. I decided to solely work on the music and the name would just come naturally. After I had finished There’s No Place Like Home, I started listening to the completed tracks on a consistent basis. I attempted to picture myself in different scenarios along with the music, I would close my eyes and see where the music took me. It wasn’t until I heard about the last Northern White Rhino being protected by an armed guard 24/7 in Kenya that my mind started to become visual with the music. I would envision myself as a soldier, defeating poachers and saving the rhinos. It was like a movie in my head along with the music. That is how the name Defend The Rhino stuck with me.

Me: That’s a pretty intense and dark visual of you as a soldier and I get the chills when you mention the 24/7 armed guard. It’s depressing that they had to resort to full time protection for an animal’s survival. That speaks volumes about the destructive nature of the human race. When will the destruction end?

You posted that your music starts with an idea, but it boggles my mind that these beautifully layered and rich songs can be created from a few plucks on your guitar or bass or by pressing down a few keys on the piano.  I can’t play instruments so it fascinates me how this can happen.  As a multi-instrumentalist, what instruments do you play, what goes through your mind as you put together a piece and what is the creative process involved?

Nathaniel: My main instrument is guitar but I dabble in many instruments, such as bass, piano, drums. I just know what I like and the music that I want to make, so these are my tools to do so. It’s hard to explain the creative process but it really does usually just start with an idea. Maybe it’s just a simple melody that loops throughout a song or maybe it’s drum pattern that a bass riff would be perfect for. It really all depends and the outcome can be amazing, or go nowhere – there is no in-between, haha.

Me: I love how musicians can put melodies together in their heads. I guess it’s similar to when I write – a word or thought will enter my mind and it has potential to spin quickly into a story.

It’s amazing that your score music for films and videos.  BTW – anyone looking for music for your projects or films, Nathaniel is your guy.

Nathaniel, I challenge you to a new piece about the pandemic. While you’re working on it, tell us…if you had to score a song about the pandemic state of the world, in words, what sounds/feel would you imagine?

Nathaniel: Oh gosh, yeah it would be a somber song for sure, with a slow tempo, lots of reverb and probably some gentle orchestral strings in there. I can almost hear it.

Me: I’m looking forward to listening to the piece. I have such a strong connection to Canadian music. Most of what I listen to is Canadian. What does the music scene like in Edmonton and what challenges do you face getting your music out there?

Nathaniel: I’ve been heavily involved with the Edmonton music scene for a long time in various ways and I can say that it is very welcoming to almost any genre of music. Got a punk band? There’s a place for it. Got a blues band? There’s a place for it. Got an experimental noise band? Yeah, there’s a place for that too.

I think the main challenge to be faced here (which is not really any different than anywhere else) is just getting your music heard. Especially with so much competition out there, it can be difficult to stand out, but I think that’s a challenge worth accepting and figuring out how you can make yourself known.

Me: For sure challenges can be seen as a good thing if you can accept it. Your pages are very interesting. I love the Fisher Price tape player video clip on your IG page @nathanielsuttonmusic. It’s amazing that the tape recorder can still play. Quality is definitely a thing of the past! Because the tune on that post caught my interest, I asked you for the song title and you said that it doesn’t have one yet. What are your plans for releasing gems like these?

Nathaniel: I’ve been really getting into tape recording lately, there’s something nostalgic about hearing that hiss that comes with recording and playback of cassette tapes, much like the subtle crackles you hear on vinyl. So, I found an old Tascam MF-P01 tape recorder on Kijiji and have been messing around with tape loops and recordings. I have more in the works. I’m not sure what my official plan is yet for these recordings but I enjoy making them and will hopefully release them all as a collective down the road, just for you Monica! Haha.

Me: That is too absolutely sweet! I will definitely buy the collection if you release it. And if you don’t, I am open to you sharing your music file with me. I love your mini mic singing post on @nathanielsuttonmusic too, and you have a tiny music piano cranking out creepy tunes. Where do you find all the interesting props shown on your page?!

Nathaniel: Thrift shops! I find a lot of cool things going to the thrift shop. That’s where I found that creepy toy piano, I’ve also found old shoebox recorders that you’ll soon see on my @nathanielsuttonmusic page. I’m always working on something behind the scenes.

Me: I can picture a mini band with all of your tiny instruments lol. Looks like you have a lot of nature-related tattoos on your wrists. I love tattoos. What are they symbolic of?

Nathaniel: Yes, I’d like to get a sleeve eventually but tattoos are so expensive! My right wrist is trees and mountains which represents land and my left wrist is ocean waves which represents water. So, behold! Land and water, I just thought it was “cool” Haha.

Me: I agree that tattoos can get expensive – especially having a detailed sleeve. Ok, now my mandatory get-to-know-you question – who are top three favourite musicians or greatest musical influences?

Nathaniel: Well, one artist that I’ve been mentioning throughout this interview is Mogwai, so they’re definitely on the top three list. Another long-time favourite band of mine is Pinback, they’re packed-full of melodies and inspired a lot of my earlier music. Kurt Vile would make this list too, I’ve been listening to his latest album “(watch my moves)” on repeat. I really dig his style and find his unconventional vocal style – so soothing, weirdly enough.

Me: I’m listening to (watch my moves) as I’m writing – wonder why Kurt put “watch my moves” in parentheses. Upon a quick listen of this album – I agree that he has unconventional vocals and style.

In my opinion, there’s nothing like live music. Not sure how it would work with your instrumental music, but as yourself (haha, that sounds weird and I can’t figure out how to word it properly, but you know what I mean!) – do you have any plans to play live?

Nathaniel: If you look at the cover photo of my album Wing It, that’s actually a photo of me performing my first time live as Defend The Rhino. I performed instrumental music while Nisha Patel read her poetry and it was a really neat experience. When I played live, it wasn’t music from any albums, it was improvisational-based guitar riffs and loops. That’s the way I’d have to do it live unless I ever got a band together to play music from my albums live, but I don’t foresee this happening as I have been putting more effort into composing music for visual media these days.

I do agree though, live music is a much different experience than just listening to a recorded album. It’s something I look forward to getting to do again, going to see live shows after two years of being deprived, due to the pandemic.

Me: I’ll let you know in advance when I visit Edmonton so you have time to arrange a show for me.  I will be there. I’m so happy to have discovered your music and thrilled to have a chance to chat with you. Thank you so much for your time and enthusiasm. Everyone, you know the drill – stream and buy music, buy merch, follow on socials…and MOST important, be generous and share music with everyone! I’m a musical sponge too, so keep sharing music with me.

Nathaniel, is there anything else that you would like to share?

Nathaniel: To be honest, my latest release Make Do will be my last release as Defend The Rhino (for now, or perhaps indefinitely). I’ve been really focused on building a brand, under my own name, composing music for film/visual media, and I want that to be my main focus for the foreseeable future. I’ll still be releasing albums/music but it will be under my own name, rather than an alias. I’m so thankful for people like you, Monica, @cupsncakesnet and for the labels that helped me get my music out there. Most recently Shady Ridge Records, who have been such a huge help in reaching a new audience. A few cassettes/CD’s are still available through www.defendtherhino.bandcamp.com

In the meantime, you can follow me on my social media pages:

Facebook: @nathanielsuttonmusic

Instagram: @nathanielsuttonmusic

Twitter: @nathanielsutton

YouTube: www.youtube.com/nathanielsuttonmusic

Me: While wrapping up this interview, I bought one of your last Make Do CDs. It will be a collectors album now that you mentioned it may be the last from Defend the Rhino. I’m sad to hear this, but I wish you the best in your future endeavours!

–End–

Here are a few videos to enjoy from Defend the Rhino and Nathaniel Sutton:

Interview with Spain’s Jacqueline Loor

Interviews, Music
Photo credit: Hector Socorro

By Monica Ng

Jacqueline’s Debut Album “Show Them” comes out Friday October 1, 2021!

Pre-save or buy her digital album by clicking here: https://ffm.to/jacquelineloor_showthem

Finding of a gem

I know – this is my third non-Canadian musician interview. What’s going on? Well, my heart was brimming with raw emotion listening to Jacqueline’s music – I just had to share it with you. Social media is a fascinating thing. A bit of backstory how I discovered her – a while back I clicked on The Moon & I’s sponsored Instagram link which led to an interview with Eric Nguyen of The Moon & I, who’s from my hometown Montreal. I’m always looking for new music and curious what others listen to, so I admit that I checked out a few musicians from Eric’s page. And lucky that I did!

Contact

Instagram: @jacquelineloormusic

Facebook: jloormusic

www.jacquelineloor.com

Music  

Alternative pop

Burn it Down – single (2021) – placed in CW’s television show Batwoman

Carry Through – single (2021)

I Broke My Heart – single (2021)

Find Your Way – single (2020) will be on a Christmas Film “Magic in Mount Holly” on November 1st on Pureflix

Just a Memory – single (2020)

If I Could Go Back – single (2020)

Just Let Me Breathe – single (2020)

Don’t You Pretend – Album (2020): Don’t You Pretend, It’s Not on Me, Coming Undone and Coming Undone (Semblance Remix)

Deshacer (Spanish version of Coming Undone) – single (2020)

About

Jacqueline is a singer, songwriter, guitar and piano player from Miami, Florida. According to Jacqueline, she moved to Spain because “That’s where my family is from. My grandfather is from Tenerife, Spain. He moved to Cuba as an adult where my mother was born. My mother had to escape Cuba when she was 4 years old when Fidel Castro took everything away from her family. She went to Tenerife a few years ago on vacation and felt she belonged there. As soon as she said she was moving, I knew I would follow her wherever she would go. The island is really special and it’s where I found the courage to pursue my true passion – songwriting. I didn’t even know I could sing until I happened to bump into a music school here in Tenerife, and decided to take some lessons. I was 36 at the time and even though I’ve always wanted to sing, I thought I couldn’t. As soon as I started to learn what my instrument could do, I worked crazy hard everyday to train my voice, and one door after another started opening up. It was as if the universe was saying, “Yes”! I find peace and inspiration for my music on this island.”

In her spare time, Jacqueline enjoys experimenting with music production. Her enthusiam translates into everything she does, “I am diving more into music production with the help of my incredible female mentor, Kris Bradley. I always thought I couldn’t produce music, but one of the tracks on my album I actually produced, “I Broke My Heart”. It’s just the beginning for my production career!”

Jacqueline Loor
Photo credit: Hector Socorro

Interview

Me: Jacqueline, I’m so happy you agreed to this interview. I’m grateful for this opportunity to chat with you. You’re incredibly multi-talented, open and enthusiastic. I mentioned that your spirit reminds me of Canadian musician AARYS. Your soulful and expressive voice has already made its way into my bones and gives me the chills – in a good way of course.

I’m hooked on If I Could Go Back and Find Your Way. I love the progression of the music in If I Could Go Back leading up to the powerful upbeat chorus – it’s like all of our inner struggles disappear and we are strong and resilient against the odds. Your voice in some of your songs is both haunting and uplifting at the same time. Find Your Way is one of those fun songs where you kick off your shoes, lift your arms up to the sky and dance – and the kind of song you play full blast while hanging out with girlfriends. 

Congratulations – Burn it Down was placed in CW’s television show Batwoman.  Well done – I love it…what a gorgeous dark cinematic song.  You’re on a roll – this is the third song you’ve released this year.  I Broke My Heart and Carry Through are your other two new releases. You are on fire! Since I wrote up this interview, you released even more songs and you’re about to launch your first album. Congratulations on that as well.

You mentioned that I Broke My Heart is your first self-produced song – how long did it take you to produce the song, and can you describe your learning experience along the way? 

Jacqueline: It took me about two months to produce. I took Kris Bradley’s course “Produce Like a Boss – Voice Memo to Demo” and after doing one track that may never see the light of day, I decided to produce a song I wrote, “I Broke My Heart”. My other female mentor, Shelly Mcerlaine who guided me while I was in The Songwriting Academy really pushed me to produce this track. These two female mentors have pushed me out of my own way and made me realize that I CAN produce music if I put my mind to it. 

Me: That’s so inspiring! I completely agree that often it’s thinking that we can’t do something that holds us back. Once we set our mind to something, who knows what can be accomplished? When did you learn to play the piano and guitar?

Jacqueline: I learned to play guitar at 18, and piano I just started teaching myself a year ago! I always wrote poetry since I was a little girl chasing after dumb boys! LOL! Reading and writing have been a huge part of my life and that came in handy when it came to songwriting.

Me: Impressive and great visual about a girl chasing boys…haha. I really admire musicians. I can’t play instruments or sing, so my musical career was over before it began. But I’ve always loved listening to music. What was your “defining” moment when you knew that you would become a musician?  

Jacqueline: I was playing one of my songs to my friend here in Tenerife and he said, “Why don’t you have any of these beautiful songs on Spotify?” That’s when I said, “Yeah, why don’t I?” As soon as I had that idea, I was a freight train on a mission and dedicated so much energy and time to music and honing my craft.

Me: I love it – a freight train on a mission. I have those moments too, when I know there’s something I want and I go for it. You sing so beautifully in English and Spanish. What inspires your music?  

Jacqueline: My identical twin has been my Muse. I adore her and so much of who I am is because of her. She has had a tough journey in life and I’ve always tried to help her along the way. Sometimes or often times she doesn’t like to listen to me so I decided to write songs about it! I also realized that I’ve been in similar tough relationships and had to find the strength to get out. I’m hoping my music helps other people find their strength.

Me: A sibling who doesn’t listen? Unheard of, lol. Your songs are very inspirational. If I Could Go Back gave me a lot of strength at the time I needed it. I love the lyrics “lessons I have learned/take them with me/where I go I know I’ll be ok…If I could go back/I would have walked out that door…”

Based on my previous music interviews, I know that musicians have been hit hard during this COVID-19 pandemic. But some of them brought up a few positive things that came out of it – they had a chance to develop their social media presence and more time to produce new music or experiment with music production/styles. What were you doing just before the first lockdown?

Jacqueline: I had just moved back to Miami for a year to help out with some family matters, and in that time I formed a band! I always dreamt of being in a band so when I was playing an open mic one night in South Miami, a guy, Gio, came up to me and said he wanted to be my drummer. I thought he was crazy but I said, “Yes!” Where there is a will there is a way Monica, and we had a band in no time. We were playing all over Miami, and having such a good time doing it! I played at some great local music venues there like Bar Nancy which I truly love, and Churchill’s which is where I used to go to when I was a kid to watch bands play. Las Rosas is also another spot I love, and it was the last show we played right when lockdown happened.

Me: What a great story of the impromtu formation of your band! You must know this question is coming…what is it like to have a twin sister and what’s the most mischievous “swap” that you ever did?

Jacqueline: Lol! Yeah, of course I knew this one was coming! We’ve done a ton of mischievous things growing up. My favorite is the first one. I was in kindergarten and of course I was the more daring one and came up with the idea to switch. My twin definitely did not want to do it but I talked her into it. We were crazy identical at the time, and the teacher had us in assigned seats with our names taped onto the desk, and we even sat on the other side of the room from each other. The teacher asked a question, and I raised my hand at which point she calls on me and calls me Caroline. I am blown away at that moment realizing this all has worked. Then the teacher asked another question and when my twin raises her hand, the teacher says, “Yes Jacqueline,” my twin started crying and says, “I’m not Jacqueline, I’m Caroline!” The teacher infuriated and staring at me screams, “What, that means you’re JACQUELINE?!” I respond calmly, “I don’t know what she’s talking about, I’m not Jacqueline, I’m Caroline.” LOL! 

Me: Too funny, but I feel bad for Caroline. Don’t hold back Jacqueline – tell us more about your song Show Them and new album.

Jacqueline:  Show Them is a song I wrote on my own. It was meant to empower people to be who they are. I feel one of the best things I have learned in life is to be who I truly am, instead of who I’m “supposed to be”. I hope this song empowers people to be true to themselves – a message I always try to give my two girls. I even had them sing on the chorus, which really meant the world to me because so much of what I do is for them. I want the album to leave people inspired. I hope it gives them strength to accept what’s going on, not pretend it’s something it’s not and realize they have the strength to get out of it…and at the end of it, realize that they’re amazing just the way they are.

Me: Girl power and self-empowerment are definitely conveyed in your music. Self-love is so important and I think that too many people have self-doubt and don’t love themselves enough. I really look forward to more music from you. The world needs to “feel” and release raw emotion rather than keep feelings bottled up. I have your album pre-saved already. Everyone – add Jacqueline’s music to your music collection and let her voice and lyrics propel you into believing in yourself and loving yourself first. And as usual, remember…following people on socials is FREE! Give Jacqueline a follow. Jacqueline, is there anything else that you wish to add?

Jacqueline: I just filmed the music video for “Show Them” in the forest here in Tenerife. I’m super excited about it because the song is a female empowerment track and I had both my daughters in it along with their closest girlfriends. It was definitely a day I think all of us will never forget 🙂

—End—

Here are some videos:

Interview with Canadian band: Phantom Atlantic

canadian music, Interviews
Photo Credit: Kelsi Gayda, 400 LUX Club

By Monica Ng

It’s my lucky day – I get to interview not 1, 2 or 3 – but FOUR handsome and very talented musicians forming one band called Phantom Atlantic. I’m constantly blown away by the high caliber of Canadian music and so proud of all my local Torontonian bands, including this one.

What a find! I must thank my favourite band, Stuck on Planet Earth, for recommending Phantom Atlantic in one of their IG stories.

Contact

IG: @phantomatlantic

FB: Phantom Atlantic

www.phantomatlantic.com

About 

This four-piece band is made up of Kyle Brunet (lead singer/guitar), Ryan Stam (guitar/keys/backing vocals), Jeff Burling (bass) and Ken Grisé (drums/backing vocals). Its members, from different areas of Ontario joined in Toronto with a common desire to create music. This self-defined “cinematic alt rock band” has been part of Toronto’s music scene since 2017 and is now rocking the world with their latest EP, Your View of a Former Me.

Phantom Atlantic
Photo Credit: Kelsi Gayda, 400 LUX Club

Their Music

Your View of a Former Me (EP) -2021:  No Way to Live, Start from Nothing, Chrysalis (Interlude), Man Like You and Heart out of Heaven.

Lessons (single) – 2018

Beneath your Moment (single) – 2018

Interview

Me: How’s it going guys? Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedules for this interview – especially since you guys have day jobs as well. Congratulations on the release of “Your View of a Former Me” EP!  Honestly, I love everything about you guys – your style, music and videos. I can’t get enough of your songs, Start from Nothing, Heart out of Heaven and Beneath your Moment. Kyle, damn…your vocals are…absolutely beautiful. You can sing to me any day. How are you guys feeling after the release of your album and how long did it take you to put it together?

PA: Thank you so much! It’s feeling really good to know that ‘Your View of a Former Me’ is out there in the wild, and even better seeing how well it’s being received by fans, old and new.  In hindsight it probably took us too long to make the thing, just over 9 months, but it was at a point where we all felt a strong desire to step up our songwriting. We actually finished production on it just before the pandemic and at the time we were beginning to plan what the release would look like.  Well, when the masters arrived, the lockdown hit the same week and instead of releasing it we decided to hit the pause button and regroup for a minute…so here we are! 

Me: I can appreciate that choosing a unique, yet descriptive band name would be difficult.  What’s the story behind Phantom Atlantic and can you briefly describe what “cinematic alt rock” is?

PA: Haha, difficult is an understatement.  I think we have an Evernote file somewhere with over 300 names on it, some of them pretty ridiculous.  Phantom Atlantic came about from one of our long winded philosophical conversations that we love having, but beyond that we kind of like to leave it as a blank slate for people.  As for the cinematic angle, we come from a film background so movies are big sources of inspiration for us in a bunch of different ways. In our songwriting specifically, we’re really drawn to blending more traditional alt rock elements with the ambient textures, atmospheres and soundscapes you’d find in a lot of modern film scores. Some people would correctly call that a post-rock influence, but since that term is often associated with instrumental bands and we’re not that, we like to go with “cinematic alt rock.”

Me: Interesting about your name – I like it…a blank slate for one’s imagination. But somehow, I feel compelled to take a stab at it… Atlantic makes sense because in Ontario we are closer to the Atlantic Ocean than the Pacific Ocean. Phantom – maybe it represents the shadow (dark side) hanging over each of us that comes and goes silently throughout our lives. But as much as we may hate our “phantom”, we need to learn to deal with it because it’s really just an extension of ourselves. On another note, I love the dramatic effects that you guys use in your videos – like the floating doors and fire in your video for “Beneath Your Moment”.

I read a write up about you guys on the 94.9 The Rock website. Is it true that there’s a hidden neuroscientist in the group? That caught my interest lol. Apparently, you guys come from diverse backgrounds but came together for the love of music. What is the story behind how you guys hooked up?

PA: You read correctly, our drummer Ken…well Dr. Ken now, recently completed his PhD and we’re super proud of him. The guy works crazy hard all while holding down a beat.  As for how we all met, it’s kind of a chain reaction. Kyle and Ryan are childhood buddies who have been writing together since high school, Kyle and Jeff met in college, and Jeff and Ken have actually played in 2 bands together previous to Phantom Atlantic.  A couple years after school, Kyle and Ryan were finally putting a band together that needed a bass player, so Jeff literally left his old band and dragged Ken along with him shortly after.

Me: Very impressive Dr. Ken! And nice to learn about how you guys connected.

I love the beautiful summary of the underlying theme of your album on your website: “It’s a sharp, precise, and volatile five-track collection that ends in step with its beginnings: understanding and accepting the futility of stasis, and the inevitability of perpetual change. These two truths are earned over the course of Your View of a Former Me, a project and a title that chart a crooked path towards repair and salvation that never quite ends.” 

I can really relate to your songs and your IG motto “Say what you feel, mean what you do.” As I get older, I tend to express exactly what I feel and say what’s on my mind. I admit that sometimes this gets me into trouble!  What is another valuable piece of advice about life or music that you can pass onto others?

Kyle: Try your hardest every day to give an earnest effort toward being 100% true to yourself and those around you. Even when you’re not exactly sure on everything about yourself. Pro tip: you never are.

Ryan: This may sound nihilistic, but all of the systems of belief that are forced upon us to tell us how to act, how to think, and how to structure our lives are constructs that have no inherent basis in the natural world. So fuck what everybody says; find your passion and chase it relentlessly. At least then, if things don’t go your way, you can take comfort in the fact that you were always true to yourself. If you try to change to satisfy someone else, and still don’t succeed, the failure will hit doubly hard.

Jeff:  I love it, the world can use more straight talking troublemakers such as yourself!  Some of my best friends are the kind of people who say exactly what’s on their mind, and whether it’s right or wrong it almost always leads to wonderful conversation and a greater sense of mutual understanding.   But to answer your question, I guess if I had to offer some form of life advice all I would say is that whether you’ve come to realize this yet or not, there is something deep within you, a place that your mind wanders to more often than not, with a sense of longing.  It is only with the recognition of this deep rooted sense of self that a path towards a life filled with meaning and purpose can emerge.  So live free.  Do you.

Ken: I can philosophically ramble on forever in this light. Instead, I’ll just suggest a philosophy anyone can check out and explore for themselves: Absurdism. My unqualified synopsis of absurdism is that you have complete agency to decide for yourself what is important in life, because there is no inherent meaning or purpose (though I find we have a pervasive tendency to grasp at, or be proselytized to adopt, a prescribed purpose). For some it’s a scary idea, for me it is wonderfully liberating and is a perspective I find works wonders for my mental health.

Me: You guys are deep! I love it. My dad’s life-changing stroke almost 8 years ago made me realize that life is too short. Everything you guys mention resonates with me.  I’ve been living life with no regrets and live like every day is my last. We do have control over our lives and like Ryan says, we should not change ourselves to satisfy others – we will only have regrets.

Back to music, I have no musical talent. Sadly, I can’t sing or play instruments, but I can definitely appreciate amazing music like yours. When and how did you get hit with the “music bug” and what inspires you musically?

Kyle: I don’t really feel like there was an actual decision to pursue music. I know I’ve always wanted to create. I just remember incessantly writing and using this 4-track cassette recorder to make my little demos. Many things interest me, but it was fairly obvious around the end of high school that all I’d accomplished was working on writing music. The verdict felt obvious after that revelation. Music it is!

Jeff: I grew up in a small northern Ontario town where the only exposure to new music came from my slightly older, very much cooler cousins from Sudbury.  They played in a metal band appropriately called Temper! and always had to show me what was inspiring them at the time.  For me, they were the original influencers and I owe everything, from my appreciation for music, to pursuing a life of creativity and expression to them.  These days, my tastes span genres but I am still very much a “metal-head” at heart on the lookout for musicians pushing the envelope in composition and production. 

Ken: I had one of those families where music was just a big part of life. We always had a piano, but I think when I was about 5 or so, my parents gave me a toy keyboard piano that I loved just fumbling around on. After that gateway, I ended up taking piano lessons from my aunt for a short while. My grandpa was really into big band music and I remember telling him after piano, sax was on my instrument to-learn list (that hasn’t happened… yet!). My parents actually played in a folk band when I was young and for a while, instead of hiring a babysitter, they would bring me and my younger brother along to hang out at their shows. However, it wasn’t until I was about 13 that I went beyond a dabbler and started on the path to really becoming a musician. Some friends and I – sitting around in our small town coming up with ideas to entertain ourselves – decided we should start a band by picking up instruments that none of us even owned yet. I called dibs on the drums and that was that.

Me: Thanks for sharing your musical journeys. I’m a bit nutty when it comes to finding ways to make the world a better place. The world needs more happy people. I always say that smiles, compliments and love are free to give, so give freely. During this pandemic so much has happened to the world and so many lives have changed. Fill in the blank: We can change the world if we ____________________.

Kyle: We can change the world if we enter some hellish symbiotic human singularity where differences of opinion can no longer be tolerated by the almighty veracious optimization machine. Or just don’t be a dick.

Ryan: We can change the world if we have the humility to accept what we don’t know and the desire to learn.

Jeff:  Ah man, that’s a tough one.  I’d say we can change the world if we just realized that the deadline we’ve all placed on our dreams isn’t actually real. 

Ken: We can change the world if we combine empathy and objectivity to design a society that enables everyone to achieve a healthy minimum quality of life. And realize that it only takes an idea to change things — we all have the power to generate ideas, so we all have the power to change things.

Me: Love it! Man, where were you guys when I needed help writing my university papers? I’ve got to ask my usual interview “get to know you” question. I know it’s hard, but I’m going to force you to narrow it down – who are your top 3 favourite musicians?

Kyle: Ruthless question! There’s a thousand. Here’s 3… Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, Beethoven.

Ryan: I’m gonna go the band route here. Radiohead and Coldplay are the staples that will never leave my top three. The two Jonny’s (Greenwood from Radiohead and Buckland from Coldplay) are the biggest influences on my guitar style. The third slot constantly rotates but for the last few years, I’ve been really into another British alt rock band called Nothing but Thieves, so I’ll give it to them for now.

Jeff: Definitely Misha Mansoor (a.k.a. Bulb) of Periphery who basically ushered in an entire era of DIY producers/musicians/entrepreneurs.  There’s Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders whose debut album still blows my mind to this day.  And I guess I’ll throw in a childhood favourite, from the band 311, their super creative and always tasteful bass player P-Nut.  Beat that thing!  (for those in the know…)

Ken: I’m going to cop out of this one as hard as I can. But I will say, in retrospect I think I spent too much of my youth only really deeply appreciating a very limited scope of music, so these days, I spend much more time exploring the vastness of music via podcasts like Song Exploder and NPR’s All Songs Considered — who also produce the Tiny Desk Concert series — all wonderful sources of musical diversity and discovery.

Me: I’ll take a listen to your favs. I haven’t heard of most of them. LOL, sorry for limiting you, Kyle.

I posted on social media that you guys instantly became part of my top 3 fav bands. Then I posted again after I realized that I only had 2 fav bands (Moist and Stuck on Planet Earth) – turns out that a spot had been saved for you guys to take. It amazes me how much music exists out there. The music industry, like many others is very competitive. Do you guys have any tips for aspiring musicians?

Kyle: Massive persistence and focus. Go all in. Listen to everyone but don’t listen to anyone. 

Ryan: Passion beats perfection, any day. 

Jeff:  Advice salad here we go:

  1. Don’t let all the virtuosos on Youtube and Instagram discourage you from becoming the best you can be.
  2. Remember that great music can be found everywhere along the range of stupid simple to seemingly impossible. 
  3. The first draft is always shit.  Don’t let it discourage you because…
  4. Every hit song ever was once a first draft.

Ken: Be mindful of the reality of taking a passion and making it a profession. At the core, it is about passion and expression. Yet, the actualization requires understanding that music functions like many other industries (but can actually be even more mystifying). If you acknowledge that, it makes it easier to recognize and overcome certain barriers and help you progress towards your goals. e.g.  Who you know matters. Don’t know anyone? Network. Familiar advice for anyone in any industry.

Me: Great advice guys! Jeff, that’s a yummy salad 🙂 I had a blast putting together this interview. You guys are so awesome. I’ll see you in concert real soon.

Everyone, it costs nothing to give this amazing band a follow on their social media accounts. And don’t forget to support Canadian and local musicians. Buy or stream their music on whatever platform(s) you are on and buy tickets to live concerts when the world is back up and running. Guys, is there anything else you would like to share before we wrap things up?

PA: Honestly this has been fantastic, we covered a lot of ground here! Thanks so much for your support Monica, and we can’t wait to get back out there and do what we do best.  Cheers!

—End—

Check out their videos:

No Way to Live

Start from Nothing

Interview with Canadian musician Eric Nguyen of The Moon & I

canadian music
Eric Nguyen
Photo credit: Alex Tran Photography

By Monica Ng

Canadian talent galore!

Canadian musical talent is NOT hard to find.  I recently came across Instagram’s sponsored “The Moon & I” advertising and decided to take a listen.  I was instantly hooked on Eric’s song “Shuffle” and my interest was further piqued when I read that he’s a singer and songwriter based in Montreal. I just had to reach out to him and find out what’s happening musically in my hometown. 

Contact  

IG: @moonimusic 

Facebook: The Moon & I

www.moonimusic.com 

About 

Eric Nguyen is the talent behind “The Moon & I”.  Born and based in Montreal, Eric was trained in classical piano, plays guitar, and produces his own music. According to his web profile info, he experiments with “analog synths, drum loops, and acoustic piano.” 

His Music

Shuffle – EP (2009) includes “Shuffle, Hopscotch Birdie, Rainy Morning Blues, Birthday Waltz, November and Distant Dreams” 

Day In, Day Out – single (2020) 

Moon I – single (2020) 

Photo credit: Alex Tran Photography

Interview 

Me:  Eric, it’s been great chatting with you on Instagram. I feel that we connected instantly – maybe it’s the Montreal blood or simply that you’re very personable. Thanks for being so open to and enthusiastic about this interview.  

You mentioned that you’re just starting out your music career.  According to your website you “isolated [yourself] in [your] apartment for 3 years while working remotely and producing music.”  How interesting…that’s like voluntary pre-COVID isolation!   

So, you were sitting in your apartment on a cold fall evening with a guitar on your lap, looking out of a small window.  The sky was perfectly clear that night and the full moon was demanding your attention. You sat there pensively, fingers gently touching your guitar strings, staring at the moon while pondering the meaning of life – and that’s how you decided that “The Moon & I “ was the perfect name.  Ok, that’s my story!  Now your turn.  What’s the real story behind your name? And how did you make the decision to commit yourself to isolation for producing your music?  

Eric:  When people hear the name, they often ask me if I’m into astrology. Or if it’s related to Barbara Streisand’s song with the same name. Long story short, I had posted my song “Moon I” on Bandcamp a few years ago to test the platform. Unintentionally, the song went viral when a popular music blog picked it up and was then shared by other bloggers from Hype Machine. It was the first time I ever received recognition for my music outside of friends and family. So the name is a nod to that song and how it helped give me the confidence to push out more music. Lastly, I just think it has a nice ring to it and is evocative of the mood I’m trying to create in my music.

Isolating yourself to focus on art is sometimes necessary to get things done, in my opinion. It’s so easy nowadays to get distracted. I was living in Vancouver, amidst majestic mountains, forests, and water views. But I had all this music in my head that was bouncing around and wouldn’t leave me alone. So I decided to move back to Montreal to get closer to its music scene, and finally record all of these songs. I think if you’re a painter, you paint. If you’re a musician, you make music. Sometimes, you don’t have a choice in the matter.  

Me: I totally agree that you’ve got to go with the flow until you find what you’re meant to do. Growing up, I was forced to learn how to play the piano. When my mom found out that I sucked and wasted all of her money, she made me try the accordion. Of course, that has keys like a piano lol. I only taught myself to play one song on the piano – which is Dust in the Wind, because I love it. Playing piano and the accordion was not my calling, but I’ve always loved the sound of guitar. I decided to buy myself a guitar to self-learn. With no clue what to do with it, I just stared at it for a long time. Sadly, playing music is not something that comes naturally to me. Other than piano and guitar, do you play any other instruments? And when you first learned piano, do you feel that it was forced, or did you have a natural talent?

Eric: Oh nooo! I hope you’ll get back into guitar. It’s an easier instrument to pick-up than the piano. I recommend getting a good intro book and just going through it. You’ll be able to play Wonderwall in no time.

I was forced to play piano when I was a kid too. But when you’re young you don’t really think about the why’s of what you’re doing…you kind of just do it. I think, in that sense, it frees us from a lot of the baggage and expectations. 

Luckily, I did have a knack for piano. When I was 8, I placed first nationally in the Canadian Music Competition for my age group. After that, my parents took things more seriously – for better and for worse. I had to practice daily to prepare for competitions. I got really good, but overall, things also got less enjoyable. But no pain, no gain! I’m grateful to have acquired the skills I have now and am able to do my own thing.

Aside from piano and guitar, I’m just getting more into synths, programming beats, and music production. I wouldn’t say I’m a drummer, but I can play decently enough to record a loop that I can then edit and fine-tune in my production. I’m also just learning to explore my own voice as an instrument. What’s cool is that everyone’s voice is unique. We’re all walking around carrying a musical instrument shaped by the unique physical properties of our throat, head, and chest. 

Me: About my guitar playing – I haven’t mastered Hot Cross Buns yet, but I have written a song for myself. And I do love Oasis’ Wonderwall! That’s amazing that you got into music competitions at an early age and learned to hone your skills. I was just thinking about voices as an instrument too – without it, there’s just melody.

Your music is described as Indie rock, but it’s not the first thing that comes to my mind. Actually, I’m not sure how to categorize your music, but I absolutely love how you rock the piano! Especially in your song “Shuffle” – you add drums and a guitar riff. Pretty wild!  I’m not really a fan of classical music so I really appreciate your modern twist of the piano.  Where does your “vision” for your music come from?  

Eric: Thank you! It’s something I tried to do deliberately: playing the piano in an unexpected way. In my head, I’m using the piano to mimic other instruments and imageries: whether it be the crashing of drum cymbals like in “Shuffle”, or a swirl of falling raindrops like in “Day In, Day Out”. 

Like most artists, I think the majority of my music is a form of self-therapy. There’s usually an emotional core. It might come from my own life experiences, a friend’s life experiences or a story that I heard. That emotional core then gets amplified and expressed as a melody. I’ll then try to find the right words to convey it, and wrap it in sounds and textures that belong to that world.

Me:  I love how you put the last part – your sounds and textures really come through in your songs.

I’m sure there are a lot of other budding musicians out there who are trying to learn as much as they can from others in the industry. With social media, digital music and so many music platforms (ex. Spotify, iTunes, etc.), there must be so much to figure out. Can you describe some of the major hurdles that you’ve encountered along the way or that you are currently experiencing? 

Eric: I think the first major hurdle is just: how do I find people that will enjoy my music? There are a lot of artists out there that put out amazing work, but they’re not actively promoting it or don’t know how to. With live shows on hold, Facebook & Instagram Ads are one of the main ways I’ve been able to find my audience (much like how you found me!).

The current hurdle I’m working on now is time management with respect to music production and promotion. On one hand, you have to be active on social media so people don’t forget about you in our fast-moving world. I used to not use social media. I had a chrome extension that would block my FB Newsfeed, and I wouldn’t have apps like Instagram and TikTok on my phone. But now I have to use them to respond to comments, messages, and connect with fans. Then on the other hand, I need long bouts of uninterrupted time to get in the flow and produce new music. So it’s a balancing act I’m still getting used to.

Me: I figured that what you described is the reality…the demands from all directions. While we were chatting, you mentioned that you were a Moist and David Usher fan as well.  That was music to my ears as I don’t personally know too many Moist and David Usher fans.  When you said that you became a fan of theirs because your older brother played his Moist cassette tapes while you were growing up, I got a really nice visual in my mind.  It’s really nice because I can picture two brothers just hanging out together listening to music. Your story transports me back to my bedroom that I shared with one of my sisters, back in the days. I used to just sit on my bed and play my cassettes while singing along with the lyrics written on the cover insert. I guess the point of this nostalgia is that I’ve loved music since I was a kid and music has been with me my whole life. Having artists like you creating beautiful music for me to enjoy means a lot to me. 

Other than Moist and David Usher, name a few musicians who have influenced your life? 

Eric: You just described my childhood as well! What a nostalgia trip. I think some of my influences would include Radiohead (I love everything about them), The White Stripes (for their powerful minimalist sound), James Blake (for his vocals and production), and Billie Eilish/Finneas (for their bedroom production and songwriting). 

Me: My younger sister was a huge Radiohead fan, but not me so much. I have only recently discovered Finneas’ music and like it. I’m so happy that your music is out there for the world to enjoy. For myself, growing up in Montreal was hard because I was a visible minority and often made fun of.  I always thought that Asians were underrepresented in the music industry in general (Asia aside) and wished that more Asians would become mainstream. I love that you’re representing the Asian community through your music.  I feel so much pride. Do you find it hard to “put yourself out there”? 

Eric: I do! I used to not show my face and would prefer people just listen to the music. It was a deliberate decision to put myself out there to help with Asian representation. I was thinking of my kid nephew and how there aren’t many male Asian artists in the indie music scene or mainstream media. I wanted for him to see himself represented in if he wanted to pursue arts. If I can help move the needle ever so slightly in the right direction by doing something simple like putting my face on things, then I should do it. 

Me: What an inspiring uncle you are! I feel that with your presence, the needle has been shifted already. Other than music, what other things are you into? 

Eric: Not much these days, haha. With COVID lockdowns, I pretty much have no life. I’ve been reading more about mindfulness and meditation. And I also just started reading Harry Potter for the first time. I’m looking forward to watching the movies for the first time too.

When I have more free time, I’ll probably get back into drawing and painting more. I used to study Architecture where we’d sketch almost every day. So I’ll probably explore the visual artistic side of my brain more in the near future.

Me: COVID-related lockdowns have been good for some things. I agree with “brain-flexing”, I’ve recently picked up my sketch pencils again in hopes of letting the creativity flow. There’s also something therapeutic about “pencil on paper”. I’m actually thinking of doing some graphic illustrations inspired by my outdoor adventures. Lockdown has me digging through my old photos and I’m totally itching to drive off (with my music blasting) to a faraway place for a hike. I now have new songs to add to my “long drive” playlist 🙂

I would love to see you perform live. Have you considered an online concert? And after COVID is done, do you have any plans to perform live on stage? 

Eric: Yes! It’s something I’m still figuring out how to do because I mainly play all the parts on the recordings. So I’ll probably have to adapt them for a solo performance in a way to make it interesting and less like a glorified karaoke session. 

Me: Karoake lol. I’m sure you’re great at that! I’ve never picked up a mike for the purpose of singing into it. I read that you’re working toward an album. What are your plans for 2021?  

Eric: Yes! I’m hoping to complete the album this year and will be releasing singles leading up to its release. I’m also trying to connect with more like minded-artists and find my “tribe” of sorts. 

Me: Thank you so much for your song “Shuffle”. It has hit a soft spot and been on repeat since I first heard it. I enjoyed this interview and getting to know you. Everyone – check out Eric’s beautiful piano playing and amazing music!  

Before wrapping up this interview, do you have anything else that you wish to share? 

Eric: Thank you so much for everything, Monica! These thoughtful questions really allowed me to pause and reflect on my artistic journey so far. I really appreciate it! 

I think I’ll close with a shoutout to my friend Maryse Daniel, the artist that worked on all the artwork for my latest singles, and a quote I have displayed in my music studio: “One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”

—End—

Here are a few of my favourite songs

2020 Moving Walls Tour – Matthew Good

Events/Shows, Uncategorized

Moving Walls Tour


COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) cancellation?

Ticket in hand, I was on standby. Hearing about a lot of other cancellations and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure if Matthew Good’s March 12, 2020 concert would be cancelled. Of course, part of me could ABSOLUTELY NOT wait for the show, but the other part of me was dreading the exposure to public transportation and a crowded concert hall.

Concert a go!

The concert was on. I said goodbye to my family as they bid me safe travels.

Meridian Hall, Toronto

I always try to arrive in time for the opening acts because it’s a great chance to discover new music. The supporting bands that evening were Ellevator (Instagram: @ellevatorband) and Born Ruffians (Instagram: @bornruffiansmusic). I never heard of either band, but was really impressed with the unique music style of both. Also, the singer of each band have really fresh unique voices.

Ellevator

autographed Ellevator CD

Ellevator is based in Hamilton, Ontario. The band’s singer, Nabi, is a soft-spoken person on the mic, but man – when she started to sing, her vocals blew me away. She occasionally sat down on the stage during her songs, commanding the audience in a different way. When they first came on stage, I was reminded of old high school band days (maybe because they look young). But be warned – they do not play “elevator music”.

I had a chance to chat with Nabi briefly at the merch table after the concert. I asked her when she first started to sing and she said since she was very little. Nabi has this really amazing aura surrounding her. I have been enjoying my new CD for the past few days. Check out their music!

Instagram: @ellevatorband

Born Ruffians

Instagram: @bornruffiansmusic

Our very own Torontonian band! The guitarists are absolutely wild and a pleasure to watch. Luke, the lead singer, has a powerful and very fresh voice, and was super-animated on stage. I don’t know if he ever found his glasses that he dropped while jamming on the guitar…Check out their music too!

Matthew Good

Instagram: @matthewgoodgram

There are no words to describe the moment MG comes on stage and delivers his first vocals. It happens at every concert of his that I attend. BAM! A chill runs a mile a minute through my body and I am like “OMG”! Short for Oh my gosh or Oh Matthew Good!

Matt’s performance was beyond incredible as always. His music has been part of my life for about 20 years. Where has the time gone? Did I mention that he’s Canadian? I love Canadian music. In fact, most of my favourite artists are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams, Ria Mae and newly added, Craig Stickland.

Matt recently launched his album, Moving Walls, which includes songs such as One of Them Years, A Momentary Truth, Beauty, Sicily and The Heights. It was amazing to see him perform songs from this album in concert. The songs have a whole new meaning to me now.

Matt is a lyrical genius, sings like a male angel and is talented to the max. He’s a songwriter, singer and guitarist. He also speaks publicly about mental health and his own bipolar disorder and battle with depression.

Yes…Matt, this, Matt, that…I just love him!

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to his music, I hope you find some time.

Rest of Tour Postponed

Right after the show, Matt posted on Instagram that the rest of the tour would be cancelled due to the virus. He wrote that people DM’d him with anger that he irresponsibly did not cancel that evening’s concert. It must have been a really tough decision for Matt not to cancel, considering the circumstances. But on that note, I feel like I caught the last train. If I die, I will die happy.

Other songs

Matt also played one of my favourite songs from his album, Something Like a Storm. It’s called Something Like a Storm. It was wild on the stage.

Here are a few of my favs from Moving Walls: Selling You My Heart and A Momentary Truth

Of course one of his classics: Load Me Up. The crowd went crazy for this!

In this thing called life, music transcends life. Not sure if that makes sense – but it sounds good 🙂

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