Please listen to this phenomenal talent who performs his latest single, "We Good," live on the show.
Upcoming ReleaseI think the anticipation period is the hardest part of producing a song. The making of the record is the fun, cool and easy part. Everything after that point is the hardest work for me. I always say you never forget a release date as I'm thinking about that date for months. Sometimes it's even longer. I can remember my release dates from two years ago because this anticipation period was so intense.
"Not Alright" and "One In A Million""Not Alright" is autobiographical. That's me trying to find a new and unique way to write about a breakup. I'm talking about something personal in my life and trying to find a cool way to do it. This is like therapy for me.
"One In A Million" is more of a glimpse into my imagination. That song came from the idea of wanting to write about something warmer and this vision of a house party and friendship and flirting with somebody from across the room. As COVID hit, the idea of the song got more and more nostalgic because we couldn't do those things.
The way I write most songs is usually music first, and then I mix in some gibberish over music I like. I can't specifically remember "One In A Million," but I imagine that I started singing some sort of gibberish to the music and then once you have a piece of an idea, it all comes together at once. My co-writer Stefani Kimber and I were talking about the idea of two people who are really into each other and they don't want to say it. How can we get that across and have them eventually say it. That snowballed to, "What if they're at a house party and what if they're tipsy and flirting?"
Playing With A BandI grew up playing in bands and I went to school for music. Really up until the pandemic hit, it's always been my first choice to have the band behind me. I'm a real musician that loves to play and jam with other musicians and I would argue that live music is my number one asset as an artist. I like to say every show is a rock show. No matter the genre, shows are always full-band rock shows and I will always gravitate to a band live show. I want a band to grow and I'm really excited to bring the new stuff I'm writing into a band setting.
It's always good to give leeway to musicians if you can. My new stuff is a lot easier for a band to pick up and start jamming. I think some of my older stuff would have been a different case as I was writing those songs more technically and based around a concept. Whereas with my new project, I focus on the songwriting first and don't touch the production until the song is ready. I think if the song is the strongest thing we have, then everything else will come.
Music GoalsI get asked a lot of questions about what I want from my music. When I hear a good song, I am instantly like, "Yo, what is this?" I will send it to my brother or my best friend. I think that is a huge sign of how good a song is: that I want to listen to it and hear it over and over again. While that might not sound like a great goal out loud, that's what I want: somebody to hear my stuff on first listen and want to hear it again.
I go into my analytics and I love to see that somebody has Shazamed my song. If I hear a song I like, I Shazam it and it becomes my new favorite song. It's amazing as an artist, but it's also great for a consumer as well because it's exciting to find something new. If I can do that for other people, then that's a win.
Playing AloneMy guitar style is a mix of who I listen to and admire, and the early experience I had as a musician. I would give most of the credit to James Taylor, who I grew up listening to. When I gravitated towards the guitar, I started to learn his stuff and it was really intricate. There was a lot going on and I think learning from guys like James Taylor and John Mayer helped sculpt my guitar style.
When I came back from school, I would play guitar in hotel lobbies for 4-6 hours alone. Playing alone for that long really gave me the opportunity to not only play around with my style, but also to make it seem like there was more than just me and a guitar. I played around with slaps and percussive elements on the guitar as I had to figure out how to make it bigger than it was.
I get so many messages asking what chords I'm using. I learned a lot of stuff from other players obviously. James Taylor has been documented pulling Celtic music and combining it with his creations, and I do the same thing. I listen to music that is in a genre that's really far away from what I'm creating, usually without any guitar, and I will try and emulate what that is with a guitar and sometimes you get some really cool shit.
I'm never trying to not be simple, I'm just trying to do what is cool for me. There was a time when I was writing songs years ago and I knew every cool chord under the sun. I was writing songs with all of them. I remember coming back to those songs and thinking, This music is insane. It wasn't very listenable. It's a bit of a balancing act. Yes I can play these cool chords, but it's all about choosing when to use them, and I'm always trying to be wary of that balance.
The Song "L"I co-produce everything with my best friend and musical creative partner, Jack Emblem. We grew up playing in a band together. Usually the music is all him and I, but I play most of the instruments in "L" with the exception of the bass. I wish I could say I played those bass chords, but that was Brian Robert Jones, a friend of mine. We sent him the track and he sent it back. I remember listening to it with my jaw dropped and we didn't change anything. Every time I use another musician for my stuff I always say, "Here's what we're thinking, we would love it if you could do this, but do whatever you want." You want to let great people be great, that's what I've learned. If somebody does something incredibly, just shut the fuck up and let them do it.
Babyface and Craig DavidThose are just two legends that I have been lucky enough to meet and be around. Those experiences are always really humbling and left me really inspired. Babyface is one of the most legendary songwriters and R&B artists on the planet. He was running a songwriting camp and I was luckily enough to be chosen for the one in Toronto. We went into the studio with some other artists and him for the week, and he actually ripped up a song that I wrote in front of everybody. That was such a learning experience for me.
Whether you meet someone big or not, any collaborating experience is always a great learning experience. I attribute a lot of where I'm at now to collaborative experiences, being around different ideas and learning from people. The world is huge and you have so much to choose from. It takes a long time as an artist because of how these amazing experiences can boil down to who you are as an artist.
GrowthI think every new project is growth because every new project is better than the last. I personally feel that the songs are better, the production is better, and everything has leveled up. Now I see that there's momentum, I like to not take that for granted and to put in the hard work. I also started working with other people who I think are better than me and that improvement can be seen in my new project.
Not one song of mine was co-written until my new stuff, which I wrote with Ally Sou. This time around I did and it's very easy for me to see how it benefited the project. In short, that's where the growth comes from for this project.
I have learned so much from Ally as a writer. I think you get really comfortable in your own ways when something works. I think you can get locked in doing what you do and it's not until you push yourself when you see growth. I haven't worked with anyone I trust enough to write my own music and when I found somebody who clicked with it, it was just a huge stepping stone in my songwriting.
I learned songwriting techniques I wasn't using that she brought to the table. She also called me on things that I was getting too easy. She pushed me as a writer, and when the songs were finished, I would read the lyrics and be like, These are insane. Whereas with my old music I would listen to the song and think, That sounds great.
This was the first time in my career where the songwriting took a major front seat. We didn't touch the music until the song was reading beautifully off the page. The music to me has always come easily, that is not the case lyrically. To really focus on the part that doesn't come as naturally to me is the win, and that's where we are growing.