You probably know The Unlikely Candidates from their hit song “Novocaine,” which just topped Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart in March. We got to talk with lead vocalist Kyle Morris about their latest single “High Low” as well as making music and staying creative during this pandemic.
CROWDSURFER: It’s been about a month since “High Low” came out, and I wanted to say I absolutely can connect with it. Where did the inspiration for this song come from?
KYLE MORRIS: The song is about growing up, really. I think the older you get, the more people kind of spread out and do their own thing. I wrote this about coming home from tour and realizing that this has kind of happened even more. But I wrote it a week before quarantine happened, and then I rewrote it during quarantine. It took on a new life because the whole thing takes place in a guy’s apartment where he has nothing to do but think about his friends.
CS: You were in tour when things shut down, right?
KM: Yeah, it really sucked. As we were touring, we would hear that the last venue we were at was closing. We were like, this is catching up really fast. Then we played in the middle of nowhere Wyoming and there was a blizzard. So we stayed there in a cabin, completely snowed in, and we had to make the decision to leave tour. It kind of felt like the end of the world.
CS: Was the process of making this song different because of restrictions of the pandemic?
KM: Usually I’ll go and track the vocals at my producer’s studio, but we couldn’t do that. So, I basically had my producer on Facetime and he would help me, but I was just in my closet at home. So that song was recorded in my closet! Like the old days.
CS: We’re all working from home, even in the music industry! Speaking of, what has it been like for you during this odd and difficult time for the industry?
KM: It’s been rough because we had a #1 single, and this was the year that we were supposed to harvest the fruits of our labor. And we didn’t really get to do that. So we started Flatten the Hump Day, our weekly stream, to give people something to do. We’re coming up on our 16th week of doing it which is absolutely insane.
CS: I’m so impressed by that!
KM: Yeah, I think we’re doing it to stay sane at this point! We’re running out of ideas though. We only have so many songs, but we’ve been trying to mix it up. One week we did emo week and covered our favorite emo songs. We all dressed up with black wigs and fingerless gloves, it was pretty ridiculous.
CS: Well, I definitely want to watch the emo week one.
KM: The emo week one was pretty good. Not gonna lie, it was a little rough to sing. Those voices are pretty high!
CS: I realize it might be hard to answer this question, but what’s next for The Unlikely Candidates?
KM: Just trying to write as many cool songs as possible. Last year I didn’t get to write that much because we spent a lot of time promoting “Novocaine.”
CS: Do you think you’ll be able to get out to LA for recording or will there be more closet songs?
KM: It’s basically all closet stuff. But it’s pretty dope! I’ve had people ask me if I’m going to keep doing this afterwards, and I’m like yeah. I think that this works just as well.
CS: Anything else you want us to know?
KM: We have a video coming up for “High Low.” And stay tuned for Hump Days 19-55! Maybe a drive-in theater, too. I’ve been trying to set one of those up.
CS: We’re fans of drive-in concerts, so I hope you get to play one! Thanks for taking time to talk today!
KM: Thank you! Keep watching Flatten the Hump Day at 3PM central!
“High Low” is out now, and you can listen to it here.
Rising country artist Molly Lovette released her first lyric video today! And we, of course, are huge fans. Is this also because our own Lauren Hayes shot and edited the video? Yes. But we’re mostly excited to see Molly on our screens, and because we’re finally learning all the words to “Lovin’ You.”
CROWDSURFER: When did you decide to make a lyric video?
MOLLY LOVETTE: I knew I wanted to do something with this song, but with a lot of things being shut down these past few months and having to quarantine, it would have been hard to make a music video. So a lyric video was a nice alternative!
CS: How was your experience shooting your first video?
ML: I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know how awkward I would be or what it was going to be like, but it was fun! It was cool to act out and show the dramatics the song brings. It brought me back to my theatre days.
CS: And what was it like for you being a part of the whole process, from concept to final video?
ML: I love being creative and getting to think of ideas. I’ve had this song recorded since January so I’ve had some time to think it through and plan it. It was nice to collaborate with my publicist at Brickshore Media and with Lauren to take all of our different, but similar, ideas together to make the video.
CS: And how do you feel about the final product?
ML: I love it! Like we said, this is my first video so it took a second to get comfortable seeing myself on the screen and not cringe sometimes. [laughs] But I’m proud of how it turned out! And I think that people are going to like it. I think it’s something different and I’m excited for everyone to see it.
CS: What’s your favorite part of the video?
ML: I really like the instrumental part right after the bridge. I like all the different shots, how it goes quickly, and it’s dramatic. That’s honestly my favorite part of the song, too!
CS: And what was your favorite part of the process?
ML: Just being on set getting to sing and act it out. It was fun just living in the moment!
CS: We love that you’re excited about releasing this video! Thanks for talking with us!
If you haven’t already, be sure to watch the official lyric video for “Lovin’ You” by Molly Lovette right here!
Artist Paco and our music curator Sonca Nguyen are quite the talented pair. Paco is a singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, while Sonca is a songwriter, producer, and engineer. Put the two together and they’re bound to make great music. As we do these days, we all talked together, but separately, through a video call to discuss new music and a new label!
CROWDSURFER: Paco, you have had a couple of exciting announcements recently! The first being your new single, “Cold Love,” which comes out June 5th. How are you feeling?
PACO: I am excited! Not a lot of people know but I’ve had this song for about two years. So it’s been a minute, and I’m ready.
CS: Did the song change much in the last two years?
P: Initially, I was ready to put it out and ready to get started. But Brian Owens, my mentor, was like, “Wait, let’s develop it.” The lyrics, melody, all that didn’t change much; the essence was still there. I had some co-production and arrangement from Sonca, who first was just a friend and collaborator, but now is like my lifeline and partner in music. As well as additional co-production, drum programming, and counter melodies from Courtney (JR) Orlando, a Grammy Award Winning Producer and mentor of mine!
CS: And your other announcement is that you and Sonca created Crush Records as a branch of Life Creative Group. First, congrats! Second, when did you decide you wanted to make your own label?
SONCA: It was kind of random. When we first pitched this idea of Cold Love as a single, we pitched it to Brian Owens, the owner of Life Creative. He said, Let’s do it, but instead, do it as your own label.” So, we didn’t even have the idea to create a label intentionally, it just kind of happened because Brian made us realize we were doing everything a label was doing anyways and pushed us to go for it ourselves.
CS: What does Crush Records mean to you?
S: It puts in perspective what I want to do and makes other people take me seriously. Crush is an outlet for us to start a community where we can develop artists the same way we’ve done for Paco. I love the whole process of it, and I want to do it for other people. So, this means that I get to do this forever. And having this name under me gives me more opportunities.
P: It was kind of always the vision to start a label. To me it was just like, shoot, I can do that. It means that one, we’re business owners and that’s amazing, and two, we get to kind of help develop other people and do what we’ve just done. So as other artists come through the ranks we’ll get to write, produce, develop them as well. So that’s exciting.
S: That’s the best part! Working with people is my favorite part besides all the business stuff. And this is what Brian told us. He said, “I just want you guys to do this thing and then give back, give other people these opportunities.” And we were like, oh, absolutely.
CS: As we said, Crush Records is a subset of Life Creative Group. Paco, you’ve been with Life Arts and Life Creative for a while now. How has working with them impacted you?
P: Working with Brian and a non-profit organization such as Life Arts has legitimately given my life direction. Life Creative Group, the creative extension of Life Arts, was just what I needed musically to get my head in the right place.I was dropping out of college, not sure what to do, and I reached out to Brian on Facebook because a friend advised me to, and that’s how we connected. And eventually, I started working in a therapeutic songwriting program and I would produce the songs that they made in the program. Now I’m working with the non-profit side, still working with the therapeutic songwriting program, still working with kids from the Ferguson/Florissant area… but we’re also building the for-profit side now.
CS: Life Creative sounds like a great place to grow that’s full of support.
P: I’m very much a loner and an introvert, and I don’t feel a sense of family many places at all. But I do with these people. Just because they’ve invested so much in me and vice versa.
CS: Anything else you want us to know?
P: I’m not the only artist under Life Creative, so I want to shine a light on some of my peers. Christopher Daniel, who I produce for, and Malena Smith, who’s like a new Norah Jones. We have a couple artists coming out, and hopefully we’ll have a next generation coming behind me soon!
CS: We’ll keep our eyes out! Thanks for talking with us!
Be ready to listen to Paco’s single “Cold Love” on June 5th, and check out the promo video for a sneak peak at the song in the meantime!
Concert photographers Beth Saravo and Maggie Friedman have been spending their quarantine doing a lot more than binge watching Netflix like the rest of us. When all concerts were cancelled for the foreseeable future, they decided to take their industry knowledge and music network and with their combined expertise, they created an online interview-style show for creatives and artists alike.
The new project, titled Real[m] (we’ll tell you why in the interview) is an informal conversation and Q&A with photographers, musicians, creatives and industry professionals, hosted of course by Maggie and Beth. We had a chance to chat with them about their exciting new endeavor and their upcoming guests this week. Check out the interview below.
Crowdsurfer: When did you guys conceptualize the idea to do an interview-style show?
Maggie: When the whole quarantine thing happened, I’m the type of person that needs a project to work on. I just keep myself busy or I go crazy. Beth and I really both agree on the fact that we both love working. So I was thinking, “Oh, what can I do?” So I decided to do an Instagram live every single day with some friends and we’ll just chat about photography. I didn’t really expect to be a project. It just was something that I could do every day to keep me busy.
So I did it for a few episodes. And then I messaged Beth and I was like, “Hey, it would be really cool if you did this with me. And she was like, “Cool, let’s do it next week.” And then I got really sick and I kind of stopped doing it. And then a couple weeks later, when I was feeling better, I texted her and I said, “OK, look, I really want to start this up again.” And she said, “Well, what if we did an interview series together?”
Beth: For me, I didn’t want it to be questions that you always hear. I wanted the questions to be a little bit deeper than, “When was your first show? Who’s your favorite band?” I want someone who’s not even a music photographer to come in and sit down and say, “Hey, this is interesting because her story is so cool or his process is so different or it gives me the tools to be creative.”
And the community base, just because we are reaching out to people in our community, people who literally inspire us and inspire others, and that’s what makes this thing grow. Even last week we had two guests with really large communities come and they’d stay and overflow and maybe they listen to someone that they’ve never even heard about. And that’s kind of the goal in my head.
Crowdsurfer: How’d you come up with the name Real[m]?
Maggie: Anyone who’s ever started any kind of brand or business or anything can relate that naming is probably the hardest thing ever. It has to be catchy enough that people remember it, but it also makes sense to what you’re doing. And it just has to be perfect, essentially. And we were listing our words on a Google doc and Beth said the word “realm.”
And I said, “What if the the ‘M’ is like the manual sign on a camera because we’re both photographers?” And the synonym for realm was human connection. So it has a double meaning of like it’s a realm of creatives, but it’s also about human connection. So somehow we managed to find a word that encompassed everything that we were trying to promote. And I don’t know how we did it, but I’m really proud of it.
Crowdsurfer: The logo is really cool, too. Are there any hidden things or meanings you have in the logo?
Beth: There is one of my photo laminates in there. Also there is a Photoshop screen open which we liked.
Maggie: Beth also uploaded a festival wristband. So if you look on the top right corner, there’s a festival wristband right in the corner and that was kind of a fun Easter egg.
Crowdsurfer: After almost your first month of shows, what’s it been like to hear all the initial feedback and excitement for the show so far?
Maggie: We’ve had such amazing, informative and supportive chats with people and it’s been such an amazing opportunity to connect people with each other and show people that we’re all in this together. The first week we talked to Jake Chams and he was like, “I’m not immune to this either. I had tours get canceled. I’m sitting at home, too, like we’re all experiencing the same thing right now,” which in my opinion showed we are all on the same level right now; we’re all on the same page. It helped to further foster that community and trust.
Crowdsurfer: What is the concept for the show and where do you see Realm going in the future?
Maggie: Our whole concept is we want people to learn in an approachable way. We also want people who aren’t concert photographers to be on it. We want it to be all different types of creatives, all different types of people in the music industry. Honestly, there hasn’t been a week where I haven’t walked away feeling like I learned something, too. And I think the biggest thing we really wanted was for it to feel accessible and interactive, like we wanted the people who were watching to feel like what they were saying and their input and what they had to ask was equally as important as what we were asking. We wanted it to be that if you had a question for that person, here is your opportunity to get that question answered. So we’re thinking about how can we be interviewers that think outside of the box and involve people in a way that not only photographers are going to care about this, but anyone who’s watching this can.
Crowdsurfer: Who do you have on the show this week?
Beth: This week is really good. I’m super stoked. We’re starting with Steve Sweatpants. He is an iconic photographer in New York City. He began back with street photography when going underground and then roof topping was a really big thing. And he he started Street Dreams Magazine, which was a really iconic magazine within that culture. And he’s a Sony partner, and Emmy nominated videographer. So I want to have a professional conversation with him, like I know you’re just a kid with the camera going around, literally shooting the street. tell us about how you made that marketable.
And then second, we have Sam Miller, who was the lead singer for Paradise Fears, and now he has released his second novel, and it is a New York Times best seller. We’re going to talk to him about how he uses music in his writing and all that fun stuff.
Then lastly, we’re talking to Miranda McDonald, who is an amazing female in the industry in Los Angeles, shooting a lot for Shawn Mendes and Julia Michaels.
Crowdsurfer: How can people check it out and get involved?
Maggie: Go to twitch.tv/realmchat for the live shows, and our socials are a really good way to find out who’s gonna be on it. People can also get involved by telling us what you want to hear from us. And give us suggestions of people you want to see on the show. And also just watching it. I think the best way to understand what we’re about and what we’re doing is to tune in when we’re live.
Make sure to follow Maggie and Beth on Instagram and head on over to Twitch on Thursday afternoon to catch their next live episode of Real[m]!
British artist Arthur Walwin can do it all. With a LANY-meets-Paramore vibe and a string of hits under his belt, he’s finally ready to release new music after a three-year hiatus of his own work.
Self writing, producing, recording, and filming, he’s released another bop this week, and we caught up with him to get the behind the scenes scoop on his new project, Calgary.
Crowdsurfer: Where do you think switching up your style came from? Was it experimenting more? Tell us about the evolution you’ve had.
AW: I’ve kind of done a full 180 musically. I grew up on so many cool bands, like all the way back to Evanescence, Limp Bizkit, and that kind of stuff. That’s where I started, and then at some point I started discovering girls, and that led me to All Time Low, Mayday Parade, and that kind of stuff. I feel like some of those bands went more commercial and softened their sound in a way, and I sort of did the same. And my heart just wasn’t in it. For me, first and foremost is making great art, great music. I didn’t hate the music I was making, I still really love it, I just think for me as a music maker, I need guitars and a good vibe. So I feel like this project is me returning to that. There are a lot of bands right now like LANY, The Band Camino, that are making guitar music cool again and that really pushed me into being like, “Okay, let’s pick up the guitar again.”
CS: Where else do you get your inspiration, where does that kind of creative energy come from for you?
AW: It’s very sporadic. I feel like that’s why it’s taken me so long to make this. It’s my first original song that I’ve self produced, self written, in almost three years. The past few songs I’ve done have with with other producers and DJ’s. So start to finish, this is the first one that’s just me. This song Calgary is a real life situation, and a lot of my songs are autobiographical in that way, or stuff I’ve gone through or something that’s relatable. I’ve actually been sitting on it for awhile, and now just felt like the right time.
CS: Is there a part of the process you enjoy the most?
AW: In terms of actually making it, I enjoy everything. Guitar is what I started with, so if you put a guitar in my hands, I’m super comfortable and know exactly what I’m doing. Trying to program drums or like a synth on like keys or something is different. I am semi-comfortable with those things, but it’s not like it’s as natural. It’s almost like another language. If you’re fluent in Spanish, in English you can talk, but you might have to think about it a little more. There was probably a whole entire year where I’d sit down, I’d hear a song like a LANY song or something, and think, “These drums are really cool, that key parts are really cool.” And I’d sit down, get inspired and try and do something along those lines.
CS: Do you feel like now like with the accessibility of how anyone can record anything in their house that makes it like in some ways easier to make music?
AW: You know, it’s a bit of both. My setup is like a static iMac that just sits there, with the interface and everything and I don’t know, I feel like I may be mentally kind of restricted me being in just that room. So I’ve got a new laptop I just saved up for, and it’s purely so I can be mobile. I love the idea of just like sitting in a Starbucks and working on the tune rather than like everything I do has to be in that one room. I want to be able to do stuff on the go and just be in different environments having that kind of freedom, because that’s what I used to do.
So now I have this weird thing where like I rearrange the studio completely, like every six weeks. The computer, the TV, everything. When you walk in, it feels like a brand new room. So many bands have come around to record and said, “This literally feels like a different studio to when we were last here.” And I feel like for me as someone that’s there all the time, it just makes it fresh and sparks different ideas.
CS: Tell us about your process when you cover other songs.
AW: I have never covered the song that I don’t absolutely love, but I really have to love the song to be able to do it. It’s working out the arrangement, recording the song, filming the video, editing the video. Like the average is around maybe three days to complete, so I have to really like the song to give up three days of my time. So yeah, it’s 50/50 just wanting to make all out of something that I absolutely love. And also, you know, just building on my YouTube profile and filling a niche or gap in the market.
But I feel like you can take it too far. And that’s exactly what happened to me and just led to me taking such a long break with music. I mean, subsequently I found photography for it, which is great, but I really got caught up in that whole cycle of the brand new cover and then need to do artwork for this and you need to promote this and then book a tour because the EPA is coming out and it’s a lot.
I still count myself as a small independent artist. But I’ve done work with major artists and people on the other end of the scale and the amount of work that you personally put in compared to like when you’re an independent artist compared to when you’re with a major.
I remember working with an artist, we were in the studio for a few days. And every two seconds I was getting like an email from the manager like, “This is being sorted out and you need to do this press junket for this thing and all this.” And I was just like, “I have to do that all myself.” I have to go out and do all that whist being an artist. And for me, making the actual art work, even is fun to me. I love designing my Twitter banners and doing that kind of stuff. Like I love it. I love just putting all that together.
And that’s really what it’s about for me. So with the new single Calvary, I wrote the song, produced it, mixed it, and then we filmed the music video, edited that. And I’ve done and I shot the artwork and edited that as well. And it was basically just a chance for me to do absolutely everything. But I love putting it out to the world and be like, yeah, cool, I made that.
CS: Would you say that it’s important to you to do the photography and videography for your projects so it adds a visual element to your music?
AW: I’ve always been inspired by great music videos and just a love of cinema. So taking effectively a year off making music and purely just being a photographer/videographer, I was like, oh, I actually have the means to create something cinematic. The reason why I haven’t done a cinematic music video before is because I just couldn’t afford it and I didn’t know how to do it myself. And it just wasn’t something I had access to. But as soon as I did, it sounds cheesy, but it was a dream come true.
CS: Tell us about Calgary!
AW: It was a concept that I wrote. It’s kind of slightly based on what the song is about. It’s based on someone from the UK that falls in love with someone that’s from Canada. And they’re about to go home and essentially break up. The relationship was not even really a relationship. It’s more of just a fling, which is what happened to me. And it’s just them kind of making up for all the things they never got to do, like they never really got to progress themselves as real couple. They go through flashbacks, but they’re not flashbacks, almost like daydreams. And just imagining what would this have been if we actually had the chance to blossom this relationship?
I found these two amazing actors and we filmed in London. They’re a same sex couple in the video because I wanted that aspect of it from like a representation standpoint. We don’t really see a lot of that with commercial music videos. And I thought it’d be really cool to kind of showcase that and use my platform to be like, “Hey, this relationship looks like every other relationship. It’s no different to what I experienced. It is something that happens to all kinds of people. And yeah, I think it’s just an excuse to kind use my platform to show something that doesn’t normally get shown.
CS: That’s incredible. What’s next for you after Calgary?
AW: It’s just about pushing myself and just trying to take myself to the next level, which is great. I’ve always tried to push myself further. And yeah, this is just like the next step of that.
I have an EP’s worth of new music. The past three years has been me running away from guitar music, but I realized these are great songs and they need to be heard. So I’ve got a comfortable five songs that I absolutely love and want to bring out this year. I want to do really great visuals to go along with it.
But the great thing is that this weird time of self isolation has allowed me to have weeks to get everything done, and finally have enough creative energy to do it. So the rest of the year is just more. This is just the beginning of everything.
Calgary is out now! You can watch it on YouTube, stream it on Spotify, and anywhere else you get your music. Make sure you keep an eye out for new music from one of our favorite artists, Walwin.
Crowdsurfer: What has your life been like since the end of Fourth Ave?
Jaden Gray: It has been bittersweet. It’s been bitter only because we departed and went our own ways, and it wasn’t like it was fun to leave. It was just that we all came to a point where we were like it was time to conclude Fourth Ave, but not conclude the friendship of Fourth Ave, and pursue our solo careers. And since then it’s been a great time, I’ve been living my best life. As a solo artist, these past few months have been outstanding.
CS: You just released a new single called “Love Happy.” How does it feel to put out a song as a solo artist?
JG: Whoo! So when the boys and I put our EP out it was mind-blowing. But when it came to my own song, that was only me on the track, a song that I helped produce, helped write, I was blown away. I just never thought that I’d be here and this age. I thought I’d get there eventually, but not at 19. It’s an amazing thing to see all the fans respond and do videos and sing and already know the words and it’s only been out for a week!
CS: Is the vibe of Love Happy what we can expect your sound to be in your future music?
JG: Very much, and then not at all. Let me break that down. The sound that I’m going for is Pop R&B. My voice is the R&B effect, but the music is going to be pop. So for the next few songs I’m gonna experiment, and whichever the fans gravitate to most that’s the sound I’m gonna stick to. My next song is gonna be more along the lines of Pop Latin vibe. But Love Happy really feels good so I really hope the fans stay in that lane because I love making music that makes you wanna dance.
CS: Can you tell us anything about this next song? When are we gonna hear it?
JG: I was shooting to put the song out this month but being that the studios are closed down due to quarantine, I’m going to put it out in May. I’ve been talking to a few people and there will possibly be a feature on there as well, and me singing a little bit of Spanish as well. That’s all I can give. But it’s gonna be a vibe!
CS: Well, now I’m excited about it and sad we have to wait a month! And on the topic of things getting pushed back, I know this year is up in the air, but what are your plans for 2020?
JG: Before all of this happened I was scheduled to do Coachella, I was scheduled to go on the tour with Kanye West, I had four solo shows in a matter of two weeks which I’ve never done on my own… And all of that got pushed back. It didn’t get cancelled, but pushed back. As of right now those are the things that are solidified and I’m planning on this year!
CS: What’s your writing process like?
JG: My writing process is different. I’m not the best writer, that’s just not my strength yet. So usually when I’m in a room writing a song, I usually bring a couple other people in because I can tell people a story and I just need them to put it in a writing format. Once they start doing that, it’s easy for me to say “How about we change this to this?” But songwriting is something I’ve really been working on perfecting probably since Boy Band since we met Justin Trantor. He gave me so many different tips on how to write songs and poems that can turn into songs. I have a passion for good writing and I want to perfect it and get to the point where I can do it.
CS: What have you been doing in quarantine? Anything exciting?
JG: The past two weeks I think I’ve been working out, going to sleep, working out, probably eating, and then going back to sleep. But today is the first day since the beginning of quarantine that I’ve had things to do! I’ve been productive for the whole day and will be for the rest of the weekend. This quarantine has been pretty rough but I’m listening to what they’re saying and I’m staying in!
CS: I’m glad to hear it! And to wrap this up I have a few questions from fans on Twitter! The first is: what’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to? – @kayaxstevens
JG: Oh my! My favorite, favorite place I’ve traveled to is for sure Paris. The first time I went was quick because we had a show that night and had to be in Italy the next day. But the last time I went a couple months ago, I was there for five days. Three days were working with Kanye and the other two days were free. Being able to have two full days in Paris was amazing and beautiful and everything I imagined.
CS: If you weren’t singing, what occupation could you see yourself going to school for? -@victorigiddings
JG: Acting, modeling, and styling! I have a passion for all three of those. And then I love to build, I’d build a whole house if I could. So I’d do that just for fun.
CS: Just build a house for fun?
JG: Why not? And then I’m gonna live in it!
CS: Last question: what is your favorite part of the music making process? -@hello_dreamerr
JG: That’s a good one. My favorite part is literally the last thing in my process which is I’ll listen to the song and then ask everything extra, the runs and harmonies, to be stripped out and just listen to the plain vocal. Then I’ll go back into the room and add everything I loved the most and just go!
Crowdsurfer: Tell us how you got into shooting shows, how long you’ve been doing it and why you started.
Dusty Kessler: I’ve been shooting music since 2010 when my best friend was starting to perform as a local DJ. I would help him book shows by sending emails to promoters then bring my cameras with me to the shows, maybe there would be 25-50 people there. I started venturing out on my own and hitting up local promoters and other friends in the music scene and was just shooting for free for a while. Eventually that developed into some good business relationships that I still have today with some artists. I guess I started just because I loved live action and music. I never knew it could be a potential career path starting out but i’m thankful to still be shooting.
CS: What are some of your favorite shots you’ve taken over the years and why?
DK: One of my first favorite shots in memory was with G-Eazy, who I still collaborate with frequently. We shot it in Kansas City, MO, while I was in college. He was crowd surfing and I had a strobe in the back of the venue for extra light that I popped off while the confetti blast happened. I’ll never forget that one.
Recently I’ve been working with Miguel and a few months ago we shot at a festival in California. The shot of him with pryro going off in the background ended up being used on his tour merch so that was an amazing moment. To know there are people on the other side of the world wearing clothes with my image on it is amazing.
CS: What do you think is the hardest part about live concert and portrait photography?
DK: The hardest part for me is also the most fun part which is conveying to the viewer what it was like to be there in person and show the human aspect of the artist. When I’m working with an artist 1 on 1 it’s always a challenge that I break down the barrier between the camera and the subject.
CS: Your aesthetic includes a lot of film photography. Do you prefer film over digital? How has your style evolved over time to your signature style that you use now?
DK: I love film and digital. Film is the best medium to be creative and challenge yourself to slow down and frame up a shot. Yes I have shot film a few times during live concerts but it’s more often that I’ll shoot digital for the performance and any backstage or BTS stuff I’ll shoot a mix of film and digital. Sometimes with such quick turn around times I have to only shoot digital to deliver fast. I think my style has always been about being honest and not staging my shots.
CS: Who are some of the people you’ve gotten to photograph, and who is your dream artist to get to photograph one day?
DK: It’s a very extensive list. Recently I’ve still been shooting with G-Eazy and Miguel. Others include Jamie XX, Hitboy, Ava Max, 5 Seconds Of Summer, 070 Shake, Dan and Shay, Maroon 5 and many more. I’ve shot a lot of artists but I think a dream artist who I’d really like to be on tour with is someone who’s not even known yet to the public. I really like working with artists who are small and develop their brand image and creative. But a Billie tour would be fire too (shout out Matty Vogel)
CS: What do you love about shooting shows and the whole touring experience?
DK: I just love tour and meeting new people all around the world who care about music and come together for that reason. There’s nothing like a live sold out show or festival or tour.
CS: What would your advice be to young photographers just starting out?
DK: Find new artists and be in A&R. Reach out to people and offer your services for free at first and build with them creatively. The rest will come with time and just keep shooting every day no matter what type of camera you have or subject you shoot.
CS: Love that. What’s next for you, and what are your plans for this year?
DK: Right now is a scary time for those in my industry. With the touring and music industry on hold we have to stay creative and get through this together. Hopefully in the next 6 months things get back to normal.
CS: Definitely. Anything else you want to add?
DK: I love hearing from new people. Send me a message on IG @dkessler.
You might have seen Detroit rapper Sam B. on the Netflix show Rhythm + Flow. He was a personal favorite of mine throughout the series, known for his talent at cultivating creative verses and for his rap battle skills. We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his music, being on the show, and where he’s headed in the future.
Crowdsurfer: Give us a background on how you got started with music and why it’s so important to you.
Sam Be Yourself: I started making music as a creative outlet to help me talk about what’s going on in my life. Being able to take my thoughts and feelings and put them in the music has really saved my life in many ways. It all started when I picked up the guitar at nine years old and from there I just fell in love with it.
CS: That’s awesome. How’d you come up with the name Sam Be Yourself?
SB: My last name starts with a B and I used to go by Sam B. When it came time to upload my first project on streaming services the name Sam B was already taken so I added and “E” to the end of “B”, and then put “Yourself” at the end because I thought it just rolled off the tongue. Also being yourself is something I strongly believe in, especially in a music industry were a lot of people strive to be the same.
CS: What is your songwriting process like? Where do you come up with inspiration for your lyrics?
SB: The songwriting process isn’t always the same every time. Sometimes it starts with a beat that I already made or got from someone else, or sometimes the lyrics will come first. Something that just popped in my head and I feel the need to write it down. Inspiration for my lyrics comes from anywhere and everywhere. It might be something that’s going on in my life currently or something that happened me in past or something is going on in the world currently. Sometimes there is no direct inspiration and I feel like just saying some really slick rhymes.
CS: What’s your recording process like–more writing or more freestyling?
SB: Once again, it isn’t just a specific process that I stick to, I really just like living the moment and letting the music shape itself. I do a lot more writing than freestyling but some songs come together without any written lyrics at all and I will just punch in the words bar for bar.
CS: How has being on the show changed the trajectory of your career?
SB: Being on the show helped me in many ways. It helped me gain a larger platform for more folks all over the world to hear my music and also it has opened up the door for a lot more opportunities to perform in places that I haven’t before. I still have a lot hard work to do to get to where I need and where I want to be.
CS: What has the response been like?
SB: The responses have been great. Even if someone doesn’t particularly like me, my style, or my music at the end of the day motherfuckers know that I can rap my ass off and it gets respected globally.
CS: Yes! We love it. What’s your 2020 look like–what are your plans for this year and what are you looking to work on?
SB: To be transparent with you I’m not sure if anybody knows how 2020 is looking like with this whole Corona thing going on. I’ve already had multiple shows canceled and it looks like some more will end up getting canceled as well. So from now until this blows over I’ll just continue to write, record, and shoot videos for the songs I already have done. My next project should be ready to release by the summer.
CS: Anything else you’d like to mention?
SB: My mixtape ‘No More Mr. Nice Raps’ is out and available on all platforms! Follow on all social media @SamBeYourself and subscribe to my Youtube at Youtube.com/SambeYourself
Fresh off the stage, Souly Had spared fifteen minutes in between his set to speak about his journey in the music industry, from playing guitar as a young kid to touring with Audrey Mika. ‘‘I started learning classic rock songs like Metallica and AC/DC but my genre of music, I don’t even know what to call it, leans more towards R&B/Hip-Hop.’’ He is noticeably inspired by artists like Chance the Rapper, Kali Uchis, Tyler the Creator, and Kendrick. His music resembles R&B love songs with a modern hip-hop twist, and melodies that’ll hook you from the start.
All at a young age, he transitioned from making his own guitar riffs to making beats and rapping at fifteen years old. Eventually leading to outstanding recognition on his cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie,” that reached over 70k streams on SoundCloud.
That was three years ago, and Souly continues to prove himself to be a serious artist with his 2019 EP, B.L.I.S.S, including hit tracks, ”Hills” and “Crush,” which has earned him over 25 million streams on “Crush”alone.
His writing process varies as he continues to develop as an artist. ‘‘I used to sit down with a beat and just rap over that. Nowadays, I’ll write down a phrase that comes to mind in my notes. That typically becomes the idea of the song and I write around that. I’ve probably got like 500 voice memos alone with ideas.’’
One of his biggest challenges was getting recognized and after his success with the Amy Winehouse cover, he took a chance to show his potential. Prior to his EP, he released “Deja Vu” in 2017 which reached the attention of a popular Hip-Hop influencer who tweeted it out. Souly hit 10k streams within 24 hours of his release and got himself the recognition he deserved. Since then, he’s been featured on many Spotify curated playlists and is currently on tour with Audrey Mika.
Whether he’s talking about young love or heartbreak, and whether you relate to it or not, there’s no denying that his music is something you can vibe with. I got the opportunity to see him perform at a sold-out show in New York City and everyone in the audience reacted very well with his performance.
Souly Hadis making a name for himself as he plans to release two singles, “Goner”and “Heartbreak Hangovers,” and even hinted at an EP with seven tracks in the upcoming future. There is so much more music from him to be heard and we cannot wait until it drops. For the meantime, listen to his current tracks on all available streaming platforms!
A band’s rise to fame is not always a calm process, but that’s exactly the energy they exuded when I sat down to talk with X Lovers backstage at Terminal 5 in NYC, just before their show, opening for Alexander23 and Chelsea Cutler in a two-night sold out performance.
These two are by no means new to the game. Starting a punk rock band together when they were just kids, London Jackson and Jacob Ames (known by their Instagram handles as Saint Daddi and Saint Mommi–a troll joke that seemed to have stuck) have begun their rise, attracting a serious following with their emotional lyrics and a soulful sound. Here’s what they had to say.
Crowdsurfer: So you guys are definitely an up-and-coming band right now and ones to watch. But I know you didn’t just start last year, this has been a long time coming for you guys. Talk a little bit about that and how you guys went from kids starting a band to where you’ve evolved to now.
London: It’s such a crazy story because it really has been such a journey, and we’re still quite young, but we started like really young, right? So when we started, we were 10 years old and that’s basically half our lives. I was writing songs at the time. We met through little sisters and I was just like, “Yo, you should learn how to play drums to my songs.” I so vividly remember the first time we ever played music together, and after we went through the song, we looked at each other and were like, “We’re going to dominate the fucking planet.” And I think that energy/naivety has never left.
CS: I love that. How you’re saying like it’s like a little bit naive, a little bit like, dude, we have this energy, like we’re going to go for it.
London: Yeah. I think anything worth doing is like almost impossible, but it’s not impossible. Just almost is, you know what I mean? So you have to be a little bit naive. We’ve come this far, so I think we can do it.
CS: So you guys have grown up together and through almost a decade of working together, how has that been? How do you balance being friends but also having the band and having to prioritize getting the work done but then knowing when to chill out and be fun?
London: We’ve just grown together like in every aspect. It’s like we’ve grown up personally and professionally. Having something we both cared about so deeply from the get go brought us very close very quickly. I wouldn’t even say Jake is my best friend. At the risk of sounding really cliche, he is like my brother. And I think what that looks like is like, we can be in the studio and there’s no bullshit. We can just say, “Yo, I hate that.” And I think doing this for so long allows that dynamic to exist. The foundation of our friendship is allowing us to be able to put business first all the time. And we know each other so well. It’s like we’re married.
Jake: Truly, like we lived together, we were touring together and we share all the same clothes, our money, you know, it’s like everything’s shared. So I think the closeness at this point just makes it so fluid. And it’s exciting because we have these moments kind of recently like we’re about to play in front of 3,000 people. And that’s literally what we said we’re going to do eight years ago. It’s special. It’s so special.
CS: Talk a little bit about your writing and recording process and how you guys come up with songs. Do you have a certain way that you go about doing that or does it depend on the song?
London: We definitely have ways that we don’t do it. How we definitely can’t create is just walking into a room and saying, “We’re going to create a great song today. I know some writers in LA use that approach and it’s like a job. That’s just not who we are. As far as the actual processes, some songs I write 100% just by myself in my room in five minutes and then I’ll bring it to him. Other times, Jake will have a beat and I’ll start singing on it. I remember the song, “Sweatshirt.” I was like kind of dealing with some heavy shit and I woke up really early and went to the beach and I was tucked inside of my sweatshirt and I started like seeing this lyric: I found a place inside of my sweatshirt, that beats all reality. Oh, and you could probably try but you would not understand me. I was like, that’s special. So I ran home and wrote the song on our deck and it was done in like two hours. So it’s ever-changing.
CS: Do you feel like that’s why your fan base has latched onto you guys so much? Because like they can really relate to like the stuff you’re talking about and your lyrics?
London: Yeah, I think we like look at our fans as people, and they look at us as people, you know? We’re all humans. And they relate to it. Our fans are so much a part of the creative in a sense. I’ll go on Instagram and see like what they’re posting or what they’re going through and write a song about it. One can’t exist another other. So I think we just have a tight knit fan base and like family cause it’s like there’s just a lot of mutual respect.
CS: Do you think social media has been a good way for you guys to get your music out there to the fans and connect with them?
London: I think it’s really cool that we can be super specific with our vision, like at the touch of a finger. I think that’s really powerful to be able to control over your aesthetic. And I don’t think we’re the kind of music that a label 10 years ago would’ve assumed that girls like. But it’s like they can’t deny it now because they found us, and there’s no barrier to entry. Social media is crazy though. The dopamine hit is crazy. We went from getting a hundred likes, to like 10,000 likes a picture. And that fucks with your head. It’s weird and it’s extremely addicting.
CS: How have you guys maneuvered through that?
London: For two months I actually deleted Instagram on my phone because it was fucking with me. We would release a song and there would be a thousand comments in the first two hours and I’d be like, Oh, they like it. And then when that stopped, I felt like it was coming down from something. So I just needed to take a step back for a second. We had this really beautiful conversation going into the new year, which was like, let’s only focus on what we can control. Let’s focus on like creating dope content and instead of obsessing over how many streams of songs has, let’s focus on making better music. That mentality has extremely shifted. Fuck obsessing with what you can’t control, it’s such a waste of time.
Jake: Yeah, and I totally saw how like it affected you and how you had to work through that and I think we’re in a better place moving forward.
CS: Where are you guys looking to go this year?
London: We’re incredibly competitive, like obsessed with growing, so, as amazing as it is to be here, we’re opening. It just makes us extremely hungry to headline at some point. Meeting so many fans every night and seeing what we’ve built is so much more satisfying in person. Moving forward, we’re going to drop a new EP. We’ve been finishing it on the road.
Jake: I’ve loved being on tour and I wish it was going longer, but we’ll be doing a longer tour this year and headlining eventually when it’s right and that will be amazing.
CS: Okay, last question. Do you guys have any fun facts that you feel that our audience should know about?
Jake: Hmm, I have 10 siblings. And the other half of my family lives on a boat.
London: We both grow up in this tiny town in California. And my mom raised me vegan, so I would have cakes that were like made of grass.
CS: That’s crazy, thanks for the fun facts. Appreciate you guys chatting with us and excited for the show!