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Interviews

Artist Interview: James TW

An addictive guitar riff, strong drum rhythm and lyrics addressing a past lover, “Butterflies” touches on the yearning for a past lover though things have already ended.

James TW began his music career at the ripe age of 10 years old, moonlighting as a drummer in his father’s wedding band. At the age of 12, he started his own YouTube channel posting covers and gaining the attention of Shawn Mendes and record label Island Records in 2015. His song “When You Love Someone” has over 500 million streams with platinum certification in the UK and gold in the US. Following his album Chapters in 2019, James was on hiatus for two years until his latest release “Butterflies”. We had the pleasure of getting an interview with James and being able to talk about his work and plans for the future. 

CROWDSURFER MAGAZINE: Tell us a bit about the song.

JAMES TW: “Butterflies” was an interesting song for me because it took me the longest to write out of any song I’ve ever written. It took me two years to finish the song, usually I finish songs in two to three hours. 

I wrote the song backwards. Usually, I start by coming up with a concept or lyric. Something to write about and I use that as the end goal to move towards. This time I sat down and came up with a guitar riff and it was infectious. I started writing melodies and the last thing I had to do was come up with the lyrics. 

I tried writing it one time with these two writers called Red Triangle. We wrote a song called “X-Ray” which was a completely different thing. With “Butterflies”, it felt like the energy’s there, the dynamic of the track, but it’s not saying anything. There’s no story behind this. We went back in and this was the first time I’d written a song over zoom. We knocked out butterflies.

CSM: Since you’re releasing more music this year, what can we look forward to? 

JAMES TW: “Butterflies” is the first of a couple of singles that will come before a bigger body of work and that’s all I’m allowed to say right now.

CSM: So you sometimes write songs based on comments on TikTok or with your fans with the Song in 30 minutes challenge. How did this concept come about?

JAMES TW: I think that was a lock down thing. I think as soon as artists couldn’t perform live anymore. We have this desire to connect with the people who listen to our music and see what it means to them in person rather than over the internet. I wanted to jump onto that wagon, perform live, and do something that was different than songs that were already released. I liked the idea of a challenge and the inclusiveness of writing a song with your fans. The Song in 30 was the first thing we did and the first song we wrote was actually a really good song. They were as involved as I was and that was the way I wanted it to be. 

On TikTok, it’s just the same kind of thing but in a smaller setting. You only have a minute instead of an hour. People send funny, stupid ideas and it just lets you exercise that song writing muscle in a completely informal and unprofessional way, which is fun.

CSM: Will we ever hear any of those songs in the future, possibly as a single?

JAMES TW: Maybe. I’ve definitely thought of playing them live. Talking about the story behind it and who knows maybe some of the fans in the audience might have been involved in writing it but I don’t know if I’m going to record them or not. I’m not sure.

Was there one in particular that you liked?

CSM: I like “1975”.

JAMES TW: That’s my favorite one too. I don’t know, maybe. We’d have to figure out how to split royalties.

CSM: With your fans?

JAMES TW: Yeah, there were a lot of people in that livestream.

CSM: How has your creative process changed due to the pandemic?

JAMES TW: The distance you get over technology and online, it’s apparent. Some people hate it, some people can get past it. I think I don’t hate it but I don’t love it. 

Sometimes when you’re in a songwriting session and you’re in a room with people who are all trying to deliver melodies, lyrics, and ideas at the same time. You can fall into this head space where it’s like ‘I have to do something I’m under pressure’. That’s not how to get the best out of me. I don’t do well under pressure in those situations. 

So what’s been quite nice over Zoom is when I’m not quite feeling it and need some introvert alone time. We can just press the red button and have just like 30 minutes for me to be in my own room with no one else. Which doesn’t usually happen and would be weird to ask for in-person. So that has allowed me to reset during sessions where, maybe for the rest of the day, I would have been thrown off due to this pressure. I can kind of take the time for myself to come back in with ideas that I’ve manifested and developed on my own so I think it’s changed in that respect. Also I don’t have to travel to a studio anymore and can just kind of roll out of bed with my pajamas on the bottom half and write songs like that which is fun.

I think sometimes I might consider doing Zoom sessions now. Not the whole time but may be like 80/20, if it’s a long distance travel or even if it’s in another country. 

CSM: What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?

JAMES TW: That’s really tough. I think my favorite piece of advice is from my granddad, my dad’s dad. He always tells me before I say goodbye to him, ‘Just be James.’ I love that because he’s just saying to be natural, be you. That’s who you should believe in, that’s who should be and you shouldn’t try to be anyone else.

In an industry, when sometimes you think that you have to be like someone else or you look at other people that are doing well and then you look at yourself. It’s easy to fall into traps like that, so maybe it’s a boring quote but it means a lot to me.

CSM: What are some hobbies you’ve picked up during the pandemic?


JAMES TW: I really love video games. I play with a bunch of friends most evenings and that’s been really nice because it’s been a way of socializing without being in person. That’s been really fun. 

I’ve got into looking after myself even since the break up that happened last year and that’s what all of these songs are gonna be about.

I kind of got out of that and really wanted to change my body. I was quite underweight and had been a lot of my adult life. I got in the gym then the pandemic hit and then I was like “damn, I can’t lift weights or anything”. But I discovered this whole world of calisthenics which is like body weight training and there are some really difficult skills you can learn like handstand push ups, crazy pull ups and stuff. So I’ve been going to public parks and working out there and that’s been a whole new discovery purely because of the pandemic. I would have just stayed in a gym and lifted weights otherwise, so that’s been amazing. 

I’ve also started reading a little bit, still prefer to watch video and take in information that way though. I’ve also been journaling and checking in with myself and just doing things that make me feel good. 

CSM: Lastly, what would you like to tell your fans?

JAMES TW: Firstly, I would like to say thank you for your patience. It’s been two years since anything has happened and I know a lot of them have stuck by me and rinsed and repeated tracks from my first album, which is amazing of them. I just want to tell them that I’m really proud of this new music. I think it’s a development of my sound and of my writing. I am more mature than I was when I released my last album and I think I want to be more present so I can enjoy it more with them than I was with any music before.

A big thank you to the team at Island Records for setting up this interview!

And an even bigger thank you to James for taking the time out of his day to speak with us! We can’t wait to hear how his sound changes and develops further!

Stream Butterflies here!

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Interviews

Artist Interview: Zak Abel

‘To each their own’ references how everyone has the right to their own personal preferences and Zak Abel highlights this idiom in his newest single, ‘Be Kind’. 

Hailing from Hendon in North West London, this singer-songwriter has been writing songs since the ripe age of 14. His European tour was sold out and his music’s reach has broadened globally reaching fans in Southeast Asia. His most notable collaboration is with artist Kygo in which he wrote and featured on the track ‘Freedom’ which amassed over 79 million streams on Spotify.

His newest track ‘Be Kind’ itself is an upbeat song with an extremely memorable melody and a striking sense of optimism in its sound. The most impressive part of the song is its bridge where it pulls back the instruments and allows Abel’s vocals to shine through supported by choir-esque vocals in the background. 

I’ll let the artist explain the inspiration for the song himself.

Zak Abel: The song was written last year when I was in LA. It was actually the first time that I had written in America. And I wrote it at a time, where there was so much divisiveness and intolerance, especially on social media. 

I was just like “Man, I really wish we could be more kind to each other” especially towards people who might have different experiences of life to us. 

Those things [different experiences] aren’t very important.

The quality of your character is the most important thing. So let’s just be kind to each other.

CSM: Where is the first place you would perform once restrictions are lifted?

ZA: I think there’s an obvious answer here and that’s the US. So much of my favorite music has come from the US. When I think of 70’s Funk and Soul, it’s all basically just American music. I would just love to experience that for myself. 

I’ve also never actually toured in the US so to be able to do that would be amazing.

CSM: What is your favorite song to perform?

ZA: I know my label would love me to say ‘Be Kind’. Actually, “Be Kind’, I think the La, la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la

Having the crowd sing that and being able to adlib over that would be pretty dope.

CSM: What are some hobbies that you have gained due to the pandemic?

ZA: Before the pandemic, I was doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is essentially rolling around and hugging strange men for an hour or so. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that.

However, there’s a game on Playstation 4 called Overcooked, probably the best game ever created. Me and my flatmates try to complete all the levels. Once you’ve completed all the levels, there’s the white star which you can get which basically tells the world that you’re a huge nerd. So we are just trying to be the biggest nerds that we can possibly be and properly beat the game.

CSM: How has your writing process changed due to the pandemic?

ZA: It has resulted in most of my writing sessions being done over Zoom. Also when I’m recording, I’m recording in my bedroom or my living room.

Actually half of the vocal on “Be Kind” was recorded in the living room. Which is cool.

I was also working with the producer in LA and he was controlling my screen over Zoom. Controlling my computer, engineering my vocal. Just amazing. 

It has honestly opened my eyes to what can be achieved without being in the same room as someone.

CSM: So you have an upcoming album. How is this album different from the previous ones?

ZA: I can’t say too much because I’m still working on it. But I think it’s more soulful in terms of the production style and also in terms of what I’m doing vocally.

Also from a song writing point of view, I’m challenging myself more in terms of depth in the lyrics. 

I really like the album so far and I can’t wait for people to hear it!

CSM: What is the best piece of advice that you’ve got from somebody?

ZA: The best piece of advice that I ever got was to define your own criteria for success in music. 

I come from a sporting background. I used to play table tennis for England and it’s very easy to know when you’ve won. You’ve won the tournament, it’s done. 

With music, it’s not so simple. What’s better? A number one single or Bon Iver’s first album. They’re both great but for different reasons and different sets of criteria.

Define your own criteria for success otherwise it gets complicated.

CSM: Lastly, what would you like to tell your fans, the Zak Pack?

ZA: I love you! I appreciate you! And I am so excited to see you all hopefully when all of this is over.

Thank you Zak for taking the time out of your day to do this interview! Also, a big thank you to the team at Island Records for setting the whole thing up! 

Be sure to listen to ‘Be Kind“, if you haven’t already! With more singles on the way, we can’t wait to hear more of Abel’s new music!

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Interviews Uncategorized

Artist Interview: Cassie Dasilva

This week, we sat down with Cassie Dasilva to chat about her new single, her writing process, and her plans for the future. Check it out below.

Crowdsurfer: Give us a background on how you got started with music.

Cassie Dasilva: I started out as a really shy kid taking piano lessons and performing in recitals from a young age. I got a guitar for Christmas in grade eight, and taught myself a song that same day– literally playing until my fingers bled.  I always loved writing poems and lyrics in my fuzzy pink notebook, but once I had a guitar, I really started to fall in love with songwriting. I played my songs in highschool talent shows, local open mics, and opened for some smaller shows that came to town. 

CD: I moved across the country to study audio engineering and music production in Vancouver. Afterwards, I split my time between multiple part-time jobs, and gigging with my acoustic in any pub, restaurant or wedding that would have me.  I ended up busking downtown Vancouver for a while, eventually making enough in tips to quit all my other jobs, before moving back home to Ontario.

Back home again, I went to Canadian Music Week in 2018 with some friends, and found myself singing at an impromptu Universal Canada jam night. I was signed shortly after (initially as a folk-pop act).  I’d started writing EDM toplines and pop songs for other artists by then, and that led to my eventual love for/ transition into pop music and my first label releases.

CS: What is your songwriting process like and where do you come up with inspiration for your lyrics?

CD: I’m mostly inspired when I’m trying to process or deal with something, but I’m also always listening to everyone around me and writing notes in my phone with certain phrases and circumstances that I find interesting or can relate to.  I usually start with lyrics– I like to write a few lines and then twist them into melodies. I approach writing kind of like making a puzzle– fitting pieces together until suddenly the picture starts making sense and everything just fits and has a place. 

CS: How has TikTok changed the trajectory of your career?

CD: TikTok has been AMAZING. I went from having under 100 followers to 20K  and over 1M views almost overnight– just crazy. I can’t believe the response to “Unsolicited Contact” on there and what it’s done for me.  I’m excited to be reaching more people, and thankful for every single interaction, comment, and message I’ve received. It blows my mind that people are not only leaving the app to go listen, but liking the song enough to add it to their playlists/ follow me/ send me kind messages. I’m doing things completely independently right now (which can be trying, to say the least). I’ve questioned if I’m on the right path so many times over the past few years, so this sort of positive reinforcement from complete strangers all over the world has been life-changing for me as an artist. 

CS: What has the response been to your new single?

CD: I’m blown away by the support this song is getting.  I get so many messages from people thanking me for writing the song, saying how much they can relate, or even that it gave them the courage to block their ex. When we were recording the song, I kept saying that I wanted it to be a song that people screamed in the car with their friends, and now I’m getting messages from people saying that’s exactly what they’re doing. It’s wild!

CS: Tell us about working with an all-female team and why it was important for you to do that.

CD: When I was signed, I found myself working with a team of mostly men. It was difficult at times to explain my point of view, or see my perspective mirrored in those around me.  I’d been one of only five females enrolled when I went to recording school, and afterwards found myself in a network and industry completely dominated by men– which was at times intimidating and confusing as a young woman. I worked entirely with male producers, and attended writing camps where I was the only female. After I was dropped from the label, I just felt like I needed to consciously explore other avenues, including working with other women in the industry, especially on production.

CS: Tell us about creative directing your music video (we love the pink vintage aesthetic!)

CD: I started envisioning this video from the moment I wrote the song, and knew exactly what I wanted it to look like. I was writing and revising outlines for months leading up to shooting, handmade a ton of the props, art-designed, and even styled the entire cast.  Though I almost lost my mind taking it all on, I’m so glad I did because it feels so authentic this way. I was completely comfortable on set because I knew exactly how I wanted everything to look and feel ! I’m so thankful that the director, Kate Harrison, was willing to take on the project and bring all of my ideas to fruition!  It’s my “New Rules” meets “Scream Queens” meets “Euphoria” dreamscape. 

CS: Who are your musical inspirations?

CD: I’m a lyrics person through and through, and I’ve always been drawn to storytellers.  Taylor Swift, Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, John Mayer, and Winnetka Bowling League are a few of my favourites. 

CS: What’s your 2021 look like–what are your plans for this year and beyond?

CD: I’m releasing more singles throughout the year, and an eventual EP that I’m REALLY excited about! In the meantime, I’m writing more music, and I hope that post-global pandemic I can get a tour spot and play my songs for people in REAL LIFE. I am really missing performing and connecting with people that way, so I’m looking forward to getting back out on stage.  

CS: Anything else you’d like to mention?

CD: Just want to say thanks for having me!! Oh, and please go stream/ watch the video for “Unsolicited Contact”, and follow me on socials @cassiedasilva! I’ve put my whole heart into this project and I’m doing it on my own terms, so any support truly means the world! 

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Interviews

Artist Interview: LIVVIA

Rising Pop artist LIVVIA is an artist to keep your eye on. You may have heard her previous hits in the last few years – “Damn,” “OXO,” and “Parachute,” or maybe you recently saw her opening for the Jonas Brothers on their Happiness Begins Tour. But if you haven’t, now’s your chance to get on board! The up-and-coming star put out a new single called “Monster” a few months ago, and we finally got to chat with her about it.

CROWDSURFER MAG: Your latest single “Monster” came out back in October, and I loved the music video so much I had to talk about it. When did you decide you wanted to make it more of a film? And would you want to make another like it in the future? 

LIVVIA: I’m so happy you loved it! It’s my favorite creative accomplishment to date. I would absolutely love to do another video of the sort. I’m always involved in the behind-the-scenes aspects of my music videos and visuals, but this was my first time officially directing. It turned out almost exactly — even better — than I hoped and planned. I decided to make it more of a movie when I thought of the murder mystery storyline. The opening scene that sets up the story came to mind instantly. The amazing cast — Chris Pang, Skyler Samuels, Lukas Gage, Michele Selene Ang, Emily Tosta, and Deric Augustine — brought it to life so incredibly. It was an honor to work with them. I’m such a fan of them and their work. 

CSM: Did you help with making the storyline of the murder mystery and how everyone was going to disappear?

L: Yes! I planned the entire storyline and wrote a script that followed the lyrics line-by-line. I went to the location two separate times before our shoot date and filmed reference shots on my phone of camera movement for the scenes. 

CSM: Tell me a little bit about the inspiration for “Monster.”

L: We wrote this song at a writers camp in Nashville last year. It’s about people who try to twist the story to make you look like the bad guy, when the true villain was the wrongful accuser all along. I want this song to encourage people to let the truth speak for itself and not allow someone else’s stories to make them question their own character. Trust your instincts, and if others are determined to fall for the facade, trust that all will be revealed in the end.

CSM: You released another single and an EP in 2020! Which one of those songs is your favorite?

L: “Monster”! My favorite always tends to be my latest release. And I’m always excited about the next thing. 

CSM: And now it’s 2021! Did you make a New Year’s Resolution?

L: A couple years ago, I jumped in the water right after midnight after some convincing and jokingly made a resolution to jump in a body of water whenever the opportunity presented itself. It turned out to be the best resolution and I repeated it the following year. I like resolutions that are fun like that, but also good metaphors. This year, I think we should all be gentle to ourselves. My main resolution is to learn what I need to learn from all situations that arise — and those from the past — so I can move on fully. 

CSM: Can you tell us about any upcoming music you have for us?

L: There is a collaboration in the works! But I can’t reveal my collaborator yet. I’m so excited for you to hear it. 

CSM: What kind of impact do you want to make with your music?

L: I want to inspire and empower as many people as possible with my music, tell stories people can relate and aspire to, and be a part of the soundtrack to people’s lives. 

CSM: I know things are still up in the air because of the pandemic, but what are your goals for this year?

L: I have a secret project I’ve wanted to take action on for a while and I’ve used this time to take significant strides in the direction of that goal. I hope to make as much progress as possible this year. 

CSM: I’m hoping we’ll be able to get back to touring soon… so while we’re thinking about that, do you have a favorite memory on tour?

L: Too many to count! I feel so lucky that the last thing I did before lockdown was open for the Jonas Brothers on their Happiness Begins Tour. I’m so grateful those dates weren’t canceled. Being a part of that tour was beyond a dream come true. I am a huge Jonas fan myself – they’re some of my favorite people, and I absolutely love performing for an audience of Jonas fans because I feel so comfortable. It feels like I’m there with a bunch of friends because we’re all Jonas fans. 

CSM: Anything else you want us to know?

L: Feel free to reach out @livvia! I love hearing from everyone! And I would love it if everyone reading this would go watch the “Monster” music video. I couldn’t love it more.

Photo by Sarah Krick

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Interviews

Artist Interview: Bri Zoli

Artist to watch Bri Zoli is new to your Spotify playlist, but she’s not  new to the stage. She’s a classically trained flutist and vocalist  who has performed across the globe and has finally put out music  she can call her own. She released her first two singles last year,  and her angelic voice and emotional melodies are here to stay.  We were happy to get to talk to her at the start of this new year! 

CROWDSURFER MAG: You put out your first two songs ever in  2020 – 

BRI ZOLI: What a year, what a year. 

CSM: Exactly. But how does it feel to be releasing music? 

BZ: It’s great! I’ve been working on music for years and years. I  just felt like the time was right for me in 2020. I felt like I was able  to finally super focus on my music and it just felt like the right  time to put it out for me, personally. 

CSM: And “Lullaby” is your most recent single. What was the  inspiration for that song? 

BZ: So the vibe of that is definitely different from “Your Eyes  Only,” which is my first single that I put out in June. “Lullaby” is  kind of like a haunting, whisper-type track. It’s a vibe that I feel  like I’ve been wanting to create for so long and I never knew how  to put it into words. I think with “Lullaby” I really wanted to get  out that poetic, melodic, haunting song, and I think we’ve really  kind of hit the nail on the head there. 

CSM: We watched the music video for “Lullaby,” too! You’re also  a model, so how did having that experience play out for you in  your music video? 

BZ: So my boyfriend is actually a photographer and videographer. We met on a shoot a couple of years ago, so we’ve been  collaborating on shoots and videos just for fun throughout the  years. So obviously I was like, this is perfect, we can just do our  thing, but it’d be music video! But the thing no one tells you is it’s  so much work! I did all the post-production myself, so I was like, this takes so much time! But it was an amazing experience.

CSM: We’ve been talking to so many people this last year who  decided to learn how to do everything themselves! 

BZ: You kind of have to these days! We have all the things we  need to be able to do it, so why not just do it all? 

And continuing to speak of skills, you not only have modeling  experience, but you also grew up in music! How has that  influenced your songs today? 

BZ: So I grew up classically trained in flute and voice, and it was  like my whole life. I think growing up in that world – I was in an  orchestra and just playing with the world’s greatest composers  and constantly being around that kind of music – I think it really  

influenced me, and I think that also influenced “Lullaby” in those  beautiful, harmonic big choruses and all the instrumentals that  went into that. I think my personal style is very much emotional in  that way, so I really appreciate all those lessons and just  constantly being around music because I think it really helped  prepare me for being an artist. 

CSM: What’s your writing process like? 

BZ: If I’m just doing something about myself and I’m inspired, I’ll  sit at the piano and just play something and then melodies come  to me. I rarely start with an idea first, it’s kind of like “this sounds  cool” and then I’ll do a melody and then whatever comes to me.  And it’s kind of the same when I work with producers! 

CSM: How did you stage name come about? 

BZ: So this was something that I was literally harping on for years! For me, my stage name has to have a meaning and make sense. I  wanted to keep “Bri” because you know, that’s my my first name,  

but I didn’t want to use my last name. So I’m Hungarian, my  mom’s a hundred percent Hungarian, and she was gonna name  me Zoltana because her father’s name was Zoltan. And I’ve always  loved that name. And I was like, Mom, why didn’t you name me  that, that would have been so cool! And my nickname would have  been Zoli, which is what I decided to be the second half of my name. What could be more perfect to honor who I could have  been and can be?

CSM: Did going through quarantine and lockdown and all of that  help you grow in your music? 

BZ: Absolutely. Being able to collaborate virtually with other  artists has actually been amazing, and having that time I wouldn’t  have had before, I’ve been able to focus so much more. I feel like  this year I probably wrote more songs than the last couple of  years! 

CSM: What can we look forward to from you this year? 

BZ: So I have my third single coming out soon, it’s going to be  called “Faling.” It’s going to be different from the first two, it’ll be  grungier and moodier, I’m really excited about it. And then after  that my EP will probably be coming out in late 2021! 

CSM: I’m excited for that! Did you make a New Year’s  Resolution? 

BZ: I think to be not as hard on myself, to stop overthinking  things, and just go with my creative process. If I write something,  and I like it, it’s better to just put it out in the world than to refine  it millions and millions of times. 

CSM: I think we could all use a little more of that mentality. If  you like it, go for it! I saw you joined the Game of Thrones  bandwagon, even though we’re all off of it? 

BZ: I actually really love it! The funny thing is I watched the finale  first and I was so confused, I was like, why do people like this? But  now I’ve started from the beginning and I totally get it. So that will  be my 2021 guilty pleasure. 

Well, thanks for taking time to talk to us today! 

BZ: Thank you so much! 

Take a listen to “Lullaby,” and keep your eyes out for Bri Zoli’s  next single!

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Interviews Videos

PUBLIC is Our Splash of Sun in New Single “Splash”

Comprised of Cincinnati, Ohio natives John Vaugh, Ben Lapps, and Matthew Carter Alvarado,  PUBLIC began their musical careers in 2012 with their first EP Red. They’ve played for major festivals such as Forecastle, CMJ, and SXSW and are recognized for their TikTok famous song “Make You Mine”. 

PUBLIC’s newest single “Splash” features a funky bassline and a strong catchy pre-chorus that according to some listeners can sound like “drown your best friend and eat your parents” but still catchy all the same. 

Though the actual lyrics “charm your best friend and meet your parents” are not nearly as morbid, according to PUBLIC themselves, this upbeat and lively tune came about during a tough time in their lives.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CROWDSURFER:  What was your inspiration for “Splash”?

Matthew Carter Alvarado, Bass, Synth, and Vocal: The initial idea for “Splash” came about in January 2018. The band had been going through a rough patch – we were wearing ourselves thin grinding on tour, didn’t have a team other than our parents and each other, and we weren’t quite sure how much longer we could maintain our career for.

On the way to the recording studio, I recorded an unintelligible voice memo of what would become the chorus melodies for the song, the only coherent words being “Splash of Sun”.

Fast forward to 2020 and that same idea still seemed both relevant and relatable. Instead of dwelling on the inability to grasp what the future held, we wanted to twist that dark idea into something vibrant and joyful, finding energy and hope in the prospect of someone or something bringing a light to our lives.

CS: What was the process like making this single? Was it one that seemed to write itself or did it seem to take more thought?

Matthew Carter Alvarado: Compared to co-writes we had done in the same room as other songwriters and producers, we had definitely felt some difficulty finding our groove when trying to coordinate across our computer screens. However, when it came time to write with producer and now close friend, Lindgren, we immediately felt like we were on the same page.

As the band boys went about diving into the vocal melodies and themes, Lindgren was on the other end composing the instrumental demo of the track. I think it was the first time we had felt both relieved and excited to have so much chemistry across a platform like Zoom that had once seemed so flat and lifeless. 

It was a giant breath of fresh air having a product come together so quickly and effortlessly and gave us a good kick in the right direction, both mentally and emotionally, for future co-writing opportunities.

CS: How has quarantine been treating you? How has creating music changed during a global pandemic? 

Ben Lapps, Percussion: It feels very strange to be at home for such a long period of time! 

We have practically lived on the road for years, so we’ve definitely had to adjust during the quarantine. Personally, it has been very good to be home spending quality time with my wife, Phoebe. In that way, it feels like a special time. But at the same time, we absolutely miss being able to play live shows and see our fans. 

Creating music has been a very different experience. We are basically writing everything over Zoom. Our newest single, Splash, is actually a song that we wrote over Zoom. It has actually given us more opportunities to work with people all over the world. Never would have guessed that we would be doing so much writing this way, but after a few sessions, I feel like we really started to understand how to make it work.

CS: What is a message you would like to give your fans?

John Vaughn, Guitar and Lead Vocal: First, I want to thank them for being supportive. Pretty typical, I know, but as an artist, it really does mean the world. It’s not something I think you can understand if you haven’t gone through the grind. But our fans really mean the world. We love them and we want to keep giving music that makes them smile.

With that note, be sure to watch PUBLIC’s music video for “Splash”!

And a big thank you to PUBLIC for taking the time out of their day to answer our interview questions!

Categories
Interviews

Whitney Woerz is an Ambassador for Mental Health

The number of artists who are speaking up publicly about mental health awareness is growing by the day. Up-and-coming artist Whitney Woerz wants to be part of that discussion. She’s an ambassador for Bring Change to Mind, a nonprofit who’s mission is to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness, and she’s been using her song lyrics to cover a plethora of topics surrounding mental health and wellbeing. We sat down with Whitney this week to talk about music, inspiration and all things mental health.

Crowdsurfer: What inspired you to start writing music?

When I was 13, a friend one day reached out and said that she was planning to kill herself… As a 13 year old, I didn’t even know what that really meant. I didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t responding or anything.So I wrote a poem for her and then put a melody to it. I had never written a song before, or a poem for that matter, but I recorded a video and sent it to her, not even expecting a response. She did respond though! And she said that the song saved her life. And it inspired her to get therapy. Wow. Saying it out loud still shocks me. That literally was the biggest life changing moment, I think, ever, because I realized my lyrics did that.So we sent my song to Bring Change to Mind, which is an organization run by Glenn Close to help end the stigma around mental illness. I’ve been a teen ambassador for them ever since I was 13, and I’m still working alongside them. We start the conversation basically. That’s like, honestly, the most important thing you can do is just start the conversation.

CS: What inspired your latest song Retrograde?

I wrote Retrograde right as Corona kicked off. It was a really weird time obviously and on top of that, a Mercury retrograde was going on. I, and everyone i knew was feeling like their life was upside down. I wrote it with a writer Ayelle and producer Stavros and we were kind of all feeling life was just not good at the moment. So we’re just like, “It’s the retrograde.”But, it also has a positive message too. There’s always the light at the end of a dark tunnel that you can never see at the time. Whenever you’re in a dark space, not even just in retrograde, you feel like you can’t get out of it and like it’s the end of the world. Think back to a time you thought everything was miserable. And then suddenly there’s the light.

CS: How do you find positivity amidst all this chaos happening right now?

WW: Personally, I find happiness within myself when everything externally isn’t amazing. I realized one day that I have control over my thoughts, which was quite a profound realization. And then I was like, wait a second. Anybody can do this, like I feel like we’re all magicians, but we don’t know it. And you can literally just switch. If you want to be positive, just be like, I’m quitting the negative. It’s going to be positive. And then once you start thinking positively, just watch how your life will do a 180 flip, because that’s exactly what happened to me. I started thinking positively, almost to trick myself at first, actually, and then it wasn’t a trick anymore. I was just thinking positively and then manifested basically almost by accident, good things. So it’s very interesting when you, I don’t know, learn that you have control of your thoughts. I like to say that I create my own life now because of that. But I just always try to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To me, I think Corona happened for a reason. And we’re going to make it out because we always make it on dark places.

CS: What challenges have you gone through personally with dealing with mental health issues?

In high school, everybody around me was just really, really sad. It’s so interesting, though, because I feel like we all put on such a happy face, but really underneath, we’re just sad. And yeah, it was a lot of external factors. My family wasn’t doing that great. And my first boyfriend broke my heart. I feel like so many people can relate to that, especially with a first love. And I, as a junior in high school, was distraught. I didn’t want to live anymore. And so I channeled that into lyrics. Writing lyrics was basically therapy for me. Everybody who I played like the breakup songs for who had been through a hard time was also just like, wow, it’s relatable and it’s hard. It’s really hard sometimes.But looking back at the person that I was, I saw how harshly I treated myself, also how harsh and negative I was. And how sad little Whitney was. But all those were ALL learning lessons. Everything is a learning lesson and everything happens for a reason, too. So now I’m looking back at that stuff and I’m like, wait- that literally shaped me. I am so thankful for all the pain that I’ve experienced because of that. And if anyone’s going through pain right now, one day you’re going to look back and be like, it made me who I am.

CS: What’s your self care routine like, or what are some things that help you to feel better sometimes?

WW: I suggest writing down the thoughts in your head that stand out to you, then they become art in a way. And also like actually pay attention to your thoughts. We’re just on autopilot with our thoughts so much of the time and they just let go speeding. So what I’ve been doing is just trying to, like, really be conscious of my thoughts. And that has changed how I think and how I live.

I also meditate almost every day, even just for ten minutes. Let’s you clear your head and let positive energy come in. I have a bunch of spiritual candles charged with different energies I like to light too to clear my mind. But the biggest thing for me is to try to focus on my thoughts and decide if they are beneficial to me or not. It’s a little bit scary when you first do it, actually trying to be conscious of your thoughts, but very very cool once you achieve the good that comes from it.

CS: What does it mean to you to be an advocate for mental health awareness?

I think my main goal in life and music is to be happy and to make other people happy. That’s Bring Change to Mind’s exact same goal too! Like everyone deserves to be happy and we have such a short time on this planet.I’m just so thankful that I’m able to have a platform where I can share. I am so thankful that I can share my music with a message every day.

CS: What’s next for you?

WW: A lot. I’m actually at a studio right now. We’re working on a very cool song. And so next for me is new music. I’d love to do an album. I would love to just get a Whitney album out there. So hopefully that’s what’s next. But definitely just new music. I’d love to continue singles, if that’s what it’s going to be.

CS: Anything else you’d like to add?

WW: Well, actually, yeah, there’s a mercury retrograde happing right now and it’s last day is the election, so listen to my new single Retrograde to have something to relate to while the energies are off! Oh and one more thing. One thing that has really helped me whenever I’m feeling like a bad thought or anything, I just think about how I am one hundred percent not the only person who’s thinking that thought. So no one is alone in anything that they’re going through. And if you’re thinking something, someone else probably has too. So you’re not alone in anything. 

Learn more about Whitney at her website right here.

Categories
Interviews Music News

Artist Interview: katie MAC

It’s a foggy October day and pop artist katie MAC and I grab a table outside of a coffeeshop in Nashville. While we wait for our teas to cool down to a reasonable temperature, we have plenty of time to discuss her new EP Self Sabotage. It’s been months since either of us have had an in-person interview, and we both laugh about how we aren’t sure how to do this anymore, but we take a stab at it anyway.

CROWDSURFER MAG: Your EP just came out this month! How does it feel to have your second body of work out there?

KATIE MAC: It’s different than the first for sure. To have the songs out felt like a turning point, like a change in the chapter, more personally than musically for me. It felt very cathartic and satisfying to finally have those songs out for other people to listen to.

CSM: What does the EP mean as a whole to you?

KM: It felt like an examination of self. I felt like my first album was very outward looking as far as my relationships with other people, whereas this entire thing felt like a step back and kind of an introspective examination through the lens of the way that I interact with other people.

CSM: Why did you pick “Self Sabotage” as the title track?

KM: I think when I finished that song, I was like, wow this is the phrase that feels most true to me in this phase of life. And then I started putting the project together and realized I had been creating that as a theme in my writing without even knowing it. So it just kind of clicked and made sense for that to be the title track.

CSM: So we know the title track, but do you have a favorite track?

KM: I do this thing where I am most obsessed with a song for a couple of days and then I hate it for a couple of days and then I like it again. So it changes. But currently, my favorite is the last song, which is called “Worried About Me.” I think I like it so much because I made it with my two best friends here.  It’s special to me because it’s not about boys or whatever, it’s about my relationship with myself and with my work and my career.

CSM: Self Sabotage follows up your album Tears Like Glitter. You said the content has changed since the album, but what else has?

KM: Tears Like Glitter felt like coming of age for me. Now, as more of an adult, I feel like there’s a sense of maturity in this one that was missing from the first one. Sonically, it felt like the sounds on Tears Like Glitter are very similar to this one, it’s just that Self Sabotage feels more exploratory. That willingness to try new things as far as production and vocals and is unique and characterizes me as a person

CSM: Tell me a little about your writing process.

KM: For me, it changes depending on the song. But it almost always starts out with an experience that happened to me or someone I’m close to. And then we either start with a title or phrase or melody, and if it’s just me writing, it’s usually a thirty-minute process and then a song just comes out. But when I’m with really talented writers and producers, we take our time and mold the story, and we’ll normally get the track ready the same day we right the song. A lot of times that’s the only day I’ll be in the studio for the song, and it’ll just be done at the end of the day.

CSM: Do you have a preference? Writing by yourself or with producers?

KM: I don’t have a preference! I think there are some stories that come out better when it’s just me because I’m not afraid of anyone’s opinion of what I’m saying. But then being in the studio with people I love and respect is so much fun and we get the most awesome ideas I’d never be able to come up with myself.

CSM: What kind of impact do you hope to have with your music?

KM: What I always come back to is I would like to make people feel less alone in the way that they experience things. If I can make people feel they can express what they’re feeling and that they’re not alone, I think that I’ve done my job.

CSM: So you’re from Kansas, and obviously music brought you here, but why Nashville?

KM: I really wanted to move to California when I was 17, but my parents wanted me to go to college. I hated all the places I visited, and then we visited Belmont University. We got there and I loved the school, I was like, you’re telling me I can spend four years learning to write songs? Sign me up. And I never looked back.

CSM: What’s next for you?

KM: I have some collaborations coming up that I’m really excited about!

CSM: We’ll keep our eyes out for those! And, it’s October. Do you have a favorite Halloween movie?

KM: Ok so apparently Halloween movies is a genre, and I didn’t know this. I think I’ve seen maybe two Halloween movies in my life. My roommate is making me watch Halloweentown tonight, actually.

CSM: A classic!

KM: I’ll let you know how it is!

You can take a listen to Self Sabotage here!

Categories
Interviews

Artist Interview: Barret Turner

Dallas-based musician Barret Turner has been writing music for many years but has only recently begun releasing the tracks. We’re excited to introduce you to his songs! Read on to learn about Barret’s latest single “Always You” and everything he has planned next.

CROWDSURFER MAG: Your latest single “Always You” came out last month. What does this song mean to you?

BARRET TURNER: I made it a long time ago, and it was about my friend’s mom battling cancer. I brought I back with the newer stuff I make, and now I feel like it represents his journey after his mom passed away. I feel like he kind of lost himself and now he’s getting back to who he was.

CSM: We’re fans of Will Jay, so we were excited to see him featured on this song. How did bringing him onto the project happen?

BT: I sent him an email! I sent him six songs, and he said he wanted to work on “Always You.” He was super easy to work with, we’d send each other lyrics and melody ideas back and forth, and that’s how the song came about. Quarantine hit so we had to do everything over email.

CSM: It’s so wild that this all had to go down over email!

BT: Yeah, and I wish it wasn’t like that, but I was like, man I’d love to work with Will Jay, he’s so good. So I feel very lucky that he accepted the offer.

CSM: “Always You” follows up “On Purpose” which came out one month earlier. Can we expect another song this month?

BT: I’m putting a song out every month! October 30th is the next one called “Never Stood.” It’s different than the other ones, it’s more vibey, chill-in-your-car-at-night kind of song.

CSM: “Always You” and “On Purpose” are both very emotional. What’s your writing process like when turning these personal stories into music?

BT: I like to write at night, and I’ll get an idea in my head and start dabbling with that. I normally start with the piano chords, and I’ll start building off of that. I like that epic, kind of sad build up towards the end that’s inspirational.

CSM: We all like sad songs! Who are your biggest inspirations in music?

BT: I always liked Martin Garrix and how his songs are kind of chill but at the end your brain is just mash because you’re so involved with the song. I also really like Hootie and the Blowfish. It’s a totally different type of music but it’s very emotional and real.

CSM: So you’ve got more singles to release, and do you have anything else in store for us?

BT: Yeah when I put this next song out I’ll have the lyric video and another music video for that. And then, next month, same thing. I’d like to play show but obviously that’s not happening right now!

CSM: Whoa, that’s a ton. How are you managing to get all of that out every month?

BT: I usually have someone do the lyric video, but I’ve been making the music videos myself, and It’s hard. It’s a learning curve, and it’s a lot. But it’s kind of fun, too, because it’s rewarding when it’s done!

CSM: What’s one of your goals for 2021?

BT: I’ve been trying to get all of my songs finished and getting them out is really the only goal right now. Just trying to keep going up! There’s no plan B right now, it’s just this, and I’m excited about it. I just don’t want to one day be old and say “damn, I never even tried.”

CSM: Last question, even though holidays are weird this year, do you have any plans for Halloween?

BT: No, I’m sure I’ll do something though! This weekend I’m going to the Chiefs game.

CSM: Wait, you’re in Dallas but going to the Chiefs game?

BT: Oh yeah, my grandpa played for them so it’s a family thing.

CSM: That’s crazy!

BT: Yeah, he played in the first Superbowl. And a lot of the songs I made . . . I lived with my Grandma for a year and a half, and I was making these songs and she would listen. And then she passed away, and the Chiefs went to the Superbowl the next week and won it. We went to the game and it was the best thing I’ve ever been to. It felt like she was there, you know?

CSM: That’s magical and amazing.

Take a listen to “Always You” here!

Categories
Interviews

BANNERS // Artist Interview

You’ve probably heard his voice somewhere on Tik Tok, or maybe even on Spotify’s Global Chart, or I don’t know — maybe even on tv for the trailers of Hulu’s up and coming show, Love, Victor. Familiar yet? Well BANNERS is one artist that you should get well acquainted with. He offers a beautiful mix of haunting yet inspiring anthems that never fails to put a smile on your face. We got to talk to him about music, inspirations, and the huge change he’s had to transition to with the success of his hit single, Someone To You. 

BANNERS: My name is Mike Nelson and I’m from Liverpool. I’m writing this just round the corner from Penny Lane and I’ll probably go up to strawberry fields in a minute because what else is there to do when there’s a pandemic on? I like singing and playing music but mainly I like football. Which is probably the description of everybody born in Liverpool really.

CROWDSURFER MAG: How did you first get into music? 

B: When I was 6 years old I was, for some reason, a singing Ox in a school Christmas play. You’d honestly think more would be made of the fact that there was a singing Ox at the birth of Christ (being dressed like an Ox, put on a stage and made to sing at the age of 6 was the first I’d personally heard of it) but I suppose there was a lot going on with the birth of our Lord and Saviour so the Ox clearly took a bit of a back seat. Still, pretty great. So yeah it turned out I had a lovely little 6 year old voice and I auditioned for the Cathedral Choir in Liverpool. Then did that like every night after school and on weekends while everyone else was doing cool stuff like watching Terminator 2 and having coming of age experiences like in Stand By Me. My Dad is a record producer, so I also spent a lot of time being in recording studios and fell totally in love with them and wanted to be in them with people that do music for the rest of my life.

CSM: Can you talk about your writing and recording process?  

B: Well at the moment, there’s a lot of Zoom in my life. It’s quite nice really. I’m staying with my parents whilst we all figure out this worldwide health emergency the news is always talking about, so I’m genuinely writing a lot of songs in my bedroom. Which is weird. I can’t believe I’m still doing this from a bedroom at my mum’s house. Really thought I’d be further along by now. Man, I hope I’m better at writing songs now than when I was like 10. What if I’m not? What if being 10 was as good as it ever got?! It probably was actually. I really had it figured out then. I’ve got NO IDEA what I’m doing now. So yeah there’s a lot of writing over the internet at the moment but it’s working out pretty well. There’s a lot of writing lyrics with people over email, which considering a lot of them are love songs, it works nicely. Nothing says I love you like a properly formatted email.

CSM: Your Song “Someone to You” has got a lot of attention! Tell us how that changed your life as an artist. 

B: Yes it has. It’s been weird because I can’t play any gigs so my only way of experiencing that has been via emails that say things like “LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE LISTENING TO THAT SONG” or by looking at Spotify. So there’s a huge chance that you’re all playing a joke on me. That this is like The Truman Show, you’ve just hacked into my Spotify, artificially inflated the numbers, and are observing how someone acts when they think people really like their song. I’ll save you the trouble. I’m generally relatively freaked out, feel pretty much like an imposter that will get found out as a charlatan and am hiding in a bedroom in my parents’ house. 

CSM: What inspires you?

B: I really just want to play a small part in making people happy. Just making their day a tiny little bit better. 

CSM: What’s coming up for you next?

B: The forecast is a lot of being in a bedroom in my parents’ house. Worrying about a song that’s already out and also worrying about if songs that are done but aren’t out will do as well as the one that is already out.

CSM: Anything you want your fans to know?

B: That I love them and that I can’t believe how nice they are. That they send me lovely messages all the time and they make me feel better about the world. They’re so much nicer than me. I love loads of bands but it would never occur to me to open up social media and go “Hey The National/Arcade Fire/Elbow/Joanna Newsom/Regina Spektor/London Grammar I really love you so thanks.”  So thanks for being lovely everyone.

We look forward to hearing more music from Banners and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next while we’re all stuck inside. The next time you hear Someone To You (which is highly likely), be sure to remember the wonderful artist behind it.