This week, we caught up with KIIRA, a 23-year-old Swiss-American singer, about her two new singles, “After Hours” and “Porcelain”. Born in Paris and raised in Zurich, KIIRA has spent the past few years working alongside multi Grammy-nominated producer Justin Trugman (Eminem, Wu-Tang, Ice Cube).
“I remember being so in love with listening to music and singing from a very young age,” KIIRA expressed. “I live and breathe music”. Some of her all-time favorite artists that she is inspired by are Lorde, Ella Fitzgerald, Lana Del Rey, Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse, Daughter, and Ben Howard. As far as her current top artists, “My top influences are Dominic Fike, Billie Eilish, and Labrinth”, she stated. She’s currently evolving and perfecting her unique sound through her laid-back vocals and catchy melodies. Her two new singles “After Hours” and “Porcelain” redefine her sound, pushing boundaries in the chill-pop space.
After listening to the new singles, we were interested in her writing process and how exactly she’s finding her own sound. “The writing process is such a magical part of it all,” she explains, “Whether it is me alone on the piano or in a room with other people, bouncing off ideas… it’s pure magic!”
KIIRA keeps a journal with her throughout the day and takes notes as thoughts and ideas arise. Once she gets home, she will sit at the piano and make sense of it all. “Honestly, I just go with the flow and try to let things come out naturally,” she describes, “I feel like when things are forced, they are never truly authentic.”
She feels most in her element while recording, just her and the sound engineer making music together and zoning in. “There are absolutely no distractions, just me in my element. I am truly the happiest version of myself when I am in that zone.”
Since she recently released two new singles, we thought we’d get more details. “Love can be a scary thing because if you fall so deeply, you can become blinded and not see any of the red flags,” KIIRA explains, “These songs hold a very special place in my heart.” While spending the last few years working on herself as an artist, these two singles showcase how she has evolved to find her sound. Find KIIRA on Spotify and all streaming platforms to listen to her new singles! As far as looking towards the future, she has stripped versions of “After Hours” and “Porcelain” that are coming out this month. “I am constantly writing and will have new music coming out in the near future,” KIIRA says. We’re excited to keep an eye out for what comes next!
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: Thank you so much for being willing to do the interview. For our readers that might not know, walk us through how you got started with music.
Jackson Breit: I grew up playing trumpet in my school jazz band. And then a few months after that or a year after that, I started like a reggae rock band in high school. And then towards the end of high school, I started a rap group called Bruno Jackson and I started producing like Hip-Hop production. And then at the very end of college, I put out like a song called Sunny Side, which is like a feel good song. And it kind of blew up in a way. So I moved out to L.A. to do music full time.
CS: You produce your music as well, don’t you?
JB: I do. I produce a majority of my stuff, I’d say. I work with other producers too. But yeah, a lot of this stuff I produced myself. I’m pretty meticulous with that kind of stuff. It’s a double edged sword, because you could spend hours on one little snare drum noise. If I’m not producing it, then I’m just worried about the vocals and stuff like that. And maybe guitar. But when you’re producing it, you can really go deep down the rabbit hole.
CS: How do you find a balance with wanting songs to be perfect production-wise but also know when to finish the song?
JB: It’s hard sometimes, you know. Sometimes you get stuck, you get caught in limbo for so long that you lose interest in the song. So one of the things that you have to realize as a musician is when to cut it off. When the song is done, and when the squeeze is not worth the juice.
CS: What’s your favorite genre or style to create?
JB: What I really enjoy doing is kind of blues-y soul and hip hop. I feel like now I’m going closer to like my natural state, whereas a lot of the other stuff, it’s me, you know, I’m attempting to tap into some genre that I feel like people would like. And now I’m doing more of what what I really want to hear myself.
CS: What’s your songwriting process like?
JB: When I’m writing songs, I start with the music and then go to the melody and the lyrics. Usually for me, I try to reflect the music. So whatever that brings out of me, that’s going to come out on the track as like somewhat authentic because I’m I’m trying to match the vibe of the song. So it’s mostly what I’m feeling. I wouldn’t say I set out to be like, oh, I’m gonna make a super sexy swaggy track today. But if I get in that little zone and freestyle, I might come up with something that’s kind of sexy. But if it’s like a sad acoustic thing, then I’ll try to reflect that in the melody and in lyrics.
CS: Walk us through how you go about creating a song.
JB: It almost always starts with a guitar. And then it’s just trial and error. Trial and error as far as like the rhythm, tempo, all that stuff. And then maybe I’ll put down a little loop or something and see if some melodies pop and then that’s when the whole process starts. Usually I’ll give it a couple hours, I’ll go hard on that, on whatever song I’m doing for a couple hours and then take a little breather and look at it and ask, “Is it like is this worth my time to continue on or is this kind of wack?” Because for every song I put out, there is a hundred wack ass songs that don’t make it.
But on the contrary, if you get a little nugget that you like, and it’s like a baby seed that you’re like whoa like there is something serious here. And sometimes it’s very little. It’s just like the beat or something. It’s a melody. And then you’re you’re really energized. Then you can be like, let’s hunker down with this. So that’s the greatest feeling I feel you can have as a musician.
CS: What’s is like making songs with other musicians and producers?
I have a buddy who comes and plays bass, who is just an insane bass player, and he plays keys, too. He’s been invaluable because he just knows chords that my fingers are just not capable of doing. And then when you hear certain chords and progressions that I wouldn’t find naturally, it opens up a new door for me melodically. It’s really great to work with like talented musicians like that. And it opens doors. And it’s the same when people work with songwriters.
CS: Your 679 cover has 16.6 million Spotify listens at the moment. What’s it like to have that kind of success with a song?
JB: I was very hesitant to do covers and I wanted to write the music. And then somebody was like, listen, like, you need to do covers to get exposure. He was advising me at that time. And so I did 679. I sent it to him and he was like, no, it’s not ready to put out. That’s not the one. But I was like, well I just did it, I’m going to put it out anyway. And I don’t even know how it happened. It kind of took off a little bit on SoundCloud. And then we went on Spotify. I think it really hit the college scene. And then it hit the gaming scene like video gamers use it. And so I don’t know what happened, but it happened and the song is kind of well known now. It doesn’t feel as good because it is a cover, but I’m very happy and I’m thankful that it did what it did because it led a lot of people to the rest of my catalog.
CS: Talk a little bit about choosing to be an independent artist versus being signed to a label.
JB: When you’re independent, it’s great because you have full freedom and control over what you want to deal with everything. But you also don’t get the same amount of exposure and the same amount of promotion. So it’s good and bad, but I would say mainly it’s good being independent. But, you know, it would be nice to have a little bit more push on certain releases.
CS: Would you consider signing with a record label at some point in the future?
JB: Yeah, absolutely.
CS: Tell us about what projects you’re working on now. And hopefully after all the Corona craziness ends, what your year looks like.
I’m actually putting out a cover, and it’s my first cover since all those covers awhile ago. It comes out on Friday. My sister got married this last year, and she asked me to sing this song by the Pussycat Dolls Stick With You. I had never heard it, but I was like oh, this is a lowkey banger. So I recorded my own version to sing at the first dance. So I did the part for her wedding, and then I did a different version that I just fell in love with and was like, this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done, if not my favorite thing. So I finished it and it’s finally coming out on Friday. But it’s a different vibe. It’s a very slow kind of emotional song. But I really like it.
I also just did a spoken word thing that’s about the current Corona crisis. It kind of just came to me. I was just thinking about, you know, the whole situation. And and I just wrote this in a few minutes. I showed it to my brother and he really likes it. I think we’re gonna try to shoot something and put it out on YouTube.
I’m going to continue to put out stuff throughout the next few weeks. More singles after that, actually. We’re gonna give them music because honestly, everybody is just sitting at home like, what do you do?
CS: Amazing! We’re excited to hear it. A fan on Twitter wants to know about your short film that you put out on YouTube. Tell us about why you made that project.
JB: That was one of those things where I had all these songs that never became full songs. But I liked them and they were like a verse or chorus, but for some reason or another, just never became full songs. I was talking with my brother, who is a film director. We thought we could maybe make a short story with these songs. So we planned out a plot for it. And I think it was nine songs and we went to Joshua Tree and we shot this whole thing. It’s weird. It’s dark. It’s definitely on the darker side. And people know me as like a happy guy, or the feel good guy, so I wanted to do a wild plot twist. So it’s nice to put that out in the world, you know, and let people see that dark side.
I feel like it’s a necessity to show those sides. Because I’d say a majority of my stuff is kind of light hearted for the most part and it’s nice to tap into the real shit. And then all these songs I’m putting out over the next few weeks in Corona’s season are they’re all kind of more on the emotional side.
CS: What kind of advice would you give to people that are maybe like making music in their bedroom right now or just just kind of starting out?
JB: You can you can sound fully professional on your own. You don’t need outside help. So go on YouTube, do whatever it takes. You can find a way to have a fully professional sound. And it is the most intoxicating thing when you get a finished project. I thought this could go anywhere. And I just did it in my living room, my closet, my garage. It got me extremely motivated. When you get the first taste to see it come out and you’re like, oh, this is sick. You can make anything sound as good as us like a studio or a label project. So that’s I think that’s very motivating.
CS: Anything else you want to add that you want to tell people about?
JB: I’m just gonna keep putting out singles and I’m also thinking about a live concert online.
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!
We’re big fans of funky throwback pop records and up-and-coming NYC-based musicians, and Keep in Touch is a trio that fits the bill. With their uber-catchy beats and contemporary flare, they’re hoping to be next big thing in music. We caught up with the boys in Ray’s Harlem apartment for some behind-the-scenes shots of their jam session, and asked them a few questions.
How did you guys first meet?
“We met at through the rock climbing community that we’re a part of, we both new of each others musical endeavors and wanted to collab, kinda right away.” -Ray
“After we jammed a couple of times we really realized our overall vibe and tastes in music were very aligned.” -Nate
How’d you come up with your name?
“I had a song called “Keep in Touch,” with the last band I was in All Types of Kinds, and someone from BMG heard the song and thought it was a better band name than the current one the band had, so I’m taking their advice.” -Ray
What would you say is the genre/vibe of the band?
“When we first started making music together, we learned we both share a love for 70’s disco/funk music, as well as what’s happening with modern synth-based pop and R&B. So our goal throughout this whole project has been pretty simple, to make music that people can either dance to or make love to. As long as people are dancing, we know we’re doing something right.” -Nate
Talk about the recording process, what’s it been like?
“We’ve never recorded music at this caliber, we commute up to Connecticut currently from the city to work with this producer Mike Rogers, who’s really developing us into true studio musicians. We now spend hours working on the smallest details on any given track, which has helped us fully realize the concepts of these songs. His studio is in this little restored barn a 30 second walk from the Appalachian trail, which is a stark contrast from NYC and with both of us loving the outdoors its pretty rad. ” -Ray
Challenges getting the band up and running?
“Overall, making this music has been an incredibly seamless process. When it comes to lyrics/arrangement Ray and I have tons of ideas to work with. One major challenge though has been figuring out how to play these songs in a live setting. Because we’ve been working so much in the studio, most of our songs have more parts to play than we can accomplish with a few of us! Luckily we’ve met some fantastic musicians who want to support our sound in a live setting.” -Nate
Favorite song you’ve written/recorded?
“The one we’re currently working on in the studio now, actually! It’s one that has felt special since the first day we started working on it. It’s a bop.” -Nate
When can we expect to hear your first single?
“Sometime in spring 2020.” -Ray
We can confirm their first song is a bop, and we can’t wait to share it with you when it drops. Definitely put these guys on your radar if you haven’t yet! Go check them out on Instagram at @keptintouch. And for more pictures of the boys and tons of other musicians, check out the Crowdsurfer Instagram @crowdsurfermag.