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Paco on New Single “Cold Love” and New Label with Sonca Nguyen

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!

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Interviews

Artist Interview: Walwin

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.

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Artist Interview: Jackson Breit

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.

CS: Thanks so much, we’re looking forward to it!

You can check out Jackson’s new single Stickwitu right here, his short film on YouTube, and you can follow him on Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify.

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Interview with Dhruv

Trading lectures and lessons for studio recording sessions, singer/songwriter Dhruv elaborates on the life of a college student– who happens to have a single with 500k streams, and all without any industry help. If you know anything about music, you know that it is extremely hard to promote an artist without even a little help, but Dhruv’s talent proves otherwise. His first single, ‘‘double take’’ was released in May 2019 and has since amassed over 500,000 streams alone. As a data science major attending Yale University, he plans on making his way into the music industry, one way or the other.

Now, we are not here to talk about how well he seems to be doing in
school. We want to know if his music is any good! I was lucky enough to get the chance to hear his unreleased track ‘‘Moonlight’’ which is set to be released today, February 21st. The song depicts the naivety and simplicity of a relationship, and it is so well-written musically and
lyrically that you’ll be falling in love with it too. Before you go running off to listen to it, here’s the story behind it.

As a queer person of color hailing from Singapore, Dhruv spoke
about the difficulties navigating his identity in a place that was not nearly as progressive. ‘‘Lyrically, it is about pining for something that seems as if it only existed in movies. I wanted to write something intoxicating and beautiful like the love we see on the big screen, something that I’ve never gotten to see represented as much in my sexuality.’’ There are lines in the song that give examples, ‘‘poetry and hand-picked flowers, say you’ll meet me at the altar’’ and ‘‘true love, kinda hoped it would feel like a rom-com’’ that directly represents the movie kind of love that I searched for.

This isn’t just represented in his single. Dhruv plans to release an
EP, ‘‘Con Artist’’ that portrays him navigating different aspects of his
life. Whether that be in love, in his music, or in himself. Dhruv does not perceive himself as an artist, but as someone who simply creates music to share, hence the name, ‘‘Con Artist.’’ While he couldn’t reveal much about his EP, he said it is definitely worth the wait. With the help of his label, TRST. Records, he hopes to make music for those who are underrepresented, a common vision aligned with TRST, which aims to create an environment where their artists can identify themselves in their music and share it with others.

Dhruv sends his love to his fans, and apologizes for the long wait. He made sure to only release what he felt was ready to be heard. Be on the lookout for more of Dhruv and stream Moonlight on all platforms today!