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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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Concert Photography Interviews

Photographer Interview: Dusty Kessler

Crowdsurfer: Tell us how you got into shooting shows, how long you’ve been doing it and why you started.

Dusty Kessler: I’ve been shooting music since 2010 when my best friend was starting to perform as a local DJ. I would help him book shows by sending emails to promoters then bring my cameras with me to the shows, maybe there would be 25-50 people there. I started venturing out on my own and hitting up local promoters and other friends in the music scene and was just shooting for free for a while. Eventually that developed into some good business relationships that I still have today with some artists. I guess I started just because I loved live action and music. I never knew it could be a potential career path starting out but i’m thankful to still be shooting. 

CS: What are some of your favorite shots you’ve taken over the years and why?

DK: One of my first favorite shots in memory was with G-Eazy, who I still collaborate with frequently. We shot it in Kansas City, MO, while I was in college. He was crowd surfing and I had a strobe in the back of the venue for extra light that I popped off while the confetti blast happened. I’ll never forget that one.

G-Eazy by Dusty Kessler

Recently I’ve been working with Miguel and a few months ago we shot at a festival in California. The shot of him with pryro going off in the background ended up being used on his tour merch so that was an amazing moment. To know there are people on the other side of the world wearing clothes with my image on it is amazing. 

CS: What do you think is the hardest part about live concert and portrait photography?

DK: The hardest part for me is also the most fun part which is conveying to the viewer what it was like to be there in person and show the human aspect of the artist. When I’m working with an artist 1 on 1 it’s always a challenge that I break down the barrier between the camera and the subject. 

CS: Your aesthetic includes a lot of film photography. Do you prefer film over digital? How has your style evolved over time to your signature style that you use now?

DK: I love film and digital. Film is the best medium to be creative and challenge yourself to slow down and frame up a shot. Yes I have shot film a few times during live concerts but it’s more often that I’ll shoot digital for the performance and any backstage or BTS stuff I’ll shoot a mix of film and digital. Sometimes with such quick turn around times I have to only shoot digital to deliver fast. I think my style has always been about being honest and not staging my shots. 

CS: Who are some of the people you’ve gotten to photograph, and who is your dream artist to get to photograph one day?

DK: It’s a very extensive list. Recently I’ve still been shooting with G-Eazy and Miguel. Others include Jamie XX, Hitboy, Ava Max, 5 Seconds Of Summer, 070 Shake, Dan and Shay, Maroon 5 and many more. I’ve shot a lot of artists but I think a dream artist who I’d really like to be on tour with is someone who’s not even known yet to the public. I really like working with artists who are small and develop their brand image and creative. But a Billie tour would be fire too (shout out Matty Vogel) 

CS: What do you love about shooting shows and the whole touring experience?

DK: I just love tour and meeting new people all around the world who care about music and come together for that reason. There’s nothing like a live sold out show or festival or tour. 

CS: What would your advice be to young photographers just starting out?

DK: Find new artists and be in A&R. Reach out to people and offer your services for free at first and build with them creatively. The rest will come with time and just keep shooting every day no matter what type of camera you have or subject you shoot.  

CS: Love that. What’s next for you, and what are your plans for this year?

DK: Right now is a scary time for those in my industry. With the touring and music industry on hold we have to stay creative and get through this together. Hopefully in the next 6 months things get back to normal.

CS: Definitely. Anything else you want to add?

DK: I love hearing from new people. Send me a message on IG @dkessler.

You can follow Dusty on Instagram and check out his website here.

Categories
Interviews

Artist Interview: Sam Be Yourself

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.

Sam Be Yourself from Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow

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. 

Sam Be Yourself

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

CS: Thanks so much, and best of luck to you!

You can follow Sam on Instagram, Youtube, and check out his new mixtape here.

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Concert Photography

Steve Aoki at Avant Gardner in Brooklyn

Steve Aoki is a DJ, but he’s also so much more than that. He’s one of the most eccentric performers that we’ve ever seen. It’s not just music, it’s jumping, dancing, throwing cake at fans, jumping into ball pits, running around stage, smoke and confetti, and so much more. We were thrilled to catch his latest tour The Color of Noise when it rolled into Avant Gardner in Brooklyn this month.

I have to say, the show really delivered. It started with Australian DJ Godlands, then Global Dan and Riot Ten, and culminated with a lively performance by Timmy Trumpet and finally ended with Steve Aoki. The sold out show was packed with people having the time of their lives. Check out some of our favorite shots from the exciting show below.

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Reviews

#LauvLive at National Sawdust

If you’re a fan of lyrics that put you in your feels, then you’ve probably heard of Lauv. In celebration of his debut album dropping at midnight, Lauv hosted a #LauvLive with Spotify in New York City at National Sawdust, where he played acoustic or stripped down versions of the new songs on the album and talked about the meanings behind them. We headed to Brooklyn to catch all the action.

Everyone in line (and by everyone we mean the 200 people that were lucky enough to make it in the door) got a glowey Lauv wristband which lit up in matching colors depending on what song he was singing. The theme of the new album ~how i’m feeling~ is that no one is made up of one specific thing. There are many pieces to being a human, and many different sides and moods and personalities of each of us.

He explained that his identity is comprised of six characters that relate to a color: red is Spicy Lauv, orange is F*ckboy Lauv, yellow is Positive Lauv, green is Goofy Lauv, blue is Hopeless Romantic Lauv, and purple is Existential Lauv.

Before Lauv came onstage a few minutes past 9pm, fans could grab a drink, munch on some complimentary popcorn, and take a photo in the rainbow-themed photo booth.

The show started in orange as he walked onstage with a guitar and sang a gorgeous rendition of Canada, which led into a neon-blue singalong to Fuck I’m Lonely.

Spicy Lauv came out and the room glowed red when he sang the third song of his set, a new song called El Tejano, swaying the crowd with lyrics about getting margaritas and dancing with a lover. The space shifted to green during Billy, as Lauv told the crowd about a song he wrote about his beloved dog.

He made sure to thank not only everyone in the room multiple times, but all the people that were watching the livestream from their respective countries. Lauv said he had been waiting for this moment (of his debut album release) for so long that he had a lot of emotions processing at once, but that he was so excited for everyone to hear the album.

#LauvLive with Spotify

The crowd came together in a chorus as he ended with acoustic versions of his hits I Like Me Better and Modern Loneliness, following up lines like “To be young and in love in New York City” with “Love my friends to death, but I never call and I never text.”

Lauv, also known by his real name Ari, has been very vocal about his own mental health issues and the importance of de-stigmatizing and normalizing it. He started the Blue Boy Foundation, and has a telephone-booth-like blue box at all of his shows, called My Blue Thoughts, where you can type or record a message about how you’re feeling and share it with other Lauv fans around the world.

The room became a shimmery rainbow as he gave a final bow and left the stage, representing all the pieces of him coming together for his debut album.

I was already a Lauv fan before this show, but this deepened my love for his music and respect for him as an artist. You can watch the livestream in full right here. The new album is out now, so make sure you stream Lauv’s new album ~how i’m feeling~ and let us know your favorites!

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Concert Photography

Magic City Hippies at Emo’s Austin

On Friday, February 28th, 2020 Magic City Hippies performed at Emo’s in Austin, TX. Here are some shots from the show!

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Concert Photography

Elohim at Elsewhere

Elohim kicked off the Group Therapy tour this weekend with a sold out show in Brooklyn at Elsewhere with opening acts Bahari and Mehro. Check out our shots from the show below!

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Uncategorized

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!

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Concert Photography

Acoustic Valentine with Walker Hayes

This past weekend was Valentine’s Day, and the perfect time for an acoustic show by three top country artists: Ryan Hurd, Walker Hayes, and Rodney Atkins. I had the pleasure of spending the pre-show with Walker, taking some portraits and goofing off backstage.

The sold-out event was held at Viejas Casino in San Diego. Check out the gallery below for my favorite shots from the show.

Categories
Concert Photography

Dijon at Holocene

Our photographer Spencer Gray captured DJ Dijon at Holocene in Portland this weekend. Take a look below for some select shots from the show.