Music Mondays: Sydney Jones

Hi Sydney! Tell us a little more about you.

Hey! I’m an artist from Toronto who started with a sketchbook and I’ve been drawing ever since. I’ve worked in a lot of different positions internationally, and I consider myself pretty multifaceted. My degree’s in graphic design but I often find myself working on every kind of project, from editorial work to storyboarding to photography. I’ve worked with outlets such as Thump and Beatport, and am currently working with musicians like Ducky and Selfish Things. Most recently I’ve been doing a lot experimental storytelling, writing a few original ‘comics’ (for lack of a better term), and organizing a show of my work. My most recent personal work is my comic I’m Angry All The Time, which I’m continuing with a sequel in the near future. 

As an artist and designer, what drew you to the music industry? 

When I draw I always need the perfect song playing, the perfect playlist — sometimes my mood can turn on a dime and I have to capture the feeling of a song right there and then. It could be a sound or a lyric but I always advise those viewing my art to experience it both with and without the context of its soundtrack to get the whole experience of my work.

As an artist I’ve always been obsessed with multimedia experiences. Maybe it’s a result of playing so many video games growing up; to me, they’re one of the ultimate expressions of many art forms coming together to create unforgettable experiences for their players. As I got older and started going to electronic shows (in no small part influenced by listening to video game soundtracks endlessly as a teen), I found myself encountering similar experiences to those I’d only found in games: art working in perfect harmony to create new meanings. Album art is part of this, identity is part of this, show visuals are a part of this. I fell in love with that indescribable feeling. I knew that by working in music I could realize my talent for marrying art forms together, becoming something bigger than the sum of their parts.


You've produced work for a number of clients, including AT&T and an ongoing collaboration with Ducky. When starting a project, how do you begin the collaboration process, in order to find the root of what the client is hoping for? 

A big part of this is simply cultivating good communications skills. A lot of times when I’m approached by a new client, they know that they need a brand or a cover and aren’t sure what they’d actually like to have visually representing their work. My favourite thing to do with new clients is have a chat with them over the phone about what their music means to them. I find this is where a lot of designers end up fumbling the tablet pen (so to speak). It is essential to anyone collaborating with each other to be on the same page, especially with aesthetics in something as emotionally charged as music. If you’re not intimately acquainted with your client, their look and their needs, your end result is always going to come out sub par.

After the initial conversation I like to have my clients write me an email with a larger selection of their music so that I can get a feel for their sound. I also get them to curate a selection of images that they personally like, not necessarily what they think their sound should look like. Oftentimes, this creates a more accurate window into their true aesthetic preferences than anything else. Lastly, I brainstorm with them to create a set of 1-5 ‘keywords’ that serve as touchstones for us both to refer to just incase anything gets muddled in translation.

In the end, the most important thing for me is keeping a dialogue open between yourself and your collaborator. It keeps you honest. Half of your job as a designer is parsing visual language for your client. If you can summarize your ideas in a way that everyone can understand and appreciate, then it’s far easier to create a zone of constructive criticism. You’re not going to get a better end result if you’re intimidated by your client. You have nothing to be scared of! If you conduct yourself professionally, your iterations on designs will be key to your success. Trust me, I’m the most externally chill, existentially anxious person around.

Do you have any sources of creative inspiration that might surprise people? 

Of course! Any artist worth their salt carries their entire life experience in what they do. I’ve talked about my adoration of video games a multitude of times. To this day I still believe they are an under-appreciated storytelling format. Most recently I’m realizing so much of my art style/storytelling preferences are heavily influenced by Japanese RPGs, which is a trend you’re seeing more and more in electronic music as well. You’re getting the same thing with Japanese animation becoming slowly more legitimized in the art world

I personally have been an avid ballet dancer for 23 years. Whenever I’m feeling stuck in something I’m doing, going to a dance class helps clear my head. The expression of music through the physicality of movement reminds me of my own goals in art. Going to the ballet is one of my favourite things to do and any performances by the National Ballet of Canada (especially to Tchaikovsky! He’s so dramatic just like myself) hold a special place in my heart.

I think that’s a big problem in the art world; it’s really easy to get caught up in your own industry bubble. Just like the music world, the design and art world is a far smaller place than it appears to be. It can extremely quickly turn into an echo chamber of art being based off of other, derivative art; event after event of illustrators lamenting how hard art is (I mean, it’s true, but that’s not the point here). Art is at its most powerful when it carries the passion you have for everything else in your life into itself. Do you protest? Do you knit? Do you love going running, or travelling, or collecting silver dollars? Boom, there you go. I mean, look at it this way — the most popular anime of last season was based on an animator who just really, really, really loves professional figure skating. Bring your love into your art and the world will always benefit.

Walk me through your creative process. 

The best starting point for me is twofold: experimentation, and research. I usually start by loosely sketching and compiling ideas and compositions as fast as possible. If I get stuck on the computer end of things, I go to physical mediums, and vice versa. If I’m struggling with concepts or compositions I like to reference back to folders I make full of inspiring images. I have it organized fairly neatly, full of everything from a landscape I like the lighting of to an interesting pose to use as a reference photo to some art I love the line quality of. If I don’t know enough about the topic I’m working on — research it! For example, I’m drawing a comic on figure skating right now, so I have folders and folders of video performances, still shots, and reference photos of everything from jumps to how skates are constructed.

After that point my process usually gets me a few sketches which I clean up on my computer, then ink and finally colour. If it’s a design such as a logo, I make a couple of options and try to iterate on past designs as much as I can. An idea is nothing unless it’s pushed as far as it can go, or else it’s all just unrealized potential.

Ideas can come to you all at once, it’s true, but anybody who says that an idea isn’t improved upon by editing is an awful liar. Every single good idea I’ve had has started as either a bad one, or after long awful strings of bad ones. Refinement and editing are the best tools an artist has in their arsenal, and being able to look critically at your own work is a learned skill. 


What advice would you give to other freelance artists interested in working with musicians?

My best piece of advice to an artist trying to work in this industry is this: learn how to value yourself. You are a working professional, and any musician worth their salt will know that their image is one of the first points of contact between themselves and a potential listener. Just like an artist who sends away their music for mastering, or trusts a label to license their tracks, or has a PR agent for promotion, you provide a valuable service in the music industry. You have to respect your own time and theirs by making sure that you know not only the artistic process, but everything that surrounds it. Learn how to write your own contracts. Keep your paperwork in order. Make sure you have an email in place for explaining to clients how you work with them and exactly what they’re getting for their money. Read up on copyright laws and licensing for your own work. And if absolutely nothing else, charge a fee that matches the value of your work! There are a lot of people who will work for free out there, and the key difference is that you’re offering professionalism, responsiveness, and a high quality of service to your client. Respect is a two way street.

Other than that — know when you’re being taken advantage of. Set up boundaries around your work, when you can be contacted, and agree on reasonable deadlines. Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean that you’re any less valuable as a part of a team. Work with others how you want to be worked with. Keep going! You’ve got this. Trust me.

Connect with Sydney on Twitter and Instagram.

Words: Staley Sharples

Music Mondays: Ava Tunnicliffe

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

My name is Ava Tunnicliffe and I run Tallulah PR & Management. I work with up-and-coming talent across a number of genres. At the moment I manage one artist, Kyan Palmer, but do PR for numerous others: Caroline Lazar, Pierce, Frankie + The Studs, Julianne Glass and Haley Vassar. I strive to provide be a 360-resource for my artist, often going above and beyond. 

How did you get your start in the music industry?

Well, I was basically born into the music industry as my dad and brother are both deeply involved in music. I got my real start when I started interning at Republic Records, which soon parlayed into a job in the digital marketing department. Alongside my full-time job I ran Tallulah PR & MGMT as a side gig. While I cherish how much I learnt working for one of the best music labels in the game, I always had a burning need to give it a shot on my own in this crazy industry, so I made the leap and decided to make Tallulah PR & Management a full time gig instead of just a side hustle.

What are the three biggest business lessons you've learned in your own personal experience?

1. Who you know will get you through the door, but only you can keep yourself inside (thanks to Daniel Glass for that one).
2. Running your own business is not just a job, it's a lifestyle choice.
3. Networking is everything.

What trends do you see the industry gravitating towards in terms of digital marketing strategies?

Social media is everything, and I think that is still something that is unfortunately overlooked. The ability for fans to be able to "interact" with artists on socials is invaluable. I recommend to all my artists to put their best foot forward with social media. While it can be disheartening to put in so much effort and not get enough "likes" and "retweets" off the bat, it only takes one retweet from an influencer, celebrity or brand to catapult an artist to a new level of fame. It's fascinating. 5) Do you think that having an editorial background influences your approach to PR? Why or why not? I think having an editorial background has definitely helped my approach to PR. First off, I understand what it's like to be on the other side of the email. I understand the magazine world timelines, the publication timelines, and the pitches that are the most effective for journalists. Working in editorial as an intern and freelancer for so many years also helped me to solidify genuine relationships across the industry, which has definitely helped me to be a successful publicist.

Interviewed by: Staley Sharples

Music Mondays: Zach Swezy

Zach Swezy, Editor in Chief of Chicago-based blog 1833 and author of I Want To Die Now in 300 Years, chats with us about supporting minorities in the music industry.

Tell me a little about yourself and what you do at 1833. 

Talk about myself, huh... Well I am 26, an avid reader, writer, and music listener. My role at 1833 is basically meant to cater to those interests. My main job is to curate music for our website, edit reviews, interview artists, gather guest mixes, host our radio show and write jokes on Twitter and email blasts. I guess the job title would be "Editor-in-Chief".

What do you like best about running 1833? 

 I love that I can use my small website and social media reach to help put on for people of color, femmes (no terfs tho), and queer people. Some of the most brilliant and talented people in the world come from the margins and if we are going to heal our planet we have to put them at the forefront. To me, elevating these people is the most rewarding thing to do in music industry.  

Have you faced any challenges as a promoter in Chicago? What would you say are the skills required to be a successful promoter? 

Well I can't say I'm on promotion side of things too often. I've organized a few charity events and I know some people don't like to collaborate with me on those anymore because I insist on giving all the money away. Zack Eastman and Blake Witsman are the skillful promoters of 1833, also the founders, also they are my "dad". Karolina Naumowicz is also super essential to the promotion team and has shaped 1833 in a fundamental way. In watching Zack deal with agents, I can tell you promotion is a tricky game, one I probably don't have the skills to play. You have to be a shrewd business person while maintaining an air of extreme likability. You have to know when to bend and when to be rigid. You can't take gruff from anyone. If I'm being totally honest it helps a lot to be a tall, handsome, kind, white man. I think lastly, aside from networking skills the most necessary skill as a promoter is to know how to take a loss and to know you're going to face a lifetime of them. Not every show is a winner and not every city loves a certain artist as much as you might, such is life.   

How do you hope to further your artistic mission through 1833 as well as your personal projects? 

I hope to become a widely read and published author one day, sooner than later. With 1833 I just want to continue to be an alternative to the payola blog game. I want young artists without PR agents to feel comfortable coming to us and showing us their songs. Sometimes we post stuff as favors to our PR friends if we like it but the majority of our finds are from soundcloud/bandcamp digging or from musicians we've witnessed live or become friends with on Twitter. It's not nearly as lucrative as writing a few words about every Future song that's ever come out but I'm pretty stubborn and set in my ways at this point. The lucrative part of our blog comes from throwing banging shows around Chicago, which kind of eases the financial pressure of the blog, though I would like to make more advertisement money -- so FWM s/o @complex Advertisting Network let's build.  

What is one thing everyone that's considering a career in music should know? 

If you're considering a career in the music industry you should know that it is an industry. Like all industries you will encounter deeply entrenched racism, homophobia and sexism. Things in the art world seem to finally be slowly moving to a more egalitarian place, but I could very likely be wrong about that. What is cool though - is that a lot of people on the margins are now becoming more vocal, we are demanding change. We'll see if things improve in the next decade or so.

Interviewed by: Staley Sharples

Music Mondays: Nick LeTellier

Nick LeTellier is the founder of website Festival Snobs, and enjoys event photography. Read more in our conversation below. 

What was the inspiration behind Festival Snobs?

Basically ever since my first music festival which was Bonnaroo in 2009, I've had an obsession with live music and the music festival experience. As time went on, I would constantly be posting to my personal social media pages about upcoming music festivals, but it was falling on deaf ears as the majority of my friends couldn't have cared less. So I decided to instead use that time and effort on a blog so that others could enjoy my travels and adventures when it came to music festivals. As it began to become more popular, it more morphed into an e-magazine rather than a blog as I brought on more people to write and photograph while keeping all of our followers up-to-date on any and all music festival news in North America.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.


How did you first get into photography?

So back in 2013 I had applied to cover a music festival in Portland, OR called MusicFestNW as online media. I had always dreamed of visiting Portland and this seemed like a good excuse considering how much I loved their lineup that year. The plan was to go and just use my smart phone for social posts through the festival, but when I got my acceptance e-mail for my media application, it noted that I had been granted one photo pass as well as my media pass. Knowing that there was no way I could get away with entering the festival's photo pit with just an iPhone, I literally paid to rent a DSLR without any experience and on the plane from Nashville to Portland I watched numerous YouTube video tutorials on how to use the camera I had rented, as well as just general photography tips and editing suggestions. Needless to say, my photos from that festival were absolutely terrible and it's pretty amusing to look back at them now, knowing what I do now. But being able to get that perspective at a concert and snap photographs directly in front of the artists inspired me to eventually purchase my own DSLR camera and pick up the hobby so that I could continue doing it at future music festivals.


What are some of the most important lessons you've learned as an event photographer?

Really to just stay laid back, go with the flow, and allot some time to NOT be taking photographs. Photographing music festivals, especially the big ones, are so tough because there are bands performing non-stop on different stages throughout the festival site, and you're usually only allowed to photograph the first three songs. So once you're done shooting one band, typically you're running to the next stage or tent to shoot the next band before they kick all the photographers out. If you're not careful, you'll spend the entire weekend running around photographing and after it's over realize that you never actually took any time to step back, take it all in, and enjoy yourself

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.


What are your favorite festivals to photograph and why?

The music festivals I enjoy shooting the most are the ones that can incorporate numerous things other than just music. I love being able to take photographs of stuff other than the artists performing, whether it be the city the festival is in, the festivals patrons themselves, jaw dropping interactive art, or even food. As far as specific festivals that I can recall, I always loved shooting Moogfest back when it was in Asheville, NC. They did an amazing job of incorporating the city's downtown area into the festival by using numerous venues that required you to be constantly exploring the cities streets.


What advice would you give to someone just getting started in event photography?

Know exactly what you're getting into. It's not as easy as going to Wal-Mart, buying the cheapest Canon Rebel camera they have in stock, and showing up at the festival with said camera ready to get front row access to bands. The hobby can be extremely expensive once you start diving into it, purchasing lenses, and upgrading gear. Unfortunately the return on investment can also be little to nothing, as more and more music outlets are bombarded with hobby photographers willing to photograph for free, asking only for access and exposure in return. You're going to need to know what you're doing in order to stand out because there are always hundreds of other photographers there, shooting the exact same bands at the exact same time as you, from mostly the same angles. This is where focusing your skills on the editing aspect of photography can help.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

Music Mondays: DJ Kryptk

DJ Kryptk is a DJ based in the DC area, and has played a number of high-profile events. Her focus on activism and community, coupled with her excellent DJing, makes her one to watch. Read on for our conversation, and listen to her playlist below. 

You're active in the DC music scene, but you're politically active as well, having played at events such as the White House for the Trans Community Briefing Session. What inspires you to use music as a form of activism? Are there specific causes that you're especially passionate about? 

I was asked to perform at that event by Lourdes Ashley Hunter of TWOCC (Trans Women of Color Collective), who was a key organizer of the briefing. A few other performers were  Shi-Queeta-Lee, who gave the first ever drag performance at the White House and Venus Selenite, a DC based writer that shared some of her poetry. I never would have thought I'd witness that and also be able to play Migos for all to enjoy. 

Music has a way of opening us up to an emotional depth that is unlike any other. Often the stories that communities I love have to tell are present in the music, between methodical and meaningful rhythm. At its core, music is a scientific means of portraying and documenting human emotions and experiences.  If music and creativity can help us retrieve our past and be optimistic about our future, why not indulge?

Some of my first DJ gigs were in support of local social justice organizations, such as Empower DC. Those communities were loving enough to take a chance on me. I particularly support with either my time or money causes, organizations and businesses that promote autonomy and leadership for Black people and people of Color. A respectful cohabitation with the environment and the resources it continuously provides is at the center of how I view leadership and autonomy.

Do you find that living in DC makes creative communities inherently political due to your physical proximity to the US Government? Why or why not? 

I don't think it's possible for me to exist neutrally in any space because both I'm queer and Black.  I'd venture to say I'm not alone in that thinking. I also don't want to be neutral.

There is actually a powerful artistic foundation that exists quite harmoniously with political organizing in D.C. For example, Go-Go, the music native to the city and largely credited to Chuck Brown, originated in the 1970's and coincided with a increased pride in Blackness and self love. Go-Go has a West African influence and also Blues and Jazz undertones that speak to the lived experiences of Black people in the United States. Go-Go performances easily drew thousands of people and from these crowds, people were able to organize efforts to connect people to employment opportunities, art programs for youth and a sense of fellowship across neighborhoods. 

Art, music and creativity can serve as a vessel of replenishing our minds and bodies while we each contribute to a greater good in our respective ways. That feels pretty political in any realm or geotag. 

What first drew you to DJing? 

I began DJing without the intention of doing so by being placed on a bill through a friend and learning the basics on the spot. I now joke that DJing sought me out. Music allows me to share parts of myself without using words or blundering through intense social interactions.  I have a musical background from years of arts programs, but I had forgotten about that part of myself. DJing feels like a small personal renaissance.  It also reminds me of the days we'd burn CDs filled with carefully curated songs for our crushes. Rather or not the mixtape got sent or the feelings were reciprocated, for a brief moment, our feelings and thoughts became a sincere gift to another.

As a DJ, what do you hope to achieve in 2017? 

I'm launching and participating in a few residences this year, which is an important landmark for me. I'll be announcing those very soon. There is a validity in having a home away of home, of sorts. I also will continue planning events that highlight artists and venues that I value, particularly in D.C. and Baltimore through meaningful collaborations.  This year I will continue to build discipline in my craft and over my body. I'm sure this shocks no one, but DJs can live some pretty hectic and unhealthy lives - A delicate balance of allowing for rewards and being my own best caretaker is my tactic to thrive.  

Do you have any advice to women hoping to start DJing? 

1. Be diligent in learning the ins-and-outs of how your equipment works. The ability to troubleshoot technical issues has helped me feel more independent and confident in my craft. It also helps avoid any bloopers that later could damage costly equipment. 

2. Value yourself and your gifts. Don't feel bad for asking for compensation and being willing to turn down opportunities if people are not willing to pay you for your labor. The idea of "working for free to get your foot in the door" just doesn't work for everyone, especially in these hard times. If someone can't offer you money, perhaps negotiate a barter like access to a venue to host your own event later. Not every opportunity is a good one, so learn be discriminating if your intuition feels unsettled.

3. Strive for excellence and dignity, not perfection. The latter will always leave you lacking. 

Follow DJ Kryptk on Facebook and Twitter, and catch her DJ set at The Coven on February 11th.

Music Mondays: Nina Sung

Nina Sung is an artist. Coming from a very organic place, Sung's approach to music, despite her reputation as a sought after #EDM vocalist, gives her work an independent and personal touch lost on many major mainstream releases.

With experience at L.A.'s Icon Collective, one of the music industry's leading production schools, Nina Sung's ear for hooks, finesse, and polish are highlights in her music, but more importantly her experiences there gave her a feeling of communion. An outspoken advocate for groups like Nap Girls, Sung uses her visibility and her talent to push the boundaries of the music industry and create new, exciting opportunities for her peers.

An incredible voice with an amazing entrepreneurial spirit, and forward thinking aesthetic, Nina Sung is the focus of this week's Music Monday.

For readers unfamiliar with your work, tell us a little bit about yourself. What makes Nina Sung tick? What makes you unique?

I’m a singer-songwriter and musician, turned producer. I’ve been low-key writing and singing for other people for quite some time now, but I woke up one day and realized that I just couldn’t keep doing that. I needed to make my own music and it was definitely time. So I dove straight into Ableton and Logic, ditched my social life and before I knew it, I had more songs than I can keep track of.

I love dark themes—themes about heartbreak, being alone and then throwing yourself into toxic relationships just to cope, drugs, separation, angst. I  love that inner conflict that happens between what you know and what you feel, and it stems from my real life experiences. But out of all of that, I still came out ok, and there’s something really hopeful about that. Despite the dark times, light was still at the end of the tunnel for me every time, and that’s why I’m still here.  

The gender divide is a very sensitive subject when it comes to the music industry - especially in dance music. In your opinion, what can we do as music appreciators, producers, and industry professionals to help make further progress?

Ask this question to men as well as women? Seriously though, it’s made into a much bigger deal than it actually is—and to women, no less—and I feel like we keep talking about the difference like it still matters.

The truth is, yes, there is still a lot of stigma about being a woman in this industry and you better believe I’ve definitely faced them. Everything from the way I’m talked to in email threads sometimes, to how often I’m repeatedly asked as being the artist that also engineers, mixes and produces her own music, to even just how little I’m included in backstage social conversations. It’s not easy, and I’m not trying to discredit how hard women have it. However, I do feel a way we can help make further progress is by being careful about asking that question, simply because it could even help perpetuate the stigma by making it THE topic, instead of really letting the issue at rest. Everyone takes it for granted that a male will produce or DJ his own music. But when it’s a female, it’s like a huge deal. But why? It’s nothing crazy anymore. At least I don’t believe it should be. And one thing that I’m very open about is that if someone or their team is sexist or exhibits behaviors that allude to this archaic notion that women are inferior, I simply won’t work with them. Period. I would never associate with them. I don’t care who they are or how much money they’re willing to pay me. I just won’t do it.  

I love seeing people act all surprised when there’s a female producing and making moves on her own. Because it honestly exposes an ignorance that is deep within our culture still. And you better believe that I’ve had to deal with a slew of questions like “Did you do this ALL by yourself? Like, REALLY. Who produced this? You couldn’t have produced this”

It’s an insult to be honest. But I know it’s not about me. I think the first thing we have to do is recognize that there are tons of women who WANT to produce and create music—but for some reason, aren’t expected to educate themselves in the field and to be serious about it. Which, in my opinion, is bullshit. I went to Icon Collective, a music production school in LA, where there were some of the most talented, hardworking people I’ve ever met, and there were a good group of females in the game. We knew we were outnumbered but that didn’t change how we were treated.

The issue has a lot to do with visibility I feel. There’s simply not enough coverage of females killing it in the industry, and perhaps females aren’t getting the show and air time to really shine. And for the ones that are, I’ve seen a really nasty backlash of people saying that they’re only given the chance because they’re attractive—as if men don’t also have the pressure to look a certain way to get ahead.

Dig deep, and you’ll soon find that there are tons of female producers, writers, singers and even engineers who are really changing the game as we speak. So if anything, I’d say educate yourself on more than what you just see, on more than what you read on your Facebook news feed. I guarantee you that you’ll find that there are equally as many dope artists that identify as female as there are those that identify as male.

There are very few producers who make distinctive music. There are even fewer who have the confidence to sing on their own material. What’s your approach to crafting your sound and to songwriting?

Well, like I said, I was a singer-songwriter and musician first, and then a producer. So my approach follows that similar order of procedure. I start with a concept for a song. It can start with anything really—a visual, a journal entry, a phone conversation I had with my brother. Most of the time I’ll just do some stream of consciousness writing where I jot down whatever comes to my mind for about 10-15 minutes. There aren’t any rules, it’s just about writing faster than your brain can judge what you are spitting out. I tell myself that no one but myself is going to read it so anything goes, and from there, I’m able to really figure out what’s going on inside of me in that moment.

My process never starts in the DAW, it always starts from a real place, hence why every single one of my songs has a very real thing that is attached to it.  It’s not enough for me personally to get inspired by a particular Serum patch or clap sample, which I know a lot of producers out there are like. And it certainly doesn’t start with someone else’s music. Don’t get me wrong, I admire tons of artists but I’m careful to create something after listening to someone else’s music because I just feel like it would taint my project. I try to keep my creative space, free of outside influence, so to speak.  

I’ll then move to the guitar or piano and find chords, either within, or around my key. I record the progression into Ableton and loop it a bunch of times until I find a strong top line—and through that process, I’ll usually figure out the arrangement as well. To me, the hook is the most important thing so I will usually try and find that pocket first, but it’s tricky because not every song has a hook. I’ve had people disagree with me on this, but I’m a strong believer in that some songs and progressions have a hook, and others simply do not. The trick is to not force it because then you’ll start feeling like you’re beating a dead horse. And that is when I’ll need to step away for a bit, or change something from before. But from that point, once I have a song—the heart and soul so to speak—I’ll move to the drum pattern, bass line and synths (if necessary). But the most important thing is that the sound design and groove need to fit along the same theme of what the song is going for. I’m not going to put in crazy super saws for a song that I feel needs to be received in an intimate light. So basically, my process is just that I need to play the song acoustically on the guitar or piano, and sing it from start to finish for it qualify to the next step—which is production. Otherwise, it just stays as a half idea.

We understand you have a bevy of unreleased material. What can you tell us about the music you want to share in the upcoming months?

Oh man, there is so much music—enough music for at least 2 full length albums so I’m very excited for everything to come together and for everyone to hear all of this.  What’s been heard from me so far has only really been from my “EDM vocalist” days but that’s no more. I mean, I now have 100% control of what you, the listener, gets to hear on these new songs. And that’s very exciting for me. So many times before it was very clear that I was doing something for someone else, much like a job, or work for hire. But if there is anything that I’d have to say about this new music is that it is exactly what I’ve been meaning to show the world this whole time.

Last, but not least, what nugget of guidance, wisdom, inspiration do you have for persons who are interested in pursuing the music industry as a life path?

Life is short, don’t do something JUST because you think it’s going to gain attention, even when you don’t believe in the project. It’s tempting, but cutting that out and not wasting your time by doing exactly what you want to do first is a surefire way you won’t end up bitter about who you’ve become. Also, try to create from an honest space without judging what you make. So many times we love to judge ourselves for what we do (like does that snare really work? Maybe that lyric is too cheesy, etc) even before we really let something grow and develop! And as artists, I believe that is a huge mistake. Something that others or even yourself at the time deem as being stupid or silly, could actually turn into something super unique and a game changer in a big way. But because of insecurity or fear of scrutiny, it gets axed and the world will never experience the product of your totally unique moment of inspiration.  Don’t judge it. Just flow.

Remember that haircut and outfit you had in middle school? Pretty cringe worthy right? Well musical development is no different. You need to keep writing and producing music to get better. It’s honestly as simple as that. You’re not going to see immediate results. And I believe that’s with a lot of things, but I had to write maybe close to 200 songs before finally writing my first real single, and I didn’t cringe. If you keep going, you’ll hit this threshold point—call it your 10,000 hours, or whatever—but you’ll be able to tap into something that is totally unique and special, and that’s when you know you hit gold.

For more on Nina Sung, visit her on SoundCloud and Facebook. Be sure to check out her curated list of tracks below as well!


Music Monday: Snails



Today's #MusicMonday playlist goes out to Snails - the curator of "Vomitstep", heavy hitting 808's can only give off a description of being "Snail-ey". Coming off of the huge release of his "SNAILEDIT! Mix Vol. 2 'Welcome to Slugz City' a little over a week ago, and his new major collaboration with the one and only Big Gigantic 'Funk With Me' - released two days ago - this playlist is some of his most recent inspiration for these heavy hitting bangers.


FB: IG: SC: @officialsnails