A-Z Music Production Series: Artist Interview
Stoked to be at episode number three. We’ve got the artist interview, I’ve got my co-producer Vic, the artist, Arthur G on the line, and we’re going to be talking about his track, “Disguised Grace.”
We’re featuring this in the free A-Z music production series, start to finish from concept to a finished master, documenting the whole process with tutorials, with articles, and downloads of everything we record, so that you can gain access to the files, and have at it. Produce your version, swap out our drums for yours. If you’re a guitar player, you can take our guitar parts out and put your own in.
All kinds of options for you in this, and we’re super excited. It’s going to be a blast, and I just want to say welcome to Arthur G and my buddy Vic up in Chicago!
How you guys doing, man?
It was funny, before I started recording this, I told Arthur, “hey, man, I’m going to kind of interview you a little bit. Introduce you to the guys in the community of The Pro Audio Files,” but it’s kind of weird, because Arthur and I are best friends. We’ve been making music together since like, 8th grade, right?That’s a story in and of itself of how we met, but we’ll save that for another day, but the boy band scene, and doing acoustic music, and everything from Pop, Hip Hop, R&B… It was all over the place, but I know that about you, I know that background, but we’re going to ask you some questions, so man, let’s kick it off.
So, how old were you when you first started making music?Arthur: Man, it dates way back. I was eight or nine years old, doing music around the house, so music’s always been around, you know? Both of my parents love music, and so that’s always been in the family.
David: Nice. What was kind of the first thing – so, you started as a singer? Or on guitar/piano?
Arthur: Yeah, singer. I started singing when I was eight or nine years old, and writing music, writing songs. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was about sixteen, so it was roughly around the time I met you.
David: I remember that!Arthur: [laughs] It was a little after that. I think you might have taught me some tricks!
David: Cool, man! So you were like, eight or nine when you started singing. Can you remember when you wrote your first song?Arthur: Man, I’m telling you, first song was probably ten years old. I wrote my first song, and it was official. I think it was a love song for my mom or something like that, I don’t know. [laughs]
Arthur: But no, really, I think it was a love song. It was a song I wrote for a girl, and that’s what kicked it off. I’ve been writing ever since!
David: Sweet, dude. Well, again, I kind of know all of the answers to this – well, I should, as long as we’ve known each other, but what are some of your influences? I mean, take me back to when you first started making music. Aside from Stevie B, Funky Melody.
Arthur: Stevie B, definitely. Stevie B definitely had an influence in my life somewhat, but I admit, I loved R&B, I love Pop Rock, I love Pop. Man, really, there was not one particular kind of music, because you know, being that I’m Portuguese, my background, I mean, everything from Portuguese music to Pop music, I mean, it’s such a wide range of music, so that’s kind of what I grew up with.
My brother was a DJ, and he loved Hip-Hop, so mix that in there somewhere, you have an R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop, so that’s kind of some of my biggest influences. I love Boyz II Men in the 90’s, you know, but man, it can range from so much. Hip-Hop I loved a bunch of different artists. I loved Biggie, I loved 2Pac, you know.
I think now, kind of as I’m getting older, you know, I think my spiritual journey has a lot to do with where I’m at now and where I’m going. So it’s definitely changed that.
David: Dude, you said Boyz II Men, and I just remembered how I did an interview, and some guy asked me a question like, “hey, when did you get your start?”You said Boyz II Men, and I believe my answer to this guy was Boyz II Men and the Weezer Blue album was handed to me around the same time, and I still give credit to that for how I’m a mixing engineer, I’m a producer, I’ve worked across multiple genres, from that same early 90’s thing going on there, but…
No, dude, that’s really cool. For anyone who’s interested, we’ll throw it out that when we first started making music together around eight grade, so when we were thirteen or fourteen years old, both soccer players, so we hit it off with soccer, and then we hit it off with the fact that we were both into writing songs and making music, and I remember we had a four-track recorder, and then going into Cakewalk, and you have eight tracks, so we would record five, six, seven tracks, and then dupe ’em down, and then layer them again.
We were all over the place from boy band stuff, to like, Rock, to Funk, and you know, Jazz. We did everything. It was incredible.
So, a little back story, a little history on us, but…
So, cool, man. So moving on into high school and the talent shows and all of that kind of stuff that we did together, what – after high school, what were some of your ambitions with your music?Arthur: You know, I wanted to do music. That’s it. I wanted to do it full time. It was my passion. It’s what I wanted to do for a living. You know, I actually started a kind of a Funk Jazz band after high school into college, and so we did that for awhile. We went all over. Kind of did a little mini-tour around Florida, but we hit all different places.
That was a big time for me because I got to kind of dip into different kind of genres, even in that band, because we had people who grew up with The Beatles, and then we had guys that had been playing in Jazz bands forever, so we mixed that too, and then I was still trying to find my style and my voice of R&B and Pop, and so it was – man, that was it. I knew that this is what I wanted to do at that point.
David: Yeah, when you say Pop, I think about this melody. You’ve got an ear for great melody, and hooks and stuff like that. So that’s really cool to hear.
Well, cool, man. So we’re moving into producing a single for you. It’s going to be a radio single, and it’s called “Disguised Grace.” Can you kind of give me an introduction to how this was written? Where you were, who you were with, any of that kind of stuff?Arthur: Yeah, so, you know, like I said, my spiritual journey has really kind of changed a lot of my writing, and even the style of music, obviously. But just about two weeks ago, I was on a mission trip in Detroit, and I got together with some of the guys that were there, some of the guys that were musicians, and we started to talk about grace and what that looks like. We kind of got on the topic that grace doesn’t have a face, but instead it’s hidden in all of these things, in faith, it’s hidden in mercy, and it always covers us, and so we were kind of saying that grace can be disguised in all of these things, but it’s always there for us.
So, we started to – me and some of the guys started to kind of come up with some chords, and right off the bat, we came up with a melody which is that first verse, and so yeah. It kind of took off from there.
David: Sweet, man. So, whenever you guys were writing it, obviously you had a guitar with you.
David: Did you have any kind of – let’s say a vision of the sound? Or were you just focused on the lyrics and the writing itself? Like the chords?Arthur: You know, the topic was kind of how it kicked off. That kind of lead to the feel of the song, I guess you would say, but also, you know, we were kind of experimenting. We were listening to some of the new Hillsong United, “Touch the Sky,” and we were kind of feeling that.
So maybe that was in the back of our brains somewhere when we were doing that. So yeah, that’s it.
David: Cool, man. So it sounds like we’re pretty open, and me knowing you, we have a lot of creative freedom working with you to be able to just kind of experiment and put our taste to it and collaborate.
So, for you guys listening, I would even say – so, Arthur, Vic and I are kind of co-producing this together. This and this and that on the call is Neil Devarro. He’s my good friend. I call him my mix partner, because he hooks me up with an incredible job doing my mix prep and assistant work as far as mixing goes, but he’s an incredible mixing engineer in his own right, so he’s going to be collaborating with us a little bit.
But, kind of taking this song and co-producing it, so I did listen to Hillsong, “Touch the Sky.” I dig it. I like the element of – aside from the fact that it’s smashed, it was compressed to death, it was really, really limited at the end, but we’ll get to the technical stuff later – the songwriting was incredible. I really loved the ambient stuff, I loved the kind of drums… I don’t know if I would say like 80’s, but kind of that modern thing is kind of going on. The synths and the pads… Nothing was overpowering or dominating. It was really, really about that girl’s voice and the song, which really, really inspired me for this song that you’ve presented with us, because of the lyrical content, the message, and the emotion and the melody.
So, my natural instinct… I think Vic can relate, I’ve worked with him enough that we’ll get him in and chiming in for a minute here, but we can relate to big music. We like things big and in your face and powerful and all of that, and while I think there’s still room for that in this song, I can almost see us kind of, “okay, let’s make sure we remember what these lyrics are, and make sure we remember what the melody is, and that drives the emotion of the song.”Kind of like that Hillsong track that you mentioned, so.
So Vic, you did get a chance to listen to it, right?Vic: I got a chance to listen to it, man.
David: Nice, man. What are your first thoughts and impressions?Vic: I thought it was a cool – the lyrics were awesome. The idea was cool. I had not heard the “Touch the Sky,” it was the album, right?
Arthur: Yeah, a single from the album.
Vic: Right. I haven’t heard that yet, but I did get some ideas off the top of my head, like where it can go exactly, but I don’t know if that was necessarily like, you know, be the same thing as what they’re doing now, you know what I mean?But yeah, man, I’m almost thinking of going and taking – just by listening to the scratch track, almost giving it kind of like an open, Coldplay type vibe, you know? Kind of like that song that we did with Blanca, David.
You know what I mean? Just something that doesn’t necessarily have anything crazy, going on, especially like in the verses, just so that the vocal can be the main focus, then kind of just have little elements here and there, just kind of embracing the song or whatever, you know what I mean? That’s what I was thinking.
David: Dude, when I first heard it, and for those of you listening, if you haven’t heard it, don’t forget to go to theazseries.com, where you can actually download right now, the scratch guitar and scratch vocal. I’ve got the BPM and everything lined out for you, so you can jump in with that, but when I was listening to it, I felt like, “man, this could go like indie, folk, acoustic…” Those of you who are familiar with a John Mark MacMillan sound, or… Gosh, fill in the blank.
But then it could be anthem, live, worship, CCM type thing. It could go Phil Wickham vibe, it could go… Man, any direction. The song itself doesn’t really scream for one particular sound. It really comes down to just pace and what we feel in the moment, and let’s go for it.
I was even thinking, you could have three or four versions of this same song, and then even an acoustic version that all could serve a purpose, so. I guess we’ll see what happens, man. It’s not necessarily anything where we have to stick this and pin it down, and run with that, but creatively, if we get into it – we’re in episode three. Episode four is going to be Vic and I pull it open and doing what we do, and adding some drum samples, playing with some loops… Getting some – maybe even experimenting with the chords, because we have that creative freedom with Arthur to kind of experiment with chord progressions and throw some stuff in there. Right now, we’re just sticking with the very basic chord structure, so we’ll stick with that.Vic and I also wanted to talk to you about the arrangement and maybe presenting some options to you where maybe we start big, but then die down for the verse, or start kind of chill, and then grow and make it more like an anthem story song, where it grows, and then we hear the big “ohs,” gang vocals, choir vocals, who knows. It could turn into a million different things, but…
Anyways, man, I’m kind of rambling, but you guys have any more thoughts about anything? Arthur, anything you’d like to – would you like to hear this maybe go more natural? Would you like it to be more modern, synth, beat production, live drums?Arthur: You know, I think it’s a matter of kind of experimenting and seeing where it leads more than a set, “this is what I want for it,” you know? Like I said, you know, I think the lyrics will show where the focal point is. Everything that all of that is open. I think that’s the reason why it has the ability to go this way or that way. I kind of want to leave it open for that.
There’s certain songs where I’m like, “this is it, and this is where I want to go, Dave,” but this one is not one of those, so it’s cool.
David: Cool, man. Well, we’ll definitely have to put quite a bit of emphasis on the vocal production, and doubles, and stacking, and when it comes time to track those, and I’ve said it, but if you guys aren’t quite understanding, you will get access to all of those files.
So, when we go into the studio and we double and we stack and we do harmonies and all of that stuff, you’re going to get access to the edited files, maybe leave me a comment below. Do you want the edited, or do you want the unedited, and we’ll make those available to you guys.
Well, Vic is a beast of a musician. I’m going to build him up on camera, online here because I know he’s too humble to say anything more about himself, but I’m really, really excited to say what Vic does. I tend to be a more, just hold it down, nice and steady rhythm acoustic/electric, you know. Simple stuff.
So, I’m excited to see that collaboration come to life.
Who knows, man. If we feel some live drums, we’ll document it and we’ll maybe ship this out to Los Angeles or Nashville, and get a session musician on it. We’ll see how it goes, man. We’ll just play it by ear at this point.
Vic: Yeah, man. That’d be real cool.
David: Well, cool, man. Guys, I appreciate you coming on. I’m super excited for this process. It’s going to be an awesome time, and plenty more to come from Arthur G, and then my buddy Vic and I. We’re going to be producing this with him. “Disguised Grace.”Go the theazseries.com. No dashes, no hyphens, no nothing. Theazseries.com, and you can download the scratch track and start working on it today. 110 BPM at this point. We may change that, but the scratch track is at 110, and there we go!So, don’t forget. Share this, share this, share this. Like, subscribe, e-mail your buddies. Post to Facebook, Twitter, anything you can to help us get the word out and spread the word about this song, and the process.
I think a lot of people could benefit from it. Again, it’s completely free, A-Z. So, thanks again. Everything from Arthur, from Vic, and myself. Davidglennrecording.com, theproaudiofiles.com, and we’ll catch you in episode four!