Beyond the Record
Music news, album reviews & interviews
Beyond the Record: Welcome! Tell us a little bit about who you are, where you're from and where you're living now.
AS: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me! I'm a singer/songwriter currently based in Washington D.C. and originally from Iowa.
BtR: Your music is outstanding and you have a rapidly growing fan base. Tell us a little bit about the growth process as a songwriting and what it's like to 'climb the ladder' so to speak.
AS: I appreciate that! I'm lucky to be a part of such supportive communities both back home in Iowa and here in D.C. so I definitely have to give credit where it's due. I like to think that the music I write just kind of speaks for itself. Basically, I just put my music out there and if it reaches or inspires people, then great! And I've been lucky enough to successfully do that, if even on a small scale. And I think the more I've developed in my writing abilities and grown as an artist the more people I've been able to impact.
BtR: Let's say we had to pinpoint your music into a genre. We had to label it. What would you say your genre is and who are your inspirations to make such music?
AS: That's such a loaded question! Honestly, I feel like they're constantly coming up with a new sub-genre that I've never heard of! But if I had to categorize it somehow, I guess the most general genre would be indie pop. The piano is at the root of every song I write and since it's such a diverse instrument it allows each song to sound different while still giving me a consistent sound as an artist.
BtR: There music videos are incredible. It's artistic expression at its best. Tell us a little bit about what goes into producing them, the cost, and your overall experience in doing such a task
AS: I was really blessed with the opportunity to have such talented people work on the music video for my recent release "Open Windows Closed Doors." It featured dancers Shannon Hartle, who I went to undergrad at the University of Iowa with, and Brittlyn Taylor. The videographer, Taylen Anderson, and I worked together previously on the video for my song "Minutes Ago" and the co-director/ choreographer is actually my sorority sister Kathleen Fallon. Kathleen helped me create the vision and idea for the video, the dancers beautifully embodied the emotion of the song, and Taylen immediately got what we were going for and brought it to life. It was so awesome to have local talent featured alongside my song.
BtR: Elaborate on the recording process. Take us through all the small details if you could.
AS: I've had the chance to work with some really talented producers, and that makes all the difference. Walking into the studio with an idea and having someone immediately get what you're going for is makes everything go so much more smoothly. Typically we start by getting a piano and rough vocal take to outline the song structure and have something to build around. Then we add in additional instrumentation for the meat of the song. Recording the vocals can take just a few takes to a few hours to get it right, depending on the day and how cooperative my voice chooses to be. It can be a tedious process since vocal tracks have to be precise, and between dictating words correctly, phrasing, conveying the right emotion, and actually getting your voice to hit the right notes it's a lot to think about! The best producers are the ones who are honest with you and will be blunt, like "nope, that wasn't it. Let's do it again," or "sing that more clearly, your vowels are all weird." I need someone to tell me these kind of things, because after like the 20th time singing something everything starts to sound the same. After we have a few takes we sift through them all and piece together our favorites. From there, the production team takes it away to get everything mixed and mastered.
BtR: At what point in your life did you pursue music to the fullest as to make a career out of it? Some artists start at a very young age while others take years to discover their passion for the arts. Where do you fall on this spectrum?
AS: I guess my "career" as a musician started when I was pretty young. I could pick up song melodies on the piano by ear- I distinctly remember figuring out how to play N'SYNC's "Bye Bye Bye" when I was in first grade. Then I was writing songs by the age of 7; some that were decent given my age, and some that were just Destiny Child rip-offs. But I loved singing for events- my first paid job was a political rally at age 9. I was part a small touring show in Iowa around that time as well. From starting off singing for weddings, the national anthem at sporting events, and now paid gigs and album sales, I feel really lucky that I'm able to incorporate music into my life on the scale that I have.
BtR: Take us through the lowest moments in your career and in your recent personal life.
AS: a career in music definitely has its challenges, especially when you're surrounded by such talented people who are after the same dream as you. Sometimes it can feel as though everyone is succeeding in ways that you never could, and there was a time when I was convinced that this desire to be a musician and share my music was never going to be realized. That's in essence what my song "Open Windows Closed Doors" was about- trying to "make it" in the music world, and ending up in a place where "giving up" and just settling for something more comfortable or less ambitious sounds more appealing. But the easiest way to express this feeling of doubting my capability as a musician was through song- that's pretty telling of how essential music proved to be in my life.
BtR: And on the flipside, what have you overcome?
AS: I really feel like I've landed in a place where I know what I want out of music and my career in it. I've learned that dreams are allowed to change and evolve over time. Your definition of success will change as you fail, learn, grow, and succeed. And in a sea of successful and talented people, it is important to not only remember what makes you unique but also to be continually inspired by others uniqueness.
BTR: What successes are you most proud of in your career?
AS: Releasing my first EP "For Keeps" was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. It was the first time that my songs could be heard on a mass scale, and it was so exciting. I had no idea what I was doing promotion wise, so the support I got from the various communities I was a part of really was the main way anyone heard it. That ended up landing me the opportunity to collaborate with another local artist, Mielo, and our song "Surreal" now has over a million listens on Spotify. Most recently, I've signed with Chrome City Records. They've already landed me some really cool live gigs and we've recorded some great music in the last few months, so the best is definitely yet to come.
BtR: Let's say you have the power to change the music industry. Would you change it, if so, what would you change and why?
AS: Living in D.C. has really opened my eyes to the policy side of creative arts. Music is so accessible these days to the general public, and it's great that people get to listen to more music than ever before, but it's also affecting artists' livelihood. Apart from people downloading music illegally, which obviously puts artists at a huge disadvantage and infringes their rights, artists also have to sometimes compromise royalties in exchange for exposure. Online streaming has become one of the easiest ways to listen to music, and unfortunately, the payout to artists is in many cases very low. There have definitely been some steps in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go before artists are getting the copyright protection and earning the wage that they deserve. The way I see it, if you enjoy an artist's music, it's worth buying it or listening to it legally so they can keep making more.
BtR: When we can expect the next release from you? AS:
AS: I'm currently working on my first full-length album that you can expect by the end of this year. In the meantime, you can be on the lookout for my latest single, "Locked Up" coming out at the end of this summer!