Interview Date: 20 Nov. 17
St. Humain's Music: Listen Genres: EDM, Pop
What drew you into making music? Were there any specific musicians or non musicians that influenced you in the beginning?
I remember getting home after kindergarten jumping up and down on my bed to Macarena and singing along to Fools Garden’s “Lemon Tree”... And growing up in Singapore I grew up listening to local acts and the radio with American Top 40 countdowns with Rick Dees and Ryan Seacrest. If I didn’t enjoy music I wouldn’t make it, simple as that.
At times, there are few elements playing in your tracks, but the track still sounds full. Are there any specific techniques that you use to get this full and clean sound in your mixes?
To me, that’s more about producing – my philosophy is to make sure each element is there for good reason. It’s challenging to simplify, but I feel like that’s when you know if what you’re doing is actually effective. Sometimes you need to be brutal with your tracks and delete stuff that doesn’t really make an honest difference.
Stereo imaging is a huge part of getting a clean and wide mix. How do you decide which elements go where in the stereo field in order to achieve a large sounding mix?
I think it’s all about creating interest, and about immersing the listener in the world of the song. I make those decisions in my producing process, and it’s back to simplicity once again to make sure panning actually achieves something and isn’t just there for effect. Thankfully I also work with a talented engineer, Simon Cohen, from Studios 301 here in Sydney, Australia who has been mixing my work making sure things sound great!
Your tracks contain beautifully well crafted lyrics that tell their own unique story. How do you approach this part of the song writing process.
Again, it’s about creating the “world of the song”. I want the listener to be a part of it and not just listen from a distance. I write about life and from my experiences, and I try to be as honest as possible. Songwriting theory is so crucial too. I’ve learnt heaps from Pat Pattison’s books and from other writer friends especially my mate Scott Groom who writes a lot of church music, I think it has a lot to teach us because it’s designed for mass singing – I take that concept into my pop songs because I want loads people singing them!
Do you have any advice for electronic producers that are looking to start singing on their own songs or advice for producers that haven’t considered singing on their own music? Also, how does producing and singing on your records change the way you produce compared to just producing a track and using vocal samples?
Your voice is an instrument and if you feel it to be the right one to lead your song do it. Obviously other things come into play such as skill, tone and that X factor. I always start with songwriting so I actually haven’t produced a track with music first! I need to try it though.
"I want the listener to be a part of it and not just listen from a distance. I write about life and from my experiences, and I try to be as honest as possible."St. Humain
When starting a new track, at what part of the arrangement do you start at? Also, how much of each section in the arrangement do you complete before you move onto the next section? (Until you the main theme across, until you are inspired enough? Do you bounce from section to section just building small parts of it?)
It’s always song first. I usually don’t start producing my songs until I have a solid melody and lyric. If it can’t stand by itself with just a piano/guitar or even acappella, then I keep working on it till it can stand alone. I always start with a guide vocal with simple chords. After that, I do a rough pass of each section, working linearly as much as possible to build a vibe, and keep circling back as I go.
Electronic producers have a hard time with music theory. Either they don’t know what to learn or how exactly to apply the theory. If you use theory when writing your tracks, what specific parts do you use and what would you topics do you feel producers should know?
If you’re making music already, you already know some theory. You just can’t articulate it in yet. It’s like being a chef, the more recipes you’ve got the more options you have and the greater your understanding on what dishes you can create. It’s the same for music theory. It broadens the musical landscape to start with and it can help when you are stuck. It also helps you get smart when crafting riffs and hooks for maximum impact.
Is there a technique or two that you consistently use when producing tracks? If so, what are they?
This isn’t really a technique, but I try to make sure that stuff sits in the pocket. People feel stuff and your music needs to help them feel. Another thing I like to do is compose little bass runs in between sections to help with momentum.
If you could give an aspiring artist one production tip, what would it be?
Producing is mainly about listening well. Don’t isolate yourself from other artists just to be unique. Spend time crafting your sound being inspired by elements you are attracted to in others’ songs. Learn one technique and apply it in a different context.
It is common for many producers to start a track, get part of it finished and then lose interest in it and never finish it. How do you keep the creative flow going throughout the whole track so you don’t get bored and uninterested in the track and ultimately throw the project in the trash?
I experience this too and sometimes it’s just a decision I need to make, to call it done. This year I also started keeping a weekly list on my phone with goals by the day. I’m pretty obsessive when it comes to my music so I’m sure this sounds like it’s giving me more OCD… But it’s been the best thing to happen to my productivity this year.
Labels and curators are getting sent hundreds of tracks everyday. How do you get your demos heard when they are receiving such a huge quantity of music?
I honestly haven’t done the whole demo-pitching thing, but have only pitched released music, unless it’s for a potential collab. I feel so fortunate because after releasing my debut single “Make a Move”, I honestly woke up one day to an email from my label (Capitol Records) who reached out. There were two others who wanted to hear more. I really can’t explain why and it’s been a major blessing from God. BUT! What I did do is send my single to about 200 music blogs to see if they’d be interested in featuring it. I think it comes down to two things: Good art, and good exposure. Without either you’re left with a tortured artist or a glorified amateur.
What’s next for St. Humain?
I’m currently working on many new songs! Expect to hear my next single right off the start of 2018, and some features hopefully. I can’t wait to hear what you have to think. xo