Well, let’s start from the beginning before we get into an technical questions. Who is Xan Griffin and how did the musical journey begin for you?
So first of all my real name is Xan Griffin as a lot of people think that is just my stage name haha. But how everything began I actually have a video I made awhile ago and a recent video explaining everything Xan Griffin is and how I got started ill link those below. But to keep it short my dad and brother originally got me into music and I honestly didnt have much interest at first but thought i’d try it out and after a while I started to really fall in love with it over time and became addicted to becoming the best I could be and after 8 years of making music I am now at this point! As for what Xan Griffin is, Xan Griffin is an overall artist project. In one of the videos below I explain how I am striving to not only be recognized as a producer but an artist in general. I am really involved in every aspect of how things roll out and look with my music and my content. I picked up Photography and videography 3 years ago and have recently gotten pretty good at it, i’ve been doing most of my own graphic design for the past 4 or 5 years. I recently released my first track where I actually sang on, wrote, and produced the whole thing and it got such a positive response under the alias Xan Langston! Sorry if im rambling but overall I dont want to limit myself to just one genre of music and limit myself to just music overall and do as many other things as I can do and expand in different ways!
Your drops contain many synth elements and punchy drums that cut through perfectly in the mix. How do you achieve clarity and power in your mix with so many frequency rich elements playing?
To be honest ive learned less is more. I used to have like 10 plugins on my master chain when I was actually creating a track and that really limited what I could do as far as mixing went, my good friends KUURO gave me some tips about a year and a half ago to not have ANYTHING on your master chain while you are mixing except maybe a limiter and to use subtractive equing and multiband compression often and once I applied that into my work flow that’s when it took my mixing to the next level! Also Making room for each element in the mix and having lots of layers have also helped me acheive the sound I have now.
So you’ve got a great performance from your vocalist and are now ready to mix them in. It can be difficult to get them to sit on top of the mix especially when you have a lot of elements playing. How do you mix in your vocals, so they take center stage and provide the emotion and atmosphere needed for your song?
Compression Compression COMPRESSION! But seriously, a compressor allows for the whole vocal to have an even volume level to it so you don’t have to worry about certain words or phrases being smashed underneath the different elements in your tracks. Also, having an even and consistent volume level for the track is important as you won’t have to worry about the vocal sinking under at certain parts because the volume change is so drastic. But that is pretty much my whole process. Pretty simple if you ask me!
What are some of your favorite plugins at the moment and how do you use them in your tracks?
This is pretty easy to answer haha, im actually super basic. Serum, Sylenth, Alchemy, CamelCrusher, Vocodex, and VahallaRoom! Serum and Sylenth is what I use for pretty much every synth element in my tracks and Alchemy is used for more natural sounds and ambient stuff! As for the rest of the plugins I use Vahalla for reverb and some interesting effects sometimes and Vocodex and Camelcrusher for interesting distorted sounds.
Your tracks also contain many talented vocalists. Talk a bit about the collaboration process between you and the vocalist. Are there any specific steps you take when producing and communicating with the vocalist to ensure that your session or idea bouncing is creative and productive?
Its actually pretty simple and straightforward! Usually ill just be surfing the web or on soundcloud and find someone i’d love to work with and shoot them an email or pm and sometimes I get a reply sometimes I don’t, but when I do; for most of my stuff I usually will have the track idea/ track structure finished and will send it to them and they will write and record their vox! I have just recently started writing lyrics and can’t wait to actually implement them in future tracks!
All your tracks seem to tell a unique story. What are some ways you go about creating a specific story and vibe and how do you arrange out these ideas into a whole song?
Its always a pretty similar method to creating a new vibe and story. When I start a track I usually have in mind a mood I want to capture and in order to do so I start off with chords for the song as this will literally dictate what mood will be shown throughout the track. After that ill usually have some visual content playing on my second screen and ill try to match up the songs mood to that video, it can be movies, nature documentaries, TV shows, etc. ill make sure I mute that sound and then create a song that fits. I just started doing this recently and it really took my songwriting and storytelling to another level!
There is no shortage of emotionally charged melodies in your tracks. Do you have any tips for writing these melodies? Are you using a midi keyboard? Just drawing in the notes?
When I come up with chords and melodies, 95% of the time it comes from me just jamming out on the piano my family has in our living room. Like I said above, usually I'll go for a certain emotion so I have to pick chords and melodies that represents that emotion. I also usually just try to express how I am feeling at the time of making the song. I wouldn’t say there is an exact method or secret to creating melodies and chords. I feel like the best way is to gather inspiration from trying new things, expressing how you feel, and just jamming out!
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?
I took 1 year of piano lessons, but I totally forgot how to read music and technically don't know music theory. I just think I have a general understanding of what notes sound good together. That's why I am able to jam out on the piano without even knowing how to read music. When you do something for so long you just start understanding how notes work together and what notes you should use to achieve a certain tone/mood. Also, just doing a few YouTube searches can help you understand how notes work together and how to make some really cool and unique compositions!
" I wouldn’t say there is an exact method or secret to creating melodies and chords. I feel like the best way is to gather inspiration from trying new things, expressing how you feel, and just jamming out!" Xan Griffin
With so much of the music sounding similar out there right now, how do you develop a signature sound that is true to you and expresses your own unique voice?
I actually made a video like this on my YouTube channel awhile ago. I called it “Innovate Don’t Replicate” Basically what I talk about is how you should not look at what people are doing, but what they AREN’T doing. Once I started doing this, then that’s when I was able to develop that “Xan Griffin” signature style which separates me from others. Ultimately, I think you need to make music that makes YOU happy. I’ve been in a place where I thought I had to make music everyone else wanted to hear in order to get noticed and pretty much sell out. I’m so glad I didn’t go that route. I stayed true to myself and make music I love. Now I’m slowly but surely building my own wave and developing a loyal fanbase which is amazing. My friend Derien always tells me “The longer it takes for you to pop off, the longer your success and impact will last…”
For many it is easy to lose momentum and over listen to tracks when producing, resulting in unfinished tracks that never see the light of day. How do you keep the momentum, creativity, focus, and excitement of producing going throughout the process and finish ideas that you start?
Honestly it’s about coming back to that song a week later after you have fresh ears. What I mean by that is DO NOT listen to that specific track/idea for about a week then come back to it. If you listen back to it and you’re like “Damn… this is so dope” then you finish it. I also feel like getting feedback from other producers is key. I have a very close circle of my friends that are producers that I always get feedback from because they are brutally honest and I know when they tell me something is worth finishing and releasing then I should do exactly that. A lot of times the tracks I'm most passionate about will be finished in a day to 3 days because all I wanna do is finish it and it don't need any outside motivation to do so. I personally feel that the tracks that you are truly passionate about are the ones that you don’t have to force yourself to work on and it all comes naturally. You think to yourself, “Wow... I really made this?” Sorry if i’m rambling or kinda getting off topic, but thought i’d try and explain the best I can!
What’s next for Xan Griffin? EP? Album? Touring?
Well right now I have an album being released in singles! If you’ve been keeping up over the last few months every song has been the name of a zodiac sign. Every track on the album is based off of the corresponding zodiac’s personality, which hasn’t really been done before. This was a really cool concept I’ve been thinking of since I was about 11 years old but wanted to wait until I had the skillset to do this concept justice! Now being 17 I have developed those skills and I truly am proud of this body of work and can’t wait to share every track with all of you! As far as touring, I have played a few shows but might have some more coming up and maybe even a Zodiac Tour next year! who knows!