Following the release of a powerful new EP and beautifully contrasting follow-up single High Hopes, artist and songwriter Svain wraps up a busy first half of 2023 with an in depth discussion of his creative process and artistic journey so far. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hey – great to chat with you! For those new to your music, how long have you been playing, and who or what first inspired you to start?
Likewise, thanks for having me, and a big shoutout to all the new eyes and ears out there who are joining me on this journey. I’m truly grateful!
So, my musical journey began at the age of 15 when I first picked up a guitar. Back then, with the mindset of a teenager, I was solely focused on playing metal, believe it or not. It was my gateway into the music scene.
While I’ve always had a love for music, metal was my primary passion. Bands like As I Lay Dying, Trivium, In Flames, and many others were my biggest inspirations during that time.
“And you know what? I still find myself listening to certain metal bands because those roots never truly fade away.”
However, as I grew older and matured, my musical taste expanded to embrace a little bit of everything. I learned to love and appreciate various genres, allowing my horizons to broaden and my appreciation for music to evolve.
Huge congrats for the wonderful new single High Hopes, how did this come to be, and why did the reggae style feel relevant to this theme and melody?
Thank you, thank you!
It’s interesting how this question, compared to the last one, represents the opposite ends of my musical journey. I love it haha.
High Hopes came together naturally, without any forced elements during the writing process. To give you more background, after my EP Redemption was released in April, I took some time to unwind and focus on promotion. I also used that period to find inspiration and explore new things.
One of the biggest influences behind this song was a band that was new to me called “The Interrupters.” They recently released an album called Into the Wild. Reggae and Ska aren’t genres I typically dive into, but this group caught my attention. Their sound is incredibly unique, and the mix is always so crisp. Their music quickly made its way to the top of my playlist, and I found myself jamming out to it during my daily commute.
In a nutshell, during one of my solo jam sessions, I was playing around with some Reggae chords, caught a rhythm, jotted down some lyrics, and here we are!
How did you come to work with Katie Curran, and what do you think collaboration helps bring out in your own approach to music?
Katie and I used to be coworkers, but we stayed in touch because of our shared love for music and creative involvement in the field. She’s not only a great friend but also an incredible vocalist!
When I was working on High Hopes during the pre-production phase, I had the idea of incorporating female vocals, taking inspiration from Aimee Allen, the singer for ‘The Interrupters.’ Their band served as a significant reference point for the sound I wanted to achieve. While I didn’t aim to replicate their style exactly, I delved into that genre to broaden my musical horizons and draw more ideas and inspiration.
Katie was my top choice when searching for a singer. I reached out to her, sent a demo, and she was immediately on board. We booked studio time and began constructing the song together.
Collaborating with Katie has been a pivotal moment in my musical journey as an artist. Working with someone I would consider a professional singer pushed me to bring out my best. I remember recording my parts, and after hearing Katie in the studio, I thought to myself, “Dude, I need to get back in that booth!” I’m so glad it worked out that way because that’s what this journey is all about—growing and pushing each other to new heights. Katie’s presence was truly motivating.
You also released the EP Redemption this year, distinctly different to the single – from blues rock to piano led and generally a more gritty vocal presentation. What does this project mean to you, and do you consider genre when creating, or just start writing?
Redemption holds an immense personal significance to me, and I appreciate your interest. This EP marks my inaugural professional release, comprising seven songs within the Alt Rock genre. The title Redemption reflects a pivotal moment in my musical journey—a chance to restart and present my work as I have always envisioned.
“Throughout my upbringing, I held myself to impossibly high standards, perpetually dissatisfied with the readiness and worthiness of my creations. I grappled with a paradox: being both a perfectionist who sought flawlessness and an impulsive artist eager to share new ideas immediately.”
Familiar acquaintances will attest that my songwriting process typically starts with the chorus, leaving a trail of unfinished fragments. I would hastily share rough phone recordings, eagerly seeking reactions. Alternatively, we attempted self-recording, which, in retrospect, should never have seen the light of day. Looking back, some moments make me cringe, to be honest. We possessed all the necessary equipment, yet lacked the expertise to utilize it effectively.
However, everything changed when my great friend and now music engineer, Spencer Hawk, took it upon himself to study and acquire expertise in recording, mixing, and mastering. With his invaluable support, I finally have the means to create music as I have always envisioned it.
Now it’s like people can hear me, and I’m like, “This is what I’ve been trying to make for you all these years!” Haha. Sorry for rambling, but to understand the meaning behind the EP is to understand my slow start and constant failure to get to this point in my career.
Also, in response to your question, that alt rock and blues have become the styles I deeply cherish over the years. They resonate with my soul when I seek to express something, as every element in that music—the lyrics, the voice, and the instruments—harmoniously intertwines.
I have always been inclined to write in a dark manner, finding my best outlet in pain, struggle, and sadness. It’s both fortunate and unfortunate, I suppose. I like to believe that my music may help others relate and find solace in their own lives. At least, that’s what it does for me. Haha!
“People often urge me to write happier songs, and I do make attempts, but I inevitably gravitate back to minor progressions and profound lyrics.”
I must give a shout out to my favorite band, Kaleo, as they have greatly influenced the sound of Redemption.
What’s your primary instrument, and what does a live show from Svain currently entail?
My primary instrument is the Guitar. Acoustic is what I usually play most. As for a live show, there is nothing yet but keep an eye out!
Where did the song Wind In The Trees come from, and what do you hope listeners take away from it?
This particular song holds immense significance to me. In fact, my entire EP, is dedicated to it. It serves as a heartfelt tribute to my dear friend, Collin Trail, who unfortunately lost his battle with cancer. I composed this song during the initial stages of grieving, just a few months after his departure.
From the beginning, I was determined to make this song truly exceptional. My goal was to have it professionally recorded and make it the pinnacle of my achievements. However, as time passed, my initial inspiration dwindled, and my attempts to bring it to fruition fell short.
In the end, I decided to set up a camera and capture a live performance of me playing the song alongside a photograph of Collin and a softly lit candle. It felt incomplete and rushed, but I believed it was the best I could do with the resources available to me at that moment. Fast forward to the inception of this EP, and I knew without a doubt that this song had to be included. Little did I know the tremendous undertaking it would become.
The process of recording the song and creating the accompanying music video turned out to be the most time-consuming and meticulous endeavor I had ever undertaken. We worked with three different pianists to transpose the guitar melody to the piano, and the first take was recorded in a magnificent church adorned with cathedral architecture. Countless trials and errors were necessary to arrive at the final product and it was all so worth it.
My ultimate hope is that people can find solace in this song, using it as a source of comfort when coping with the loss of their own loved ones. I aspire for them to connect with the universal experience of grieving during such challenging times.
Tell me about the visual side of Wind In The Trees – how do you come up with video ideas, and how does that creative process compare to songwriting and production for you?
For that I must give credit to my close friend and cinematographer, Charles Von McNeal from Von Visuals. When I decided to create a music video, I shared my basic ideas and locations with Charles, and we brainstormed together to find low-budget solutions.
I believe in involving creative professionals in their respective fields, so I asked Charles to contribute as much as possible in generating ideas and storyboarding. We faced a significant challenge due to a tight deadline, which was largely my own fault. Despite Charles also falling ill during editing and pre-production, he managed to deliver a beautiful video.
Personally, I’m an imaginative person who often gets lost in daydreams while listening to music. Songwriting and production also fall under my creative interests, but when I step into another field, I need the expertise of someone who knows what they’re doing.
Sparks is addictively beautiful, the folk-pop warmth and those interlacing melodies work really well. How different does your mindset need to be when switching from a darker vibe to something light and uplifting, and which style is your preferred to perform live?
And thank you! I actually wrote the chorus for Sparks a while ago and recorded it on my phone. Initially, it was intended as a gift for our friend’s wedding in Switzerland a few years back. However, attending the wedding turned out to be more challenging than we anticipated. As a result, I never finished the song.
Writing from different perspectives is truly invigorating for me. I find that too much of the same thing stifles inspiration and becomes monotonous. That’s why I enjoy embracing change. I have a deep appreciation for diverse musical styles and try my hand at various genres.
When it comes to performing live, an acoustic show suits me best. My music often incorporates multiple instruments, mimicking a full band, even though I don’t have one or practice with one regularly. I’ve invested in session instruments in the studio like drums, bass guitar, and lead/solo patches, as the rest of the performance is typically just me.
Do you consider the business side of carving out a career in music, and thus set time aside to write and produce content, or do you let creativity guide the way?
Currently, I allow creativity to guide my path, but since the release of Redemption, I’ve felt a stronger drive to treat my music as a career. Alongside the creative process of writing, recording, and filming, I also handle the responsibilities of being my own manager and marketing agent.
Constantly creating content and promoting myself has become a necessary part of the modern era, although it’s my least favorite aspect.
“Embracing social media and digital platforms is essential to connect with audiences and stay relevant. However, this demanding task can be exhausting and distract us from the beauty of the real world we inhabit.”
In an ideal scenario, it would be wonderful to have someone dedicated to handling the business side, but for now, I need to prioritize my full-time job and find a balance.
What’s the hardest part of being an authentic artist and simultaneously trying to build a career around it?
I would say, the challenge of staying original and being heard. In today’s TikTok-driven culture, where grabbing attention within a few seconds is crucial, it becomes difficult to stand out when everyone is doing the same thing.
This aligns with my previous response regarding the demands of self-promotion and adapting to current trends. Being your own agent and working with a tight budget also detract from the artistic process. These responsibilities and constraints take away precious time and energy that could be devoted to exploring creativity and refining artistic expression.
Is there a tour in the pipeline, or any performance exclusives you can let us in on?
Unfortunately not at this time. I will be sure to keep everyone posted throughout all my social media platforms when the time comes!
What is it about making music that brings out the best in you?
It’s my passion. It’s what I was meant to do. Being an artist and creating music has never completely left my life since I started. Despite the ups and downs, I always come back to it.
“I write and perform because I want to. There was never anything in it for me or promised to me, but it has made me happy, and I will always love it.”
Is there anything else we should know?
I believe I’ve rambled enough for now, haha! To those who have taken the time to read this interview, thank you for giving me your time and attention.
It’s challenging for me to keep things concise because: 1) I consider myself a writer, and 2) Music is my favorite topic, especially as I take my first big steps in the industry. I wanted people to get to know me authentically, understand my motivations, and how things have unfolded. Rebecca, once again, thank you for hosting this interview. The pleasure was all mine!
Lastly, this summer, I’ll be launching a website that will feature merchandise, future show dates, and serve as a hub to stay updated on everything. You can drop your email there to stay connected! Keep an eye out.
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