Ian Everson | Amsterdam Bar & Hall | Saturday, March 28
Chicago native Ian Everson has spent the majority of his musical career here in Minnesota. A bit John Legend and bit early Justin Timberlake, the R&B/pop singer finds his voice on his debut solo album No Doubt.
Gimme Noise caught up with Everson before his album release at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall to get his thoughts on the music scene here and Chicago and how his classical music background played into his new music.
When did you move to the Twin Cities, and what brought you here?
I've lived in the Twin Cities area since the fall of 2011. I came up here for school -- I'm currently finishing up my last semester at McNally Smith College of Music -- and have been exploring different areas of the scene simultaneously. Coming out of high school, I kind of wanted to skip the college step and jump right into the music industry. School was lower on my list of priorities, but with some coercing from my parents, I found McNally Smith online. It was advertised as a school where I could grow as a musician doing the things that I wanted to do, as well as earn a degree. This was where my parents and I met in the middle, and four years later, graduation a month away, here I am.
Not many people are making your genre of pop here. What draws you to this type of music? How receptive have people been to it?
Being both a singer and a producer, I feel I've developed a certain musical palette that pulls from a lot of different genres. I have a lot of different artists that I pay attention to and see what kind of sounds they're making, and I think that helps me create a unique sound. It also helps that I'm able to bring to life the sounds I hear in my head when I'm writing. It's definitely helpful that my specific market is not too oversaturated, but at the same time it's a little isolating to have few local people that make the same music as me. The style I'm gravitating towards has been really well received by my listeners and I think I've found a diverse and unique audience.
You grew up playing classical music. How do you think your musical background contributes to what you currently do?
I think my upbringing played a big role as far as understanding and appreciating music that I wouldn't necessarily listen to on a daily basis. For instance, when I was very young my father would use Bruckner's 8th Symphony to calm me down, and ever since I have been in love with dense bright harmonies and cinematic chord progressions.
I started classical piano at the age of 5, and moved on to saxophone by the end of elementary school. All throughout my childhood I sang in one place or another, be it in church, in musicals or even an opera about 9/11. Playing these different instruments and being involved in a diverse range of projects helped me to think as both a singer and an instrumentalist, and apply that perspective to my compositions.
Why did you decide to self-produce on this album?
I produced around 90 percent of the record. I do all of the recording, mixing, and a majority of the mastering by myself. Over the years I've collected the know-how and equipment I've needed to create the sound I'm going for, which I think this record encompasses. I'm a singer by profession, and when people ask what I do, that's usually what I lead with.
That being said, there's something to be said for being able to create an entire project from nothing all by yourself. There is no greater feeling than opening a blank project in the morning and filling it up by day's end, and be able to say, "That was all me." When I sit down to start a new song -- whether it's writing or messing with new sounds or recording -- I know exactly what I want, most of the time, and how I want it to sound.
Sometimes when you are working with other producers some of those ideas get lost in translation and there's a little compromise or confusion. I'm not always good at verbalizing my thoughts on a sound and sometimes it comes out as made up words and goofy sound effects with frequent gesticulating, and that isn't very helpful. That being said, it's easy to have your sound become stale and plateau a bit once you develop a sound you produce yourself, so at times its good to bring in a new set of ears and ideas to give the project a fresh and totally different input.
Tell me about the song "Superpowers."
When I said that the EP was mostly self-produced, this song was the exception. Months back I was contacted via Soundcloud by a production team called O'boy, who took an interest in another song of mine they had heard. They sent me a few demos for me to pick from, and there were two that stood out for me. "Superpowers" was one of them. It was one of those songs where the hook kind of just popped in my head and I bolted over to my computer to write it down so I could record a scratch track later that night.
Where do you think you learned to write hooks for your songs? Is melody a knack you have?
I've actually been told in the past that my music wasn't catchy or grabbing enough, but in the past year or so one of the ways I practice writing is just to write melodies, whether its for my songs or other people's music. I'll think of a riff in my head, and maybe it'll flow well into another melody I have in mind. Next I'm writing down lyrics and coincidentally they fit well into the melody. The rest just kind of happens. This has been the case for a lot of my projects. I'm a firm believer in the "practice makes progress" mentality, and I think I developed a system for writing music that sticks with people. I'm all for the "earworm" and getting my music stuck in peoples' heads, but I want there to be more substance to what I'm saying.
What's your goal with this album?
This being my first solid body of work, my biggest goal is to share what I do with as many people as possible. This is my "This is what I'm capable of" project, that hopefully will market me as a singer, songwriter and producer all in one. If I make a little money along the way, that's nice too.
What are you excited to share at the album release show?
Because my music generally lives in the electronic world, it's proven difficult to recreate in a live setting. Sure you can do a reduction and play an acoustic set, but I feel sometimes because it wasn't written for that purpose that some of the essence of the song is lost when performed live. With this show, I think we've done it. My biggest struggle has been to display "what Ian Everson looks and sounds like on a solo stage." With the resources I have and the people I know at this point, I think this show will be as close as it gets.
Ian Everson will release No Doubt at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall on Saturday, March 28, 2015 with Radio Avenue and Antigram.
18+, $5-$7(VIP - includes abum) adv, $8-$10 (VIP - includes album) door, 7 pm
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