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Exclusive Interview with DJ/Producer Wade Martin

 

unnamed-1It’s no secret that many people feel that the music industry is in a rut. There have been numerous calls to “save” this type of music or another throughout the years. Why, just three years ago, Fall Out Boy released an album blatantly declaring that they would “Save Rock and Roll.” Of course, what was actually released was a disc full of radio friendly pop-punk so far from the origins of rock that it would leave Chuck Berry and Bill Haley’s heads spinning if they were to witness it.

While the top 40 charts these days may be riddled with songs that appear to have all been crafted from the same hellacious fabric, one man would love to break it out of its funk.

That man is Wade Martin.

Beginning as a performer, Martin soon transitioned into an active career writing and recording alongside artists like Wyclef Jean and Britney Spears. Now, Martin has shifted gears again, focusing now on his own projects including “Done,” a song featuring Jadelle that hit #10 on the Billboard Emerging Artists chart.

Martin took some time to sit down with us and discuss “Done,” the state of the music industry, and what he has planned for the future.

You started your career as a performer before moving into the world of Producing and DJing amongst other things. What lead to this sort of rebirth?

Money.

Oh yeah? (laughs)

Basically, yes. I’m very politically incorrect, so I’m just going to give you politically incorrect answers (laughs).

Music Producers today call themselves “artists.” Like Calvin Harris, like Zed. Obviously, they’re calling themselves DJs, but basically they’re music producers unlike, for example, Tiesto who is a hardcore DJ. DJing forever and that’s his thing. He came up doing the house music thing in Europe. That’s a true DJ.

What happened, basically, is that music producers are no longer making the money that they used to make due to the decline of record sales, etc. So the migration that started occurring years ago was basically music producers started rebranding themselves in order to get appearance fees, endorsements and all of this. As a result of this, again like Calvin Harris for example, Calvin Harris makes many, many millions of dollars that he wouldn’t have made a year ago if he hadn’t called himself an artist even though he isn’t singing as you would typically expect by the old school definition of being an artist and performing.

So, for me, I’m doing this because my royalty checks as a music producer and as a songwriter are not what they used to be and I used to do a lot of post-production work for a lot of major celebrities and get paid very, very, very well and that money just isn’t as readily available anymore, again, just because the music buying public isn’t what it used to be.

So it was my entertainment attorney last year who turned to me and said, “Look, Wade, you aren’t an unattractive guy. You have a visual edge over your competition in the producer/ DJ world. Why don’t you jump into it and capitalize on this movement and put some retirement money away.” And that’s kind of how I ended up in this new place in my career. Rebirth, I guess, you can say.

That’s a much more honest answer than I get from most people.

Well, I’m going to get in trouble for [the answer], but my attitude is I may be many things, but one thing I’m not is fake and that’s just where I’m coming from.

The production in “Done” is very unique. What was the main influence musically for this track?

I wanted to use sounds that are in keeping with today’s trends. Unfortunately, US music is very much in a fog in comparison to, say, 15 or 20 years ago, so unless you happen to be a huge name like a Calvin Harris for example as a producer, you are limited to what paint on your palette you can use. So “Done” was a song that started conceptually with, “Okay, how do I combine pop and EDM sound into a slow to mid-tempo track, yet make it at the same time substantive?”

It was, quite frankly, very clinical. I mean, I would love to turn to you and say “I sat down at a piano one day with a glass of wine and I was just playing around with a few things and this melody came to me and I just felt great about it.” (laughs). That’s how I used to do it, but today, again if I’m interested in appealing to the US market, you have to take a very different approach unless you have a huge platform of followers.

I, unfortunately, don’t have the same kind of platform that Calvin Harris does. I’m limited in terms of how much I can do creatively when I’m producing a song.

So, let’s say you have the same kind of platform as Calvin Harris. What would it be that you would, ideally, get to do?

Well, I would bring music back. Here I go again, being politically incorrect, but music sucks today (laughs).

I’ve done a bunch of hit songs in my life. I’ve done a bunch of rock, obviously pop, some EDM, but US music is very, again I’ll use the word clinical. I don’t know. It lacks a lot of luster. I don’t necessarily like songs or music that revolves around a chorus, around a hook. So many of these pop songs lead with a hook or lead with something extremely repetitive.

I kind of feel like I was born 20 years too late. Back in the day, I would have loved to have been around to produce the music that the Commodores were doing or Chicago was doing. Good Lord, the Commodores were coming out with songs that didn’t even have a hook. You can have hit songs that have no chorus. Pink Floyd did the same thing.

So, given the platform, I would love to be in a position to re-educate consumer’s ears, younger generation’s ears, on the difference between something meaningful versus developing a meaningless infatuation with a beat. Obviously, if I did something like that now, I would be committing suicide career-wise. I wouldn’t get any traffic with it. I wouldn’t get anywhere on the charts with it.

Is there a band or act that you feel like, right now, that is bringing real music out or is it all just a bland field of music?

I’m sure there must be on an underground level. Maybe on some obscure chart somewhere, but mainstream, no. Not that I know of. Yeah, I’m really disappointed in where music has come and I look forward to, hopefully, being able to redirect music back to being musical.

Okay, I’ll ask you some questions that won’t get you in trouble. What was it Jadelle’s voice that drew you to her for “Done?’

(laughs) Oh, gosh. I love her voice so much. I’m releasing another single and video with her next month. It’s the embodiment of substance. It’s the kind of voice that draws you in, that’s got character to it in an environment where most female voices lack that. You know, a lot of the female voices in pop songs these days, within reason, sound the same or are very bland. I wanted to use a voice that, again, would draw you in and had levels of feeling that a lot of female pop voices today just don’t have anymore.

I teeter-totter between making sure that I’m in keeping musically with the mainstream, but also in my own little way doing my own thing too. So when I develop the following that I’m hoping to develop, the segue into doing things that are a little more substantive won’t be as challenging to listeners. It will be a slow introduction into making things a little bit more musical and not lose my following just because I took a radical left turn.

Yeah, she definitely has a classic, powerful voice. It’s not the wimpy “let’s autotune the crap out of this” voice that you’re used to.

Some of my geeky engineer, music producer peers have mentioned to me on numerous occasions “Hey, you know that she’s a little pitchy here, a little pitchy there.” With a lot of pride, I’ve responded by saying, “Yes, absolutely. I’m aware.” And I think it’s great. The average consumer is not going to be able to tell, but it’s a part of the human voice that’s natural. It’s okay if you’re trying to evoke a certain feeling and deliver a certain meaning to slide up to a note if that’s what the phrase calls for.

If you go back to before autotune, especially live performances, some of the great singers were pitchy all over the place, but it wasn’t about that. It was about delivering a feeling, delivering an emotion, and just getting lost in a song. That’s what it was about. Now everything, again, is so clinical and everything has to be so perfect and the whole point behind music being emotional is getting lost.

When you were doing “Done,” did you have all of the lyrics written before Jadelle came in, or was it more of a collaboration?

It was 100% a collaboration. She came up with the melody, lyrics, ideas. I came up with some. Some of the people on my staff came up with some melody and lyrical ideas. It was a group effort. I would love to boastfully say in this interview that I can do everything by myself (laughs). The truth of the matter is as I get older, the more I realize how little I do know about life in general and how important having a solid team around you is with regard to creating great music. It’s not realistic when you’ve got so many things to factor in to create a great song in such a narrow little box. You need all the help you can get.

A quick analogy that I will give you: getting a great song was always difficult to do. It was like capturing lightning in a bottle and in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the bottle opening was much larger to get that lightning in a bottle, to get that smash hit song than it is today because, ultimately, back in the day all you needed to do was create an amazing song. Today, not only do you need to create a great song, but you have got to make sure it sounds the right way. You’ve got to make sure it’s the right length. You’ve got to make sure it’s dropping at the right point. There are all of these other things to consider. It’s not just about creating that great song. So more and more as the years have gone by, I’m reliant on the team around me to bounce ideas off of or to make sure we’re on the right track. Does that make sense?

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And you’ve mentioned another song with Jadelle coming out soon. What else is on the horizon for you?

I have another single that I’m also going to be releasing and I also have a third song I’m working on with Jadelle. Another complaint I have about this industry… (laughs) I’m stockpiling singles at the moment that are ready to go and the people who are around me, of course, that I pay, I contract to advise me, are telling me when I should be doing what and, unfortunately, it’s no longer a simple case of creating a great song and putting it out. There’s so many other variables.

What we do know for sure, though, is that my next single with  Jadelle along with a video will be released next month and we collectively believe it to be a smash hit whereas “Done” was never intended to be a smash hit. It’s done better than what we expected by far, but all it was supposed to do was introduce Jadelle to the US market and give me the opportunity to create something musically that was poppy yet slightly substantive too and it’s done really, really well.

Now, this new single that’s coming out next month, that one has been designed from scratch to be a smash hit song, so I’m kind of excited to see how it all turns out.

Yeah, it should be interesting. If “Done” is any indication, it should be good. Is there anything else you think people should know?

Just be on the lookout for the next single with Jadelle which is titled “Go Up.”

Written by Nathan Badley

When Nathan is not writing about music, he might be writing material for his often neglected blog at nathanbadley.com. Or he might be writing something else. Or podcasting. Or playing music. Most likely he is just watching TV thinking about how he should be doing those things. You can tweet him @badlandsbadley and congratulate him on his mad 3rd person writing skills.

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