A&R Report: Who Got Next Showcase with Sr. VP of Island Def Jam - Max Gousse
Under the direction of A&R Reportand BestFan.com this non-profit initiative provides an outlet for aspiring Canadian musicians and some of the music industry’s key players to connect through a showcase of music and artistry.
A proud supporter of MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with CARAS; A&R Report is 100% dedicated to discovering and providing opportunities for new talent on a national scale. With the first instalment of ’Who Got Next?’ taking place on Thursday September 6th 2012 at the Hard Rock Café in the heart of Toronto,A&R Reportis proud to showcase the talent of 12 carefully selected unsigned artists on the brink of an illustrious career. The event will also include special guest and industry heavyweight Sr. VP of Island/DefJam Records, Max Gousse(Beyonce Knowles, B2K). With insightful critiques and feedback from some of the music industries most trusted names, this showcase will help groom and acknowledge the breadth and quality of talent within Canada in a unique social environment.
This event will be co-produced by one of Canada’s premiere online entertainment outlet Bestfan.com.Bestfan is a platform which features interviews with some of music’s biggest names as well as artists on the rise.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Max Gousse is a multiple Grammy Award-winning American record executive, producer, and A&R extraordinaire. Gousse is perhaps best known for handling A&R/Production for two of Beyonce Knowles’biggest albums (I Am…Sasha Fierce and B’Day), for discovering and developing the platinum R&B group B2K and for his A&R work on the multi-platinum Dreamgirls soundtrack album. Currently based in Los Angeles, he serves as the Senior Vice President/A&R of Island Def Jam Music Group (label is home to some of urban and pop music’s best - Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Frank Ocean) and has been an A&R executive for nearly 20 years. Gousse works with a diverse range of artists, as well as at the development of up-and-comers in Pop, R&B and Hip-Hop music genres.
A&R Report is a proud supporter of MusiCounts, a foundation who generates proceeds to help fund music equipment with schools in Canada nation wide. At the A&R Report Showcase, we wil be raising funds funds and awareness for the foundation. You can find some more information below:
MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) is helping to keep music alive in schools across Canada. MusiCounts’ mission is to ensure that children in Canada, regardless of socio-economic circumstances, have access to music programs through their schools. MusiCounts includes Band Aid musical instrument grants, the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, Scholarships and other music education initiatives. MusiCounts is funded by various initiatives such as the JUNO Awards nominee compilation CDs; annual contributions by Bell Media; Astral Media; TD; SiriusXM Canada; the Slaight Family Foundation; Vista Radio, and supported since inception by EMI Music Canada Inc.; Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc.; Universal Music Canada and Warner Music Canada Ltd.; as well as JUNO Songwriters’ Circle presented by CMPA and SOCAN; JUNO Cup presented by The Keg Steakhouse & Bar. To date, MusiCounts has awarded nearly $5 million dollars to help keep music alive, impacting 262 Post-Secondary graduates and an estimated 400,000 students, their schools and communities.
A&R Report had the pleasure of getting in touch with some fresh new talent. Her name is Nylo. I first got to know of Nylo when a good friend of mine Maria Marmol, posted her EP on her Facebook Page. Since then I’ve been obsessed with her sound. It’s honest, raw and fresh.
Take a first look at ‘Someone Like Nylo’ with her latest release Memories Speak. We at A&R Report gain insight on how she got signed, her goals and aspirations and her plans for the future.
You go solely by Nylo?
Yes I do.
So tell me about Nylo?
My name is Nylo. I’m from Chicago, Illinois. I am currently living in California finishing up a record. I have been doing music forever and started when I was little. I first started with poetry and putting that poetry to melodies and I didn’t realize that, that was writing songs till I got older.
How long have you been songwriting for?
I’m not sure of when, but I found poetry from when I was not very good at spelling. When I would struggle to spell words like ‘when’ and ‘where’ [laughs] So I’m assuming it was probably kindergarten because I figured out how to spell pretty fast.
I always had journals and my mother would always make sure I had things to write down on when I was a child. The songs I wrote back then were about all these fantastical, mystical stories about princes and princesses, but as I got older I started writing songs about personal experiences.
When you grew up did you think of yourself as an artist or a writer? Or did you have other career aspirations growing up?
I never really thought you could be an artist as a job. I always thought I’d be this artist and have a day job on the side. It was never really about writing for someone else until I realized I had so many songs that I couldn’t possibly release all of them for myself.
Sometimes you write from perspectives that aren’t your own. Sometimes you’re inspired by someone else’s story where that’s a song for them instead of yourself. So yeah it’s good to work with other artists and help them be honest with themselves. Personally, I believe sometimes it’s hard to see yourself in a third person perspective.
But yeah, I always write, I write everyday. I just didn’t know you could do it for a living. [laughs]
As far as the Chicago music scene, how was your experience building your career and was there any mentors within the city that helped you grow as an artist?
Yeah, a lot of people who helped shaped who I was. The first person who really affected me was a friend of mine named Andrew. He heard me sing, and I used to never sing for anyone. He heard me sing and it took him 2 weeks for him to get me to sing and play guitar with him. He brought me out of my shell and showed me that what I was doing could be shared.
We did our first Open Mic at a place run by heavy grunge, punk rock and heavy metal. So we showed up with an acoustic guitar and I was terrified as I thought they were going to boo me off the stage. There was about 200 people there but instead of the kids booing me off the stage, they started dancing and waltzing to the stage from the song we were singing. I had all these kids that were wearing spikes come and hug me.
I was so happy. I told my mom [laughs]. That was a huge defining moment where I felt, this could work.
People describe your sound as ‘The Weeknd meets Aaliyah’ Personally, how would you describe your sound?
Well, I would describe my sound as what happens when a kid listens to classical music, rap and Radiohead.
So I’m guessing your a big Radiohead fan?
Yeah I love Radiohead. I love classic music and I love rap music. It’s like something about all those individual genres speak to me in a big way and I feel like if you were to combine all of them together it makes a lot of sense in regards to the way that I sound and the way that I express myself.
What do you currently have coming up as far as an album or release date?
We’re working on two music videos that I am so excited for. We are going to release a video for ‘Someone Like You’ and then another song that nobody has heard yet. Then there is a bunch of songs that are sitting on my hard drive that I can’t play for people yet and I can’t wait for you to hear. Those will be released for my full length EP.
So I’m guessing you will be doing a longer version to ‘Memories Speak?’
We’re going to let Memories Speak be it’s own entity. A couple of songs may be on the full length, but it will be 12 whole songs. Same sound, same story, just more detailed.
What producers are you currently working with?
I’m currently working with 2 main producers who go by Mynorityand Fabian. We met at the same times in our lives. We were kind of over the things that the music business stood for. We got together and started working together.
I made this EP out of anger. I was mad at people. A month before I made the EP with my producers I remember a prayer I had that maybe if I had gotten it wrong and that music was not going to be what I was doing for the rest of my life, that I would see that and that it would be obvious.
It was a prayer like if "I am supposed to live and work at a gas station for the rest of my life then just say the words and I’ll do it." Then, within two months I was signed. So then I was like ‘maybe I’ll just keep doing music’ - I’ll just keep doing me.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
What are your favorite places to travel?
I love New York. There is a place in California called ‘Big Bear’. It’s the cutest place ever. Everyone’s really nice, very cool and very beautiful. I’d like to see what London would be like - never been there.
What are your primary goals as an artist within 5 years?
I just want to make sure that I stay in a position that I can be honest with myself as an artist. Stay inspired, and stay making music that I believe in.
If you could choose 3 collaborations right now. Who would you choose?
Frank Ocean. Drake, if not Drake than 40 and lastly, A$AP Rocky.
If you had to choose a favorite song on the EP: ‘Memories Speak' which one would you choose?
What Record Labels Are Looking For When Scouting Artists
So you have hot beats, your rhymes are on point and you even got major swag. What happens now? Is releasing ‘good’ music enough to get you signed?
Although much of the industry is revolutionizing how it does business, certain aspects of it have remained the same. Every act should be doing shows consistently and selling CD’s along with merchandise. That being said, stay up to date with approaching new ways to sell your music. Artists need to see forward-thinking movement. One example is, state-of-the-art mobile apps that allow you to charge your fans by credit card, on the spot! If they just want mp3’s, you can charge them right away and have a link automatically emailed to them to download your album. Selling units is of the utmost importance. Record companies want to see that you can move units without their help. The bottom line is, if you can’t sell records on your own, labels no longer have the interest nor the resources to sign and develop you.
Are you completely inspired by Drake and want to sound just like him? I didn’t think so. However, does his sound subconsciously influence how you sound? There is an interesting balance that should be considered here. Record label A&R’s love to hear familiarity in acts they are scouting. However, don’t (by any means) be a copycat. Borrowing elements of the hottest pop music of the moment can be used sparingly, but incorporate your own unique approach! Yes you are an artist, so you may feel inclined to write music that defies genres and sounds like it’s from the year 2040. Just keep in mind that a good song is like a good meal. Most people who like pizza, may be apprehensive of trying a duck burger over their favorite pizza. The argument then becomes, who is your target audience? Yes, many people eat duck but statistically pizza is consumed by millions more (also due to availability, supply etc). In this case, we are talking about record label A&R’s. They don’t want to market and sell a duck burger, they’d rather take a pepperoni pizza, add a dash of duck to it and voila! It’s all about a balance of pop appeal, uniqueness and believe it or not, talent. Just remember, you shouldn’t be 10 steps ahead of radio, but make sure you are a good 2-3 steps ahead.
Social media is so unbelievably important to record labels considering signing a new artist. Immerse yourself into this invaluable tool now. There are so many different ways to expose your music on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites (including the 45,000 sites that will launch by the time I finish this sentence). Once you have a product, you must spend a large part of your day submitting your music to blogs. The exposure a positive blog review can get you, can help propel you to another level. One of the most effective online campaigns, comes in the form of viral videos. Shooting clips can be done on quite the budget nowadays, so explore this idea as much as your resources allow.
Always remember that networking is one of the most important aspects of your career in the music business. The corny record producer from your neighborhood that you don’t like? Keep in touch with him. He may launch a label, get a distribution offer from Universal and be looking for music like yours! You never know, one person could change your life. All things considered, you absolutely should never burn bridges in this business.
If you take into account the aforementioned details and combine them with talent, hard work and persistence, there’s no limit to what goals you can reach!