WXJM interviewed YearLong, an EDM artist based in Harrisonburg, VA, ahead of his live show. He discusses new music releases, past-performances, and more.
Interview conducted by Herbert Padilla
Herb: How long have you been into making music?
Samuel: Yeah, that's really funny that you found that, I've been trying to get it taken down for forever, but actually forgot the password for the distribution service I used to use. So I'm like, trying and trying and trying but I can't get it down. So I started my musical career in fifth grade. So I guess I would have been, you know, like, 11. I started playing in the band program at whatever elementary school. As soon as I went to middle school, someone introduced me to Skrillex. I don't know how familiar you are with this stuff, but back in 2012 it was like, the coolest and weirdest thing ever. So, I kind of just decided that was pretty cool. And then, you know, I heard some Avicii songs and some this and some that. I just started, you know, slowly getting into it. To answer your question a little shorter, I probably started making music on a computer, like, Fall of when I was in seventh grade. So I was about 12 years old, I think. Something like that. So about six, seven years.
H: Yeah man! One of my good friends from home, too, got into DJing producing his own music because of Avicii. I totally get that it's really a big influence on a lot of people. My second question is, how would you describe your sound to someone who's never listened to you before? So I think of it as kind of like, experimental, almost like, a psych festival, electronic music sound.
S: The newest thing I picked up the last week or two, I was described as like, space music. So like, I don't know, a lot of more typical electronic stuff. A lot of stuff today is super aggressive, super hardcore. While I'm super inspired by that, and I love the culture and being an electronic DJ, I’m constantly surrounded by that. I would like to think that my sound is a lot more spacey and melodic. Like very easy listening. But definitely still high energy and moving. Definitely a lot spacey-er and more focused on textures than just hard bass on every single beat.
H: You’re a JMU student right? What are you studying, and what do you want to do after college?
S: So I am a finance major. I haven't gotten into the major yet, because I'm a youngin, but that's the goal. I was kind of considering the music industry minor. However, I don't really think that the JMU music program really has a lot to offer when it comes to the modern industry context. So yeah, finance. And I mean, my plan after are: Plan A is be a super DJ Rockstar and make millions and millions of dollars. Plan B is sort of like a wealth management type job. I'm super passionate about the whole finance thing. It's just, you know, not my first choice. Regardless, the goal is to be happy, right? But yeah, those are kind of the two paths, so we'll see what happens. Maybe someone will read this interview and just, you know, blow me up.
H: I mean, wealth management is definitely where the money is. So that wouldn't be such a bad idea.
S: I mean, it's a cool skill set to have. Not that I don't have tons of other interests, but as far as what works long term? Even if Plan A does work, and you make $5 million a year, and you just piss it all away, what's the point of making that? It's certainly good to have some sort of foundation in something like that.
H: Yeah. I’ve heard plenty of stories of rappers who don't know how to manage their own wealth, and they'll end up going bankrupt within a couple years of, you know, really becoming a star. So it's definitely good to have that background, especially so you can invest your own money once you've got it. That's good.
S: Especially with how the industry is now, you kind of have to treat being an artist as a business. I would really say that any sort of well rounded business degree is definitely a positive thing to have, regardless of what sector of entertainment you're going in. When it comes to signing a contract, and you don't want to just put your name on anything. It's good to have that sort of general knowledge regardless.
H: Agreed. So I see you’ve worked with Up n Up Dukes, can you tell us a little about that?
S: Up and up is, well, I guess you could call it a music festival. It's more like a touring concert series. To be a little more specific, but it is sponsored by Monster Music. And basically, it is their sort of way of taking artists -mostly EDM, I'm not really sure if they've booked any other genres- and they're voted on by the student demographics. So the artists reflect the tastes that are popular. And they bring them around to a bunch of different colleges. And this is under normal circumstances, obviously the whole Rona has thrown a wrench in that. But they basically do like a college tour with set artists and then utilize the students body to find openers for the main artists. That’s to sort of open the school and the artists up for more exposure, so it's not just some random concert downtown. They are interested in getting involved whoever wants to work on projects like this. So I mean, definitely an excellent resume builder, regardless of what role you have in it. So this year it was a virtual performance. They split the headliners up into two different nights, and then had each school throw like a Zoom Pre-party, which is pretty cool. And then you just have to register, get your link, and show up. So I pretty much just showed up, helped set up our little you know, “stage”, and played 20 minutes for my set.
H: That’s awesome. Did you end up meeting San Holo through that?
S: Well, I just kinda tagged him in some stuff. And we had a little bit of Instagram banter. The JMU production group actually had a zoom call with Ekali, which was super cool. Even if it was just a brief conversation, it was cool.
H: Speaking of COVID friendly shows, I think you told me that you just had a show in St. Louis. How did that go?
S: Very fun! I was definitely a little surprised that anything of that magnitude was happening right now. Of course, it abided by all state guidelines and local municipality guidelines. It's definitely cool. I've seen a pretty good response in people as far as following rules at this point in time, because I think at the end of the day, we all just want to keep doing what we're doing. So everyone just does what they're supposed to do. There was a really cool set up with some really cool dudes. Definitely got a chance to network with some really cool people in a place that isn't Harrisonburg. So, yeah, it was really fun.
H: I’ve seen a lot of those, like, COVID-friendly shows popping up lately. Whether it's a drive-in or like a fenced off outdoor little section. So hopefully those keep on coming for the Spring, because I know I want to go back to shows as well. So, I know you just released some music not too long ago, but do you have anything else in the works we can expect anytime soon?
S: I do, actually! I have an EP coming out this Friday, just four tracks. I'm kind of a beast when it comes to releasing music. I just drop stuff constantly, but whether it's the most amazing thing I've ever made is kind of out of the question. But you know, if it's a finished product, I just throw it on everything. So yeah. Four tracks coming out this Friday. Probably another two and a couple weeks. I've been a busy bee.
H: Oh wow, you're cranking them out. That's cool, though. Are you planning to play any of the new ones on your show for this Sunday?
S: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, hopefully I get a chance to run through most of them. I’ve been working on some cool live edits for them.
H: That sounds awesome, man. So just from my last question, before we end. If you had one piece of advice for someone who wants to follow in your path as a musician, or a piece of advice you would have given yourself like four or five years ago, what would that be?
S: I guess the biggest thing that I probably regret would just be like, focusing too much on the end result, the point B. At the end of the day, it's about taking yourself a little less seriously. You want to understand your true value and what it is you do as music producers. Because, you just get so focused on this end goal, quote unquote. You want to play this show or you want to release this kind of music, you want this many plays… because I think a lot of artists are very goal oriented at the end of the day. We want to see these things reflected. I just think it's an unrealistic thing we put ourselves through. I definitely think I have been frustrated a lot more of the time that I needed to be just because I was so focused on something like this point, when all that really mattered was what I was doing in that moment to get there.
H: I agree. You definitely have to know who you want to be as a musician before you can really try to make plans to go anywhere. That's very important. Well, thank you for joining me today, and I look forward to your show this Sunday!
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