July 11, 2017 – The exotic location of the world class recording complex Karma Sound Studios in Thailand has been selected to host the next Superstar 101 programmes aimed at aspiring pop stars who want to fast track into the big time.
Multi Grammy Nominated & Award Winning producer and senior record company executive, Chris Craker (the owner of Karma Sound Studios), will personally be overseeing the month long ‘package deal’ for aspiring artists. During the 28 day stay at Karma, artists will have an album of songs written for them, they’ll be recorded at Karma, they’ll work with a top stylist, create video shoots, photo shoots and all the social platforms and a website that one needs, making the artist completely match fit and ready to launch! There’s more… Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG, Chris will sign the artist to the Karma record label and handle the debut release for the selected artists on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and over 200 other digital platforms in a global record deal.
“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a highend studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 programme – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
For a limited time, there’s a very special deal lined up for aspiring pop stars who would like to join the programme: The Superstar 101 Platinum package is viable for $100,000US all inclusive (reduced by half from $200,000). Within this fee the lucky participants will enjoy:
12 songs written and recorded at Karma Studios, Thailand
Two videos created for the lead singles + b-roll footage for social media advertising and marketing
Stagecraft advice and training
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat platforms all created, linked and populated with content +
A three month marketing campaign planned and ready to execute
All songs released in iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and over 200 global online distribution platforms
Applications close on August 1st, when the pricing goes back to the normal rate. So if you’d like to take advantage of working with the best of the best, in an amazing and exotic studio location in Thailand, send your name, address, phone number and a short biography + a link to a video of you singing a song to: email@example.com and the guys at Superstar 101 will send you all the details!
For further information please contact: Chris Craker – firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: +66 (0)85 288 1696
July 11, 2017 – Songwriters from all over the world have enjoyed the famous Song Writing Camps and Retreats at the beautiful location of Karma Sound Studios in Thailand during the past three years. October sees the fourth of these events happening over the course of three individual weeks commencing October 9th.
Each week, fifteen songwriters will join together and work in teams of three, writing songs each day to specific briefs from major label name artists and A&R teams from global publishing houses and record companies – all of whom are looking for their next Number One hit!
Karma Studios is the perfect location for this kind of ‘Song Writer Retreat’ – with five studio spaces,
amazing equipment and facilities, outstanding engineers, award-winning producers and exceptional hospitality within the compound of this luxury five star “destination studio”, it’s impossible not to be inspired!
“We’ve had amazing successes here at the Karma Camps in the past – we attract a very high level of writer and producer, and the results are always exceptional… On the last Camp we were writing for Rhianna, Robin Thicke, Five Seconds of Summer, top acts from SE Asia AND we invited in one or two recently signed acts, each needing songs written for them. You’ll be hearing some of these songs on the radio anytime soon!” said Studio Owner and the host of the Song Writer Retreat at Karma. “People make new friends for life and the networking opportunities here are amazing. We’ve already established great commercial relationships, too, between major publishers and some of the unsigned writers that attend. It’s always fascinating to watch 15 immensely gifted writers bonding and creating in front of our very eyes…”
The cost of attending is just 32,500THB ($950US and £750 GBP) which includes everything except your flight to get to Thailand. We pick you up at the airport (and return you there at the end of the Camp!) and provide full board and accommodation (either on site, or in a nearby hotel) as well as all the facilities during the Retreat.
For further information, simply contact Chris Craker – email@example.com with a short bio and a link to some of your recent work.
Fun, creativity, networking all in the truly amazing location of Karma Sound Studios in Bang Saray, Thailand.
In the latter part of June 2017, I was introduced to one of the industry’s most notable, influential peers and music inspirations Mr. Chris Craker. Undeniably, Chris comes from a distinctive background: he was General Manager and Senior Vice President of the International Division of Sony BMG Masterworks, Producer of the soundtrack for Director Christopher Nolan’s movie “Interstellar”, with the Oscar nominated score composed by Hans Zimmer, as well as producing the 2017 Annie Award Winning score for “The Little Prince” for Paramount, directed by Mark Osborne (of Kung Fu Panda fame). In April 2008, Chris resigned from Sony to set up Karma Sound Studios and devote more time to his own creative endeavors and management of a select group of uniquely gifted artists. Karma is now recognized as the number one luxury residential recording studio complex in South East Asia who’s first guests included three iconic global bands:Placebo, Jamiroquai, and Bullet For My Valentine.
Chris Craker has won numerous awards and received acclaim for his activities as a performer, recording artist, composer, arranger, producer/engineer, record label founder, artist manager, author, critic, industry commentator and strategic advisor. So, it doesn’t surprise us that he has plunged right into his projects at Karma Sound Studios with successful results (see our interview below). Karma, located among the luxurious sand and waterways of Thailand located just outside Bang Saray, provides a picturesque fishing village on the coast and surrounded by beautiful countryside which is perfect for inspiration.
The accommodations at Karma boast 6 bedrooms which are all ensuite, four with private balconies overlooking the 60 sqm swimming pool and extensive gardens. All rooms have an in-room private safe and are supplemented by a massage room, small gym, and a private bar situated around the swimming pool and BBQ area. The outdoor dining sala doubles as a live stage area for al fresco pool-side concerts and the ultimate “unplugged” video shoot location. TVs/DVD/Games Console and full broadband internet access and a table tennis table are all available.
Studio One provides spacious recording areas (200 sq metres), consisting of the main live room plus a very large drum booth / isolation area that can contain up to a twelve-piece horn or wind section, as well as a large vocal and guitar booth, and two further guitar amp / speaker isolation areas. The control room’s centrepiece is the SSL 4056 E/G Series console, supported by a 32/56 I/O Pro tools 10 & 11 HD system, complemented with outboard by BAE/Neve 1073s, Millennia, API, Great River, Emperical Labs, Teletronix, Universal Audio, dbx, Thermionic Culture, Avalon, Lexicon, Eventide and many more!
Studio 2 at Karma provides the ultimate ‘Swiss-army-knife’ set-up for the modern songwriter/producer. Designed with simplicity and flexibility in mind, it runs Pro Tools 10 & 11 HD Native, Logic Pro X and Reason 5 running on a UA Apollo Quad with D-Box monitoring and summing. Both studios have access to a comprehensive sample library and the latest 64bit plugins. Mastering grade ATC monitoring is an unusual but welcome provision, along with Yamaha HS8s & NS10s, B&W 805 Nautilus and Aurotones. Outboard provided by AMS Neve, API, SSL, Universal Audio, Teletronix, GML, SPL, Radial, dbx, Empirical Labs Inc. and more, mean very few studios can compete for the price.
*A full GEAR list of equipment in both studios can be found (here)
I hopped on a call with Chris last week and we spoke about some of the future projects coming up at Karma, his collaborations with some of the worlds’ top Artists (whose songs are written at Karma), and the projects which SMC will be in support of by way of press releases, interviews, and video content on the SMC Spotlight and Starlight Music Chronicles website. We are excited to share the content over the next few months and begin with our press releases on Karma Sound Studios Songwriter Retreat 2017 (click here) and the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars (click here). Needless to say, when the website says ‘If James Bond had a recording studio it would be Karma…’, they were not kidding!
There will be much more to release over the course of the next six months on our SMC Spotlight so be sure to subscribe to our site and the Karma Sound Studios website (here)
Settle back for a few moments and enjoy this glimpse into the studio.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Chris Craker
SMC- Hello Chris! We are happy to have you on our SMC Spotlight! I’m going to get right into it – I have read your bio (here) and it goes without saying that you are THE man in terms of the music industry. Your career history timeline includes that of being Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG (among many other exceptional accomplishments!). I am certain that you have hundreds of amazing experiences that you are proud of. Can you tell us of a few highlights in your career(s) that have stood out most prominently for you?
Chris – Probably the biggest highlights we working as the Producer of the soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s incredible movie ‘Interstellar’ and the Composer (my friend) Hans Zimmer. It was nine month of my life that then cumulated in me also being engaged as the Executive Producer for staging ‘Interstellar Live’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London – a sold out show which we screened the movie with a live, 90-piece orchestra playing the score, and speakers before the show including Stephen Hawking, Chris Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, etc.…
SMC – I could probably sit and listen to your story all day (laughs), and I have so many questions that I am sure I will think of later, are you open to SMC continuing to support you by way of our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series? This is a chronicled history and timeline of your career accomplishments via interviews, ongoing support for new and current projects, and press releases.
Chris – I would love to be a part of this…thank you for asking.
SMC – You have worked with some of the world’s finest Composers and Musicians, which have you developed a kinship with and why?
Chris – Composers I’ve worked closely with include Hans Zimmer which has been inspiring; working with Lang Lang the Chinese classical Pianist was amazing and needless to say, it was a real pleasure having Jamiroquai at my Studio. Recording Leona Lewis was incredible too – watching how someone takes their artistry so seriously and setting super high standards for themselves…we all found her an inspiration.
SMC – Can you tell us what a typical day is like for you? Pick a day, any day will do.
Chris – Ha ha…I get up at 5:30 or 6 am and in the gym by 6:30 am the latest. Work starts around 8:00 am and continues all day with a mixture of either creative work or business/management issues with my Artists and colleagues. A normal day will include half a dozen overseas Skype or Facetime sessions too – which, by default, means that the working day is long so that I can coincide with multiple time zones…
SMC – I do know that with anyone in the entertainment industry, there is never a dull moment so I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this: is there any moment in time that stands out to you as an ‘ah-ha’ or ‘pinch me’ moment?
Chris – That’s a great question because it is odd sometimes when I think back to being in serious discussions with Christopher Nolan, Lang Lang, Benny & Bjorn from Abba, Hans Zimmer, Jimmy Page, and Actors like Dame Judi Dench, Michael Caine, and Christopher Lee – surreal really…
SMC – I heard you juggle between Europe, Thailand, and the US. Can you tell us where you feel most ‘at home’?
Chris – Actually, I feel most at home in Thailand since my studio is there – but I have family in London and always enjoy being in Santa Monica too…they are three amazing locations to spend my time.
SMC – Have you ever met an industry peer who was difficult to deal with? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Chris – Some Artists and Managers are more challenging than others and without naming names, I find the best approach is simply to be incredibly polite, friendly, and always do my job and try to exceed expectations. Then, if people are still difficult to deal with, it’s clearly them that has the problem! I try to surround myself with like-minded spirits and most of the time, working relationships are very cordial.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the music that is being created today as opposed to, say, 20 or 30 years ago?
Chris – I love what’s happening now – it’s just very different in content and the methods of creating are so different now. Also…the method of delivery to fans and the engagement with fans is so different from 20 years ago. I actually think the Music Industry is an incredibly vibrant place to be right now, and one of immense opportunity if one is prepared to think and act differently from the past!
SMC – Are there any other ventures you are involved in currently that you will be announcing at a later date? Obviously, I realize you can’t divulge full details, but perhaps even a hint at it….
Chris – I am expanding my Management and Label Activities. I am heavily involved in the field of Music Industry Education and have set up a new joint venture to forge that ahead – and later this year I will be rolling out a program that aims to help Musicians and Artists who have suffered at the hands of drug and alcohol addictions and giving them ‘Music therapy’ and a second chance at making it back into the industry.
SMC – What was your personally most rewarding experience from any one completed project?
Chris – Seeing Karma Studio open for the very first time and to see albums being created here that then have global success which changes people’s lives.
SMC – Who is your go-to team? Are you a solo thinker/doer, or do you like to bounce ideas around with your peers?
Chris – I have a small team of trusted Advisers but do most things on my own…the team at Karma is amazing – great administration and creative and technical support.
SMC – Which of your awards are you most proud of being a recipient of and why?
Chris – The award that brought me most satisfaction was winning the gold medal at an international music competition when I was just 18 years old. It was the first time I’d won anything of consequence and it really boosted my confidence to then go on and try to achieve great things in the music industry.
SMC – I read that you have been behind successful Artist projects in the USA and Asia. What draws you to Asia and where do you see the difference in the style of Pop Musicians between the two countries? Would you say Asia is more advanced?
Chris – we have amazing acts all over the world and the best ones are all unique. Styles and flavors change from country to country but I would say that I am excited at the prospect of breaking Asian acts into the west and western acts into Asia. That’s always fun to see cross pollination and true global success…
SMC – Where do you think ‘it’ is in terms of the future of music platforms supporting Artists – Radio, or alternative platforms like Spotify and Pandora?
Chris – I see Spotify dominating globally before too long. It’s an easy to use and very functional platform. I listen to the radio in the car, but more and more, I am enjoying having control of what I listen to on Spotify and then being surprised by playlists that others have created.
SMC – We often hear from industry professionals that the music of today ‘isn’t what it was’ 20 or 30 years ago in terms of quality. What are your thoughts on what the Millennial generation of Artists are creating? Do you share these same opinions of your peers in the industry to a degree?
Chris – I wholeheartedly disagree – there’s loads of great music being made now and 30 years ago, there was also great music and a lot of terrible music being made! Nowadays, everyone has access to very affordable simple technology to record and create which is a wonderful thing…then, as people develop their skills, they use the more sophisticated platforms on which to create and truly amazing music is flowing from Artists from all over the world.
SMC – Have there been any indie Artists who have wowed you in the last few years? If so, who?
Chris – Adele started out as an Indie Artist and caused a massive response from being truly authentic. I have also loved watching the rise to fame of Dagny – a Norwegian Pop Singer who has now been snapped up by Republic, but she started from grassroots and evolved as an Artist and is now wowing people all over the world.
SMC – For you, what do you find personal satisfaction in?
Chris – I love bands like Muse and Radiohead. I’ve really enjoyed live shows from Queen featuring Adam Lambert, and the Chainsmokers we fun in Los Angeles earlier this year.
SMC – When an idea comes to the forefront of your mind, do you act quickly on it or do you take the time to research and develop it?
Chris – I like to move quickly whenever possible! But I make sure to research too. That can be quick these days with access to everything we ever need to know online!
SMC – What was the most rewarding or memorable moment in your role as Senior Vice President of Sony BMG?
Chris – It was always great to see the younger acts coming through and making their mark. But, from a corporate point of view, seeing the end of the year financial reports always showing growth and always above target – that, as a result of making great music with our key acts. Also, ensuring that the back-catalogue was always being stimulated and refreshed and presented in new vibrant ways to the public.
SMC – Aside from Artists/Musicians/Songwriters, what kinds of initiatives or individuals professionally are you most likely to support or which you are most passionate about?
Chris – I take a strong interest in supporting mental health practitioners who help Musicians. Our industry is so demanding physically and emotionally and often, Musicians end up in difficult places. We need to look after them and ensure they are supported when the going gets tough, for whatever reason…
SMC – Last question before we head into the Press Release questions: What do you personally feel your greatest accomplishment is to date? Professionally?
Chris – Producing the soundtrack to ‘Interstellar’.
KARMA SONGWRITING RETREATS
SMC – When Mike (Rogers, mutual industry friend) had introduced me to you, he sent me a link to your website (here) and I was blown away! You are the owner of this venture – can you tell us what inspired you to get this project going? (for our readers, the press releases will be included with this interview below)
Chris – Having been working in London and New York for Sony, I really wanted to do a project that would get me back to making music and making records. I had always wanted to do build a strong studio and I thought about what the ideal studio should be. Naturally, there were palm trees and a beach location springing into my mind (laughs) and I liked the idea of being away from the real world in a tropical paradise – Thailand! We have subsequently developed these songwriter retreats for writers from all over the world to come and enjoy the vibe here. Fifteen writers from all over the globe, congregate and write together in the most exotic and inspiring location imaginable. Great songs flow!
SMC – What is the kind of work that goes into the planning process of these retreats? Do you have a team that organizes this for you or do you prefer to be hands-on?
Chris – I am very hands-on but we have an Administrator who looks after all the accommodations and logistics as well as amazing Producers working with the writers and programming them up, ready to pitch to major label Artists all around the world.
SMC – I feel that a studio in the middle of paradise is probably every musician or songwriters dream. As a writer myself, this inspires me to get the creative juices flowing just looking at the video of the studio (laughs)! Do you feel location for this project when you initially came up with the idea was essential to getting the creative juices flowing for the Songwriters/Artists? If so, why?
Chris – Choosing this location was all about the vibe. It was all about what would inspire Musicians. The world is full of studios in cities, and most Musicians have a set-up at home. We needed to be different and it seems to have worked! We are constantly full.
SMC – Can you tell us a little bit of history on the studio in terms of who has attended and whose music has been picked up by major label Artists?
Chris – One of the first bands to come (to Karma) was Placebo recording their album ‘Battle Of The Sun’ and since that time, we also have made records for Jamiroquai, Bullet For My Valentine, The Libertines, Enter Shikari, Young Guns, Heat, Hellions, Trophy Eyes, and amazing bands from Japan, Russia, Australia, Scandinavia, and of course, pretty well every major Thai act has been here too!
SMC – Is there one (or a few) Songwriters who have attended the retreat whose music has stood out to you or impressed you greatly?
Chris – There are a number…a young guy called Syps (Alex Sypsomos) really stands out and you will be hearing hits from him in the next none months, I guarantee. Also, Gia Koka from Holland was amazing. Also, Jackson Dimiglio Wood and Rich Craker have done some pretty awesome things too for major label Artists.
SMC – Can you tell us about some of the Artists who have had some hits that originated from the Songwriters in this retreat?
Chris – Well it’s early days, but we know that a new Artist with Avex in Japan (Momo) is about to break with a brand new single written at Karma. We also have songs on hold with Rhianna and Leona Lewis currently.
SMC – Can you tell us what kind of feedback the Songwriters who have attended the retreats have to say about their experience?
Chris – We have such lovely feedback – people absolutely love being here and they do their best work but I get looked after so well too…our staff tend to everyone’s every need and the whole thing is pretty idyllic.
Karma Studio & Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars
SMC – Was the studio built from scratch? What kind of details can you give specifically about the studio equipment and the studio itself?
Chris – Yes, I bought the land and built the entire complex from scratch. We have three studios – one equipped with a 56 channel SSL G+ Console and the other two are very sophisticated production and post-production studios with a mixture of state of the art and vintage equipment from all major brands.
SMC – Is this your first time hosting the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars program?
Chris – Yes, it is. We are the perfect ‘destination studio’ for this kind of project. We can make such great footage here and shoot great pictures to accompany songs from hit songwriters.
SMC – Can you tell us a little more about the program and where it was incepted and why?
Chris – This is a program that enables a young singer with some financial backing to fast track into the business and to work with amazing people within a concentrated period of time. At the end of the one-month program, the Artist will have an album and all the video and image assets required to be marketed internationally. And with my connections at the major labels, we can introduce them to senior A&R teams in London, Nashville, Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York as well as release direct to market via our own label linked with iTunes and Spotify.
SMC – Although at first glance of the costs for this program seem high initially, when one looks at what is offered to an Artist in terms of career advancement, I feel this is a valid and wise investment! Can you tell us if there is any other program out there which offers what you do or is this a first?
Chris – I don’t think there are many programs out there quite like this and when one knows that quite commonly top Writer/Producers are charging $10,000 – 20,000 a track, $100,000 for an entire album with two videos and two photoshoots plus all the other ancillary help is an amazing value!
SMC – You seem like the kind of man who is an innovator in terms of unique opportunities for the music industry. Can you tell me what the vision for the next five to ten years is for Karma Studio Artists or the Studio itself?
Chris – I do indeed like to develop new things, you’re right. In the next five years, we will have a very strong and innovative management company linked to the studios, as well as the label, which has already started but we are also very attentive to the ways that the market changes and so, right now, we are making it our business to work closely with Spotify, Snapchat, Facebook, and numerous other emerging platforms. We keep on top of the latest marketing techniques and ensure our Artists benefit from these…
SMC – What determines a successful candidate for this program? What are you and your team looking for in terms of qualifications/skills from the Artists submitting their music to you for this program?
Chris – It’s simple – a unique voice and a passion for success that matches our own hunger!
SMC – In your experience, what do you think makes up the components of a truly successful Artist?
Chris – Someone who has a genuine, authentic talent, who cares a lot about every single detail ad who works incredibly hard…there is now substitute for hard work and I love it when I see young acts really giving their all and matching our own drive and enthusiasm.
SMC – What do you and your team(s) hope to do in terms of having the Artists attending your program ‘stand out’ in mainstream music?
Chris – Again, in one sense, the answer is simple: we move heaven and earth to write and produce hit songs. One song can change people’s lives…
SMC – I read in your press release for the Superstar 101 program that ‘“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a high-end studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 program – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
How do you feel your program is superior to that of one who writes, records, and produces music in their own personal space/environment? I do see that you have a lot to offer and I know that really, $100,000 isn’t much to ask for what you are offering in terms of services and the ability to get the Artist who attends this program the ‘established’. What do you think is the main benefit of the Superstar 101 program?
Chris – Along with the exceptional Writer Producers that we have on the team here, the other main benefit is the incredible links to industry that I offer. Yes, the old adage that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ does ring true and If we have the right Artist here, I can have them in front of the right people in any major city with the very best assets to ensure they fast track to the top.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time you have had an Artist come on too strong and it was a turn-off? How did you handle it?
Chris – Well, naming no names, we did have one act that had a lot of drive and very little talent, but was not aware of this fact. I love people with passion and I always try to help, but there does need to be a base level of talent at all times!
SMC – In relation to the last question: Can you tell us of a time where there was an Artist who you felt was grateful for all the hard work you and your team did in establishing them and how did they reciprocate this gratitude?
Chris – The studio name is ‘Karma’ and actually, whenever we give our all to people, they always reciprocate in some way. We’ve built up amazing relationships with acts from all over the world, and the best way anyone can reciprocate is by recommending us to others…that’s the greatest gift.
SMC – Where do you think this kind of program becomes personal and about the Artist and their talent/art as opposed to the business aspect?
Chris – We will connect with the Artist from day one. That’s when it all starts. We need great chemistry and we work hard to develop the best environment and conditions for a healthy stimulating personal relationship.
SMC – What has been the best collaboration with an Artist from Karma Studios you have experienced to date?
Chris – Wow – there have been so many! I guess we have been instrumental in bringing a young Australian band ‘Hellions’ into the mass market but working with the new guy ‘Syps’ has been amazing. Watch this space…. he is destined for the top!
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us about some of the dynamic or insightful experiences an Artist has shared with you about their time at Karma Studios?
Chris – The one thing that reoccurs from most of our most valued clients is simply, their gratitude that ‘we care’ and that we go the extra mile to make sure they have the perfect environment in which to create. The Libertines were especially grateful because we took our duty of care to the n’th degree looking after Peter Doherty (Lead Singer) for six months before he was ready to record. That’s an example of how our care and attention to detail pays off for people. They are now back playing major festivals all over the world, rising up from a long period of dormancy. It may well not have happened if they had not spent time at Karma….
Karma Studio Contact information & Social Media (click to view)
In June 2016, Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) ran our first Artist of the Year (AOY) event with Adult and Teen Categories. The response to our event was astounding with final vote counts for all Artists in the thousands. Now, with the SMC Artist of the Year Season II amping up, we will be saying hello to a new Artist and our goodbyes to current ones: IAMWARFACE and Miss Olivia Penalva. But with all the mayhem that is about to go down in the next 2 weeks, our Artists of the Year will always be held in high regard and supported by the SMC platform. They are SMC Family, after all. In fact, when we look to the future of SMC and our annual events and the global attention within the industry, it would not be too far of a stretch to say we are considering a five and ten year Artist of the Year concert series. More on that later….
In the time that British Columbia based Olivia Penalva has reigned as SMC’s Teen Artist of the Year, she has launched an EP, performed across Canada live on several radio shows, launched several music videos, did a cover of The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ which landed in a TV commercial in Greece, and has even attended an ArtistMax (www.artistmax.org) weekend in Los Angeles where she met with Award Winning Producer Ken Caillat and Award-Winning Artist David Foster. Part of the win as AOY on our platform was a VIP Scholarship to the ArtistMax event where Olivia was mentored by these industry peers (more on that in our interview below).
Recently, Olivia launched her new single ‘I Choose This Love’ a brilliant co-write with Robin Ghosh (more on that below too) over a David’s Tea and Smarties (yes, really!). The song is about how love pulls us through some of the most challenging times of our lives and is an absolute MUST for your playlists. In fact, we have added the song already to our Spotify playlists ‘SMC Editor’s Favorites’ and ‘SMC Spotlight Artists’.
In reviewing this single, I can say that this song is Olivia, evolved. Her earlier singles like ‘Ferris Wheel’ and ‘Outshine The Stars’ while inspirational and fun in their make – up (it was Ferris Wheel where I discovered Olivia after all in a Reverbnation contest SMC ran with Bongo Boy TV), ‘I Choose This Love’ is a step up for Olivia in terms of a more mature lyrical progression. Her strong vocal ability is never a disappointment in all of her music – it is consistent and fluid throughout. However, in ‘I Choose This Love’, you can audibly hear how she’s grown into her own and just like fine wine, she keeps getting better.
The video for ‘I Choose This Love’ is also evident of Olivia’s personal growth with a theme demonstrating the struggles and triumphs that a gay couple face in their heterosexual environment that surrounds them. Acceptance and disapproval are heavily woven throughout and lend power to the purpose of this song. I applaud Olivia for having compassion and fearlessness beyond her years in terms of addressing real issues in society today through her music such as in ‘Outshine The Stars’, a song about self-confidence and celebrating our uniqueness. Similarly, ‘I Choose This Love’ isn’t a video you would expect from someone so young in an industry primarily saturated with Artists focused on egocentric career advancement. It boils down to one thing: this is Olivia, and she will always dance to the beat of her own drum in terms of her music: she is fearless, selfless, and unafraid to make change in the world. Her goals are personally driven and not industry based meaning, she addresses the real issues in our world and not just what the music industry typically expects of someone so talented and young: a flowery, over the top ‘all about me’ glamour video. This is the stuff that makes an Artist celebrated by us on the SMC platform simply for their ability to adapt to their environment with grace, consistency, and integrity. She continues to be a beacon of light and hope to disadvantaged groups in society through her music – how can we not all applaud that?
SMC – Hello Olivia! We have so much to talk about since our last interview! Let’s begin with your run as our TEEN Artist of the Year (AOY) – what was your experience like?
Olivia – Hi Candice, so great of you to do another interview with me. I am always grateful for these opportunities. It for sure was so amazing to have won AOY! Aside from the great spotlight you did of me and my music, I got other interviews and media attention and support throughout the year, not to mention the bragging rightsJ.
SMC – One of the benefits of becoming the TEEN AOY was being awarded a VIP Scholarship to the ArtistMax 3-day event in Los Angeles. You attended in late March 2017 – can you tell us about your experience with the weekend?
Olivia – That was definitely a fantastic prize to win. I got to go to LA and spend three intensive days working with very talented industry professionals and meet other artists. I had a terrific time. I was pretty nervous and not sure what to expect but enjoyed it, learnt lots, and made some nice friends as well.
SMC – We saw that you also met Grammy Award Winning Artist David Foster while you were there! Can you tell us what advice he gave that you took with you?
Olivia – Pretty cool to have met him. He is a legend. Basically he was straightforward and told us how hard this business is, which is probably better than sugar coating it.
SMC – What was it like to meet with our industry friends Ken Caillat and Bridge Gardiner?
Olivia – Bridge is super sweet and definitely made the weekend what it was. She seems to really enjoy these mentorship weekends and working with us artists. Ken Caillat is also a legend, and it is inspiring to be mentored by someone who worked with Fleetwood Mac and other greats.
SMC – If you were asked why you would recommend the ArtistMax program, what would you say to someone wanting an understanding of the program?
Olivia – I would definitely suggest it to those artists who have not had a lot of songwriting experience, or who have not collaborated much with other artists. We were put in groups and had to come up with a song and perform it at the end. Working with 5 other artists for one main goal like that can be difficult, as everyone has a different opinion or style for what they see. It was pretty intensive. Also great for artists who have not had much if any studio time, as we got to record in the studio with Ken Caillat and his team. Though I have had quite a bit of experience with songwriting and working in the studio, I did enjoy working with other artists my age and collaborating together. We also worked with a vocal coach (Colbie Caillat’s) and a performance coach, and got to meet industry reps and managers. All in all it was a positive and rewarding experience. Thank you so much Candice for that!
SMC- Now let’s get into your Music – your new single ‘I Choose This Love’ is just beautiful in composition and sound. Did you write the lyrics for this song?
Olivia – Yes, I wrote this song last summer as an acoustic track with my favorite songwriter, Robin Ghosh. We write most of my songs together. I have written with several others, but Robin and I just seem to click and usually it is the songs we wrote together that I end up releasing.
SMC – Can you tell us five things about the making of this song that no one knows about? (they can be fun facts)
Olivia – Ha ha well I think the idea literally popped into Robin’s brain at like 3 in the morning, so later that day when we sat down to write, he told me about his idea, and a couple hours later, we had the song. I think we may have been eating smarties and drinking David’s tea when we wrote it… And I am pretty sure I had a candle burning in my studio to create the mood J. When we were talking about the song, we were thinking about how love gets you through stuff. Whether it be love of a partner, a parent, a friend, a child, and that being there for someone no matter what is what everyone is looking for.
SMC – What has the media support been like for this single so far?
Olivia – I have the best publicist who does an amazing job of getting my music some media attention, whether it be blogs, or interviews. Often from that the social medial support can spiral with shares on Facebook or twitter. This time Spotify actually added it at the time of the release to a new pop music playlist, which was awesome because it got me over 60,000 streams.
SMC – What was the fan support like when you released this single?
Olivia – I have some great loyal fans who like my music, so they were quick to comment on You Tube on my lyric video for the song that came out at the same time. I also had great support as I mentioned on Spotify and even SoundCloud, where I have a decent number of steady followers.
SMC – The video is equally as gorgeous as the song – who is the creative team behind the video?
Olivia – I am really proud of this video. It tells the love story that this song is all about. I have to give major credits to my Videographer Lee Watkins of LMW Photos. We were initially brainstorming for a video with all kinds of different love, but realized how difficult that could be in less than three minutes, and so we decided to focus on one love story and the ups and downs of that. The two main characters are actually friends of ours and did such a great job of sharing their love story and their dreams. Lee directed and filmed this over three days, and the results are so emotional and inspiring. Everyone in the video is from Vernon, and everyone just stepped up and either acted in it, or gave us locations to film at. We had an amazing team in front of and behind the camera.
SMC – Where and who produced this song?
Olivia – This song was ultimately produced by a young man named Alex Klingle, a Vancouver BC based music producer, composer, and sound designer who has his music roots in electronic dance. My manager met him at a music event and played him the track, and Alex was on board.
SMC – Who is your ‘go-to’ dream team?
Olivia – Well first of all, I have the best team ever!!! So not sure if I would need to dream one up, unless you are taking about song writing – Ed Sheeran all the way!! A duet with him would be pretty nice. Seriously though, I do have a great team and they are there for me whenever I need them, from my managers Andrew Allen & Julia Allen, to my writing partner Robin Ghosh, my Radio Promoter Scott Clements, my Videographer and Photographer Lee Watkins, my Publicist Sera Roadnight, and my beauty team, Brit Fisher and Jessie Voss.
SMC – What are your thoughts on being the only TEEN to have been supported as Artist of the Year on our Platform? We moved to an ‘adult only’ competition for Season II of these events….
Olivia – Well I would have to say AMAZING!!! And thank you! It is hard to be an artist, let alone a teen artist, as somehow our age always plays against us. I have often heard, too young, music is too young, not fit for the demographic, and make yourself look older… But instead I believe in myself and my art, and I write what I know, which changes as I grow up, and people respond to my music, so for those platforms that do support us teens, I am truly grateful.
SMC – We have seven Judges for the Artist of the Year event this month – Last year, we had five from various categories. Can you tell us if and what your connection was to last years’ Judges?
Olivia – Wow, that is a lot of judges. Well I can thank Candice for sure as she actually discovered me through another competition that my Ferris Wheel video won, through an SMC sponsored Bongo Boy video competition. Through the ‘SMC Artist of the Month Competition’, I got to know Randy Wayne Belt, frontman for Barley Station, who is super supportive of my music and even wrote a super nice article about it also.
SMC – I have seen that your single ‘Skyline’ was added to many radio shows last fall – can you tell us which stations you would like to acknowledge in this interview for their consistent support?
Olivia – I can’t believe how well Skyline did. It was chosen for the month of October 2016 as Bell Media’s iHeartRadio’s Future star at CHR, then chosen again in November for iHeartRadio’s Future Star at Hot AC and AC Radio. So it played across Canada on all Virgin Radio Stations across Canada, and SUN FM here in BC, Chum FM in Toronto, all of which was just so amazing. It also got played by several other stations, many of which are in Ontario and who have been great supporters like 103.1 FM in London Fresh, FM in Kitchener, Mix FM in Belleville, and Kiss FM and the Jump FM in Ottawa, to name a few. The Maritimes have also been good to me with spins from CING FM in Hamilton, CKCW FM in Moncton, the list goes on… I am so grateful to all of the stations who took a chance on me and hope they will continue to want to support me with my new single I Choose This Love.
SMC – Where do you feel the focus is with regards to your management team in terms of getting your music promoted to the masses?
I Choose This LoveI think it is to just keep on doing what we are doing, trying to put out good music that my publicist and radio promoter can get out to radio and social media.
SMC – Do you feel that platforms like Spotify or Pandora are the way of the future in terms of music play and getting your music in high rotation?
Olivia – It seems to be the way. Most of my music sales are from Spotify. ITunes is the no longer the favorite platform, and I guess platforms like Spotify do make it easier and I guess cheaper for listeners to find and compile playlists. I have a decent following on Spotify with almost 860,000 streams of my music. Spotify also create cool playlists and I have been lucky enough to have had SkylineMadlucky Remix included last year on a workout playlist, and I Choose This Love on a new music playlist.
SMC – We consider you to be a part of the SMC Family now and we will be looking at the possibilities of hosting a SMC Concert for charity in the next 5-10 years. What are your thoughts on that?
Olivia – Well thank you do much for thinking of me that way. I am honored and would love to be a part of your charity event!
SMC – Recently, Limehead Radio in the UK has reached out to SMC and have expressed interest in supporting the Artists on our platform – what do you think about being supported on a multi-media platform?
Olivia – I think that is fantastic. This industry gets harder and harder and so any support that one platform can get or give to another is valuable. Internet radio is getting popular as it is free for its listeners and often will play non top 40 tunes and indie artists, so a great platform for emerging artists to get heard.
SMC – Which Social Media Platform is your favorite?
Olivia – Personally I love Snapchat and Instagram. For music, twitter and Facebook still seem to be more popular, and of course the most effective is You Tube. This year I hit 1,000,000 views on YT and am almost at 10,000 subscribers. It is a great way to get noticed for your covers and then you hope your fans will like your originals too. You never know where a cover might lead. Last fall I did a cover of Every Breath You Take with a fellow artist, and randomly it was pitched by Universal to a client of their in Greece, and now it plays on a commercial on Greece. This has really helped my YT channel growth as I have a lot of new fans who either found me through Shazam of the commercial, or looked me up on YT. Very cool to have a growing fan base in another country.
SMC – Do you work all of your Social Media or does someone do it for you?
Olivia – I do it all myself, which means that sometimes I get behind in posting and sharing stuff, and thanking my fans for their love and support. I plan to use the summer to catch up and get on top of it.
SMC – What has been the best experience in your career to date?
Olivia – Wow, there are so many. Meeting and performing with Andrew Allen back in 2013, working with Brian West on Ferris Wheel, writing at the Toby Gad Studios in 2014 on Forgettable, being at the She’s the One comp in Ottawa 2014, Artistmax 2017, being on a billboard in Edmonton, winning iHeartRadio Future Star 2016. I feel very lucky for it all.
SMC – What has been a not so pleasant experience in your career to date?
Olivia – Radio visits where the MD or PD doesn’t seem really interested or asks some very hard questions. You feel so fortunate to be able to be welcomed into their stations and work so hard to show them your music, but sometimes it just doesn’t click and you have to be okay with that too.
SMC – Can you tell us which competitions you have won in the last five years? Which was your favorite?
Olivia – I have been in quite a few and made it pretty far, like top ten She’s the one at the Ottawa Blues Fest, winning top EP at the Independent Music Awards for Weightless 2016, top Holiday Song for Christmas For Two at the Independent Music awards 2016, Bob Kingsley’s Country Top 40 Video cover for H.O.L.Y. 2016, Ferris Wheel 1st Runner up in Radio Airplay Summer Music Comp 2015, top 15 finalist in the International Song Writing Competition for Fight For You 2015, Artist of the Month and then TEEN Artist of the Year with SMC 2016. It felt great to get the results I did in all of them, but I can say winning the SMC Artist of the Year 2016 that was a real compliment as I was up against some real talent, and the prize to go to ArtistMax was so valuable, and SMC has since been just such wonderful supporters of my music.
SMC – How do you feel music competitions help Artists?
Olivia – First it gets the artist and their music out there for others to see. It also gives the artist confidence to put themselves out there. Winning feels very validating, but you also learn not to beat yourself up to much if you don’t win. Public votes are hard as it can really depend on many people an artists can rally to vote for them, and judge voted ones are very satisfying given that industry professionals validate your work. At the end of the day music is very subjective, and you have to take the negative that may come out of a competition and work harder and make your music better.
SMC – How do you feel about the kinds of Grants and Funding options available to Artists in Canada as opposed to other countries? Do you feel Canadians are at an advantage over other countries?
Olivia – I can’t speak for what is out there in other countries, but I can say that there are lots of grants available to Canadian Artists, you just have to know where to look, and work hard to put an application together to get them as you are up against other determined artist. Factor Canada gives away several grants a year for emerging artists, for marketing, for song production, etc. Storyhive gives away grants for music videos, I know the British Columbia, Canadian Government also now has grants for Artists. The application process can be overwhelming and using a grant writer often helps the process. I have been fortunate to have received a couple Factor grants and am so grateful for them as they are helping me continue my music journey.
SMC – Can you tell us about your song for the Salvation Army titled ‘Fight For You’? How do you hope to benefit this organization through this song?
Olivia – When I released the song in 2013, I was inspired to do something as that particular year we had a very cold winter and I just could not imagine what it must be like to have no home or shelter to go to. I knew that my impact would be small, but felt that whatever I could do I would do. So, I decided to annually donate any proceeds of the sale of Fight For You to the Salvation Army. We have had a couple good years where I was able to donate a couple hundred dollars a year. I hope to continue to give back where and how I can through my music.
SMC – You have a really cool section on your website titled, “These are a few of my favorite things’ – some of those things listed in the menu are: Little White Lies, David’s Tea, Fluevog Shoes, Lush, Quay Australia, wildflower cases, Nars, Kylie Cosmetics, Aritzia, and mAAJI. Have any of these companies stepped up to become sponsors of your music?
Olivia – That would be a dream come true!!! Not at the moment, but of course I would welcome any opportunity. I am a big online browser of beauty and fashion goods. I love Pinterest as you can see so many beautiful things. And I love to write about those things, so I thought why not have a page on my website where fans can see what I am all about. I always have an online shopping cart full of items that I will never actually end up buying, but just love to look at clothes and makeup.
SMC – I see you have some tours coming up as well! Can you tell us the where and when of each date?
Olivia – Yes, I am excited to be touring a bit this summer. I will start of the summer on June 23rd in Edmonton at the ‘Edmonton Chante Festival’ at la Cite Francophone at 7:15 pm celebrating Canada’s 150 years. Then on June 24th I am performing at the ‘Works Art & Design Festival’ at Winston Churchill Square at 3:45 pm. I am also doing a cool local venue at ‘Predator Ridge on the Patio’ from 5:00 – 7:00 pm on June 27. Then off to New Westminster to perform at a Canada Day celebration at Queens Park at 11:35 am, then some private concerts until early August where I will do a sweet local event called ‘Jammin For Justice’ Wednesday August 2, from 12:00 – 1:30. Then back to Vancouver August 11 to perform at ‘Coquitlam’s Summer Concert Series’ where you can find me at 7 pm at the ‘Towne Centre Park Plaza’ Stage. And maybe a few more here and there.
SMC – Do you have any tours planned for the fall and winter months?
Olivia – I do have a couple private events in the fall, but not much else planned yet as I will be in my final year of school, and I like to use the fall and winter months to work on songwriting and potential releases, but I am always open to performing any time of the year if my schedule permits it.
SMC – Can you tell us about the possibility of an album or EP release in the near future?
Olivia – Yes well for sure a new single coming end of the summer, then working on potentially a full length album for next year. I have a lot of songwriting plans so hopefully something good will come out of it all!
SMC – Last question: If I were not pursuing a career as a Musician, I would be…….
Olivia – An interior designer!
SMC – Well Thank You Olivia! It has been a pleasure having you on our platform the last year as our TEEN Artist of the Year – we wish you all the best going forward!
Olivia – Thank you so much for your continued support. I truly appreciate it.