Interview: Guy Sebastian
Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:36:02
Guy Sebastian's "Like A Drum" feels like the soundtrack to summer. It's an immediately catchy anthem that emanates the kind of warmth associated with your favorite sunny love stories growing up. For American audiences, it's also an a propos introduction to the Australian star who's going to rise to the top of the U.S. charts—rightfully so—too. He's got true soul, and it soars to the sound of "Like a Drum".
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Guy Sebastian talks "Like A Drum", his upcoming album, and so much more.
What do you dig about Los Angeles?
It definitely is a second home. I've got a place here, and I've setup home here. I love L.A. I love coming back. I love the drive out here. It makes you dream big. It makes you think bigger than what you usually have the capacity to do. You're surrounded by so many creative people. Everybody you meet is doing something. It's a buzzing place. I love being here.
What's the story behind "Like A Drum"? Does it fulfill your initial vision?
It probably supersedes it. It's one of those scenarios. Usually, I write from scratch. I'll write on a piano or a guitar. I remember being in a session. Even that, I'm trying to thin out how much co-writing I do. I just feel like I love creating music more when there's no timeframe. When you have a session, you're writing with people you sometimes don't know at all. It can feel like work. I went to this session not knowing what the outcome would be. When I got into the session, it was tracks. Sometimes, when it's writing to tracks, I don't like doing it because the music is already set in stone. It can be a bit hard to change. You have to basically mold the melody around a certain pre-made track. My friend played me this track, and I was immediately in love with the sound. It just made me happy. I knew I was going to write a song that was nostalgic at that moment. I wanted something that was going to take you back to something that might've happened in your life when you were young or something. I sat down, and I tried to write a song. Nothing came. I decided to take away the chords on the track and went into the lunchroom. I took my guitar into the lunchroom and started playing chords. I basically went in 15 minutes later with the song. It happened really quickly. Immediately when I started to sing what I wrote in the lunch room, it gelled and came together. It was one of those moments where everything just worked out. I loved the track, and I was able to write a song I really liked and it resonated.
What does it mean to you lyrically?
It's a feeling we all can relate to both young and old. In the chorus, it says, "Someday I know we're going to feel again just like we did when we were young". I think about the video and what we wanted to capture. Basically, it follows a young dude who's got this little girlfriend. Her parents pull up with a U-Haul with all of these boxes and all of their stuff in it because they're moving off. He's basically like, "No! This is my neighbor. This is my childhood sweetheart who I'm in love with". He hops on his bike and essentially says, "Screw this! I'm going to chase her across America and find her". It's that desperation where you're in that frame of mind like, "I cannot let this go. I'll never find anything better than this". We've all felt that at some stage. When you're losing something, you think, "I'm never going to find anything to replace this". You'd do anything. You'd get back on your bike and ride across upstate New York and wherever you need to ride to. I think the video captures that really well. It's a simple video that captures that nostalgic love we're all familiar with.
Does "Like A Drum" open the door to your whole album?
Yeah! I think it sets up the record. "Like A Drum" is probably the most super pop song. The album is very EDM, and it has the whole dance thing mixed with real instruments. When I first heard the track, a lot of it was programmed, and I was like, "I really want to get some horns, live guitars, and piano". We re-recorded some things, and it sets up the album to what it's going to be. It's going to be organic. There are going to be lots of instruments on there mixed with some really fat production. I'm just trying to concentrate on writing the strongest songs that stand up on their own. The production's an added bonus.
How do you strike that balance between the electronic elements and traditional instrumentation?
I think it just has to sound like you're not falling into wishy-washy vibe. It's a tough one. When songs are fully organic, sometimes young people switch them off and go, "Oh, that's old people's music". They have done that for a little while. I feel like young people are being bit more educated now. There are artists like Avicii and a few others who are doing a great fusion of organic meets electronica. Then, if you go totally electronica, I feel like I'm losing the song. The heart of the song gets a little bit lost for me because I am so into soul music and the organic music that if it's completely programmed, I think, "This is just computer music now". It's about finding that delicate balance where it's not old people music, but it has an electronic edge to it.
What influences you outside of music?
I'm heavily into photography at the moment. I have been for years. I've been doing exhibitions. I did an exhibition at Sundance with my photography. I did one in Sydney. I literally trekked through Europe. I was on a solo journey through the Austrian Alps, Munich, Barcelona, Istanbul, Dubai, and a bunch of other places. I literally took my camera, hiked, and drove around the countryside taking pictures. It's pretty cool because taking photos has a real purpose for me. Every photo I edit and end up finishing is one that goes on to my web site for my foundation that I started with my wife. One-hundred percent of the proceeds go to charity helping families in need. It's pretty cool to have that purpose every time I take a shot. This one photo could really affect a family who's in need. Some of my photos went for $10,000 in my last exhibition, which is pretty awesome.
Is there crossover between being a musician and a photographer?
Absolutely, I think they're very similar in approach. I look at songwriting and photography, and I think, "First of all, there's the quantity". It's about being busy. You've got to be shooting half-a-million photos. Sometimes, you shoot and shoot, and you won't see beauty in the scene until you go back to it. It's the same as songwriting. Sometimes, I'll write twenty songs before I'll like one. It's a numbers game with both art forms. You have to stay busy and not simply hope for that perfect sunset or that incredible moment where a bird will fly perfectly in shot. You have to keep shooting. It means you have to do a lot more work by sorting things out. I think another similarity between the two is what you can add to something that is raw. I've taken images that seemed mundane, done some editing, nerded out, and extracted something beautiful. It's the same as a song. Sometimes, you're like, "That's a cool song. It's not great". You add production and something musical, and it suddenly blossoms and becomes great. The biggest similarity is the excitement when it all comes together.
Guy Sebastian - Like A Drum
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