26-yr old engineer, multi-instrumentalist, writer, arranger, and producer Jesse Astin writes songs every day in L.A. with various collaborators, looking to find the hits of tomorrow. His own songs, on the other hand, have haunting and experimental qualities, stretching and abandoning conventional form while always maintaining pop sensibility. Christian Howes Strings had the pleasure of recording string ensembles on 5 songs on Jesse’s new project “Like Clockwork”. Jesse is releasing a tune a week for free over the course of two months after which the album will be available for sale. Did I mention he plays almost all of the instruments, sings, writes, programs, mixes, engineers, arranges, etc… For the most part, even the string arrangements were already prepared by him-all we had to do was the string tracking. I played the album over and over recently while driving around in l.a. for a few days- it’s very thematic and passionate. This guy gives me hope for American pop music.
Below is an interview I did with Jesse about his multi-faceted writing process, advice for other producers, and thoughts on his future.
CH: What do you think producers in your genre should do to get their music out?
JA: I’ve always been one to advocate the idea of “GO FOR IT!” – If you truly feel that what you are creating is great, then chances are there are a lot of other people that will think the same. Confidence inspires people. Send your music to as many people as you possibly can, whether they be heads of a record label, publishing company, or even just a listener. The more you put your music out there, the more response you will get. Again, I think it’s super important that you always keep your priorities straight and your ego in line. You can be confident without being cocky, and you can be humble without being shy. Find the balance and know that you will get results if what you make is always your best.
CH: You learned to do EVERYTHING yourself (except play orchestral string parts!!!) You’re a brilliant engineer, multi-instrumentalist, writer, arranger, everything…. How did you get to this point in terms of having so many skills that all go into producing incredible pop music?
JA: I believe that I was fortunate enough to have jumped into a DAW (digital audio workstation) pretty early on. I remember going up the street and buying my first microphone and my first recording software program that had all these loops of drums and bass so you could make music pretty fast. .
From there I got into some other programs like Fruity Loops and Cubase which were focused more on midi-aspects. That’s how i learned a lot about using virtual synths & samplers, programming sequences, etc.
Other the past few years I’ve done quite a bit of tracking and editing on a deeper level, involving tuning of vocals and lining up drums to a grid, which helped me to understand the inner workings of digital on an even deeper level, simultaneously writing songs with other artists which helped me to really develop my craft for pop writing.
Also, I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by some really nice gear, both outboard EQs and compressors as well as some very beautiful synthesizers. I think that being able to use some of these famous synths (Oscar, MiniMoog, CS-80, etc) it really helped develop my understanding of how synths work both in functionality and sonics as well.
CH: any particular reason for living in l.a. vs NYC???
JA: Too damn cold :)
CH: You’re collaborating with lot’s of songwriters, managing a studio, working with a great publishing company, and putting out a masterpiece of a solo album, and you’re only 26-what’s next for you?
JA: While I have dreams for days and days, the more I go through life, the more I realize how important it is to be flexible and able to go with the flow. I set goals often that are constantly a little out of reach, but I find that in aiming high you ultimately set the course for a nice climb to the top. Life has a funny way of giving you the exact tools you need to do all the things you want to do. All you have to do is believe. So, with that being said, my plan is to dream bigger, set higher goals, GO FOR IT and go with the flow. I’ll see what this life has in store for me :)