You can’t escape who you are. You can lock it away but everyday it’ll fight to get out. The legendary YOU prepares itself to emerge while you struggle with the YOU everyone else thinks you should be. Thankfully, some people overcome the struggle and everyone else benefits. One such person is Chicago-based singer, producer, and engineer, Lauren Akainyah.
Lauren took the time to tell us the importance of ear training, how she infuses her productions with emotion, and a surefire way to save time when working with other people.
You’ve had an elastic relationship with music, being intensely attracted to it, falling out, and coming back with more dedication and additional skills. You’re an artist, producer, and engineer. How did your natural affinity and classical training help you in each of the 3 “hats” so to speak? Who are some of your influences as an artist? As a producer? As an engineer?
Attending the Jacobs School of Music at IU has definitely impacted my ear as a producer and as an engineer. Ear training was a core part of my program so dissecting and identifying notes and harmonies, picking out sounds and knowing what is flat/sharp is something that comes pretty easy for me. The exposure to music from such a young age has really honed my ear to know when a snare or clap is too loud, or if a kick is conflicting with a bassline. Creating melodies and making choruses are a lot like Sudoku puzzles. A lot of behind the scenes work goes into making sure notes are in the chord, in the key of the song, and if one note is off, you have to reconfigure everything. The music theory training helped out a lot with that. But I would say the education is definitely a blessing and a curse; some things come SUPER easy, but in the same regard, I have become a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my vocals and sometimes I’ve sacrificed emotion for note accuracy…this next project I’m working on is gonna be a lot more organic though.
In terms of my influences, I definitely LOVE LOVE LOVE Ryan Leslie as an artist and a producer. I could literally go on all day about his production style, his commitment to being unique and his versatility. I just respect everything about what he does and would love to be his protegé. I am still developing as an engineer and have a LONG way to go, so virtually any engineer is an influence in my life.
Being able to see your musical vision through from the beginning to the end has to be invigorating. How do you go from song concept to mastered record? Do you consciously separate each step? Do you have the final version in mind when you start working or does it develop as you go?
For me it’s all about the beats and I go from there. If I hear about someone getting cheated on, I’m thinking of all the rhythms and nuances to make the listener feel like someone is cheating on them…If I feel upset about something, I’m cranking out strings and heavy bass to get it out. Once I finish the beat, I’ll let it sit for a day or two, come back to it and see if there’s anything I wanna add or dislike. From there, I’ll try to think about what I am thinking in that situation and then write the lyrics…but I’m no songwriter…I don’t have lyrics actively in my brain or get inspired to write something…I frequently make a track then send it out to songwriters to put words to the music. Then I’ll add the “seasonings” if you will, harmonies, runs, vocal stuff to put the whole thing together.
What piece of engineering or production advice made the largest impact on your growth?
That is so hard to answer!! I have to say I’m torn between these two basic pieces of advice 1. Always label your project folders with the BPM (beats per minute). Definitely helps when you’re working with studios or additional people so everything is uniform and time isn’t wasted figuring it out after the fact. 2. Always stack your drums…multiple kicks and snares make everything sound rich and professional. After I learned to stack drums my “beats” started sounded like real instrumentals and folks started to take me WAY more seriously.
What projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
I am working on a Summer re-release of Facets of Love. It will have a bunch of new material and some of the crowd favorites (Karma, Good Lovin’, the Intro) from the original project. I’m also working on a Producers mixtape for later in the year. 15 different tracks with 15 different artists. Just to showcase a bit of versatility.
Where do we hear/learn more about Lauren Akainyah?
I’ll be posting videos and such from my journey towards a Grammy one day!
Also, you can download my mixtape from my website www.laurenakainyah.com
Also, leave your thoughts in the comments.