New York City-based artists – SM1LO & Kastra are powering into 2019 with their first release of the year – Love Like This.
Featuring vocals from Katja Glieson, this record is the ultimate radio smash, with a catchy hook, a fun feel-good production and a full package of club remixes to follow.
We caught up with SM1LO to speak to him about this single, plans for 2019, and the forthcoming package of club remixes.
T.H.E – Hey man! Welcome to T.H.E – Music Essentials. How has 2019 kicked off for you?
SM1LO – Hey! Start by saying thanks for this interview opportunity! One month into 2019; I have been busy with creating new music and collaborating with some solid writers and producers on many projects. I just completed and mastered 5 songs over the past two months that are Spring/Summer releases. These songs are all electro-pop, “feel-good” and fun records living in the 120-125 BPM range (sorta deep/future house). In 2019 my releases are of a certain sound; I have really begun to perfect and hone down on this “sound,” which integrates live instrumentation, catchy vocal melodies, and BASS! I am optimistic about what 2019 will bring.
T.H.E – 2018 was arguably your biggest year in terms of production. What learnings do you take from it, to ensure that 2019 is even bigger?
SM1LO – I have learned 4 things:
- Content is King. I keep creating. In the past, I was caught up in perfecting songs and I would spend all my time reverting to past projects. While I feel it is sometimes good to reopen projects, I find it more gratifying and effective to keep pushing through new ideas and concepts.
- If something doesn’t stick, or if you send it to a few of your industry confidants and select friends with “consumer” ears, and their reaction isn’t anything but incredible, it is ok to scratch it and move on!
- Collaborating and writing songs with other creators (whether sound engineers, producers or top line writers, DJ’s etc), you really unlock so much more “meeting of the minds”. For example, I am currently collaborating with a few incredible lyricists/rappers and even a folk/country music writer; it is incredible the ideas that you can generate by merging styles, rhythmic patterns, music scales/keys, and the juxtaposition of ideas that can even be viewed as conflicting.
- Finally, I learned the importance of a clean and not too busy mix. Sometimes simpler is better, and if a stem doesn’t add value, DELETE.
T.H.E – You moved to New Jersey when you were 13. How has the city played a role in your journey as an artist?
SM1LO – NJ always pushed out a wide range of music styles, and helped fuel a music scene that spread across the world (I definitely am biased to NJ). NJ also always had a big nightlife scene, which introduced me to DJ’ing/MC’ing parties at a young age. When I was 14, we were already heading to Teen Nights at the NJ clubs that played house and even raves! These same clubs pumped out many of the major DJ’s/producers from the tri-state area (still remember NYC Underground Compilation). Being around so much music and friends on radio, and friends that DJ at the largest NYC and Jersey Shore clubs, I have seen from the inside out what people like to hear; what makes them move or dance. I think this has definitely helped shape my journey as an artist/music maker as I continue to write music that appeals to a mass audience.
T.H.E – Your sounds are a perfect balance between EDM and pop. Have you always been attracted to these genres?
SM1LO – I always enjoyed a wide range of music. I started playing guitar at 13 (mainly alternative); but I loved hard rock, R&B, and even the “swing timing” found in jazz, which continues to inspire my music making today. I was heading to rock concerts watching bands like Korn, Filter, 311, and Bon Jovi, then heading out to venues playing house music. Then I would find myself listening to U2, Goo Goo Dolls, or 112. My eclectic taste in music helped drive much of my writing. I have always gravitated towards good melodies, sonics, and lyrics. And most of my earlier writing was ballads, where catchy or meaningful lyrics mattered; so the fusion of these melodic vocals into dance music was an easy transition for me. The toughest part was changing my writings from mainly “Minor” based keys to the happier sounding “major” keys haha!
T.H.E – Let’s talk about new collaboration with Kastra – Love Like This. How long was it in the works, and how was it working with Katja?
SM1LO – I was sitting on this one for quite a while. I originally wrote this song in 2016, but I was not 100% sold on the vocal. Everyone I showed it to thought it was a great and super catchy song; however, being my own worst critic, I wanted to restructure it somehow, but reached a wall. It carried a tropical house sound which I really liked, but somehow, I wanted to rework it a bit (as my drop originally had the vocal on it with the vocal chop, which is now separated). Last year, I reached out to Kastra and showed him the record (which actually started out as him mixing down the song as an engineer); but Kastra really liked the song and asked if he could mess with it. I liked it, but we needed a new vocalist. He showed me some vocalist clips, and one of them was Katja Glieson’s from a song that he was going to remix in the past with another label. Katja’s energy and pop sound were awesome. I said; let’s reach out to her now. Literally the next day, Katja reached back out and said she loved the song. She and I spoke about the general idea of the song, and Katja laid down the vocals the next week. The rest was history. Both Katja and Kastra are super talented, creative and likable! And most important to me, DRIVEN. It was great working with both of them. It was a healthy fusion of like-minded friends.
When Kastra, Katja and I were talking about our newest single “Love Like This,” we were speaking to a couple of labels and decided to release with Crowd; an independent label that was hungry to make things happen. The intent is to launch off the year with this song, at a label that backed DJ D-Sol with his single “Don’t Stop.” The reason why this mattered to me is that he is the current CEO of Goldman Sachs. And being in banking myself, I found that to be so unconventional and badass! We were like, ok this just makes sense.
T.H.E – Does the release set a good tone for you, in terms of what 2019 has to offer?
SM1LO – I really like this record. So starting the year with a catchy pop song made for a wide audience was a good idea. Even though most of my scheduled song releases in 2019 live in that (120-125 bpm world), I do have another few electro-pop downtempo records that I am currently completing that are similar in sound. All of my dance records feature vocals. And I plan to stay this way.
T.H.E – There’s also going to be a remix package of club mixes for this track. What can you tell us about that?
SM1LO – The label just sent over all the final remixes the other day and I can’t wait to get these out there! Not sure if I can speak too much in detail, but we’ve got 4 super talented artists coming with this remix package.
T.H.E – From a touring point of view, what does 2019 look like?
SM1LO – These days, I have been residing along the Jersey Shore and NYC. I will be at Big Shots tonight and Chris Michael’s tomorrow evening. So make sure to stop by! Majority of my time is being spent in the studio getting ready for this next year of releases. I am working on some big collaborations, and I’ve definitely got some big things in the works for this upcoming summer.