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An Exclusive Interview with Producer JT Nebeker -the face behind DAZE

JT Nebeker is the face behind DAZE.  JT was born in Mission Viejo, CA, on June 19,1987, but at the age of 2, he promptly moved to Salt Lake City, UT when his father, Jim, accepted a job. Growing up JT loved sports.  He taught himself to dribble a basketball at the ripe age of 3.  His mother, Ava, recalls watching JT practice dribbling the ball.  “I used to tell him to just come inside when he would get frustrated, and… that’s for bigger boys, but he just kept on trying, and eventually he did it!”  JT grew up a jock.  He played many sports including, basketball, baseball, football, but lacrosse was his passion.  He was named a high school All-American in 2006 in lacrosse, his senior year in high school.

JT went on to play college lacrosse at Westminster College for one year.  During his first year of college JT joined a band, Junior Giant, playing bass.  The first time JT picked up a bass, he fell in love.  As a boy he had learned piano, and was in the high school band for a short period, but he never really enjoyed music like he did when he played the bass.  The freedom he felt was addicting.  He could play whatever he wanted and never have a teacher telling him what to do or practice.  JT gave up lacrosse and Music became his life.

Junior Giant lasted the better part of a decade and this gave JT the opportunity to refine his songwriting and really study music.  The lead guitar player of Junior Giant, Brian Linsley, was an original member of the Jim Carroll Band.  Brian taught JT his first basic understanding of song structure and writing songs in general.  Junior Giant also provided many real life music opportunities to JT including working with, Ron Nevison (The Who), Warren Huart (The Fray), Jay Ferguson (Spirit), and music executives like, Paul Geary (AGP).

Junior Giant ran its course and JT moved onto working and writing songs for a production music library.  It is here where JT met his mentor, Ryan Boud, and learned the craft of making music electronically.  Ryan laid the groundwork for JT to excel as a composer as well as a producer.  Learning the ins and outs of what kind of work it takes to write and produce a song of commercial quality.  This is where DAZE was born.

JT started DAZE in his basement and he has only seen growth not only is his career, but also in the quality of his music.  His major influences are wide ranging and include the likes of: The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Skrillex, Notorious B.I.G., Jimmy Hendrix, Metric, Pink Floyd, Feed Me, Justice, The Shins, Ratatat and everything in between.   DAZE is passion, talent, and hard work all rolled into one.

Here follows an Exclusive interview with DAZE, to get an even better inside into the artist, his thoughts and his work.

1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?

DAZE: My musical upbringing goes all the way back to when I was just a kid. My mother taught me piano at a very young age, which I didn’t particularly enjoy. Then I was in my high school’s band, which was required, and I also didn’t particularly enjoy either. It wasn’t until I was out of high school and joined an indie rock group called Junior Giant that I became passionate about music. I taught myself the bass guitar and never looked back from there.  The freedom to play and write whatever I wanted without teachers telling me what to practice or what was important, was really what opened my eyes to what music could be in my life. Basically, I have been playing music my whole life… whether I wanted to or not

2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?

DAZE: Of course… The Beatles! My dad and mom loved The Beatles. The Beatles really were the first band that I fell in love with. I grew up with a very eclectic mix of music in my house and listened to everything from Bach to Rod Stewart to Nirvana, but The Beatles were my first true influence I would say.  Then further down the line I got turned on to Skrillex. He has such great production, but the main thing I take from him is BE YOURSELF. He writes such good music and it all comes from his heart.  He is just out there being himself and I am drawn to that.

3. Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these you’d like to collaborate with?

DAZE:  I listen to a lot of Feed Me right now, as well as Skrillex. Daft Punk is always in my car. Cage the Elephant and their most recent album I have been listening to a lot. I really like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and as of late Beethoven.  It is relaxing.

I love all the great singers right now like, Rihanna, Pharrell, Adele, Beyonce, and Katy Perry… I would love to collaborate with them.  Or I would love to collaborate with producers/songwriters like Max Martin, StarGate, Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, and RedOne.

4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased. And which is the one piece of hardware or software you’re still looking to add to your collection now?

DAZE: A Mexican made Fender J Bass for $600…. Best purchase of my life! So much I want to add to my collection still….. I want an Avalon 737, I have used them a lot in studio sessions and they just seem to be very versatile.  I have run everything through them: vox, strings, brass, percussion, piano, you name it and it sounds great!  Also, if I’m dreaming,  a Nuemann u67 /47/87 I love any of those mics!  They are great for a reason!!

5. Tell us something about your current hardware/software and instrument setup?

DAZE:  It is very simple.  I just use the Mbox as my A/D converter.  I make my own drum kits and catalogue them in Native Instruments Maschine.  All my synths are in the box.  My favorite software synth is Massive.  I also use Absynth quite a bit.  I have a bunch of other synths like FM8 and Synlenth, but I’m mostly using Massive and a lot of samples I have created or gathered over the years.

6. Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

DAZE:  I have done both for a significant amount of time and I can honestly say that I enjoy both.  At this moment in my life, I have to say that I am more drawn to music creation and studio work, but both have played big parts in my life as an artist.  My time performing was with a band, Junior Giant.  I loved the built in collaboration that comes with playing music with your band mates and the energy that you put forth together on the stage. Having said that, I love sitting in my studio with just my thoughts and letting the creativity run wild… not worrying about other people’s input.  They are both important aspects!

7. Why, and how did the move from piano to bass and then on to electronic music production come about?

DAZE: As I said earlier, the piano was more of a chore than a love of music.  Although the piano did set a foundation for music in my little brain, I like to think that my musical career started when I picked up the bass and started playing for Junior Giant.  While I was in Junior Giant, I took a job at a local production music studio and met who would become my production mentor over the next few years.  His name is Ryan Boud.  At this point I had dabbled with DAWs and recording myself so I had some knowledge of what was going on, but not really… Ryan opened my eyes to what kind of work it takes to produce a commercial song and also what I could do by myself.  Ryan really launched me into electronic music production and that is where DAZE was born.

8. On which one of your songs do you feel you delivered your personal best performance so far, from a technical point of view and why? And where can listeners find and listen to this track?

DAZE: Oh man… that’s a tough one!  They are all my little babies ha ha ha! I have so many to pick from…. How about this, check out all my tracks on my Soundcloud and you make the decision!

Here is a link to my Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/dazeelectronic

9. Which ingredient (or trademark sound) do you think is most essential in making your music sound the way it does?

DAZE: Me.  Like I said about Skrillex, you have to be yourself.  Especially in this day and age where it is so easy for anyone to create a song and put it out for the world to see, the only thing you really have that is different from everybody else is you. I find I write and create music best when I go into a writing session with no idea what I’m going to write and just follow my inspiration.  There is always that constant dialogue in your head as an artist that what you’re doing isn’t good enough, that “they” could do better, whoever “they” are.  Finding your sound is as much about finding yourself as it is about the music…. sorry got a little hippy dippy there 

10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?

DAZE: Passion.  Simple.  Without passion you won’t feel those other emotions.  Passion drives it all.

11. Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?

DAZE: Being my own boss!  And…Being my own boss.  It’s awesome being an independent artist because you get to decide everything! But that can also be a huge burden sometimes.  You have to motivate yourself every day.  There is no boss telling you what to do with your time.  There is no paycheck coming every two weeks.  It can be hard, but I’m not discouraged very often.  I have a great group of friends and family that support me and that means all the world!

12. Tell us something about your songwriting process. What usually comes first the lyrics or the music? And which instruments or music software do you primarily use for composing?

DAZE: The beat.  I love making loops.  Sometimes I spend all day just making 4 bar drum loops.  Then the music comes.  Then the lyrics.  For me, writing lyrics is almost like writing a new song.  I get the music where I want it and feeling finished, then I’ll take a break from it for a day.  When I come back to it I set the melodies and start in with the lyrics. Each song is different, but this is the gist of my process

13. How involved are you in the recording, producing, mastering and marketing processes of your music in general. Do you outsource any of these processes?

DAZE: I pretty much do it all myself as far the production goes.  Most of my stuff is recorded in the box.  If I need anything recorded live I have a nice setup at my home studio that does the job well.  As far as the marketing goes, up until about February 2014 I was doing all my own marketing, mostly on Social Media.  You know, running Facebook ads, sponsored tweets, just trying to push the numbers.  I was referred to Royaltee Management, a leading Artist Development Firm, by Star Roc Records and have been working with them ever since!  The knowledge they have and their work ethic is second to none.  It is amazing having someone on your team who knows the marketing business!

14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?

DAZE:  When giving a track to someone to listen to, present it with confidence! If you hand it to them and are like, “ it’s a good track, but, ya know, I think the mix could use a little work…blah blah blah” they are going to believe you, and agree with you.  But if you come in and hand it to them and are like, “ I think you’re really going to like this track” not cocky, just confident in your artistic abilities.  Just let whoever it is know that you did your best and you are confident in what you can do.

I didn’t follow this advice for a longtime, because I thought it WAS cocky or whatever.  But it really isn’t.  People want to know how you feel about your own music. So tell them the truth!

15. At this point, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit the your future (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs etc…)?

DAZE:  More exposure, increased distribution means mo’ money! That’s what I really need greenbacks, cold hard cash.  Ha ha!

16. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?

DAZE: Social media is a catch 22 for me.  I love what it provides, it really is evening out the playing field between indie and commercial.  I mean, where else can you advertise up against the big guys ya know Island, Sony, all of them?  I’m not saying that I’m competing on their level of advertisement.  But I can literally go on to Facebook, Reverbnation, or Twitter and buy advertising space right next to them. That is just crazy to me and what an incredible tool to have at your fingertips!

On the other side, I don’t personally enjoy Social Media all that much.  It is a little of a burden to me, but you have to stay up on it to compete in this day and age…. It is just part of the game now.

17. How did working with, Ron Nevison (The Who), Warren Huart (The Fray), Jay Ferguson (Spirit), and music executives like, Paul Geary (AGP) impact your musical experiences?

DAZE: Working with these guys really was my first experience working with professional musicians.  It gave me my first taste of seeing someone who wakes up and Music is their job!  I wanted to do that! It really lit a fire underneath me!  Watching how creative they were and how professional they were was really cool!

18. Lately you have been working with Mr. Joseph Landry over at Royaltee Management, one of the leading Artist Development Firms in the N. What has that experience been like? Would you recommend that firm to other artist? How important is it that artist search and find the correct company to represent them?

DAZE: Like I said earlier, it has been fantastic working with Joe and Royaltee Management!  They are awesome!  They work hard.  I was the first EDM artist that they took on.  They worked to hard to open the opportunities and channels in that genre for me and it has been awesome! I would recommend them to anyone, especially Pam! She is so easy and the best to work with! They are opening doors for me I knew were, but they have access to!

19. What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?

DAZE:  I guess this is my theme, I am going to be myself at all costs.  I know there are give and takes in any journey, so I won’t be stubborn or blinded by myself, but I am going to trust myself and let that guide my career.  Do it for the love of the music!

20. Tell us about any new projects you are currently working on or have in mind.

DAZE: I may be scoring a horror film coming up which I am very excited about!  I have a new single “Don’t Let Me Go” I am releasing in the coming months with Royaltee Management doing the promo for it. So keep your ears peeled for that!  I will be moving to LA by the end of this summer, which I couldn’t be more ready for!

Thanks guys for the time and the interview! I really appreciate the opportunity! D





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