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INTERVIEW: Austin Crute

Hi Austin, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’ve been very good, I’ve been having fun this summer! Working on some new projects that i’m excited to share with the world. I hope you’ve all been well!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Play (Run It)”?

I make the majority of my music in my bedroom/home studio, and this was one of them. I just wanted to make a song that was fun and emulated the experience one gets when they are trying to pick up a girl in a public place like a club or a party. I try and put a unique piece of me in every song. For instance, I’m not really interested in hookup culture or things of that nature. I date to marry. So I slid that in the bridge saying “If you ain’t got no long term plans you can’t get near me”. Just keepin’ it real.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

I’m a storyteller. So whether the story is real or fiction, it’s a story from one of the many characters in my head and to them, it is real. In this particular instance, the song wasn’t born from any one experience but more like an amalgam of little experiences that led me to want to write a song about being awestruck by a girl in a party setting.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Unfortunately, no. But I do plan to release a video for both “Data” and “On the Low/Doctor” both of which are on my tape, PLAY. I’m getting some really dope people involved in helping me create my first visuals as an artist. I cannot. wait. for these videos to drop.

Why naming the album after this track in particular?

Interestingly enough, the song was made before I even thought to create the tape. I thought of the name of the tape separately from the song. I think the song and the tape as whole both convey the dichotomies of light and dark, kid and adult, serious and fun. To me, that’s what PLAY is all about. The freedom to just do whatever. I just feel like there’s so much pressure (especially being a black male artist) to be hard and this and that and the other. I was just like “BUMP THAT.” I’m not hard, I don’t claim to be hard, I don’t take myself too seriously. I wanted people who do take themselves a little too seriously to be able to vibe with it and let loose with this record. So once I named the tape, I rewrote the lyrics a bit and made them coincide with each other.

How was the recording and writing process?

Songs get made in so many different ways. Every song needs a spark, that initial jolt of inspirational energy that brings the skeleton into existence. Sometimes it’s a word or phrase, sometimes, you hear syllables in your head, sometimes you just come up with a melody with no words—this time the production led the way. Now that I think about it, that’s how I’ve started writing a lot of my songs lately. I’ll usually start the beat and, depending on what I’m feeling, I’ll just grab the mic and go. Once I get the beat to a place where I smile real wide and say “Ayeee there it is,” a line will pop into my head. Then the process continues as follows:

I press record. “I can’t lie I see you in my future.” Stop. Think. Record. “Man I love myself but should I introduce her…” Stop. Stare at the screen. Record. “…to me yet, man I can’t believe this…” and so on. Sometimes, and in the case of this song, it gets to the point where I have to take out my Evernote app and start writing the lyrics down so I can see the words and compose with a little more precision.

What role does NYC plays in your music?

New York is a humming generator of inspiration. If you live in New York and you are uninspired, you are not living hard enough. If I can’t get inspiration from my own life, I’ll put other people’s tea (or gossip) in my music and use that. The cultural relationships and philosophical intricacies that form the lifeblood of New York would take lifetimes to truly discover. Not even understand. Discover. The city took me so far out of my “Bible belt, Georgia boy” comfort zone and immersed me in a whole new world. Never have I been to a place that fosters so much individuality and, oddly enough, unparalleled privacy. I feel free to be the most “me” version of me I can be in New York. And as a result, I’ve grown so much as a writer, a vocalist, an actor, a producer, an artist. I could not have made this tape without New York.

What led you to blend all this genres together? Did any artist in particular draw you into this?

Well, I have many inspirations. I love Pharrell, Mike Will, Timbaland, and others. I also love songwriters like Max Martin, Jon Bellion, Ester Dean, Stacy Barthe, and even Travis $cott. But, I’m honestly not the type that’s always looking and searching for other artists and new music to listen to, especially when it comes to inspiration. I just create. Sure, there are some direct inspirations I can pull from for songs like Spend It (inspired mainly by Afrika Bambaataa and Miley Cyrus). We are all products of our environment and let what we love affect the core of our creative being. That being said, I’m sure people can pinpoint inspirational origins of my music I don’t even know are there. But I usually just write and create whatever I’m feeling in the moment. PLAY wasn’t supposed to have one sound or one theme. It was a project where I could—well—play *teehee* around with different sounds and genres without thinking too much about if anyone would “like it” or not. I explored a variety of sounds and had Austin Crute be the cohesive, binding agent of all of them rather than one sound defining Austin Crute. I just made the music I wanted and when I looked up, every song sounded pretty different from the next. I guess it’s in my nature.

Does one genre to shine out the most depending on the lyrics’ theme?

Sometimes. Usually when I talk about having fun, I’m making some kind of trap beat. But in, like, 2012 it would have been an EDM song. If I’m singing about something deep I may make it a not-so-slow, vibey song although I’ve been hiding deeper lyrics in more upbeat, hip-hop? songs of late like “On the Low / Doctor.” I guess trendier lyrics flow with the trend of the time while more substantial lyrics fall on whatever I’m feeling. But it’s so funny, because no matter what I do, someone (usually someone of Caucasian descent) insists on saying I’m a rapper. Or they say “You’re such a good rapper” as if it’s a compliment, and they didn’t just hear me doing the most, being extra, doing some kind of complicated run. Most times when non-industry people ask to hear my music, they are really asking “Play me your hardest, bass hitting song.” And it’s because I’m a black male. But I do musical theatre, I sing ballads and love songs, I consider myself a vocalist. I may do the Fergie and put a rapped verse in a song here and there for fun, but at the end of the day, I am a singer. I just wanted to say that on record just in case anybody was confused haha.

Does your acting influence your music and the other way around?

Wow, I’ve never thought about that before…I believe so. Not so much the other way around, but considering that acting is such a huge part of who I am, I think it’s inevitable for me to intertwine the two crafts at times. I think it helps me “get into character” when singing, regardless of the genre. It also helps me create stories. Acting as an art form is basically just informal psychology. All actors are psychologists. We study the human condition, observing everyone, everything, and pocketing it for use later. Creating a character for a song may very well involve be taking something out of my proverbial pocket and putting it to use.

How has your current studies have shape you as an artist?

Absolutely. Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is hands down the best school I could have gone to to achieve the level of growth I have and will attain. To be honest, a few of the songs on my mixtape are simply assignments from the songwriting class. I have such a stronger, much needed grasp on music history than I did before (Sidenote: everyone should study that. It’s incredibly eye opening and helps one digest relevant cultural nuances). NYU as a whole has made me an all around better student of the world I live in, which in turn makes me a better artist.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Like I said, New York and other people’s lives/tea is great inspiration. Also, television. Oh my God, I love. television. It’s my therapy, it really is. I learn so much from these shows as an actor and audience member. It helps me craft stories as well. And of course, my personal life experiences. My relationship with God inspired “Phenomenon.” That whole song is a prayer. My ex-girlfriend, Niah, and I’s relationship inspired “Data.” My journey as a Christian inspired “On the Low / Doctor.” Niah also inspired “M I A.” “Vacation” is a fantasy song, just for kicks. And “Don’t Stop Now” was inspired by seasonal transition:

Every college kid (hopefully) starts becoming a different, more mature, more substantial person after their first year and a half of college. I’m a pastor’s kid so there’s somewhat of a spotlight on me at all times. I’m also the youngest of three—the baby. *Pours tea*. And one night, it was basically me against my family in a yelling match about some petty issue that was really about something deeper, for me anyway. They had and still have to learn to respect who I am becoming. That is, a full grown man. They’re still learning that. I love them, but at the end of the day, I will be respected and talked to at eye level, and that goes for everybody. Growing up in the church, everyone said “hey, that’s the pastor’s son!” when I walked in the room. So they chomped at the bit to instill wisdom in me. They held me to a higher standard than everyone else. Sometimes they would even try to knock me down an unnecessary peg or two, just in case. For example, one Sunday I stepped out of Holy High, our teen ministry, to answer a phone call, and one of the youth ministers made me apologize to the entire room after service was over. Like…huh? I should have said, “AND YOU ARE…” but I was raised to obey and respect my elders so I did it.

As I matured, I had to redefine what respect as a concept was for myself, then give and demand it appropriately. I urge every young man and woman to do the same. Think for yourself. Don’t be aloof and rebellious, but challenge your authority with smart questions and get answers. After a certain point in a young person’s maturity, “Because I said so” doesn’t fly. There’s a reason “they said so”, so find out why for you so that you can harness the wisdom behind their decision and apply it to your life in the future if need be. If they can’t give you a reason, chances are they don’t have a valid one. I made “Don’t Stop Now” for anybody out there that has people/mentors/family that won’t let them live simply because they are young. 1st Timothy 4:12. I believe that.

Any plans to hit the road?

I plan to in the future. I love to perform, it gives me so much life. But I also cherish preparation. When the time comes to start performing, I will be more than ready. Any future tour dates can be seen on www.austincrute.com.

What else is happening next in Austin Crute’s world?

I’ll be making my television debut on FX and Donald Glover’s ATLANTA in the Fall! I’ll also be studying abroad in NYU Berlin, making some new music out there. I’ve never been out of the country like this, so I’m excited to see what their culture will add to me.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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