Jul 12, 2016
Michael Calfan On "Thorns" And "Brothers"
Michael Calfan's track "Brothers" was released with huge success following it's debut at Miami Music Week. We previously chatted with Calfan about "Brothers" when he crafted his Exclusive Mix for us. Although his next release, "Thorns" seemed to be the vocal follow up to "Brothers," that is not the case. In our interview, Calfan explains his unique perspective and approach for turning his first real song "Thorns" into the great club record "Brothers."
Did you always plan to release “Thorns” as a vocal version to “Brothers”?
It’s a funny story, because most producers will make a club track and then when it gets big, they will put a new vocal on it and re-release it as a radio record. I usually think you can tell the two things weren’t made for each other. Music for me is a feeling, and I always want to make sure that the feeling is right when I create something. So I actually made “Thorns” first and then after it was finished I felt like it could make a great club record with a different arrangement and less vocal. For me, this was the perfect way to make the record!
You’ve previously mentioned that it took three years to make “Brothers.” When and how did finding the vocals for “Thorns” fit into that process?
“Brothers” was originally a downtempo record which I started years ago. I often explore different styles of music and when I was working with Raphaella on “Thorns,” I had the feeling that some of the elements from the old version of “Brothers” would fit perfectly. So yeah, overall it took three years to get to the final version. I think a lot of artists work this way. Taking time to find the right place for musical elements to fit is far more satisfying than trying to force the feeling.
For you, what’s the biggest difference when approaching producing an instrumental versus a vocal track?
Well, it is a lot more work. Though ultimately it is far more satisfying! This is my first “real” song working with a vocalist as my other tracks have been instrumentals or based around a sample. So now you have to think about the lyrics, about the vocal delivery, about how you create something in partnership with the vocalist.
What unique challenges does working a vocal into an existing instrumental track pose?
Working on an instrumental or with a sample is so much easier. It can present some real challenges to get the right kind of feeling when working with a vocalist. It’s all about chemistry and it has to be correct. Especially when you are trying to write a real song with feeling, as opposed to just throwing in a “1, 2, 3, JUMP!” type sample.
How’d you come to work with Raphaella? What about her voice stands out to you?
I met her during a writing camp. My manager showed me her voice and I loved it! We worked together on a session and it all just flowed really well. Raphaella is amazing. She is a really petite woman and then she sings, and wow, you just can’t imagine this kind of voice from her! There are so many great singers around, but she really has something special.
What do you think her vocals add to the track? How do you think her vocals enhance or change the mood of the track?
I think she added a real sense of power to the record. She gave it feeling and depth. When I listen back to the record now it brings up loads of images in my mind and it’s all thanks to her amazing voice and the way she connects with the song emotionally.
Do the lyrics themselves hold any particular meaning to you?
I’m a big fan of love songs, so most of the time when I’m thinking about a song, it’s always about love. There are so many different aspects to love songs. Some just have a cool feeling, some are about summer love, young love, forbidden love, etc. “Thorns” is a love story, but it’s not related to my life exactly.
Do you feel you use “Thorns” in your sets differently than you use and previously used “Brothers” due to the added vocals?
At the moment I am playing “Brothers” in my sets because it’s more of a club record. When you play a big vocal record in a club or a festival set it’s usually better if the crowd knows the song. If they know it and they can sing along with it, they have much more fun!
Thinking back on the whole journey of this production (multiple years, versions, releases) is there anything else that comes to mind?
A lot of moments of fun and doubts. I didn’t want to release it, and then I wanted to. Music is a feeling and you can’t control these feelings, you have to just move with them. I put it out at a time when I was ready to show a new side of my music…and there will be more of that to come.
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