Playlists at Work: Fresh Finds

Timothy "timmhotep" Cornwall / June 23, 2021
Up-and-comers Unusual Demont, Julia Wolf, Wallice, and EKKSTACY took part in the Fresh Finds independent artist marketing program. Now with their new Spotify Singles in the world, we caught up with these bright new talents to talk about their new songs, their experiences in the program and what they learned throughout the process.

Five years ago, Spotify launched the Fresh Finds playlist to highlight DIY independent artists who are making impactful work and showing incredible potential as they build their careers. In that time, the discovery-driven playlist has helped catapult artists like Clairo, Pink Sweat$, 100 gecs and Omar Apollo, to grow to the forces they are today while establishing itself as one of the premier discovery destinations for fans on the cutting edge of what’s next in music.

Now, in 2021, the Fresh Finds vision and ecosystem has expanded to include nine genre-specific playlists, encompassing the latest sounds in hip-hop to experimental as well as 13 regional versions around the world including Brazil, Korea, and Turkey.

Seeking to not only showcase indie artists with the playlist but to also support them through education, marketing, and Spotify for Artist tools, Spotify expanded Fresh Finds last month to include a new independent artist program, offering four up-and-coming artists the opportunity to learn and create within a suite of tools and resources provided by Spotify. Over a six to eight week period artists EKKSTACY, Unusual Demont, Wallice, and Julia Wolf were given access to one-on-one mentorship, personalized Masterclasses on Spotify for Artists tools like Canvas and Marquee, marketing support across social, both out-of-home and on-platform promotion, and collaborative opportunities with songwriters and producers via Spotify’s Songwriter and Publishing Relations team. At the end of the program, the work of these four artist, songwriter, and producer groups culminated in the release of four brand new Spotify Singles.

Today, with the release of their Spotify Singles we’re bringing you our conversations with Wallice, Unusual Demont, EKKSTACY, and Julia Wolf to shed light on their creative philosophies, processes, and find out what they learned about marketing their music and growing their fan bases with the Spotify for Artists tools at their disposal.

Unusual Demont

What exactly inspired your Spotify Single, “hey?” Listening to the song’s lyrics, it sounds like you’re getting a lot of requests to collab, is that the case?

Yeah that’s one aspect of it. There were a lot of people who reached out after [my breakout single] “Amber” to me like “Oh dude, I love your style! Let’s work!” But it’s like I had one song out at the time, how do you know my style? There have been times when it’s genuine — but more often than not, it’s very clear they saw the numbers and decided to reach out rather than genuinely enjoy the music. But ‘hey!’ in general is just me venting all of my fears and frustrations I felt at the time of writing it. From being Black in America, to the contradiction many artists face monetizing their form of expression. I just really wanted to air it all out. But one thing that kept me grounded through it all is that I was making my family proud, thus, “At least the fam still fine … ”

How important are storytelling and perspective in your music? Why so?

I’m still working on storytelling, trying to reach a level of Frank [Ocean] on Channel Orange or [Childish] Gambino on Because The Internet – but I have found perspective to be an amazing tool. If not to keep the story interesting for the listener … it can also keep it interesting for you. Writing a song from a perspective that isn’t your own is a really good way to find new emotions. Say a relationship ended, and you were the one who got broken up with - boring. However, if you write from the perspective of the person who broke up with you, you have to figure out a way to be introspective almost, to see what you did wrong (if anything, sometimes people just suck).

Spotify Single: “hey” by Unusual Demont, produced by The Idiot

What’s the most valuable thing you learned from the Spotify Masterclass and the whole experience in general?

Your goal shouldn’t be to get on playlists when creating and putting out your art. Your goal should be making good music before anything else.

What does it mean to you to be included in the Fresh Finds program?

It’s sick to know my songs I made in the basement have been good enough to reach this level. It’s very validating to all those years grinding in silence, telling myself it would all be worth it.

What advice would you give to other emerging artists?

Your goal should be to make good music that you love above anything else. As easy as it is to make a song that could playlist well, or goes with what people are into at the time, that’s not how you create songs that stand the test of time. Don’t be afraid to do weird stuff in your music, even if it's something you feel like only you will get. Because all it takes is that one other person to get it and boom, you’re golden. Also, don’t be afraid to be alone for a while and really master yourself as an artist. It’s cool to get on a track with an artist bigger than you because you could gain exposure and a quick boost - but collabs should be mutually beneficial. Make sure you know yourself and your sound before trying to put together two pieces that don’t fit.

Julia Wolf

RBF: Part 1” reminds us of this artist’s work about street harassment, and you even have a line in Italian in the song that translates to “don't tell me to smile more.” Tell us about your intention in writing this song and its message.

So I’ve been told I can have a “resting bitch face” which I used to take personally but now I know it's not a negative thing. I've learned over the years how being too nice can translate to people taking advantage of you and, growing up especially, I was overly accepting of that behavior. But to that point, being certain of yourself and finding that power in you to say no, or do what’s best for you can also label you as a “bitch.” So how I see it is if someone is using that term to bring a girl down, it’s a helpful red flag on their personality. in a twisted way it feels like a compliment that i’m doing something right. I just wanted to highlight the empowering side that exists in all this.

How important are visuals to you? What do you think of Canvas as a tool for visual expression? How do you want to push the boundaries of what’s possible with Canvas?

Visuals are just as important as the music. They bring to life the world I want to create and share with people, that’s why I’m so adamant on creating them myself. It’s a reflection of who I am and a concrete way for people to understand the message better. So naturally, I’m obsessed with Canvas. I love how you can change it whenever you want, you aren’t tied to anything. I’ve made Canvases out of homemade DIY videos, collections of photos, and animated artwork. There’s no limit to the creativity. I could see pushing the boundaries by directing people to check out maybe a new weekly Canvas, or get fans involved by submitting one for me to insert!

Spotify Single: “RBF: Part 1” by Julia Wolf, produced by Jackson Foote

You’re an artist but what has this experience taught you about marketing your music and getting it to more listeners?

We’ve always viewed the “marketing” aspect of releasing music as a creative outlet in its own right and this experience has just solidified that belief for me. It’s not so much thinking—will doing this or will doing that get more people to listen to my music — but more so what other artistic or creative ways can get my vision and message out into the world. And hopefully by focusing on that, the art continues to resonate with people and organically grows and spreads.

Describe your experience creating your Spotify Single. What was it like? How did it differ from your usual creative process if at all?

It was interesting because I’ve had the urge to write about “resting bitch face” for a while. I had finished a song probably over a year ago with this title, but it never felt right to me so I couldn’t bring myself to drop it. Jackson Foote, who knew about the song, insisted we try to revive it because he thought something special was there. So for the first time ever, I went back and re-edited, and now am so happy with the turn out! We decided to go with a sample as the main sound for the hook which is new for me, and really concentrated on the groove to bring out those hip hop influences even more.

What does it mean to you to be included in the Fresh Finds program?

There aren’t words to explain how ecstatic I was when I first got the phone call. It means everything to an independent artist to be seen for their music and message they want to share. I’m beyond grateful to be working with Spotify, and even more so that they just believe in me period.

Wallice

You're a songwriter whose lyrics are always meaningful and colorful. Tell us about “Nothing Scares Me” and the inspiration behind its lyrics.

Lyrics to me are the most important part of a song. For this song I started with the idea of being kind of numb to daily life and always looking at what’s nexts and what’s tomorrow rather than living in the moment. “Nothing Scares Me” is a version of being hyper-aware of that and going to the extreme to try to feel something.

For your Spotify Single, you worked with frequent collaborator and friend marinelli (as well as Ariel Rechtshaid). Describe the chemistry you have as collaborators and how songs usually come together when you work together?

I’ve known Marinelli for over half my life and he is one of my best friends so we always work really well together and have a very similar outlook and taste in music and aren’t afraid to really say what we feel. It was nice adding Ariel into the mix to get another perspective and style introduced to what we have been doing for years.

Spotify Single: “Nothing Scares Me” by Wallice, produced by marinelli & Ariel Rechtshaid

Tell us about your career goals, what does success mean to you in the long term?

I think success is building a hopefully lifelong fan base from the beginning and constantly growing from that. Rather than having a viral song on social media or top song of a playlist for a week, the goal should be having the fans keep going back to new releases and excited for what’s next. I hope to keep growing as an artist, collaborating with more people who have inspired and influenced my music today, and making music I love.

What does it mean to you to be included in the Fresh Finds program?

I’m so honored! This program is so exciting for the indie artists of the future. When I was first starting to release music I barely knew anything about the business and all the politics that go along with “making it” so having a reputable and worldwide brand of Spotify back these smaller artists will be a game changer in the industry.

EKKSTACY

Your music is not easily categorized but the feeling of it is undeniable. Can you talk about how important (or unimportant!) genre is to you? How do you describe what your music sounds like to people?

I feel like each artist needs their own specific genre now. I don’t ever try and explain my music to anyone, I let people that listen to me do that.

What was your experience creating your Spotify Single, "f*ck everything!," like? How was it different from your usual creative process?

I usually hate collaboration, I like doing everything alone. I didn’t like the song at first but as me and Jonny [Pierce of The Drums] worked more and more, I realized that good songs sometimes take time to make.

Spotify Single: “f*ck everything!” by EKKSTACY (feat. The Drums), produced by Jonny Pierce of The Drums

What does it mean to you to be included in the Fresh Finds program?

It’s cool, I’m grateful, and I won’t forget it.

What advice would you give to other emerging artists?

Get a billboard in Times Square with your face on it and everyone will love you.

Spotify for Artists helps you to develop the fanbase you need to reach your goals.

Timothy "timmhotep" Cornwall / June 23, 2021
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