Don’t forget why you started making music in the first place. This basic sentiment is what led Atlanta-based multi-instrumentalist, Feverkin, to begin his Calendar Project, work that sees the composer and producer releasing one song and an accompanying music video per month.
Featuring his signature balance of intricate, ambient electronic arrangements and organic, natural recorded sound, the project has yielded five songs so far this year. This is a comparison he is quick to make to his output last year, when he released his first EP, From Your Window -- a five song record that was a year and a half in the making. In an effort to speed up his songwriting process with the self-imposed deadlines of one song per month -- while also giving a peek into his creative process behind writing a song -- the Calendar Project was born. And, we think it's pretty neat.
We caught up with Feverkin as he was preparing his next song, “June,” to discuss the origins of the project, the challenge of striking a work-life balance and how imposing deadlines can help let go of perfectionism.
What made you want to become a musician? And when did you get your start?
Well, my mom made me do all sorts of things when I was a kid, and piano lessons was one of them. That was when I was 6. I took lessons, but I quit after a couple years. But, I got back into music when I got into electronic music. Like, you remember Limewire? I was using Limewire and I was downloading a whole bunch of electronic music I was hearing. I got into a program called Fruity Loops. That's where it all started and it kind of went from there.
So you have this project, Feverkin. How did that get started for you?
Feverkin. So, this would have been a project that's been going on for 6 years now. I didn't really start taking it seriously until a few years ago. But, it was basically just a fun thing I felt like I could run with to try to make a certain style of music I felt like I could call my own.
Your music is a really cool blend of electronic sounds and organic sounds. You use samples from nature sounds that you find around. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah, I like to record sounds that I feel belong to me. I think one of my favorite sounds is this piano that's at my parent’s house. It's out of tune and it's really old, but it just feels like a sound that sounds like home to me. It's really important for me to use sounds that I can attach memories or experiences to with my life -- even something as simple as crickets chirping at night, or wind blowing through the trees. If I was there recording it, it can put me in a place. So, I wanted to see if that transfers over to the music.
I like blending organic sounds with acoustic sounds, because it's hard for me to be inspired clicking my mouse all day on the computer. A lot of electronic music can be made with synthesizers but, conversely, you can also use software and program a chord progression to be played, or sounds to go in. But when you play a guitar, piano, or whatever wacky instrument you might have on hand...like my Aunt gives me this lily harp -- it's super hard to keep in tune. But sometimes you get these surprises, where the string goes out of tune and it plays this note you didn't expect. That's just not something that can happen in a very calculated environment like a computer. So, I like keeping the blend between the two. One I have a lot of control over, the other, a lot of surprises can happen. And I'll know when they come together, it feels correct to me.
You started something called the Calendar Project. Can you tell us a bit about it?
The Calendar Project is, basically, a self imposed challenge I put on myself. Last year, I released a five track EP and it was pushed to vinyl, which was a goal of mine. It was really exciting. But to make those five songs took me so long. It took me probably a year and a half to finish five songs, just because I was putting so much pressure on myself to make five songs that I felt would be really, really good. I think in that process, I lost sight of why I did music to begin with, which was basically just to have a dialogue between me and the listener. So, I was totally just having a conversation with myself. It wasn't fun anymore. I think that process left me a little exhausted and not creatively energized.
I started the Calendar Project as a way to just lighten up a little bit and just get songs done whether I deem them perfect or not -- which they never are. Every song I've released so far is...I could tell you exactly what I would have done to improve it. But that's not the point. It's been a learning process. Because if you want to say, "I love you," to someone, for instance, you wouldn't think too hard about what words can you say, the timing of the words, what context you would need to say it in. It's just something that's supposed to come out naturally when you want to tell someone that. With music, I feel it should be the same thing -- I shouldn't get in the way of myself. Self-imposing deadlines through releasing music, it's kind of made music fun for me again. Which is the point.
What would you say has been your favorite thing about this project so far?
I think my favorite thing so far is I didn't know just how much music I could create. I don't know if other artists can relate to trying to plan something out from start to finish before they even put the paintbrush on the canvas. But, I think, I had some creative dilemmas to sort through and one of them is I have a big, beautiful blank canvas, so I usually never start. This project has forced me to commit to a deadline, which I think is very important. It's like when you're back in school, you're gonna get whatever done, because it's due. I had no idea that I was capable of doing this. Because I've already finished five songs in half a year -- as opposed to last year, it took me a year and a half to finish five songs.
On the opposite side, what would you say is the biggest challenge so far with the project?
Probably finding a work-life balance. As I've gotten more into doing music as a career, it's been one extreme or another -- either I'm hanging out with my friends too much, or I'm just working so hard that I tune out reality, and people won't hear from me at weeks at a time. So, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to take a break.
Is your songwriting process for this project the same every month? On the first day of the month are you like, "All right, I'm gonna sit down and start on this," or how does that work?
Yes, at times it's just like that. I'm trying to take the first week off to just soak in the month a little bit. Just drive around and check out spots that maybe I've never seen. Or hit up people I haven't seen in a while to just soak in life outside of the studio, so that when I do come into the studio, I can work, and it usually rolls around the second or third week of the month. Usually, by then, I start putting brain power towards what I'm going to do. And as I start working, the ideas come and then usually wrap it all up by the third or fourth week of the month.
Is that similar at all to your usual songwriting process outside of the Calendar Project? Or is it different?
Yeah, I guess you could say it's different, especially considering how fast I'm finishing these songs. I think if I were to give myself a longer time per song, I could come out with something a little bit more, I don't even know the word...intricate. I don't know if you're familiar with a song I've put out some years ago -- It's a song called “Sinking,” and it's got a vocalist named Nori on it. This might be embarrassing to tell you, but that song took me probably a year to finish. And it’s like, "Dude that's not good." I was doing other things too, but to get that song from its creation to its release, yeah, probably a year. I think it's because I didn't have a deadline, I didn't have a goal, I didn't know what intention it would be for. So I think I just went in circles pretty much for the most part of the year.
I know myself better now and I know my sound better. And I think I know how to stick to a scene better -- especially, since I've already released a body of work once before. And, like I said earlier, the work-life balance, getting out of the studio to soak in life, so that when I come back, I actually have something to say.
Awesome. So you also release a video with every song each month, too. Do you ever think about the video when you're writing the songs? Or think about how it will accompany the music?
Sometimes, the video idea comes to me before the song. And then, vice versa. This month, I think, the video idea is happening before the song, because I have a location I think I want to film it. Usually, I'll get a hunch or I'll just get this idea of something I think would be cool. That gets me excited to work on the project. And then I just go ahead with it. So right now...I was actually gonna do it today, was drive out and check out the location and just chill there for maybe a half hour. Just kind of soaking it in, seeing how it feels. And then if it feels right, I'll try to write sounds or a song that I think could match it. But sometimes the other thing happens. I got lucky in January -- it snowed and I was walking around with my microphone.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Aw, dude, I've got journals. I'm looking at a stack of five right now of just wisdom I've received over the years. So if I had to boil it down to one … it's something like, "The world doesn't need another perfectionist, it needs people who get things done." As a rule. If you get tied up in how things should be executed, you usually forget your intention, which is the reason why we do things to begin with.