Posted On 08 Jan 2018
With a voice destined to fill arenas, the young LA based singer-songwriter, Traces is making some noise in the industry, despite being pretty new to the scene. His first single “Majesty” premiered on the tastemaker website Milk, he’s gathered Spotify’s attention, who has given him a major push and he landed Free Association’s management support (who also manage Paramore and Misterwives). His newest EP was released on October 10th.
You can find his latest track, “idbh.” Here: https://soundcloud.com/tracesca/idbh-1
Learn more about Traces in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood? What is a song you are loving these days?
Of course, thank you for having me! I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks in Malibu listening to Bon Iver’s most recent album. I randomly decided this morning to get up and get out of LA for the morning, this isn’t a usual occurrence but felt like a good idea today.
I never really had music to play just for the means of getting out of a bad mood until Jon Bellion came around. Literally is the soundtrack that gets me through the day and feeling hopeful.
“Just The Same” by Bruno Major I think I’ve listened to everyday for the past month. His whole album is incredible. The lyricism is insane.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there a time where you thought of doing something completely different?
I really discovered music when I was like 12 or 13 and kept playing ever since. I had one brief moment where I thought fire fighting was cool because I had a high quality toy firetruck, but besides that pretty much just music.
I think my earliest musical memory was coming over to my friend Trevor’s house every day after school to play on his piano. He was taking a piano class and we both thought we were hot shit because we could play Clocks by Coldplay.
No not really. I had a moment in high school where I realized how hard it was going to be to pursue music but that didn’t really matter to me. I had a million interests and hobbies from elementary school all the way through high school but writing songs was the only one that stuck around.
Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year? How has 2017 been treating you and your career? What are you most excited about for in 2018?
Yes, I definitely approached things differently. Before I was mainly doing writing for pitching to pop artist so there is usually a new concept every session that always felt very surface level in order to be easily relatable and understood by a huge audience. I realized for one, I didn’t love writing those type of songs and two, pop music didn’t have to be surface level. I really spent a lot of time trying to write a real narrative and storyline. 2017 has been a very short year mainly spent working on the release of this first project and planning everything I have coming in 2018. I’m very excited about 2018! I have a lot of new music but mainly I am stoked to get out playing these songs live. I’ll be doing a lot of shows and hanging with the people that took the time to listen to the stuff I wrote!
Why did you decide to go by something other than your own name? How did you come up with it?
TRACES lets me play into a character with unique honesty and confidence that I didn’t have when I started this whole thing. Obviously my personality is intermixed and it’s my thoughts in the songs but there is a level of presentation that I don’t think I would have been deliver to give myself.
The idea was that we all have “traces” of things that make up who we are, both good and bad. Those painful or joyful moments flow through are bloodstream and form us. I just want to talk about all those parts of life.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown has affected you and your music today?
I’m from San Diego, CA originally. I think one of the best parts of SD is that it is so multicultural and just close enough to LA to get all the music and art coming from the city. San Diego is a kind of paradise surrounded by noise. For me it’s one of the few places I can find true peace of mind, being far enough from LA to get out of the harshness and smoke in mirrors of that city and close enough to the ocean to have a sense of freedom. I don’t know if this is just me looking for an answer to the question but that sense of peace in the middle of noise resonates with me and is basically the place I try to write from.
Let’s talk about your newest track called “idbh.” What was the inspiration for it and how did it come together for you? How do you think it introduces you to fans?
I was staying with my friend/collaborator Curtis Peoples for a month before moving into a new spot in LA. I had the outline of what was going to be idbh so I brought that into a session with Curtis and our friend Colin to work on it. We had tried a couple of different lyrics but nothing was quite fitting. I had this image of being at a party and feeling really nervous, trying to put on a face and act normal, while counting your breaths so I tried just writing down those thoughts as the first verse. At the time I had randomly started having this paralyzing social anxiety and panic attacks so I thought I should just write about it to hopefully understand why.
idbh. for me is the centerpiece of the EP, meaning it has all the elements of what I do as TRACES. The song shows what the music surrounding the lyrics/melody is, where I find my inspiration, and how I want to communicate my thoughts so I hope that is what people picked up. I try to think very introspectively and be present with where I am at whether or not I’m the hero or antagonist.
What was it like finally releasing your debut EP recently? Did anything surprise you about the emotions you felt about it all? What was it like putting together? What was the most challenging aspect of it?
A huge relief! I’ve been sitting on this EP for a long time trying to get it right and released so I’m just so stoked it is out. I don’t know if surprised is the right word but I had a moment of recognition for the growth I experienced the last two years. Heart of Gold is about my first year in LA and I am in year three now. It is comforting to know that there has been growth as a person and also as a writer.
It wasn’t easy putting the project together. I knew there had to be a narrative and distinctive themes that arched over to the next projects as well, so it took a long time to find those songs. I wrote and rewrote the EP three times to get it where it needed to be. I’m proud of those songs and ready for what is to come next.
Do you have plans to play out live a lot this fall in support of your new music?
Definitely! That is honestly what I am most excited for. I have this first project and another one coming shortly after so I just want to play these songs and meet the people listening. The live show is just as important as the writing/recording so I’m trying to make it as fun and exciting for people as possible.
With the summer over now, what was something fun or new that you tried this summer?
You know I kinda locked myself in dark rooms to finish writing this past summer hahaha. I did spend some time traveling, even though all for more writing in dark rooms. I spent some time out in New York and Toronto. Besides music I dedicated the rest of my trip solely to consuming as much food as possible. Toronto might have the best Thai food and Jerk Chicken I have ever had in my life.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that new music being created today is going to reflect these hard times?
This is kind of a tough question for me. Art should reflect where people are at and how they are feeling, whether that mean individually or on a large scale with what is going on. For me, I have to dive into what I’m feeling as deep as possible to pull out the right words to say, requiring you to immerse yourself in those thoughts of pain, self doubt, fear, etc. It can be hard to find your way out of that pit.
One of the main draws to writing songs with other people is to have someone to lean on and share those experiences with. Not having to take that all on by yourself. You also get to celebrate those moments of creation and success with others as well. That’s where I find that joy.
As far as music reflecting the hard times today, man I hope so. If people can just be honest yet forgiving and outspoken yet kind, I think some great stuff could come out.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I’m such a middle school fan girl so it’s hard picking one hahaha. Ryan Tedder of One Republic has always been my hero. From what I know of him, he seems like a genuinely rad guy who is incredibly talented and always seeking to get better and write progressive stuff. He would be a dream to work with.
Twenty One Pilots and Jon Bellion are another two. The way they approach their live show is so inspiring. There isn’t a single person in the room not having fun. The thing I like about both of their music is that they have a distinct voice. I’m a fan of people who write songs no one else in the world can. Those who have such distinction that they are the only ones who can say things the way they do.
Kendrick Lamar and BANKS are definitely in my top 5 of all time as well.
What do you hope fans take away from your music? Do you think that your music has an overall message at all?
I hope it inspires them the way those artist that I previously mentioned inspire me. Listening to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly literally made me a better person, and I don’t know a lot of music that can do that.
These first couple projects I am putting out (including Heart of Gold) was me working through some shit I was going through without knowing how to fix any of it. I hope that if there are any people who are dealing with depression or the other themes/issues on this EP, that they can find some sense of connection to it and know they’re not alone. I have a lot more I’m learning and want to share about as well. We all grow up and deal with the ups and downs of life so we might as well do it together.
How active are you on social media? How important has it all been to your career so far?
I’m pretty active on Instagram and Twitter. Instagram has been great because I can curate art that inspires me as well. I post pictures of sculptures and paintings by various Artist that I like. It’s great to be able to share those interests as well. I also want to start bulking up my YouTube page as well posting more stuff from rehearsals, writing, etc.
I mean in this day, social media is the best way to connect with people on a large scale. I’m just happy I have that to be able to chat with the people listening to the music.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about becoming a musician one day?
I had some really great mentors early on that gave me some amazing advice, one of those pieces of advice was that there are three things that set up a musician for success, talent, work ethic, and making/maintaining relationships. To me it seems everyone in LA is talented to some extent so what it comes down to is how hard you are willing to hustle to get better and create opportunities for yourself to win. In my opinion the most important is making and maintaining relationships with people. I think we are on this earth to love people well, so be kind to people, be generous, and be genuine. Most steps forward in my career all stemmed from people I had spent time building strong relationships with, opening up doors for me.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself, your music or the show?
I’m a huge fan of pancakes, so if you don’t like music we can still have something to bond over. I could talk someone’s ear off about that so hmu!
But for real, I just hope that they get a chance to listen and come see the show. I have a lot more to do with the songs on Heart of Gold and I also have a lot more coming in 2018.