williamvanzandt On The Importance Of Being An Adaptable Producer
Producer, multi-instrumentalist, mix engineer, and sound designer williamvanzandt refuses to fit into any single genre. Kick-starting 2018 by executive producing Steven Moses’s breakout debut EP, Love Me // Leave Me, williamvanzandt has also collaborated with artists like Tee Grizzley, YNW Melly, diveliner, Emanuel, michael casper and more, emphasizing the importance of being an “adaptable” producer. Balancing his variety of musical endeavors, williamvanzandt often finds himself “working on anything that moves [him].”
“If I just came from an Alternative Rock session and have to go into a session where we’re making Trap music, my overall goal is to be able to be as adaptive as possible.”
Check out our exclusive interview with the multi-talented producer williamvanzandt below, as he talks about his collaborative processes, new releases, and his view on credibility as a producer. Plus, peep the playlist below for a sampling of the songs he’s produced and currently vibing.
For those who are unfamiliar with the producers role, what’s the collaborative process like with the artist?
I like getting to know what the artist is trying to accomplish, and trying to figure out how I can make that happen, whether it’s building on an idea they have or starting with a loop or something. I usually don’t like to go into a room with a project already finished—it doesn’t feel as organic.
To understand the artist’s vision, I like to start with a conversation. Before I go into a session, I like to listen to all of their music and read interviews about them to get a little more information about who they are. A lot of it is getting a sense about who they are as a person and talking to them about their own ideas before making any beats.
I bring my guitar everywhere. A lot of times, sessions start with me playing some chords and getting a basic idea of what the artist likes. Sometimes I even like to make full songs without drums—away from my computer—and turn those into full fledged songs. I did that a lot with Steven Moses which worked out very well.
Do most producers categorize themselves in a specific genre?
I can’t speak for every producer, but I definitely don’t. My long term goal is to be able to be put in a room of any genre and be as adaptive as possible. Yes, I have my specific taste, my specific processes, but I want to be somebody who gets into the room with different types of artists and make something special happen—no matter what session I just came from.
Where’d you learn to produce?
I actually first learned to produce music on Youtube when I was in high school. I started with making sample based, low fi hip hop beats on Logic 9. Now, I’m a student at Brown University where I study computer music and multimedia. At Brown I learned to mix and do sound design.
Aside from making music, what other projects have you been apart of?
I’ve done sound design for a short film with collaborators Nick Small and Mcabe Gregg. I’ve also done assistant directing on music videos for Omar Apollo and Steven Moses. Eventually, I would love to get into sound design and scoring for commercial films.
Are you interested in songwriting as well?
Definitely. I’ll do some songwriting with artists, offering them melody ideas and basic lyrics to try to guide the artist to get their point across as best as possible.
Who have you collaborated with in the past and who are you interested in collaborating with in the future?
Most of my collaborations came this year actually; a wide range of people too. This year I worked with Steven Moses, Tee Grizzley, YNW Melly, Maxo Kream, Emanuel, diveliner, Jaxxon D. Silva, michael casper, marcos g, Trace Nova, Johnny Goth, Mack Keane, ppgcasper, and a bunch of other people. I’ve been lucky to work with some really cool people this year, most of which are now good friends of mine. In the future I’d love to work with James Blake, Yung Lean, Joey Bada$$, Toro y Moi, and Valee, just to name a few. That list is real long for me.
How has your background and upbringing influenced you to produce music?
My dad is a musical playwright and my mom is an actress who got her start in musical theatre. I grew up with show tunes playing in my house, like old Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack type stuff. I grew up playing classic rock guitar around 5th or 6th grade. I started finding my own style and from there got into beat making. Along the way, I was heavily influenced by artists like D’Angelo, J Dilla, James Blake, and Bon Iver. To me, that’s the highest level of music production because it’s super minimal. I think the hardest thing about producing music is making such a simple song sound fantastic.
What’s your view on the credibility that producers receive in society today?
I definitely think that producers need more credit, but lately people seem to be knowing producers’ names more and more. Recently, you see producers who are now putting out projects under their names, like Metro Boomin or Benny Blanco. Producers are blurring the lines and becoming artists themselves these days; it’s great. A lot of times producers are taken for granted, forsure, unless the artist you’re working with pushes your name out there. Other than that, the general audience doesn’t usually know who you are, but I think that might change in the future.
Images courtesy of williamvanzandt
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