Coloring a Blank Canvas- Local Artist, Sharrol Kelby
Written and published by X
Creativity requires a disciplined mind and the ability to live with ambiguity. This is so important in the world of music and always will be. Thankfully, I have been able to find artists that showcase their open mind and expressiveness through their art right in the DMV. Today, I introduce to you, a very talented electronic producer named Alec Smith, who also goes by his stage name, Sharrol Kelby. Alec has performed at Soundcheck and Flash in DC (several times), and he has also performed in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. (On July 2nd you can see Alec playing at Yonderville in West Virginia and also Big Dub on July 28th in Artemas, Pennsylvania.) Alec produces a variety of bass music including halftime, dubstep, drum and bass, downtempo, and trap. “It really just depends on what I'm feeling whenever I open Ableton. I grew up listening to a ton of jazz and classic rock (amongst other genres) and have played those styles on primarily the piano as well. I loved the improvisation and unexpectedness of jazz that kept you on the edge of your seat. My love for jazz later led me into a major old school hip-hop kick in high school and into college. I loved the sampling, the swingy beats that made your head nod, and the overall complete flip of the rules of music. It’s like, here's some awesome jazz, we're going to cut it up, make our own beat the way WE want to hear it, and replace singing with spitting poetry in such an interesting and for lack of a better term, cool, way.” Alec explained.
How did you first get into music? When did you start?
“My father was a progressive rock and jazz fusion drummer who played in several bands and organized a music festival with major touring jazz fusion musicians such as Dennis Chambers and Mike Stern when I was a toddler, so music has been engraved in me. My brother and uncle are also musicians (drummers).”
Alec seems to have inspiration everywhere in his life because his spark didn’t stop there. As he grew older, he found himself slowly getting more and more into electronic music. “I was sitting in a hookah bar in Morgantown, West Virginia one day and heard Pretty Lights for the first time. Pretty Lights captured everything I loved about music and spun it in such a unique way, in combination with the electronic and dubstep elements that I've dabbled with in the past but never really got super into. That was my gateway into electronic music, and I never looked back. Regarding producing, Pretty Lights’ music reminds me that you can take your tastes and encapsulate them in a way that's authentic but also digestible to general audiences. So naturally, that has become my goal as a producer and why I enjoy producing in so many genres.” He conveyed.
We live in a time where producers go so in depth on their music that they’ve figure out certain keys that make you feel a specific feeling or find sounds that are subtle but so essential, (etc.), which is why finding out what your individual process is when making music in so important, and so is learning from others and sharing ideas. Alec said that his music process has changed over the years and continued to explain, “As an instrumentalist I was someone who wrote music based on an idea I formed in my head (generally, a melody). I would try to put that idea down and then build the song around it. The jazz pianist in me also made me sometimes go a little too crazy with the melodies to where they would be a little hard to follow. Later, I did a mentorship with iLL.Gates through his Producer Dojo program which completely changed my workflow and allowed me to reach my full creative potential while drastically speeding up the songwriting process. Now I experiment and mess around with a sound(s) until I get something that works and then build the idea around that. If you are a producer and reading this -- DO NOT FORCE IDEAS! Happy accidents and experimentation are the name of the game and it makes producing WAY more fun.”