Welcome to this interview with Astara where we delve into his reflections on 2023. From his favorite release of the year to unique sources of inspiration, Astara shares insights into his musical journey, so, join us as we explore the highlights and lessons from his experiences in the Electronic music industry and get a glimpse into his aspirations for the year ahead.
What was your favorite track or release of your own from 2023, and why?
It’s a pleasure to be with you today!
My favorite release of mine in 2023 was “No Use,” which I released on February 13, 2023, the day before Valentine’s Day. I chose this release date because the song has a vocal that I think is very touching and heartfelt and complements the feelings we celebrate on the holiday! Originally, the lyrics come from a song called “No Use I Just Do” on Hayley Williams’s 2021 album Flowers for Vases/Descansos. When I first came upon Hayley’s lyric, I felt that it was gracefully simple. I also felt that the pure energy of the vocal and the sentiment behind it could carry a song. So, from there, I just made a Progressive/Melodic composition which I think matched the sincerity of the vocal. Ultimately, it’s my favorite song that I’ve released to date!
Name one festival or event you performed at, or attended in 2023 that left you in awe of the crowd’s energy.
I will take a more unorthodox approach to answering this one. I think as an artist it’s vital to immerse yourself in musical environments that are unfamiliar. I went to the Grand Ole Opry for the first time to see Vince Gill, the Bellamy Brothers, John Conlee, and several other famed country acts perform. Being at the Opry, a place of such tremendous history, was a beautiful experience. Part of the magic of being there is realizing that people come from every corner of the United States (and beyond) to visit this legendary venue and see some of the greatest artists of all time perform. What’s more, you can see 3-4 generations of people performing on stage and among the audience. It’s rare that you get such an interesting cross-section of society at one show. Overall, it was extremely different from my experiences performing or attending festivals, but it was every bit as inspiring!
Which collaboration with another artist in 2023 stands out as a personal highlight?
When you can identify areas of weakness in your writing process and bolster them with collaborative support from other talented artists, it is always an amazing feeling. I’ll be the first to point out that I do not excel at singing! This year, I really enjoyed working with a new friend and collaborator, Lex. She contributed vocal performances on several of my songs this year— as well as some songs which I will be releasing in 2024! Speaking about what she brings to the table, first and foremost she’s a wonderful person. Artistically speaking, her voice has a wonderful timbre and imparts a soulful feeling to each song. The result is something heartfelt and genuine! You’ll hear her voice on the first song in my guest mix, “DSCO Girl!”
Can you share a memorable moment from a fan interaction or message you received in the past year?
Absolutely. It’s hard to point to one interaction because there are a lot of unique ways in which people engage with music. I had someone tell me that my song “True Companion” reminded them of the feeling they had when they got married. When I hear that, I feel: 1) I am doing my job as a musician, and 2) I am tapping into the right energy when I am crafting these songs. It’s one thing to make a song that is moving to you (the creator), but it’s another to be able to elicit an emotional response from a stranger. When you can do that, it is a humbling and inspiring feeling.
What’s the most played song in your personal music library from 2023 that wasn’t your own?
Ah yes, Spotify Wrapped season is here, so everybody’s talking about their top artists! To pick up on my point about the Grand Ole Opry earlier and finding inspiration in unexpected places, I will tell you that the most played songs in my personal library come from early country artists. I
hardly listen to any of the modern pop country records; I listen to ballads such “Time Marches on” by Tracy Lawrence. This was my most played song! I am obsessed with narrative and the unfolding of a story. If you listen to this song, you will be really touched by the details of the story Tracy tells. It’s a commentary on the passage of time and it uses a beautiful “slice of life” approach to illustrate how time affects each of our lives. It’s like reading a Raymond Carver short story. The song runs for three minutes but tells a story of incredible depth. If you listen to it, I guarantee you will be thinking about it well after the song is over.
Tell us about a unique or unexpected source of inspiration that fueled your creativity in 2023.
It’s said that “creativity comes from unexpected places,” I would add: inspiration strikes in unexpected moments. I took a trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee in May of 2023, and I visited the Hunter Museum of American Art. The museum sits above a steep limestone rock face, far above the sprawling Tennessee River. The museum is gorgeous. The exhibits were great—but the entire time I was there, I was transfixed by the architecture of the museum. The oldest part of the museum is a Neoclassical-style mansion, but there are two additional sections connected to the original building, a Brutalist concrete building with a central atrium space with broad glass windows, and a zinc-clad building. Contrary to the feeling you usually get with Brutalist architecture, the space feels extremely open—perhaps due to the grandeur of the main gallery halls and the expansive glass windows. Go there on a sunny day and you will feel immersed in light. By the time we were ready to leave, I was daydreaming about where I would set up a studio in the building! I think this all reflects the fact that as artists, we need to create in spaces that are inspiring. In 2024, I am eager to visit new places that will generate that same electric feeling that I experienced at the Hunter Museum of American Art.
Name one piece of gear or software you couldn’t live without in the studio last year.
I’ve grown very fond of Vital Audio’s eponymous synth. I think we assume we need a $3,500 analogue synth to impart a “rich” sound to our records, but Vital is an example of a digital synth that has incredible horsepower, and you can get your hands on it for free. It goes to show you can achieve wonderful results in the studio without a high-end budget!
Share a favorite memory from a behind-the-scenes moment while touring or producing in 2023.
Writing music can be like playing cards. Sometimes your hand is hot, and other times you are so cold you want to quit! I have many memories of writing songs in the studio this year: moments of both profound frustration, as well as, breakthrough and joy. The best moment for me would probably be when I finished the production on my forthcoming single “Walk Through Fire.” I had made five separate versions of the song spanning different genres in the House realm, and I finally hit on something this fall that I was really happy with. To be honest, the memory is hazy because I think I finished it at like 3am and I was on my last legs! But I just remember driving to a park near my house the next morning and parking my car, rolling down the windows, and listening to the mix from about fifteen feet away (this is my unique take on the car stereo test). It sounded great—after so much effort!
What’s the most meaningful lesson or takeaway you gained from your experiences in the music industry last year?
I have found that as time goes by, the lesson that repeatedly rings true to me is to strike while the iron’s hot. I think a lot of creative people in this industry are perfectionists, but I would discourage this. You don’t really know if a song connects with audiences until you’ve heard people react to it. You can make a work of technical “perfection” for it to fall flat in front of an audience. As artists, we must understand our listeners; often these listeners aren’t looking for perfection. They want something that will resonate with them on a deeper level. Speaking beyond the creative side of the business, you can come up with an ingenious idea, but if it takes you too long to bring it to fruition, then it’s worthless. I have buddies who say, “I wanted to open a club at that location years ago!” I tease them, “But you didn’t, and someone else came along and did it.” We are in a fast-moving industry and trends and approaches evolve rapidly. It’s best to make commitments and follow through as quickly as possible; you can always course-correct later. I think Mark Zuckerberg’s principle, “move fast and break things” applies. The only caveat I would add is, make sure the things you break aren’t the people. I think it’s vital we treat people on every side of this industry with dignity and respect.
If you could sum up the essence of your musical journey in 2023 in just three words, what would they be?
I would say that 2023 has been a year of maturation for my project. So, let’s go with “transition, growth, and maturity.”
I took a lot of songs that were decent ideas and made them into full compositions. I have changed my approach with how I engage with my listeners and followers, and I have shared more about myself as an artist. There’s something to be said for letting the work speak for itself, but I have found that there are so many creative people in this world that can enrich your life with their presence, and you only find these people by consistently putting yourself out there. As I look towards 2024, I am very happy with the friends and connections I have made this past year, and I look forward to deepening and expanding these friendships to new levels in 2024!
As we wrap up this interview with Astara, we thank him for his time sharing insights into his creative journey throughout 2023. From favorite releases to lessons learned, Astara’s experiences shed light on the dynamic world of Electronic music production and performance; as 2024 draws near, we look forward to seeing where his passion and talent take him in the coming year, so make sure to follow him to learn more about his latest projects.