“A Work in Progress” - The Joel aka MaG Interview
Posted by Justin Boland on Oct 03, 2014 | 0 Comments
A citizen of Earth approximately by way of the Bronx, Joel aka MaG is a charismatic & ambitious artist who recently released the Mick Boogie produced project “freedom.” The album is superb, diverse and consistently surprising — and the singles he’s been leaking since have been even better. With Audible Hype gearing up for a new season, he was one of the first cats I reached out to for an interview. The results speak for themselves: enjoy.
AH: You started pushing “Freedom” in the beginning of the longest and weirdest year the music industry has seen to date. What surprised you the most about what worked and what didn’t in 2013?
MaG: I was surprised by some of the risks folks took. I was surprised to see what folks gravitated, and didn’t gravitate, towards. I think there was a great balance, as far as non-mainstream music was concerned, in regards to projects released, across the board. I think the DIY approach to music and the reluctance to deal with the middle man is something that really took shape in 2013, and I think will play an even larger role in the years to come. I was surprised to see the major labels still stuttering and lagging behind. They still haven’t figured out how to take advantage of the new mediums available to fans of music.
AH: Post-“freedom,” how has your songwriting process changed?
MaG: I think I’m more open. There was a certain way I felt I had to approach my writing as an emcee. I had this overwhelming fear, a fear that still plagues me on occasions, as seeming as if I was straying away from what’s deemed to be the conventional methods of Hip-Hop writing. “freedom.” was me in these beginnings stages, trying to break out of that. I’m just more open to writing how I feel…whether that comes out in 8 bars, or a bridge with me singing, or just 48 bars with a hook over an orchestra or Ukulele…I’m trying to let go, and just let my ideas and vision roam freely.
AH: Do you feel you flow is more informed by your spoken word / poetry work, or the rappers who inspired you?
MaG: That’s tough. It’s definitely a combination of the two. And, a lot of the time that’s dictated by the mood the music sets. I’ll hear a beat, and I immediately get real introspective and it forces me to put on a different hat. Like, I have a D’Angelo hat, or an Andre 3000 hat, or a Kanye West pre-‘808’s and Heartbreaks” hat. Or, my Saul Williams/Last Poets hat. And, not in a “mimicry” sort of way; but more of an “in tune with the sound and feel of what their voices convey through the music” sort of way.
AH: Have you found a sweet spot balance between art and commerce, or do you think your career is still a work in progress?
MaG: Oh, it’s absolutely a work in progress. But, what I can say is I think I’m in a place where I’m happy with where me and my art meet. I’m doing and exploring all the mediums I grew up loving. Whether it’s acting, or poetry and prose, or music; I have my hands in all these different forms of expression, and it feels great. I don’t necessarily worry about the commerce, in the sense that I know I’m doing what I love, and that the commerce will surely follow. I’m just creating from the heart. So far, it hasn’t failed me. No reason to change it up now. I feel closer than I’ve ever been to getting to where I’m supposed to be.
AH Have you ever found a book on “the music business” that was actually useful to you?
MaG: That “How to Make It in the Music Business” book was pretty informative. It helped me understand copyright and licensing and royalty law. It’s important to know those things, especially as an independent artist. I think the best book that have helped have been books written by or about other musicians. Thelonious Monk’s autobiography, Miles Davis and Quincy Jones’ biographies; along with books on Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and Frank Sinatra. A lot has changed about the music industry, but a lot hasn’t. Read up on and study the greats. There are always new lessons to be learned.
AH: Looking back at your past five years, have you made any mistakes you’d recommend new artists avoid — or was it all pretty necessary in retrospect?
MaG: Looking back, it all felt necessary. I’m definitely one of those “put the hands to the fire” sort of fellows. So, certain things I needed to go through to learn for myself. Everybody’s experience is different, right? What failed for me, may work for someone else, and vice versa.
I can say, there a lot of emails I wish I would have read through one more time before pressing “send”. That missing period, that misspelled name and/or word…the details are what separate the “I’ll respond to this” and the “delete” emails.
AH: What is your main tool for keeping your multifarious creative endeavors organized?
MaG: Organized? What’s that? I have the “Do It Tomorrow” app on my phone that helps me with certain items I need to knock out. I also keep notes on my phone and star emails immediately I deem relevant and important. I’m an email hawk so I’m constantly and consistently monitoring and cleaning out my inbox so the important music, writing type things stay fresh. I also have a pretty good memory, so that kind of serves as a deterrent from forgetfulness for the most part when it comes to creative projects. I’m really big on follow-up and the follow-through.
AH: Do you have any salient advice for artists who are prepping their next music project right about meow?
MaG: I wish you wouldn’t have said “meow”, seeing as I’m not the biggest fan of cats. Now I’m distracted….thanks.
But, I’d say spend the money to mix and master; it makes a world of difference. And, invest in merchandise; even if it’s just download cards. Stickers are also a cool tool. And, hire a PR firm. Sponsors are cool if you can get them … maybe your local blog/magazine, or even a spot in your neighborhood (clothing store, sneak spot, record store) …maybe even a local brand of anything that you feel is aligned with your goals as an artist.
Reach out, send an email, make it concise and to the point. And, please stop hyping yourself or your music as “classic” or “anticipated”. If you’re not named Jay Z, NaS, or Kanye West, no one wants to hear the hyperbole. Oh, and listen, if you can’t afford all those things, get a job.
Seriously. Get a 9 to 5 that won’t kill your soul, and make the music. I know, “starving artist”, right? Fuck that. It’s a myth. Make your art, and find ways to supplement your income and your art until your art is the only income you have.