Writing, Producing, and Perfecting: A Q&A with Aspiring Musician Jonah Kagen ’18

October 26, 2016


“When I come up with a new melody that sounds great, finally get two different sounds to sound good together, nail a transition into the bridge on a guitar song, or finish writing and perfecting a song altogether, it feels awesome.”

The following is a Q&A session with aspiring musician and producer Jonah Kagen ’18, who is currently working with Shattuck-St. Mary’s English Instructor and Director of The Major Craig Peck on his first musical album.

Kagen has been working tirelessly in SSM’s weCreate Studio as part of an independent study project, and provides insight on his musical inspirations, favorite artists, and love of the process below. He will also perform a concert in the Newhall Auditorium during spring term, so stay tuned!

Q. What instrument(s) do you play, and what kind of musical style are you aiming for?

A. I mostly write and produce two styles of music. One is a style of guitar playing called acoustic fingerpicking, and the other is a more deep, electronic genre called House. I primarily play guitar, but almost all of the melodies that I write for my House music are on the piano. I also play bass.

Q. When did you start working on the album, and what was your inspiration to do so?

A. I started working with Logic Pro X last summer after hearing about it from Andy Stoneman ’18, and I had long been interested in creating my own music, but I had never thought about making a full album. It wasn’t until Mrs. Cavellier suggested it that I realized the potential of this project and really took off with it. I had been writing guitar songs for many years, but my inspiration to start working with the computer technology and producing House music came from an artist called Kygo. He is a Norwegian DJ who is credited with creating a new genre called Tropical House, and he has become my favorite artist because of it. He had just come out with his own first album at the time Mrs. Cavellier proposed the idea, and that made me even more excited to get started.

Q. What has the process been like for you so far? What have been some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects?

A. The process has been tons of fun so far. The work can get tedious at times, and I’ve found myself on several occasions realizing that I’ve spent over three hours in the studio, completely out of tune with the world around me. It’s a really neat effect. The most rewarding aspects are the little things. When I come up with a new melody that sounds great, finally get two different sounds to sound good together, nail a transition into the bridge on a guitar song, or finish writing and perfecting a song altogether, it feels awesome. It is so cool to be able to enjoy and get excited about music that you create, and I can never wait to show mine to others. I want to make good music so that people can listen to it and immediately smile or even get goosebumps when the bass comes in.

The most challenging aspect, of course, is the time constraint. I have an incredibly busy schedule as it is, and it takes loads of work and a multitude of hours to put a full song together that sounds just the way you want it to. With that being said, however, this kind of business is what I sought in coming to Shattuck-St. Mary’s, and it has absolutely served me well so far. I’m not going to get the opportunity to do something like this anywhere else at this point in my life.

Q. Do you have a targeted completion date?

A. I would like to complete the album before I graduate high school, so I’m giving myself roughly a two-year deadline. When it’s all finished, I’d like to design a cover and have a releasing ceremony where I can perform and present my entire portfolio. Although my goal is to finish it by then, it is moving along surprisingly quickly so far, so I might even finish it this year! I’ve already got the first guitar song recorded and edited, and I’m beginning work on a new House piece. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m just loving the work that I’m doing!

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