Once in a while we will post an interview with someone about their tools, workflows, and mental frameworks that they use to produce their creative work. By looking at what tools someone uses and how they use them can give us an idea into how we can create better.
Adam is a singer, songwriter, emcee, and voiceover actor from Ampang, Malaysia. He is also a radio announcer for Malaysia’s No. 1 English-language radio station, Hitz.fm. Blessed with good looks, he has starred in various commercials ever since he was young. He is now managed under an artist development program with Dream Rocketeers, a KL-based content creation unit.
I’ve been meaning to get Adam to do one of these for weeks. I’ve worked with him twice on his videos for his singing covers on YouTube, and he’s a great guy to be around with. Adam shares some of his tips on working in the entertainment industry full-time. Some of my favorites include adding buffer times into your calendar to prevent overbooking or rushed meetings, and his creative process for songwriting.
Can you describe your workspace?
I have a home studio, where all I do all my music and video editing.
What started off as just a laptop, is now a laptop connected to a proper monitor screen, an audio interface, and proper studio monitors.
Having a big table/workspace is just so important and conducive to being productive, I don’t know how I’ve survived all this while without one.
Radio announcing work:
This one is provided by the company, of course. The console we work with seems super complicated with a dozen monitor screens and hundreds of buttons and faders, but honestly the only buttons we use are Record and Stop.
Of course, the overall studio needs to look presentable and what not, so we look good in pictures and when we have guests over.
What tools, programs, equipment do you use for your music-related work?
I’m a gamer at heart, so when I had the option to spend a bit more money on a rig that allowed me to both play video games in full HD and produce music without lagging/latency, I jumped at it.
I’m the proud owner of an MSi GE62 6QC Apache, with 20GB ram and an added SSD for that super fast system boot up.
My audio interface is one that I’d highly recommend to anyone who wants to start doing music. For those who don’t know, an audio interface is kinda like a sound card on steroids, and is also the medium between your microphone/instruments and your laptop. I’ve upgraded almost everything I have over the years, EXCEPT this little beauty. Super affordable, super reliable, really, you won’t need any more than the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 unless you plan to record a full band at one go. Even then, I’m sure there’s a way. (Focusrite better get me a sponsorship deal after saying all that)
I have a pair of Yamaha HS8s for that super clear audio monitoring. What I love about the HS8s is that it doesn’t add anything to your mix, unlike a lot of other speakers that automatically add extra bass/treble (mostly bass) or makes it sound clearer. If your track sucks, you want to know that it sucks before you send it out to clients/radio/anywhere.
My prized possession is the Nord Piano 2. Sexy red, sings better than Christina Aguilera, and overall helps me get chicks better (I already have a girlfriend, but hey). How much did I spend on it, you ask? Too much. Way too much.
For creating beats on the go, or simply as a drum pad when producing at home, I have the Novation Circuit. Super easy to use, super convenient. Makes creating a beat simple enough that any 10 year old could pick it up within an hour or two. No joke.
Sorry, I’m kinda passionate about my equipment.
The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) I use to produce is Acoustica Mixcraft 8 Pro Studio. If you’re a musician who had zero background in audio engineering like me, I’d recommend 2 things:
- Buy this software now, it’s way cheaper and easier to use than anything else you’ll find for the PC.
- Watch YouTube and read on the internet on EQ, panning and Reverb.
You may not be able to chart the Billboard just yet, but these are the fundamentals to producing the way dribbling and shooting are fundamentals to basketball.
Apps you use on your phone to organize and do work on the go?
I use an app called Yata To-Do List to list down everything I want to accomplish within the next day. I’ve tried a few others, but this one is the best for when you just wanna jot down a quick to do list and move on with your life. The widget you can have on your phone screen is pretty cool too.
For ideas, I simply use the Notes app on my XiaoMi. When you have something brewing, you don’t want to have to go through unnecessary layers before you can write them down. The speech-to-text function is super useful too, considering how a lot of my ideas come when I’m driving (Okay mum, I won’t touch my phone while I’m driving anymore)
For keeping my schedule in place, I use the Google Calendar. Works perfectly.
If you had access to near-unlimited funds, how would your work setup look like and consist of?
Dudeeeeeeeeeee do you know how much equipment costs if you wanna play with the big boys? The microphone alone would cost RM42,000 (I’m looking at you, Sony C-800G), and that’s considered the cheapest part of a studio.
Safe to say, I’d spend at least half a million building the studio and the essentials…
And then spend the real cash on all the luxury items 😉
How do you organize your tasks? From composing songs, preparing to host events, acting, etc?
Put everything down in your calendar.
If I’m meeting a client at 2pm to go through the event itinerary for next week, then picking up my grandma at 4pm, then scratching my butt at 6pm, I put it in my calendar so I never double book myself. Which, especially when you do voiceovers for commercials and videos, happens a lot. Trust me.
Also, something I’ve learnt over the years, is to always include buffer time in between your appointments. Sure, the meeting may last an hour, and the drive over would take less than 15 minutes, but always put a total of 2 hours in there just so
- You’re prepared for last minute changes or traffic jams and
- You’re not panting when you get to your next appointment.
Having to hold your pee in for a whole meeting because you didn’t schedule enough time for it sucks eggs, too.
But outside the realm of appointments, I always set deadlines for myself.
I know I’m not the kind of person who likes following a schedule or routine when I’m alone, so I allow myself the leeway of choosing when I do my tasks. The only thing I do limit myself, is how long I have till it’s done. This gives it a bit of urgency, and also makes sure I don’t spend an entire day playing DoTA or Mass Effect (unless of course I’ve finished all my work in the morning hehe)
How do you make sure things get done on time?
A lot of deadlines, and a little bit of discipline. This is the biggest problem of people who work for themselves – being lazy. I set certain goals I want to hit within a year, then break it down till I know what I must do every week. After that, it’s just a daily checklist.
How do you avoid getting overwhelmed with stuff?
By having a good support system around me and a channel to de-stress.
My girlfriend and my family are super supportive of what I do, and being able to lose myself in a really good DoTA game refreshes me so I can continue to work again the next day.
Also, heavy workouts in the gym and long, peaceful nights of sleep, though I don’t get enough of either in my life.
How do you keep coming up with inspiration and ideas for new music or covers?
Doing covers requires a combination of doing what songs you like, and thinking of what songs will sell. Will Smith once said, for every sell-out movie he does like Men In Black, he’ll do one Pursuit of Happyness. This, I believe, is the best way for someone to balance between doing what is true to his art and also making enough money to continue doing music.
Look at me, talking all wise and stuff.
Regarding inspiration for writing new music, this comes from everything around me. If I hear of a story of a mother who passed away, I might write a song based on what I feel her young daughter may be feeling. Is she scared? Lonely? Or simply accepts her fate, and is content of dreaming of her mother every night?
Or, if I had a bad case of diarrhoea, I might just write a song talking badly about the sour milk I drank.
Can you briefly tell us what goes into the making of an original song or cover, from idea to hitting “publish” online?
It starts with one thing, and I don’t know why
It doesn’t even matter how hard you try
Sorry, I was typing “It starts with” and that just came to me #RIPCHESTER
It starts with an emotion. What is this song about? Sadness? Joy? Perhaps a combination of both? Someone who is confused? Or perhaps a guy who is forgiving his crazy ex-girlfriend for being a total nutcase when he finally had the guts to break up with her after she almost ruined his life? Not real examples, by the way. Really.
So that sets the tone for the song, though it may very well change later on during the song-writing process. But for now, it’s a direction to work with.
And with the tone, you start writing the lyrics, and you give it a melody that suits what you’re trying to say.
This is the lyrical way of writing a song. There are songs that start off with just a melody, and then the lyrics are penned to fit the notes.
With the right chords, the vocals and main instrument get recorded to have a guide on the structure of the song. Afterwards, the producer will create the music to encapsulate the vocals, as that’s always the main focus. The background should never outshine the vocals, only add to the message.
After the mixing process, the track is sent to another producer for mastering. The reason why a second producer is needed is because the first producer would have had hours and hours listening to the track by then, and a fresh ear is needed to tweak it before sending it out to the world.
The next step would be to shoot the video, and that would take a whole other article to cover.
Any individuals or groups that you derive inspiration from? Who influenced you the most in becoming the artist you are?
My musical background is modern R&B. We’re talking about Brian Mcknight, Musiq Soulchild, Ne-Yo, Mario, the old Chris Brown. When I perform, half my set list still consists of songs from these guys, and my vocal performance would attempt to be in that style.
In terms of producing, William Singe was the reason I started making covers. Even today, after being signed to RCA and having a hit song on the billboard charts, he continues to do really good cover songs on his YouTube channel and I hope to one day be that good in both production and vocals.
When did you start to realize that becoming an entertainer is something you wanted to be?
It kind of just happened. As a kid, performing at piano recitals, people would get entertained by my facial expressions and my “showmanship” more than my actual piano playing. Maybe it was a defense mechanism because I knew I wasn’t hitting the piano very well, but I always loved being in the center of the spotlight.
In high school, I was hosting as many of the school events as I could, and that translated into college as well. There, a couple of the lecturers noticed me and gave me free work. That’s how I kinda told myself “Hey, this is something I can actually do”.
When I learnt that I could make a living out of this, I went for it in full force.
Music was always just a hobby, but recently with the right connections, skills and experience, I’m starting to think maybe I can do this for a living as well.
What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity simply means figuring out what you wish the world had, and then making it yourself.
Imagine a song in your head, right now. The best song that you think will ever exist in the history of music.
Does it already exist? If not, write it.
Chances are, if you think it’s the best song in the world, a lot of other people would agree with you.
Another way of thinking is, the opposite of creativity is simply doing what has already been done.
Do you ever have a fear of putting your work out there for people to scrutinize? If yes/no, why?
Oh yes. Everytime you put something out, you will get criticism.
That’s just the fact of it.
I had a hard time accepting this a while ago, but it’s simply about having the mentality that as long as you keep improving your craft, you’ll be fine. Their words don’t mean anything.
After that, putting my work out got a lot easier.
Advice for people who want to get into the entertainment industry as you have?
My mentor in radio used to tell me:
This industry will give you major highs, and huge, huge lows. Just make sure you enjoy it when you’re up, and ride the waves as gracefully as possible when you’re down.
I don’t know if he was high when he told me this, but that piece of advice has never let me down.
What do people never ask you that you wish they did?
How they can improve.
This isn’t something I want them to ask just me, of course, as I’m far from being the most experienced in most rooms I’m in, but if more people simply asked “How was that?” or “What can I do better in my next performance/video?”, the world would be improving at a much faster rate. I think it’s a lot to do with pride and ego, which is far too common, especially in an industry that focuses so much on looks and image.
So, now that you’ve read all my answers.
How do you think I can improve?
To book him for an event, head over to Dream Rocketeers for more info.
If you like this sort of content, do hit the follow button to get notified of upcoming posts. Or, you can leave a comment down below to suggest how I can improve and bring this site to a direction that more people would like.