Echoes of a vocalist
As a producer you can work on a track in different ways and use specific elements in your project. To underline the atmosphere of a track, you can use different pattern, chors, but most importantly you need to have some fitting vocals.
You can either choose them from movies, free vocal packs, other tracks, an acapella or you work together with a vocalist. But it’s not only singing the lyrics! Most of them are also responsible for the melody or the chords of a track! We talked to Szen, she worked together with different artists such as The Pitcher, Noisecontrollers or Hard Driver, about her passion for music and the work as a vocalists. She will also tell us the story behind her latest track ‘Echoes’.
Curious what Hard Driver thinks about working with Szen? Check out the interview we did with him!
Hey Szen, cool that you’re up for this interview with us! First of all we would love to know, how you came in touch with music and what did you brought into the harder styles?
First of all thank you for giving me the chance to bring a vocalists perspective!
I was raised listening to music. My mum was part of a huge choir, which travelled around Europe to perform and my dad always played music, varying from the Beatles, Stones and ELO to Jean Michel Jarre and classical music. He took me to (classical) concerts when I was just a little girl. I started singing in my first band when I was in high school and have been on stage ever since.
I got into contact with two trance producers at a festival and they asked me to do vocals for them, which lead to my first (trance) release with Armada. A bunch more followed and then I was approached by Michel (Pollen) and Luc (The Pitcher) to see if I could do some vocals for the Pitcher.
I spent two days in the studio and recorded vocals for Savor Time, Release me, Let it rain and later on the re-amp that The Pitcher did for Noisecontrollers track Marlboro man. Working with them was a blast. They were very clear in what they wanted, so talented and such perfectionists and a huge inspiration. I am still really proud of all those tracks and vocals.
Most toplines I did for the Pitcher were already written. I did write the lyrics for Release me. They asked me for some “dark lyrics”. I had no clue about hardstyle at that time so I wrote really dark lyrics, maybe a bit too dark. You would have to check them to see what I mean haha. It worked out well though, and no-one complained 🙂
Luc invited me to come see him play in the Matrix where he was also playing some of the tracks for which I did the vocals for. It was so awesome to hear and see how something you’ve made in a small, hot, studio gets across in such a huge venue. And to see people actually sing along with the lyrics. The hardstyle crowd is awesome. They seem so much more open and passionate about the artists they support than other EDM crowds.
Anyway, I kept on doing only trance tracks until I ended up in the Scantraxx studio’s one day. After a day of recording, Bas (Noisecontrollers) explained and demonstrated to me what makes hardstyle hardstyle and how a kick is made. He played some of his old and new tracks. That kinda ignited the spark. It gave me so much more appreciation for the genre.
When did you start singing, writing melodies and chords? Can play an instrument as well?
I started singing when I was a little girl. I was that girl jumping around her bedroom with a brush in her hand as a mic, haha. In high school the music teacher asked me to sing in the schools band. The first time I stepped on stage I was hooked. Singing is one thing, getting your message across to a crowd in another… It’s magic!
Writing melodies and lyrics was new to me when these two trance producers approached me. I had no idea how it all worked. I thought we were recording demos which would then later on be recorded in a “real studio” by a “real artist” but much to my surprise the things we recorded in the attic were actually released, put on a cd and played on festivals.
Where do you get your inspiration for new song ideas? Is it hard to write down the thoughts and ideas in your head?
Inspiration happens anywhere…. Thank God for iPhones so I can record the rough idea straight away. That sometimes means I have to dug into a restroom, or stop at a gas station, cause I am scared I might forget if I do not record it straight away.
A few months ago I was in an airplane writing lyrics for a track I’m doing with Hard Driver. It’s not out yet, but it has some pretty creepy vocals. The guy sitting next to me was reading what I was writing and seemed to get a little worried. So, I left him hanging for a while and then told him what I was doing and he need not worry. It often just starts with a word or phrase I hear, or an image I see, which triggers the idea for the lyrics. The difficult thing is that these lyrics need to fit into a melody.
Producers often send me either chords or a complete track. The more finished a track is, the more difficult it is to actually make vocals for it. It’s often already packed with melodies and effects and to actually make a vocal that adds something to the track is a challenge. I’ve learned to be really honest about that. If I do not think I can add something I will just not deliver a vocal.
Even though I might have been working on trying to make a vocal for days. A while ago I spent some hours recording vocals for Bas (NC). It was a fun process but in the end we decided that adding the vocal would turn the track into some commercial bullshit. So, it was just released without. Funny thing is that when I hear the track I will be singing these vocals out really loud. I am the only one who knows them so it’s really exclusive, haha.
As I am not able to produce myself, my “faith” is in the hands of the producers. Not all producers know how to deal with vocals. They sometimes completely ruin the vocal by chopping it, changing the key, putting a horrible effect on it, or make it sound off key by adding extra stuff or whatever. I know an awesome female vocalist who actually sounds like a boy on one of her tracks…. why??? So, before I work with anyone I’ve learned to check how they handle vocals and I negotiate a final say on the final vocal. It’s my voice… don’t mess with it! 😉
For the above reasons I’d rather co-create with the producer using his and my ideas to work on a track together. But due to travel distances and busy schedules of all involved that’s not always possible.
For your latest song ‘Echoes’ you worked together with Hard Driver – it was not the first time. You already sang the vocals of ‘Your Surrender’. Which track do you like more and why? What do you think of Hard Driver as an artist? Did you enjoy working with him? What would be an artist you always wanted to work with?
First of all Hard Driver is a joy to work with. He is so talented and creative but also nice and humble. I think he is an amazing and very genuine artist! He’s not about the bullshit, he just wants to bring quality stuff and I think he does! Your surrender was easy to record. Freek had already written the melody and lyrics. I just had to sing them and do some cool adlibs.
Echoes is different. I got home from a festival one night and had the whole idea of this track in my head. The lyrics are about when you go to a festival all excited and hyped up, but still kinda distracted from everyday life….. And then when the “beaming lights” are all around and you hear that one track that gives you goose bumps all over, everything changes and it’s just about the music and about that instant in which you “drown into the night” and let go of it all. Am I still making sense? Well, that’s what the track is about.
Anyway, I had the idea and lyrics and the melody in my head. I have a piano in my house but can not play that well. It took me hours to actually find the chords and melody I heard in my head and fit the lyrics to it. And then it took me another few hours to record it on my iPhone.
When I sent it to Freek he responded quickly that he loved it. Freek made it into such an awesome track! He knew what I was trying to say and what atmosphere I wanted to create and he just nailed it. I was so excited to go to Belgium and record the final version of it. And I am really glad with the huge amount of response the track got. So, I guess I prefer Echoes above Your Surrender, haha.
As for an artist I would love to work with…… It’s not really about the big names, but more about the process. I would love to work with anyone who makes beautiful tracks and who would love to “co-create” with a vocalist and not just use vocals as another instrument out of a box. Having said that, I guess I would choose Coone. I love his creativity and uniqueness. He commented on the “Echoes vocals” as “heavenly” in his GD podcast. So, if he ever needs heavenly vocals…. I am his girl.
Also I would love to work with other songwriters for a track. Would love to learn some of their tricks. I am just doing what I think is right, but I am sure I can learn so much more.
I guess some people think it’s just singing some vocals and it is easy when you have the right voice, but could you explain why it is more than just having a nice voice?
Yes, people often think making vocals is easy as f#ck. I get so many requests from (aspiring) producers if I can just send them over some vocals for free…… Just to help them out as a favor….
It is NOT easy as fuck! It takes time…. a lot of time…… and sometimes sleepless nights and even tears, or notepads being thrown around the house. And it’s really hard on your ego. If you’ve spent hours and hours writing and recording vocals and you get an email saying…. “yeah it’s nice, but not what we’re looking for”…. And people can be cruel on social media. They sometimes write horrible things. If you don’t like something that’s fine, it’s all a matter of taste. But why on earth be so cruel about it. And even though you do not want it to affect you… It does.
I’ve been wanting to quit so many times, knowing that there are so many amazing vocalists out there. But when it does work out just the way I imagined it it’s worth it! Having a nice voice is one thing. What you do with it is another thing. You can control it to make it sound sweet, angry, sad, sexy, creepy, rocky or whatever. I’ve done some more freaky vocals recently. That is so much fun to do.
Do you get bored of your own tracks, if you would listen to them too often? What do friends think?
Oh god, I hardly ever listen to my own tracks. I can point out all the flaws in the vocals and I definitely will when you listen to one of my tracks when I am around. Some friends say they love it, but they love me, so I doubt if they are very objective…. Some friends could not care less about the EDM scene. Which is fine too. Each his own.
What are your wishes for 2015? Is there a specific goal you would like to reach?
I’ve often done live vocals for trance tracks. It’s actually quite common in the trance scene. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a female vocalist doing live vocals in hardstyle. So, yeah that’s the aim! I am currently working on new stuff and of course I hope these releases will do well. 2015 will bring at least one more release with Hard Driver which I am excited about and a release with Rebourne. And we’re still touring with the band. Summer is gonna be awesome with all the outside festival gigs!
One thing I’d like to add. It’s sometimes difficult to get the credits and promo as a vocalist. It very often happens the vocalist is not mentioned at all in any of the promo. I am lucky to have (most ofthe time) worked for labels that do credit the vocalist but I very often see otherwise. Us vocalists need and love the support, just as much as the producers and DJ’s do…. Just saying 🙂
Thanks for your time, we wish you all the best and we hope to hear some new tunes soon!