Rising pop producer and YouTube star Shawn Wasabi is one to watch. Wasabi got his start on YouTube, where he would post mashups that have since amassed over 116 million views. His arcade-inspired producing style adds a fun twist on the music he makes. His most recent singles “LEMONS (ft. kennedi)” and “ANIMAL CROSSING” are stylistically different, but show Wasabi’s versatility and push for never making the same song twice. We had the opportunity to talk to Wasabi about how he got his start producing, writing and producing “LEMONS” with kennedi, and finding new ways to create music using what you have.
BTS: Can you tell us how you got started with making music?
SHAWN WASABI: I’ve been playing piano since I was a little toddler! When I was 4 years old, I had a toy Casio keyboard that I would learn songs by ear. I studied classical piano music growing up and played guitar in different bands throughout high school. I was making beats and mashups on my computer after graduating. I’ve been making pop music for the past few years.
BTS: How would you describe your music for someone who hasn’t heard it before?
SW: Depends on which era of “Shawn Wasabi”! Now it’s bright mid-tempo to halftime hypermelodic music for people with adhd. Major 7ths and 451/251/2536 progressions and really loud 808s and organic choppy Midi instruments and colorful samples. If pop, internet music culture, and post-DJ electronic music formed a Bermuda triangle, my stuff is probably somewhere in there.
BTS: Who are some of your influences, musically and non-musically?
SW: Too many!! I’m 90% inspired by family and friends and people and what’s around or in front of me. If you left a bass guitar and some Motown records in my studio, I’ll be making Motown inspired productions until you take it back. AJ Rafael and Jeremy Passion make me feel at home. Louie Zong inspired me to start learning jazz and see beautiful colors in music. Ryan Lewis taught me to approach music production as if I was directing a movie or a musical and each section and stanza was a scene. Skrillex got me into wanting to produce electronic music in the first place. Anamanaguchi got me into wanting to incorporate video game stylings. Jacob Collier got me into wanting to mess around with instruments again.
BTS: What’s your process like in the studio?
SW: I love sitting at a piano and playing whatever melodies come to mind. Now I sit in my house alone and make beats. I don’t have much of a process anymore besides zoning out in Ableton live.
BTS: Tell us about your new song “LEMONS”! What was the writing and recording process like?
SW: I love that song! It was the first song we made in our new studio at the top of 2020. I was having a great day and that was the music I was hearing in my head. Started laying down instruments as soon as I set up. Kennedi who’s like one of my best friends came into the studio that day and had an emotional breakdown in the session, and all the lyrics of the song are about that.
BTS: Who’s your dream collaboration?
SW: Shoot, I don’t know anymore! At this exact moment I would love to make a song with Skrillex, Max Martin, Anamanaguchi and Ariana Grande, all of us together at the same time. Or get all the music people who share my first name to all collaborate together (eg: me and Shawn Mendes, Sean Paul, Big Sean and Sean Kingston on one song)
BTS: Since you started making music, you’ve managed to gather a massive online following. Why is it important to you to cultivate such a close relationship with your fans?
SW: I’ve been super busy offline working on the album, but I love connecting with people around the world. Art and music are all about expression and communicating and making a connection. We need connection more than ever in the state of the world today. Everyone on Twitter is also in some sort of pain too, so it’s important that I reply “are you ok king/queen, my dms are open if you need to vent”.
BTS: You make a lot of your work on the Midi and even co-created the Midi Fighter 64 – is keeping up with technology and finding new ways to create music important to you as a creator? Why?
SW: Yes to finding new ways! But technology isn’t necessary!! All the best producers and creatives of all time made the best of what they could with their environment and tools. My creative process works the same whether I’m at a big fancy studio or making music at home in my bedroom.
BTS: Tell us about the #WashTheHate campaign you’ve been involved with amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. How did it come about?
SW: Some people from the IW Group reached out via email and asked if I could use my online social media platform to send a positive message. I did what I could! Took me like a month after reading the email to get out of bed and think of doing it. I went on IG live for a bit and showed everyone what I was doing to my sink that day.
BTS: What’s one fun fact about yourself for our readers?
SW: At the start of quarantine, I posted an IG story of me playing a kick snare drum beat on my Midi Fighter by doing pushups and hitting the buttons with my nose – as a joke of course. Luckily, it got me into the habit of doing pushups as a break in between working on songs in Ableton, and now I can do a pushup on one hand! Actually 2 pushups if I try hard enough and break form!
Follow Beyond The Stage to stay up-to-date on all of your favorite artists.