Across genres and production styles, music makers are united by the same problem: sustaining creativity.
How do we keep our creative juices flowing in a heavily competitive and saturated industry?
While there is no silver bullet here, it helps to more deeply look to the artists who consistently push through it. Trakgirl, the producer behind hit records featuring artists like Jhene Aiko, Belly, and Omarion, is a rising producer, and one of 1.8 % of women making mainstream R&B hits.
With a growing list of production credits, Trakgirl is a talent to reckon with, commanding the kind of grit and stealth that allow her to regularly surmount the odds. In this Q&A, she speaks with Splice about her workflow and her strategies for keeping her creativity alive.
Trakgirl, it’s a pleasure to chat with you about getting creative. Let’s start with the basics – what would you say a typical day looks like in your shoes?
I wake up super early to get my day started. I start with prayer and meditation, followed by breakfast and working out. Then I’ll have morning calls with my manager to go over priorities for the week, my travel schedule, etc. Then it’s time to finish music ideas, and typically I’ll either head to the studio in the city or finish at my home studio. My days vary though. I travel a lot so some days I could be in Los Angeles, going to board meetings (I’m a part of the Recording Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force), studio sessions, and meetings discussing tech and new ideas. Some days I could be on the east coast in New York creating.
We know that every producer has their own way of making music. What gear is absolutely essential to you for making music?
SOUNDS! I have a hard drive filled with plugins that are my ‘go-to’s such as Omnisphere and Native Instrument’s Komplete package. It’s vital for me to have unique sounds to work with. I always keep one of my MIDI boards with me so I can create anywhere.
When starting a new track, what is the first thing you like to draw inspiration from?
Going through different sounds in my banks helps me gain inspiration. I can literally hear a certain type of piano from a bank and start from there. I like to work on chords and melodies first, then build from there. Also, I gain inspiration from life experiences as well. Everyday life can be a song to me… if that makes sense.
What is your favorite location to make music? Do you have a place that helps you get in the zone (e.g. your favorite studio, a room in your house, a coffee shop, a park, the beach, etc.), or can you work anywhere?
Different cities help fuel my inspiration. I love LA and it has pretty legendary studios that the greats have worked out of, like United Recording or West Lake. There’s nothing like the comfort of your own home studio though. You can literally create your own peaceful, creative space.
When you’re struggling to begin or complete a track, what do you do to get back in the zone?
It’s important to take breaks. I usually go do something fun, catch a movie, or grab some food from one of my favorite spots. I listen to oldies a lot… A lot of music from the 70s and 80s are like my favorite eras of music. 90s R&B also keeps me fueled.
What are some challenges you have faced in your creative process? How have you gotten around them?
I think one challenge on my creative journey was comparing myself to others, which caused me to become unfocused on my craft. Often we compare someone else’ journey to our path, when in actuality everyone’s journey is different.
I had to build my confidence and change my mindset to focus on my craft and continue to work hard through faith. That’s more of a mental challenge that shouldn’t be ignored within music. It’s a very competitive industry.
What would you say the role of mentorship is when it comes to creativity?
Mentorship is key in my eyes. I’m very huge on empowerment and education. The youth have to have role models to look up to and have the resources to navigate the music industry. The role of a mentor to help that creative navigation, provide feedback and tools when it comes to creating… someone who’s willing to teach and give that person an opportunity.
Mentorship is a strong reason why I created the initiative The 7% Series, which focuses on women who are producers and engineers. My partner and I have been working hard to build a platform that can be used as a resource to help women creatives.
How do you take care of yourself physically in the midst of a demanding career that may require late nights and hours of hunching over your DAW?
I have to work out 3 – 4 times a week and eat healthy studio meals and snacks like seaweed chips, fruits, and almonds (lol). It’s important to also work on not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Getting outside of the studio and living life helps. Taking mental breaks and not rushing your process is important.
It’s important to take breaks from the studio and take mental breaks in general. I have to live life and experience it. I have a lot of hobbies from video games (NBA 2K, Detroit, Final Fantasy, etc.), tech, art, going to shows, etc. I love to travel. It’s really about taking your time with music – I don’t try to rush and I just focus on my craft. That’s the important part: focus on your music and take your time.
Any advice to aspiring producers who are trying to overcome creative blocks of their own?
Go outside! Take mental breaks, and also don’t be afraid to go out and live your life.
In 5 words (or more), can you share with us the things that embody your creative process and give you inspiration? Whether it’s technical, atmospheric, ritualistic, emotional, etc. – we want to know what you need to fuel your creativity and what keeps you inspired.
Prayer, clarity, love, vibes, and emotions.
October 5, 2018