Several local high school students are writing, producing and releasing their own music on their own terms.
Alex Sacco, Patrick Kunkel and Dustin McCaffree, all seniors at Oak Ridge, have made their respective debuts as songwriters/recording artists without the assistance of a high-dollar production studio, record contract, radio play or even a physical, packaged CD.
The young men have taken advantage of the unprecedented DIY (do-it-yourself) opportunities available to musicians and songwriters through accessible and affordable desktop recording formats and self-publishing services. With free or cheap recording software like Apple’s Garage Band, Logic Pro and Cubase and distribution services like Tunecore and CD Baby, both beginning and professional artists are eschewing traditional record release practices involving million-dollar recording studios, two-faced record companies and mass media marketing in favor of a hands on approach.
DIY music production isn’t something reserved for up-and-comers. In 2007, British electronic rockers Radiohead released their seventh full-length album, “In Rainbows,” in a digital download-only format. The release was available for download directly from the band at a price determined by the purchaser. While most downloads of the album were free, the record was extremely successful and earned some of the most positive critical acclaim of their career.
Some mainstream artists who’ve self-released material on TuneCore include Aretha Franklin, Nine Inch Nails, Izzy Stradlin and Drake.
Sacco and McCaffree sat down at a local coffee shop to discuss their endeavors with Village Life last Friday.
Sacco is a newcomer to songwriting and recording, having picked up a guitar for the first time four years ago.
Last month, Sacco self-released a single, “The Kissing Tree,” through the web-based music publisher TuneCore. The service allows artists to release their music to Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody and many other distribution services in both the digital and physical realm. For a few bucks, he was able to expose his music to the entire world in a multitude of formats.
“It’s nice to be able to rely on yourself for a change,” said Sacco, who wrote and recorded his recent single using Apple’s free Garageband software and a single, quality microphone.
McCaffree has been recording himself as long as he’s been playing music. A virtual veteran in the high school recording artist realm, he’s recorded and self-released several singles. He’s also taken part in a series of songwriting contests through Mystonic Records, winning all four under the monicker Bleach It Blue.
McCaffree’s style is in the vein of the traditional singer-songwriter format, with a bit of a harmonic twist.
“I love experimenting with vocal harmonies,” he said. “I record several layers of my own voice on top of solo guitar or piano.”
While Bleach It Blue’s music hearkens to a lot of similar artists, McCaffree said his decision to perform and record solo came from his frustration with playing in bands.
“It’s really hard to start a band and keep a lineup,” he said. “You can always count on yourself.
“I really don’t listen to many solo artists. I’m much more into pop punk … one of my favorite bands right now is Mayday Parade,” he said.
Music from Alex Sacco, Bleach It Blue, Patrick Kunkel and countless other artists is available online at iTunes.com.