Catch up with DJ/producer Russ Macklin and singer-songwriter Kyle Reynolds and look for their single "Natural" to be released this Friday.
Kyle, what have you been up to since releasing "Hold You Tighter"?
Kyle: I've just been writing so much for this record I'm getting ready to release this year along with other writing I've been doing for TV and film; I've been writing for trailers and TV shows and I've had a couple things on CBS and that's been really fun so I've been focusing on that. I've started to do what this release is with Russ Macklin and I'm starting to collaborate with some DJs and producers and work on more of the feature side of things where I go in and meet up with the producer/artist and we end up writing a song together where we both collaborate on the songwriting part. Either I'll be the person that toplines it - which is just the melody and lyrics - and the person will produce it or how Russ Macklin and I did it, where he had a track start and we ended up writing the song together. I've been focusing on that and I'm leaning into that feature thing this year, along with producing a record.
What brought you two together to release this new single?
Russ: What did bring us together, Kyle?
Kyle: Well actually, there was a BMI pop showcase thing and Russ' manager was there and I got an email saying, 'hey I heard you play at this BMI pop thing and I like what you do and I think you should write with this artist/producer I manage,' and I listened to this R.LUM.R remix Russ did that was really awesome, he did it really well, and I heard that and so just through his management and through that showcase. Russ and I didn't know each other at all and I kind of just came to his house one day and I was like, 'hey, what's up, I'm Kyle,' [laughs]. We didn't really know much about each other, it was actually really awesome, and we wrote this song and tracked everything that day and that's how that happened, I guess [laughs].
Russ: Yeah, my manager, he just throws people on my calendar. That's my main jam, is producing, so I make a lot of beats and melodies and things and I can sing a little bit, but that's not really my forte, so he likes to just have people over to my little studio that I have in my bedroom, just a little thing I threw together. He'll put somebody on my calendar and I'll check it and be like, "did you put this here?" and that's exactly what happened; Kyle Reynolds blocked off the afternoon and I was like, "alright" [laughs]. I did a little research on Kyle Reynolds, checked out his stuff, and it's almost exactly the kind of stuff I wanna work with; I love making pop music and he makes pop music and, in Nashville, you have to dig a little bit to find the pop corner of the market. We're here, we exist, but we're not at the forefront of the Nashville music scene, we're doing our own thing off in a little dark corner.
Kyle: [Laughs] That is true.
Russ: So my manager, Mark, found him and hooked us up. We clicked, I had maybe 2 or 3 tracks that I played for him like, "you digging this? you digging this?" and there was one that he was pretty much instantly just like, "this is it, this is the one," and just started humming some melodies over top of it and we went from there. In a matter of, probably, 5/6 hours, start to finish.
Kyle: Yeah, I don't think I was there too long. It was like 4/5 hours or something.
Russ: 4/5 hours, got the vocals knocked out, and then I was like, "okay man, this pop stuff is really hot right now," and it just had these vocal chops and weird pitch and we just freestyled some non-words through different melodies and I was like, "alright dude, I'll send you what I get," and later that night or the next day, I just came up with this crazy, distorted - it almost sounds like a guitar - hook part and it's just Kyle's voice.
Are there any new pop acts from Nashville that you're hooked on now?
Kyle: Yeah, there's a few people. My friend, Taylor Mathews, he's about to come out with a new record that is really cool. My friend Carla Cappa, her artist name is CAPPA, she's done some pretty cool stuff. I mentioned R.LUM.R, he's really talented. There's a few people. My friend's in a duo thing called Truitt that's really awesome. There's a cool little thing going on and it's starting to surface more and more; it's a newer thing and it's still growing. This girl named Maggie Chapman who I've written with before, she just came out with a new song, it was on Nick New Music Friday, and she's actually on of my favorite people to write with. That's a few people that I've enjoyed.
Russ: I'll piggyback on that; R.LUM.R, loving his stuff and I think he's coming out with some new stuff pretty soon. He's like the biggest face and name in Nashville for pop R&B, future R&B - I don't even know what I'd call it - his stuff is great. There's also this almost, like, '80s throwback kind of vibe duo called MYZICA and I've been fiddling with a remix of them for a while, but I would say, if I can't make the original song better, then I'll just scrap the remix and that's where I'm at. Definitely check them out, they're awesome if you like '80s sounds and synths.
Russ, how would you describe your sound or style to someone who hadn't heard you before?
Russ: I've been making music for a long time. I started when I first moved to Nashville, doing the singer-songwriter thing, and I was singing and I had a couple bands and that was all cool and good and I was pretty anti electronic music until about 2012 when I heard a song by Skrillex that straight up blew my mind [laughs]. And I'm in no means trying to emulate Skrillex with my sound, but the stuff he was doing around then, and still does to this day, just really shocked my ears so much and I was just fascinated, like, what is he doing, how is he doing this, how is he getting this finished product that sounds so good and so huge and he was doing it all on a laptop. So I just dove into thousands of YouTube videos on how to produce electronic music and never really looked back. I really liked the whole idea that him, Diplo and Justin Bieber touched on with that song they had a while back that was pushing the envelope with exactly what I said, manipulating vocals and making something new out of that. I think that is where I see my music going in the future and, obviously, this track has it, the R.LUM.R track I remixed has it, and pretty much everything I've put out recently. I love just making a new sound. Something fresh that your ears have never heard that I might not even be able to identify. More generally, I love pop and I love electronic music and anything that will get stuck in your head, that's the kind of music I love to make. I don't even know if I can say I've found my own sound, so I could keep going, but whatever sounds new and fresh and exciting, that's where I got and that's my launchpad.
Kyle: But still keeping it within the realm of listenable pop music, not only for the club.
Russ: Something you could listen to in your bedroom or at a party or anywhere else other than a club. I'm down with the club, but I feel like most people listening to my music are just chilling at home, listening to Spotify or SoundCloud... Somewhere between the club and Spotify.
Beyoncé or Taylor Swift?
Russ: I would be scared of Beyoncé, she's too powerful.
Kyle: I'm going to have to say Beyoncé.
Russ: I wouldn't know what to do with Beyoncé, I'd be like. "hey, do you want a drink of water or something".
Drake or Kendrick Lamar?
Kyle: I'm a Drake guy.
Russ: I love Drake but I do love Kendrick. I want a lot of Drake and a little bit of Kendrick, but I guess I'm going to go with Drake. I love Drake and his production, this guy 40, his main production dude, I'm sure you've noticed on a lot of his tracks, these muted drums that's low and stumpy, so I use a little bit of that.
Journey or The Eagles?
Russ: I've been to a few Journey concerts and one of the first songs I learned on piano is "Don't Stop Believin'" so... but The Eagles are pretty classic... I'm going to have to go with Journey.
Kyle: This is the hardest one, I think. I feel like Journey's songs are better - no offense - but you can't touch The Eagles' harmony - unless you're Zac Brown Band. Journey.
What were your inspirations behind your new single "Natural"?
Kyle: I had this title "Natural" and I haven't gone on a million dates, but I've gone on enough dates to where I feel like it's very obvious when something is natural, as far as chemistry, and it's very obvious when something is not and feels forced and uncomfortable. So I was just about to go to New York for a couple weeks and so, without even thinking of New York, I was already inspired by the trip and I guess I painted a picture of meeting this person and, like it says in the pre chorus, "and I saw your face in a random Brooklyn bar and I thought was lost on a train that took me to where you are". So the idea of thinking back to the first time I ever fell in love with someone and how I just ended up there, it was this random experience that I could not have planned and it was just this thing that was natural and happened. That feeling of just living your life and someone comes through it and you're like, "oh my gosh, I am totally crazy about this person," and it's just very natural. It's funny, now that I've listened to that song more, I think I have a little more reasoning - I haven't even really told this to Russ - but every time I listen to the song - we wrote it a few months back - that's taken on more of that meaning to me. We had the idea of natural, so we kind of together painted this picture. There's a few people who changed the way I write songs and one of them is Andrew McMahon - he was in a band called Jack's Mannequin and now he does another thing - my manager used to work with him and he came over to my house one time and we had this conversation and it's just those very descriptive lyrics; even that song "Closer" by The Chainsmokers which everyone's heard a million times, they have those descriptive things like, "in the backseat of your Rover," and I just love painting those visuals, like, "I saw your face in a random Brooklyn bar," and the song feels like it's Fall/Winter and I wanted to paint this nostalgic feeling of meeting someone in that circumstance in New York City.
Russ: Yeah. Well said, Kyle, love it. From my perspective on my side, I had this track and we pretty much just had it playing on a loop, what we thought would be the chorus. Kyle was humming and words were just slipping out and non-words were coming in there and I was like, "hey, whoa, did you just say natural?" and he was like, "uh, yeah, totally," so I was like, "okay, feels so natural" and that's where we went. We literally went from that title word. We were painting this picture of this Fall vibe and you mentioned you were going to New York soon so we name-dropped Brooklyn and the train and the more that we could see with it, the better. It all stemmed from that word.
Kyle: 'Cause I remember we were resting for the first 30 minutes/hour and we were just like, "I don't know!" and I think, once we found that hook, it just all happened from there. There's always this time where you're figuring out what you want and then we had that breakthrough moment and it was just smooth sailing.
Do you have plans to release more tracks together or even to release separate albums this year?
Kyle: I'm sure we'll work together again, whether it's on the remix side of things or my own artist stuff or doing a song together; I love what Russ does. For sure on my end, I'm releasing a single at the end of this year and then an EP, so I'm just working towards that; and I have a couple other featured things coming out this year. On my end, that's what I've got going on.
Russ: Ditto. I don't want to say I'm primarily a remix guy, but that's how I learned how to produce and really finish a song, electronically anyway, and grab somebody else's vocals and make a new song around it. I've got a couple of remixes in the works, I've got a couple of other features and tracks in the works. I've got one with this guy, Rayvon Owen - he was on American Idol a couple years ago - no idea when that's coming out 'cause these things kind of roll real slow. I think the era of albums and EPs is dying, and I've wrestled with that myself - I'm sure Kyle has too, 'cause he's released singles as well - but we're just living in an era of singles. Nobody really takes the time to just sit down and listen to an album anymore, it's basically just like, put your song out and, by the time everybody's sick of that, you better have another song ready to go. It's just the way that it is and it's where I see myself - and it sounds like Kyle, as well - just one song at a time, pumping it out. I think it's easier that way too, other than finishing a song and then a year later it finally comes out on the album. That's how it is for me, anyways, I like to just get it out ASAP. Remixes, be on the lookout.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
Kyle: For me, I just hope they feel something. Whether it's happy, sad, nostalgic, I just want someone to feel something and feel connected to it. I guess that's my whole goal. It also depends on the content of the song, like, for this, I feel like this is a nighttime driving type of song vibe, I could see it in a few different scenarios, but I would love for someone to feel something, regardless. With any song, if I can make someone feel emotions then I feel like my job is done. If I can connect with someone and someone hears something and is like, "oh my gosh, I'm not alone, someone else does feel like this," then that is an awesome thing and I feel like my job has been done if I'm capable of doing that.
Russ: Totally. We're going to take over New York City with this one.
Russ: Everybody in Brooklyn is going to relate to this one. Just to add onto that, I think what Kyle brought to the track is just the emotion and the lyrics are relatable and understandable and simple and I think my half of the track was the 'get you moving' half. I think that's what I want people to do. Obviously relate to it, that's fantastic and you can't even really describe that type of thing, but it's a visual thing for me; I DJ and I'm going to play this song out and I want people moving.
Kyle: Yeah, heads bobbing, feet moving.
Is there anything you want to add?
Russ: If there's any other musicians or kids or whatever it is you're doing and you think you don't have the right tools or the right equipment or you're not experienced enough, just ignore all those thoughts and remember that anything you want to do, you can do; especially make music from your freaking bedroom if you want. There's nothing stopping you but your own conscience. Me and Kyle did it in a day with a laptop and two speakers and a microphone. It sounds good enough and, at the end of the day, it's a song. Go for it, don't let your fears stop you.
Kyle: I started playing music at 17 and now I'm 24 so it's been a decent amount of time but, I believe the same thing. If you feel something, you should go do it.
Russ: Especially in the time of YouTube. Honestly, if I wanted to build a house right now - I probably wouldn't recommend anyone move in - but I could build a house and it's the same way with music. People need to go build the house they want to build.
Kyle: That's beautiful.