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Interview: Chillhum tells us about his collaboration with Devyn Sawyer

22-year-old producer/songwriter/musician Ethan Bedell, known under the stage name Chillhum, brings to the table an unmistakably unique and genre-bending style that is clearly a sound crafted by him. Although he is a life long guitar player, songwriter, and musician, he didn’t begin producing his own music until January 2018. This endeavour clicked immediately and he couldn’t focus on anything else, so he shortly left college and relocated to Los Angeles where he studied production at the acclaimed music school Icon Collective. It was during this time that he took on the name Chillhum and put his focus into making music that was a blend of all the styles he loves, and something that he could really feel connected to. 

Recently Chillhum is coming off a series of single releases that have been well received by indie, electronic, and alternative fans alike. His latest single “I’m Slippin’” was premiered by the renowned underground music outlet Run The Trap, reached #1 on HypeMachine popular charts, and was even added to the Apple Music editorial playlist ‘Unwind’ alongside artists like Petit Biscuit, FINNEAS, and Dominic Fike. It is clear that this rising artist is not slowing down anytime soon, and with his first label release coming as an original five-track EP this year he is certainly one to keep your eye on.

Hey Chillhum, how’s everything going in your part of the world?

Hi! Everything is going about as well as it can be with all that’s going on – I’m definitely very happy both personally and musically right now so I consider myself very fortunate. I also just relocated from LA to Denver Colorado in the past few weeks, so I’ve been adjusting to that which is both a lot of fun and a lot to take in at once.

Let’s talk about your new single ‘Waste My Time’, what does this song mean to you?

This song is really special to me – particularly because it is one of my absolute favorite collaborations I have ever worked on so that gives it a special place of course.

On top of that the overall feeling and vibe of the song just feels very honest and I think all of the elements work really cohesively together in a way that is digestible and easy to listen to while still being creative and unique which is something I find challenging and is a huge goal for me throughout all my music; so to feel that Devyn and I made that happen pretty well on this track makes it special to me also. 

 

You say that you were inspired by other electronic-acoustic songs, which ones in particular?

There are honestly a bunch but a few specific ones that come to mind that I was listening to a lot during the time of working on this song are Together We’re Screwed by Robotaki & Nevve, The Snocker remix of Tonic Water by Moglii & Novaa, and Good Things Fall Apart by Illenium & Jon Bellion. 

What was it like collaborating with Devyn Sawyer on the track?

Working with Devyn is always so much fun!! She is incredibly professional and has such amazing ideas as well which makes everything go so smoothly. We actually had worked together on a few projects I did while I was at Icon Collective and she was always such a pleasure to work with that she was one of the first people I made a point to collaborate with under the chillhum project. 

As far as the song itself goes I finished up this instrumental and sang the chorus over it, when I immediately thought of Devyn’s voice over and figured it would sit really nicely in her range. The arrangement was also super minimal so I knew it would give her voice a great opportunity to shine. I sent her that initial version of the instrumental with the chorus already written (almost the same as how it ended up but Devyn made some small melodic/rhythmic changes) and she came back a couple weeks later to record with the rest of the song entirely written. She sang it then over the empty instrumental and it sounded amazing so we just recorded immediately and went from there! 

Are you sometimes surprised by how a song turns out, like it’s different to how it had originally sounded in your head?

Definitely sometimes – sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse haha. I sometimes have a really specific vision for how I want a song to sound/turn out and in those cases I tend to be less surprised by the result. In some cases though I go in with a more experimental mindset and kind of just see what works, and it’s in those situations I most often am surprised by the end product. 

It can happen anytime though – a lot of times I’ll make “mistakes” like pasting something in the wrong place or adding effects to the wrong channel and they will turn out sounding amazing and becoming foundational for the song and those are the most exciting surprises for me. Sometimes that happens, I try to make it the foundation of the song, and it doesn’t sound so good at the end though so that is the negative aspect to those surprises. 

There are definitely small surprises in every song though, like how certain elements end up interacting with each other or how different sounds react to different effects. These are tons of fun but I would say they don’t have the type of impact on the final result to be considered super surprising. 

Where do you normally start with songwriting? On the guitar, on beats, on lyrics etc.?

I would say most frequently I start by programming a drum loop of 8-16 bars that acts as the foundation for the song. Then on top of that I’ll add a couple harmonic elements like guitar or a rhythm synth and bass. After that I’ll try to expand the song into a full initial arrangement that is still a really bare form and write the lyrics over that. Then I’ll record vocals and produce out from there!

That’s generally the order I do things in however this can totally change – especially sometimes with writing guitar riffs before I make drums. 

Do you have anything else planned this year?

Yes the rest of this year will be SUPER exciting! I’m working with the team at the record label SUR:KIT to continue releasing my 5 song EP. I’m super excited about all of the music on it and can’t wait to have it out there. Then we also have a few remixes coming shortly after by some of my good friends and super talented producers so keep an eye out for all that!! 

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