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Producer Black Sands and Trenton on their upcoming single ‘Fearless’

Black Sands is a groundbreaking producer whose got a knack for handpicking commercial and compelling artists to feature on his brand of genre-bending electro-rock show-stoppers. Based in Amsterdam originally hailing from the US,  Black Sands aka Andrew Balfour is well used to working in a digital space both pre and post Covid-19. Maybe he can give us all some tips, who knows?

His newest record features Nashvillian artist Trenton, and we’re delighted to announce that ‘Fearless’ will go live on the 23rd of October 2020. We caught up with the perfect pair this week – check out the fruits of our conversation below…

Hey guys, how are you doing?

Andrew: All good over here in Amsterdam. Autumn is here, so that means more rain and cold weather.  COVID restrictions aside, it’s perfect for staying indoors with my partner and our two dachshunds, writing music and catching up on any new series or movies.

Ryan: Same here in Nashville! Spending time with my family and writing, recording and producing a lot of new music.

How long have you been working together?

Andrew: We first started collaborating with each other when the whole COVID pandemic hit back in March. I had been working on the first few Black Sands tracks but I was struggling to find the right vocalists to collaborate. I came across Trenton and was struck by how well Ryan knew how to create a moody yet melodic and beautiful vibe to a spectrum of music styles. Without ever meeting, we started writing some tracks together and the chemistry was exceptional from the beginning.

You’re based across continents, how is working together within the digital space?

Andrew: That’s actually been the only way that I’ve worked with artists for Black Sands. Since starting this project I’ve worked with artists from Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, London, Calgary, Bogota, Chicago, Milwaukee and Nashville but haven’t actually been physically together with any of the collaborators for any song I’ve released so far. It’s kind of nice! The concept for Black Sands is bringing people from all parts of the world, walks of life and music styles together to have room to explore creatively and have the space and freedom to bring what makes them unique to a song.  Not being constrained by geography, physical space or time gives us freedom to bring each individual’s voice and musical style to each track.

Ryan: I’ve enjoyed being able to hear the original direction of the songs but have the time and space to bring my personality, experiences and creative interpretation to the tracks. Because we’re not confined by a set time together, I think it gives me a lot of room to explore themes and different approaches to the songs. It’s been really cool to be completely hands off when it comes to producing the musical elements. Andrew comes up with ideas that are way outside my usual musical instincts. As a result it ends up inspiring melodies and lyrics that are outside of my own creative box.

Talk to me about your upcoming new single, was there a dual approach to the writing?

Andrew: While editing the music video for “High Life” some of the early cuts gave me vibes from action/thriller movies like Heat or The Dark Knight. The inspiration hit me in the moment and I wrote something that felt more like a score for The Crow. I didn’t exactly know where to take it vocally — but while I was visiting Greece I listened to Trenton’s track “Paradigm” and was immediately inspired by Ryan’s approach. He knows how to take something dark or haunting but make it beautiful and uplifting. I reached out to Ryan and he just crushed the lyrical approach and vocal performance on this song.

 

Ryan: My philosophy is that you can be a great technical singer, but without conviction, the right emotions won’t shine through. For Fearless I wanted the idea of overcoming fear to be the central theme. I think it is relevant for a lot of people. Particularly when it comes to facing a loss of some kind. I wanted to channel my experiences to bring the idea through that facing your demons is what often will actually set you free. Andrew has a way of encouraging you to take risks creatively and really knows how to give you space to experiment; I think that aspect really helped for this song. I remember when we first started working on it he told me: “for this song I’d love to hear you try to push your range or do something less restrained… just let loose…” It triggered something positive in my brain. I don’t think this song would have turned out quite the same without that direction.

Can we expect more from you both in the future?

Andrew: Absolutely. We have a few unreleased tracks that we’re still experimenting with and another film score-inspired, haunting track in the works. Fun-fact, Ryan appears on “Black Diamonds” in the bridge and final chorus by layering in his signature-style background vocals.

 

RyanAbsolutely — I’m really excited for some of these other songs that Andrew and I have been cooking up. I feel like they are all so completely different from each other! I also have new Trenton songs in the works and releasing a new single in the middle of November.

Just to sign off, what are you both listening to right now?

Andrew: There’s an awesome up-and-coming artist KID BRUNSWICK that I’ve been into a lot lately. I also have a healthy rotation of Martino tracks – another artist I collaborate with. And the classic go to right now is Depeche Mode.

 

Ryan: Funny enough, I’ve been listening to mostly instrumental music the past several months.. Lots of early Mogwai, This Will Destroy You, and random meditation playlists on Spotify. Maybe it’s because since I’m singing all the time in the studio, it’s nice to take a break from all things singing … It’s been an interesting season for sure.