Above the Clouds: Atwell discusses new album, MIDEM release party & more
Atwell, who we previously covered as Absent Minded, released a new self-produced project independently on Friday that also includes the instrumental for each song.
Coming in at 20-tracks in total, the infectious and hard-hitting Above the Clouds brings in moody production with the cadence and tone of his favorite collaborators including theTAYkeover, Astin Clark, Gxnzo, D.O. Gibson, Divo, Spictacular, ProThaMaddMAnn, and Boney Washington.
We asked Chicago’s theTAYkeover about being involved with the project:
“So for me, it’s started when Chris, myself and other homies were out in L.A. for Grammy Weekend. On music trips we often lodge together, it eases the burden on our pockets, (laughs) but one night as we were pre-gaming before hitting the town, Atwell starts playing instrumentals, and though all phenomenal, this particular one stood out to me. It was just and infectious groove that I couldn’t let go of for the rest of the trip… I remember telling him, ‘I don’t care what you do with this beat, I NEED to be involved. I convinced him to send it to me and from there everything was a Go (Go).”
Born and raised in a military family, Atwell grew up moving from town to town for the first 17 years of his life. Spending time making beats quickly became his favourite pastime. Having released records with hip-hop, electronic and rock artists, Atwell has produced and engineered numerous tracks for acts like Tom MacDonald, iLLvibe, Astin Clar, Red Orbit, and more.
In 2017, the instrumental version of “Best Friends,” the first single on Astin Clark’s Love & Self Loathing, an album fully produced by Atwell, landed a sync licensing spot in a Sprite commercial featuring NBA superstar LeBron James. The commercial is currently on rotation on US and Canadian network television.
In 2018, Atwell released The Melancholy of Los Angeles a rock, pop, hip-hop hybrid, collaboratively put together in LA with Lukas Rossi.
We recently caught up with Atwell to discuss Above The Clouds, the creative inspirations behind the project, the artists he worked with and more. You can find the Q&A with Atwell below.
Q&A: Atwell Music
HipHopCanada: Can you let any reader who may not be familiar with you know what/who Atwell Music is?
Atwell: I have been making beats and releasing self-produced albums since the early 2000s. Some may remember me as “Absent Minded” when I released a self-produced solo album in the mid 2000s called Master Plan. In 2010, I partnered with QShinobi to release Gem Cutterz and in 2012, iLLvibe and I dropped the Blunts and Roses mixtape (both of which I produced and engineered).
In 2014, I started experimenting with some rock influenced songwriting and spent some time with a good friend of mine, Brian Duggan, developing some cross-genre beats (hip-hop/rock/electronic). We dubbed ourselves Red Orbit and this led to the limited edition vinyl release of our Discovery EP. This was a turning point in my music career as I had the chance to really explore outside of hip-hop and worked with some amazing songwriters from around North America. I traveled to Nashville and LA and worked with Lukas Rossi (Rockstar Supernova) and we developed a songwriting relationship. I started using my last name “Atwell” on my songwriting credits and started my independent music services company, Atwell Music.
Atwell Music is an independent music consulting firm that offers label services such as recording, mixing, mastering and distribution. I run my own recording studio and in 2017, I produced Astin Clark’s Love and Self Loathing. The single “Best Friends” landed a sync deal with Sprite in a TV commercial featuring LeBron James which can be seen in both Canada and the US. In 2018, I released The Melancholy of Los Angeles. I stepped out of my comfort zone on this one as it is more heartfelt and fresh. It features Lukas Rossi and Tom MacDonald and is more of a rock, pop, hip-hop fusion where I drew inspiration from life’s new experiences. I wrote an acoustic song called “Hot Air Balloon” about my daughter and it earned a semi-finalist position in the International Songwriters Competition.
Music production has become my main focus and hip-hop is still my passion. Outside of the studio, I am partners with D.O. Gibson and Preetam Sengupta in the Northern Power Summit; an annual Toronto based music conference with a focus on urban music. We are in our fourth year and this year’s conference is being held on Saturday, Aug. 17 at Artscape Sandbox. Our primary objective is to provide education and tools, as well as access to individuals to help Canadian artists and industry professionals develop their careers internationally.
HipHopCanada: Tell us about this new Above The Clouds album.
Atwell: Above The Clouds is all about moody production, hard-hitting beats and the cadence and tone of my favourite collaborators.
Throughout my travels over the years, I have met a number of talented rappers. I decided it was time to open up the bag and showcase my style of beats to the world. This time, I worked with eight different artists. I traveled across North America to record and I mixed the album in my own studio. The record features some of my Canadian fam, D.O. Gibson (Toronto), Divo (Mississauga), Astin Clark (Barrie), Spictacular (Victoria) and Boney Washington (Guelph) and also features some of my American homies, Gxnzo (New York), theTAYkevoer (Chicago) and ProThaMaddMann (LA).
The album style is dark and moody, the drums slap and the bass rumbles. Each artist brings their own flavour when it comes to rap flows, giving the album a consistent, yet varied sound. I took my time with this one and really enjoyed the process of producing from scratch, recording with some friends and mixing it on my own time.
HipHopCanada: What were the creative inspirations for the project?
Atwell: I have so many inspirations in my life, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what inspired me to make this record. I think, all in all, it comes down to desire. I felt like I needed to showcase my beats and I had a lot of fun working with the artists on the record. I pulled influence from them when composing. Many of the beats were made on the spot with the artist present. I was in Manhattan with Astin Clark and Gxnzo when I cooked up “Bitch Bad,” for example, and I was in my home studio with Divo when I crafted “Loyalty.”
I like being inspired by the moment, feeling the energy in the room and taking it from there. I start with the drums and build something as we shoot ideas back and forth. This album comes from a place in my mind that is heavily influenced by current hip-hop music. I am a big fan of the new wave of artists and producers that are poppin’ off right now. Metro Boomin, Zaytoven and Southside are killing it. I love it.
HipHopCanada: What was your process on selecting the artists you picked to collaborate on the album?
Atwell: It was simple. These are all cats that I have gotten to know personally over the last couple of years. I felt good energy from them, enjoyed their style and had confidence that they would deliver. Many of us met while traveling to music conferences and festivals across the world. From nights at MIDEM in France, afternoons at New Skool Rules in Rotterdam, weekends at Northern Power Summit to Northern Hospitality parties in New York and LA, we had conversations about collaborating and I made it happen.
HipHopCanada: Can you describe the overall sound of the album?
Atwell: An album by Atwell. Above The Clouds brings moody production and hard-hitting beats, with the cadence and tone of his favourite collaborators.
HipHopCanada: Will the album have any music video components on any specific singles?
Atwell: Absolutely, a video for “Bitch Bad” (featuring Gxnzo and Astin Clark) is out now and I am working on some other ones behind the scenes as we speak.
HipHopCanada: Is there anything else we need to know about Above The Clouds? Any tour dates, music videos, or other plans?
Atwell: On June 6, I am hosting an album listening party in Cannes, France at Le Sun7 Bar during MIDEM. A release party will be scheduled in Toronto first week of July. Details to follow.
HipHopCanada: What else can we expect from you and the Atwell movement in 2019?
Atwell: I am working behind the scenes with some Canadian artists that are making some serious noise right now. I hope to see some of my beats placed on some of their singles/albums. I can’t divulge too much at this time, but I have quite a few plays in the right place at the moment. I am also working on a second album that will likely get released in Q4 (fourth quarter) of 2019.
You can follow @AtwellMusic on Instagram.