Twenty-one inhabits a space, where moments feel timeless, almost classic. As a landscape, twenty-one is intricate and ephemeral, uncertain and inviting, lost and found all at once. For Toronto artist anders twenty-one is his current age, but you’d never know it.
Listening to his debut EP 669 where melodies harmonically lace masterful production, the sound creates that very landscape. Each track emotionally unavailable but close to heart, the opposite of distant, right there actually in a raw RIGHT NOW Toronto way. In a word it’s authentic.
Subjectively, twenty-one is a space most of us struggle to leave. We search for anything of resemblance that might rekindle that part of our souls – the one that journeys, and might not be there yet… but like anders not-so-hidden prophecy on the closing track of 669, well, get familiar.
Success: “You here?”
anders: “On My Way”
Artists tend to find space in different ways. Space to produce and create and simply access that part of them that houses the creative energy. Where, or what do you do to find that part of you where the music comes from?
I create everything from the bottom. I can never force myself to go record a song, It’s always in the moment and I do everything from the bottom, it’s all organic. It’s calculated towards the end, but in the beginning it’s all emotion.
I feel like that’s how it has to be for an artist, you put that emotion out first and from there on you start building it.
Exactly, I just feel like when I think I’m gonna make music, it never works. You just have to do it. That’s just how it is for me.
In terms of creative space, most of the EP was done at 669 Queen Street West and there’s a few reasons why I named my EP that. I was having trouble coming up with a name and I was talking to one of my producers while we were mixing all the records and I told him I might name it 669. He then explained what 669 meant and it just really resonated with what I was going through at that moment. The cherry on top was when I left [the studio] that day, I was actually with my producer and manager and we were sitting at the light and right at the intersection there was a cab that said 669 on the door, and I was freaking out – mind you this was after we had a 2-hour conversation about the name and 669.
That’s crazy timing.
Right!? That’s what made me pick it. It was like God telling me or something.
Where do you draw your writing inspiration from?
Everything in my life. It’s just my thoughts while going through all these things. Typical life stuff people go through; family, women, friends, enemies, the city [Toronto] – everything we’re just surrounded by. Even when I’m in the studio, if I’m in there for 3-4 days straight I’ll need to get out and get inspired. I need more things to talk about.
I’m not a fiction writer, I have a really hard time making things up. It’s all experience really. I bring it up a couple times in the music, you can tell I’ve had some trouble or I was getting into trouble, that’s all life. When I say “I beat the case” [on Diamonds] it was literally in August. I had my hearing and I beat the case, so in October I released a song.
How has the reaction been since you dropped the EP? Was it what you expected/hoped for?
It’s incredible. It’s not like there’s some crazy planning that happened to execute this, it was just me wanting to make music and setting a goal for myself. I expected it [the EP] to do something, but I was prepared for the worst. I remember telling my manager before I dropped this, “If we put this out and nobody gives a shit, it doesn’t matter. I’m just gonna keep trying.”
But it is incredible – the amount of people that even care about it and seeing the response in the city [Toronto], people reaching out to me to show love. It’s crazy. It’s definitely more than what I thought it would be.
I saw a street art stencil that said “Keep Making Shit Even If You’re Shit At It” and I feel like every artist feels that way, even if what they’re producing and creating isn’t bad, they probably think it is because you’re your own worst critic.
Yes. I’m really tough on myself, some of the songs we had on it [the EP] I didn’t even want to release. It was kind of like “Just put it on, it’s good.”
The EP has been getting a lot of positive feedback, was there ever a part of you that wanted to hold on to it longer, add to it, build it up more before launch?
I had to get it out. In October 2016 I released my first songs,”Choosy” and “The Days,” – “The Days” being the first song I ever wrote. We put those out and at that time I was creating music but I was juggling everything else. I was doing other things, I wanted to make music but I wasn’t entirely focused. It took me a month to get a song done. I wasn’t completely ‘in it,’ I was just doing it whenever I had time. By December 2016/January 2017 we had this vision to create a full body of work, so I set myself a goal. I said I’m going to start now, be done in April and release the project. I was originally going to do 9 songs – literally up until two months ago – and I just woke up one day and I didn’t like them so I took most of the songs off. It was left with “The Days,” “ Notice (Interlude)” and “On My Way” which was a demo originally for The Weeknd. The last 3 songs “Diamonds,” “You for You,” and “December,” were all done in the last month.
We had 3 songs I was going to use for 669 and the last few I recorded were added at the end of the process. I finished the EP and dropped it the following week. There was no desire to hold onto it. It was that thing that I couldn’t wait to get off my chest. The only reason why I wanted to rush was because I set a personal goal and timeline for myself. There was no reason to hold onto it or build it up. No marketing scheme to hype it up, we just finished it and we put it out.
Since the release of the EP we’ve seen more than a few comparisons to The Weeknd. Seeing as you’re both from Toronto and you’re at a similar age as he was when House Of Balloons dropped, are the comparisons valid in your mind? Do you feel he influenced you?
That’s a legend. He’s a legend. Nothing but respect for him. House of Balloons and the whole Trilogy is legendary. Everybody my age has binged that. I’m sure people of every age have binged it, but I remember it came out when I was in grade 9 and that was life-changing. There’s definitely an influence, but everyone in the city influences me. It’s not like I only listened to him. So Far Gone was inspiring me before House Of Balloons came out. I love So Far Gone. Every R&B artist out of Toronto is going to get a comparison whether you like it or not, I’m not bothered by it. It’s more flattering.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue music? What was the artist development process like for you?
Probably when I started the EP, so 6 months ago. Originally, when I dropped the first songs I had interest but it was just a hobby. It wasn’t until 6-7 months ago that I was like “this is plan A, there’s no plan B.”
As an artist, I feel like i’m still in my very infancy stages. You know how they say you need ten thousand hours? I don’t even think I did a thousand yet to be honest. For the development, I feel like I matured as a writer, but there’s still long ways to go and still so many avenues I’m yet to discover. It’s definitely a transition.
What’s your favourite track off your debut EP and why?
Personal favourite is probably “You for You,” only because that track happened really quickly and so organically. I was with one of my producers and we were in the studio for 10 hours, and 8 hours passed and we did nothing. We were trying, but nothing was coming out of it, we were getting distracted and frustrated so we took a break. I remember we had 2 hours left so we went downstairs and we said ‘We’re gonna go back up and make a song ’cause we just wasted the whole day.’
You had to walk out of there with something done.
Exactly, so we went back upstairs and did “You For You.” It was literally all done in that session. Everything was recorded and done in that 2 hours. That was an incredible experience.
You needed to waste that 8 hours.
Oh yeah, every creative knows you gotta get that bad stuff out to get the good stuff. Everything comes in waves.
Who did the production on ‘669’? Was it one producer or were there a few?
S.L.M.N., he’s a good friend of mine, LUCA and FrancisGotHeat.
What do you have planned next?
More music. Expect more, this is just the beginning.
Be sure to follow anders’ rise to success via his Instagram and SoundCloud. Stream anders‘ debut 669 in full below and purchase your copy here.