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Snyder Discusses Debut Album, New “Motions” Music Video & More [Interview]

Zach Skillings

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Snyder’s friends and family understand that when the 27-year-old DJ and producer is in the studio, he’s nearly impossible to reach. When he’s writing new music, Snyder is locked in and nothing can take him away from the moment. This is what he calls his flow state – when everything comes naturally and the music seems to create itself. 

But it’s not just that Snyder enjoys making music. He has to make music. If he goes a few days without hitting the studio, something doesn’t feel right. Mental cobwebs start to form, motivation drops, and that’s never a good thing. He’s learned that consumption without creation is not a great recipe for success. Snyder puts it like this – making music serves as a mental outbox for when his mental inbox gets too crowded. 

For those who have kept an eye on Snyder’s outbox recently, they’ll know that on February 26 he dropped his debut album ‘In The Dark’, which was met with high praise from the EDM community. The release was followed up by a music video for the song ‘Motions’ featuring Danielle Goz. The 10-track project, which pairs upbeat dance records with more somber material, is meant to transport listeners to another realm. 

“My goal with the whole album was to put it together where you start the album and you finish the album and you could do it all with your eyes closed literally in your own darkness,” Snyder said. “You kind of go somewhere else and you’re just there in the music.”

The album has been well-received by reputable music publications such as Dancing Astronaut, Your EDM, and Earmilk. Even though Snyder is now making a name for himself in the electronic music scene, at his core he’s always been an artist regardless of the recognition he’s received. And that was evident from a very young age.

As a toddler, Snyder fell in love with performing when he threw on a pair of sunglasses and jammed out on toy instruments, using the family coffee table as a stage. As Snyder got a bit older, he taught himself how to play the piano and showcased his abilities at his fifth grade talent show, where his performance was met with a standing ovation. Now Snyder has to step back and remind himself how far he has come. 

“It’s almost like a dream realized. Like when I was a kid all I wanted to be able to do was put together a piece of music that was in a shareable format where other people could listen to it,” Snyder said. “And then so many years later, not only being able to do that but also being able to showcase it directly to people – that’s everything.” 

The Nocturnal Times recently chatted with Snyder about his new music video for ‘Motions’, along with the creative process that went into putting together ‘In The Dark’. Check out the full interview to learn more about Snyder’s album, his musical inspirations, what his parents thought about his decision to pursue a career in music, and much more. 

First of all, congrats on your album! 

Thank you so much. It honestly took me so much time to put together. It was just such a good feeling to finally be able to release it and get that music out. 

It must be a special feeling, especially since it’s your debut album. How does it feel to finally be able to share your work with the world after you’ve put so much time into it?

It feels really good. I’ve been writing music since I was a little kid, so to go through so many different phases of writing and ultimately land at something that’s so consistent, I think that’s what I’m most proud of. Being able to make things that have cohesive themes and really put together a full body of work. It took me so long to figure out how to do that, but also be comfortable enough with what I was doing where I could finally say ‘I think I have an album’s worth of material here.’

Definitely. So how long was that process of making the album?

It probably took me a total of around two years. A lot of it was really posturing in post-production, which takes the longest. Figuring out how you’re going to put together a content package for any given record – which ones are going to be singles and how you’re going to get them out and all that stuff. So I would say a little less than three years total. 

What was that experience like? I’m sure there’s ups and downs to the creative process. It’s not like you’re on cloud nine the whole time, right?

Yeah, it’s interesting to balance that being independent because you’re constantly having to pay attention and take care of your business as well. So I have a really small team. Marketing, publicists, Mark of course, and then I have a little content creation and media house-type group that I’m all aligned with. So between all of us, putting it together was fairly easy, but the creative aspect comes in really explosive bursts. So we had a few really long days at the studio where we recorded a bunch of records with one artist then kind of worked out all of them and chose one for the album. And then a bunch of listening sessions where we’re focused on fine tuning, mixing, and mastering, and a ton of content sessions. So it was really a lot of ups and downs and especially over the past year, being patient while the music is being finished. From an artist’s perspective, I think that’s what a lot of fans don’t understand has to happen for any level of success.

I’m interested in your creative process. How do you get ideas for your songs? Does it start with a feeling or an idea or how does that work?

Yeah, it almost always starts with piano. So I’ve played piano the longest. I’ve played pretty much every instrument except for brass. I don’t play sax or trumpet or anything like that, but anything that involves a string – piano, percussion, some woodwinds. I play a ton of different instruments, but piano was the first for me. I’m 27 now, so I’ve been playing piano since I was six. So for me, a lot of my success in production came when I could marry my creative process and how I think about things with something that’s digital. And for the piano, it’s so organic for me where I just kind of think in piano now and it’s almost subconscious. So I’ll just get in a vibe sitting behind the piano and in 30 minutes I’ll have a melody and composition and kind of rough arrangement of the song that I want to write. 

I have an upright piano that I bought a few years ago that’s just in my house downstairs, so it’s nice. I’ll play the piano and write a piece on the actual, physical piano – not a keyboard or anything. And then I’ll come up to my studio and really break it down in different elements and kind of break it down in different instruments and really create a more comprehensive arrangement. 

So where does the emotion come from? When I listen to the album, it can be really lively and upbeat at times, and then at other times it’s more somber and a bit reflective with the lyrics. I know you’re trying to convey this sense of darkness in the album. So can you talk about that a little bit?

Yeah, I think finding one common thing is always challenging for somebody like me where I make so many different kinds of music and so many different emotions. Like you said, some stuff is really upbeat, some stuff is really somber, some stuff you want to play it in clubs. And for me, I thought darkness really tied everything together. Not in one sense of the word, but you can be dark in your soul and have that somber feeling, you can be in a dark club, you can be in the dark physically but so happy emotionally. And so I think that concept of darkness is really, really interesting. It doesn’t necessarily just mean one thing. When you think about darkness and start experimenting as it relates to light, I started to think about what ties all of these records together and it’s kind of that dark/light contrast that maps with all of the emotions and is really cohesive as you go through listening to the full album. 

When I do get inspiration, I just drop whatever I’m doing and go to the studio or go to the piano and just allow myself to be pretty much free in that moment. Because I don’t really know what I’m going to do, but something needs to be done because I feel this way and I want to take advantage of it. So the emotion is always super, supernatural. I don’t ever force anything in the studio. 

A lot of it comes subconsciously. I’m just kind of doing something and I’m like ‘I wonder what that would sound like.’ Or I get this feeling and I put the world on pause and just jump into that feeling and just allow myself to be like ‘do whatever you want.’ Nine times out of ten, if it’s organic and I just let that moment happen, I’ll come out of it with something that has a pretty clear-cut emotion. Like piano has always felt really emotional to me, even from a young kid. So when I start playing on the piano, it’ll take a really clear direction whether it’s really happy, really sad, kind of upbeat, or whatever the case is. After that burst of organic energy, it’s definitely got a clear shape. 

It’s interesting to think about this digital age of music. On one hand it’s great because everybody with a laptop essentially can make music and put it out, but that also saturates the market and makes it harder to stand out from the crowd. What are your thoughts on that?

Yeah, it’s a blessing and curse honestly. When I was studying music, I was in New York City and that’s where a lot of my first gigs were. And so, almost immediately I had this tremendous sense of oversaturation. In Manhattan, there are so many DJs and there are kids that will – and obviously with COVID right now this isn’t all happening – but you get a glimpse into this very, very competitive culture. I remember right off the bat, noticing that these DJs would do anything for a gig. I mean these kids will accept 500 tickets from a venue that they have to sell and they’ll sell out all the tickets, refuse a commission, just so they can take an opening, opening, opening slot at a show at 8PM in a side room. 

I mean I’m inherently an artist. I’m not trying to prove to anyone that I’m an artist. With or without anyone else’s validation…creatively I’m an artist. But when you go up against that sense of desperation…it makes you start to think like ‘okay, well how am I going to be seen differently?’ And for me, it’s just trying to be me. You know, trying to be unique. For years, I thought I needed to do one genre and I think a lot of the consistency that I talked about before comes with acceptance. 

I know that you mentioned that you’re inherently an artist whether you get that validation or not, but when you do get it that must be a good feeling. 

Yeah, it’s amazing. And you kind of have to have that mentality of not necessarily searching for validation during those – no pun intended – dark kind of times. It was definitely challenging when I was just sitting on these records and kind of waiting to get through this final period before the album was released. But it does make it so much more rewarding and especially getting nods from really massive publications that I’ve read forever. They’re writing about me and they’re putting me on the front page next to other artists I respect. It’s hard to step back when you’re so competitive and look at things and celebrate them, but that’s an incredible feeling. 

Let’s talk about your new music video for ‘Motions’. What’s the message that you’re trying to send with that visual?

Yeah, honestly everybody’s got their own motion. Everybody’s got their own cycle. And what I wanted to take everybody through was mine. That’s my life in a two, three-minute video. And so the idea behind it – I think the record itself talks so much about the idea of being kind of caught up and on your track going through the motions every single day. And I think it’s something that we all identify with at some level because of what’s happening in the world right now and how we’ve kind of had to change how we do everything.

And so for one, showing people that it’s okay to have your own motion. I think there’s a level of anxiety that the general human race feels being kind of held back from doing the stuff they want to do. Everybody kind of feels like ‘man, should I be doing more? How can I do more?’ And I know I definitely feel that with shows and stuff like that getting back in front of people, but it’s okay to step back and remind yourself like ‘this is my life.’ You’ve got to be happy with that first, and it all starts within the four walls of your home. 

I think a lot of it has to do with being present. When do you feel most present?

Honestly, I feel most present when I’m in that flow state after I first start writing a song. It’s a little bit more infrequent than it used to be like when I had a way different approach in my career. When I was first starting out producing at a high level, I would produce every day because I was trying to put in my 10,000 hours of mastery, but then you get past that and you kind of have to allow yourself to come and go with that creative vibe. So when I get it and I sit down and I start doing my thing and I’m about ten minutes in and it’s all just happening…it’s a flow state and that’s when I feel most present because there’s nothing that can take me out of it. 

I’m also protected. My friends, family, loved ones, everybody around me kind of knows like ‘Okay, my phone’s gonna be on do not disturb. You’re not going to reach me.’ I’m going to be completely present. So I think also creating an environment around me that allows me to feel that way and be that way helps so much so when you go into that moment. And I’m lucky to have people around me that are not just accepting of it, but supporting.

That’s awesome. For me, if I don’t do anything creative for a few days, I feel like I start to get in a rut. Do you feel like that too if you don’t make music then you feel like something’s off?

Yeah, for sure. It’s just like cobwebs. It’s interesting. I forget who talked about it, but there’s a book I read that talks about having to have a mental inbox and an outbox because most people only have an inbox capacity where they’re constantly taking in information but they don’t have any way to offload the rest. And so for me, I view that middle ground between the inbox and the outbox as my creativity. So if I’m not doing it, if I’m not innovating or excited or have this natural curiosity I just feel like I get cobwebs in my brain and I don’t really feel that motivated to do anything. And then on the other hand, when I am doing that I’ll finish one of those 30-45 minute spurts of creating something brand new and I’m on cloud nine. You can’t take me down. 

Yeah, that’s a really interesting way of putting it with having an inbox and an outbox. We’re all consumed with consuming – entertainment and everything – but the thing is you never really step back to create or at least a lot of people don’t. But the thing is you also have to consume to be inspired to create. Like when you listen to a song and it inspires you to create something. What are some of your music inspirations?

Yeah, I actually just had to name my top five albums for another interview. They’re all so different and my actual musical inspiration…I think probably one of my biggest inspirations of all time is Kanye West. He’s wild as an artist and has this crazy celebrity persona, but behind the scenes, he’s really sort of a modern-day Renaissance man. If you look at the projects that his name is tied to…just unbelievable some of the things that he’s able to put together. 

Well, he reinvents himself on each project. Each sound is so unique. It’s amazing. 

Yeah, exactly. So he’s one of my biggest inspirations. Elton John is as well. From a classic rock type of perspective, he was a huge, huge reason behind my interest in the piano. Being an adult and being able to look back on it, obviously, you don’t know that’s what’s driving you when you’re a six, seven-year-old kid but his presence and him just being a human creating music…he created some of the most amazing, amazing symphonic-type pieces that became really popular and stuff like that generally doesn’t become popular. And you can say the same thing about Kanye. Like the intro to ‘Runaway’ for example…like that’s a little bit too long for modern music. Nobody can get away with that. But it’s just such an amazing piece. Same thing with ‘Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road’ by Elton John…like that is wildly long. And I think I take a lot of my inspiration into my music and I think that transformative storytelling…like if you sit there listening to any given song and just close your eyes you’ll go somewhere else entirely listening to a song from beginning to end. My goal with the whole album was to put it together where you start the album and you finish the album and you could do it all with your eyes closed literally in your own darkness. Or in the literal darkness, but you kind of go somewhere else and you’re just there in the music.

How does it feel when you’re performing? Because that’s one of the most interesting parts to me. It seems like that must be really rewarding to see people reacting right in front of you to your music. 

Yeah, it feels really good. It feels really good. You can almost immediately tell if your track is a vibe or not. And so from that perspective, it’s awesome but then just the magnitude of me being able to step back and it’s almost like a dream realized. Like when I was a kid all I wanted to be able to do was put together a piece of music that was in a shareable format where other people could listen to it. And then so many years later, not only being able to do that but also being able to showcase it directly to people – that’s everything. I miss performing so much. I’ve been really lucky to have some incredible virtual festivals and things like that but I’m so ready to get back to live shows.

So could you see yourself as a kid doing these live DJ sets? It sounds like you had a vision from a very young age and you’ve been very focused on it your whole life.

When I was a toddler, my parents had all these fake instruments for me and I would literally put on sunglasses and jam out beyond belief. Like standing on our coffee table, on our couches, whatever high surface, and if you’ve ever been to one of my shows, I’m always on the highest possible surface. I have a specific line in my contractual rider that just says ‘I need a stabilized table so I can stand on it.’ From that perspective, I definitely knew I kinda wanted to be a rockstar, but then I had little teasers, glimpses into the future. 

When I was in fifth grade, I played in the talent show. I played 100 percent original compositions. I basically made all of these songs that I had written as a fifth-grader. I had all these songs that I had written and I put them into a mix that I was going to play live and so one song kind of cascades into the other. My back was to the crowd. It was like old-school, stand-up piano vibes. My back was to the crowd and so I couldn’t see anybody. It was absolutely silent the whole time I was playing and I finished playing and I turned around and everybody was losing their minds…like standing ovation, clapping. It was definitely a moment for me where…I was like ‘oh wow, that’s pretty real. That energy is unbelievable.’ 

Were you thinking ‘oh, this is amazing, I want to keep pursuing this’?

Yeah, and I don’t even know that it was like that immediately. But in a super organic state, it was just like ‘wow, let me keep this feeling. I need more of that.’ And it’s the same feeling I have when I’m playing with a massive artist and a huge crowd…that feeling when you come down and you’re just like ‘wow, that really just happened.’ You kind of have to pinch yourself. Some of it’s really surreal, especially because I wanted it so bad for so long that being able to do it is just unbelievable. 

Well, you picked one of the hardest professions really – making a living off being an artist. How did your parents feel about that?

I think they were a little skeptical at first. Obviously, they supported me my whole life with helping buying instruments and anything I ever needed, whether it was education or classes or driving somewhere super far away to go see something that I really wanted to see. They supported me without any question my entire childhood. But then when it started to take shape like ‘oh this is something I’m going to do to make money and support myself’ they were definitely like ‘ah well how are you going to be able to do that?’ 

They were super concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to live the life that I wanted to live pursuing it. And I think the first show both of my parents ever came to I was opening for Andy Grammer and I think there were over 8,000 people there. And they had a little VIP table on the second level at the very back of the room so they got to see everything I was doing from a bird’s eye. And after that everything changed. They were like ‘holy shit, what are you on?’ There was this girl that was front row who had come to the concert to see me. My fanbase wasn’t even that big yet and she met my mom while I was still performing and I heard the whole story second-hand. She met my mom and she was crying and she was like ‘I’m so happy to see DJ Snyder live’ and she’s literally sobbing about me. I wasn’t doing hardly half of what I’m doing now and so to me I was kind of shocked like ‘how did this person even have enough content to love me this much?’ I don’t know, but there were a lot of elements of that show where my parents were like ‘alright, whatever you wanna do…we knew it was cool, but this is a little bit more than we expected.’ 

I’ll leave you with this question. How do you plan on continuing to grow as an artist? Where do you go from here?

I’ve been making better music than I was on the album. I’ll say that. I have some incredible singles for later this year that I’m so hyped to drop. Some really big features. So I’m always trying to elevate. I definitely want to use this album to create as much awareness about me and what I’m doing as I possibly can. As for my fanbase, a lot of people are understanding ‘Oh wow, he released an album. This isn’t just a random DJ that’s gonna release a lot of singles.’ Like I think I’m being respected more as a producer now so I want to lean into that and I want to give the people all this great music I’ve just been hoarding. A lot of stuff with 51b, and I probably have anywhere from five to ten singles depending on schedules that are going to be released here in the next six to twelve months. So I’m just trying to get out there and get it, man. I can’t wait to play shows. That’s going to elevate everything. But yeah, everybody can expect a lot.

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