This profile is dedicated to introducing everyone to EmmoLei Sankofa. A woman of many talents, EmmoLei is an American composer, producer, singer-songwriter, sound artist and percussionist. Her passion for music is driven by the desire to push it forward and to challenge listeners to expand upon how they perceive sound and couple that perspective with moving visuals. EmmoLei agreed to answer a few questions about her production work for the Gender Amplified blog. Check it out!
What first sparked your interest in music production?
I’ve been playing and creating music all my life. It was bound to happen. I come from a musical family as well. What I will say though, is that a friend of mine – Stephen Jones – made a song for a social studies project we had in middle school. After his group presented, I asked him immediately how he made it and he introduced me to FL Studio. That was the day I began pursuing music production.
Tell us a little about the first track you ever produced.
Wow this is a little foggy. I still actually have a few of the very first songs I produced or…I guess tried to produce. But, I think the first thing I tried to produce was inspired by Art of Noise’s “Moments In Love” record. It was definitely an instrumental and had quite a bit of potential. When I listen to my old music, I always think of this Ira Glass quote:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.
It goes on, but you get the point.
What inspired you to produce “Relax”?
Relax was birthed out of a 30-day audiovisual series called, JustBcuz, that I recently did as a challenge to myself. The framework for “Relax” was created on the 4th day. When I wrote what is now the chorus, I was thinking about the anxiety I observed across the internet and within various peer groups about life. Then, I thought about myself. I’m not sure what my life looks like to everyone else, but the past couple years here in LA hasn’t completely been a crystal stair. I essentially pulled from the collective consciousness of what was closest to me and assessed my own life. I was giving myself, and what turned out to be many other people, advice.
You used Landr’s distribution platform to release it. What advise would you give other independent artists who are trying to better distribute their music?
Do your research on what distribution outlets are available, assess what your goals are, and then do what makes sense. Right now, I prefer the DIY option through LANDR because it just makes sense. And, I’m not even trying to plug. But, I’m always on the lookout for things that better oil my machine. Also, try to pinpoint where people are consuming your music the most and focus your energy there.
What types of gear and software do you use to produce?
Software: Logic Pro X Gear: Axiom 61, Keystation 32, Roland V-Studio 100(they don’t even make these anymore), Allen & Heath Zed FX, Blue Spark, and SM58. I use other things here and there, but this is the core.
Tell us about Bèl Son? What’s the core mission of this collective?
Bèl Son is creative audio company that I founded to help emerging filmmakers tell better stories and make better films by aligning more meaningful sound/music with their work. We compose music and sound, and synthesize the components to create beautifully, distinct experiences that really help them separate themselves from the crowd. Right now, we’re a team of three. Cindy Takehara Ferruccio, Xiao Hou, and Me.
You have a master’s degree from Savannah College of Art and Design. How does your background in visual art influence how you approach music production and the sonic arts?
Ah, well my MFA is in Sound Design. I didn’t go to SCAD for film or visual art per se. While a lot of my time at SCAD was about how sound and music interacted with visual media, the focus was how sound and music interacts with the world and all of the media we consume. I am a film composer so there are definitely things that I have to be in tune with and understand regarding any kind of visual work that informs what I implement creatively to support that media. People have often called my sound cinematic and that never came from me being into movies or anything. That came from playing in large ensembles like the symphonic band, percussion ensemble, and being exposed to opera, theater, etc. My mom played the violin so she would take me and my siblings to see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at least once a year and we’d go see other musicals here and there. I feel that I’ve always heard music differently than a lot of my peers because I was exposed to so many different genres. When I’m producing music, I am usually thinking about how a band would sound playing it. And, not just like a 5-piece band. I’m thinking about how it would sound arranged for an orchestra, marching band, jazz band, etc. The only thing I see when I’m producing music is what’s swirling around in my imagination. Scenarios I create, that relate to the music, or old situations that prompt feelings I use as inspiration to make the song.
What are your ultimate goals for your music career?
My ultimate goal is to be the best at whatever I touch. I have many interests and have set intentions that will unfold as I grow. I can’t tell it all. You just have to be strapped in for the ride.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in music production? What is one piece of advice he/she should know?
The older I get, the more I hate giving advice because there is no one way to do anything and what may work for me may not end up working for you. However, I would say, at the root of it all, learn all you can about your craft. It only makes you better. Learn and understand music theory or at least become proficient on an instrument. It helps you realize your ideas more fluidly. Don’t close yourself off to new information when you think you’re good and the checks start rolling in. Things are constantly changing. Keep learning until you take your last breath. Also, LEARN THE BUSINESS.
Tell us where to find your music online.
Bandcamp (full discography)