By Taylor Davies
Livestream Rewind is where we recap our Instagram Live performances from the past season. We host UArts artists as well as artists affiliated with the UArts community, giving you the expansive experience of the Philadelphia area! This rewind features artists MCKNZ, Whitney & The Saying Goes, Diana Is Calling, Olivia Rubini, Seaux Kamino, and Mattea. I sat down to ask the musicians a few questions about their experience making music and how they’re handling the performance aspect during the pandemic.
MCKNZ is a passionate singer-songwriter, pianist, and aspiring producer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Growing up in a musical household and following in her mother’s singer-songwriting footsteps, she started writing music from a very young age. MCKNZ continues to explore her solo career and experiment with different styles. Her music is personal and intimate, fusing an acoustic-pop sound with an indie-electronic feel.
“Performing live for UArts Radio felt so good. This pandemic has been very challenging in regards to putting myself out there musically. Aside from performing with multiple bands in the past, I have yet to play and share my own, new, personal music with the world; getting to perform it for the people that tuned into the stream felt uplifting. I miss the days of crowded venues and sharing tight spaces with one another, but this little taste of getting to play a show was what I needed. Soon enough, we will be enjoying live music together beyond our tiny screens.”
“I am beyond excited to be releasing new music soon. While this pandemic has caused many of us to feel trapped, lonely, and has even broken apart some of the most meaningful relationships, it has given me the time to process what has been going on in my life – to take a step back and to write it all down. I have been slowly taking my time with the process of putting this album together, not only because I want it to be the best it can be, but also because it is so personal and I want it to feel right when it is time to release it. This album focuses a lot on the loss of relationships and friendships that resulted from the time spent alone in quarantine, as well as the new and exciting feelings that are arising from the world coming together again. I am hoping to have this wrapped up fairly soon and released this summer. It is always a bit of a nerve-wracking process, but I am so excited and ready to share this music with everyone.”
“This past year I have been writing, recording, and mixing by myself in my bedroom. I think that the inability to collaborate with people in real life has made me grow and learn a lot. I have a Shure microphone, a Yamaha keyboard, and studio monitors – that’s pretty much my whole setup. I recently wrote this song that is very electronic-pop, and because I typically write songs that are just vocals, piano, and guitar, I was struggling a bit to create that classic-pop-production sound. I reached out to America Loves Me for some help, so we Zoomed, messed around with it, and got a pretty good mix together; even that online collaboration was a breath of fresh air since I have been going at this alone for a while. I plan to reach out to a few more people to produce some backing tracks on a few songs before I finish. I have definitely been taking advantage of this isolation to learn as much as I can on my own and grow as a musician, but I cannot wait to get back to school and be in the studios.”
“Outside of music I love to cook, exercise, knit, and just have fun with friends. While friends are always inspiring me to write more music, I would say that most of my inspiration comes from sadness and difficult times. I have always found it easier to write about things I am hurting from and use that as a form of therapy, rather than expressing the good things in my life (though I do try). Even though most of the songs on this upcoming album are somewhat upsetting, I did throw in a few love songs!”
Check out MCKNZ here:
Whitney & The Saying Goes is the original music project of Joel Whitney Worford. Formed in the summer of 2019, they have since performed at a number of venues around Virginia, on CBS 6 for Virginia This Morning, on livestreams, and beyond. They recently released their debut album, Thoughts For Breakfast, composed of nine songs, all written by Worford. Whitney & The Saying Goes aims to challenge what black music can and can’t do. Their songs span multiple genres and their influences are varied and multi-cultured. The only definition they hope all of their music fits under is “soulful.”
“The livestream was fun! I’m always nervous performing in front of a camera, audience, or even just my partner sometimes, but I felt like I put on a good show that night. For a long time during COVID, livestreaming was all there was to do, so I tried that for a while and quickly decided that it wasn’t for me. I’m glad I gave it a shot, though. All credit goes out to the people who can get in front of a camera and feel very natural and confident, cause I ain’t one.”
“Whitney & The Saying Goes put out an album in March. It’s an alternative rock, blues, soul, funk, jazz, indie record called Thoughts For Breakfast. I’m currently at that stage where I can’t listen to it without hating myself and want to crawl in a hole and die, but I know that’s just a part of the creative process. For a long time I loved it, and I think that at the end of whatever this is I’ll be able to appreciate it for all of the things it is and still respect it beyond what it isn’t. One thing I am very proud of is the songs though, as well as all of the people involved who aren’t myself. Even though I’m being a bit harsh, it’s mostly because if I make another one I plan on it being about a thousand times better.”
“I’ve been spending a lot of time recording very simple stuff into GarageBand at home. I started casually sketching demos for the next album last week, but any self-imposed deadline for that will be far, far away. When we recorded Thoughts For Breakfast, the main adjustment COVID forced was in the way we tracked keys. Most of the keys on the album were tracked remotely, and while that did make it difficult sometimes to communicate ideas or try different things, all of the musicians we collaborated with did a great job. I think that making the next album will be a lot easier without that obstacle, but I’m still proud that we were able to make it work for this one.”
“I spend a great deal of time reading and writing fiction. I don’t know if I’d call this a hobby, since one day I do want to write and edit professionally, but English literature certainly has a huge impact on my songwriting. I’m not saying I throw in James Joyce references between rhymes or anything, but I do think that the way I look at an album is like a novel and the way I approach production is like structuring a short story. The song is the story, but the production is the language, structure, voice, and tone.”
“I’m also a huge tennis fan. I played tennis quite a lot when I was younger, and I think that’s where I developed the work ethic I bring to music. Most athletes are people who hate to lose, and the best way to avoid losing is to practice very, very hard. In the same sense, I hate being on stage and feeling as though I don’t know what I’m doing or being in the studio and realizing that I’m not as prepared as I should be; that’s what losing looks like to me, so I work to avoid that at all costs. There is also the joy of success, we can even call it “winning”, which are things like recording something you love and wanting to listen to it over and over after you get the final master back or playing a show where you know you killed it and being able to share that experience with the people in the audience who came to support you – that’s really what I make music for. I think that, for anyone who hopes to achieve anything, the desire to succeed needs to overcome the fear of failure, that’s something I’m still trying to work on. At the end of the day, I love music much more than I fear being bad at it. If I’m ever in a situation where I feel that changing, I hope I have the wisdom and perspective to get out of it, even if that means not playing music professionally anymore. Right now, I think I’m in a good place, maybe a little bit frustrated with where I’m at, but much more eager to get where I’m going.”
Check out Whitney & The Saying Goes here:
Diana Is Calling found its roots in Philadelphia. Brought together by Melanie Juliano, the lead singer-songwriter, a group of aspiring artists from The University of the Arts in Center City blend multiple genres. Melanie draws from several inspirations as she grew up listening to the Fugees and Fleetwood Mac, as well as songwriters such as Billy Joel and Adele. With silly lyrics in their song, “Catfish,” to their honesty about mental health in “never love,” their music ranges in style but parallel in genuine storytelling.
“My experience performing the Livestream was great! It’s definitely a different feeling than performing live in front of an audience, but I am grateful to be performing in any manner and I am excited to share new music.”
“I have new music coming out! Diana Is Calling will be releasing our first EP in June, which will include the singles we have released so far; “Goodbye,” “never love,” and “Catfish,” as well as a few other songs I wrote at the end of college. We are also currently working on our first full-length album, which will be out in the fall or early 2022.”
“It’s been hard trying to develop our sound in a pandemic when we cannot gather together easily, but we have definitely made use of Zoom and other virtual platforms and now we are all vaccinated and able to rehearse safely. We are recording this full-length album together in June, unlike our EP where we all recorded separately from home, so we are super excited to share what we have been working on and hopefully start playing live again at some point.”
“Outside of making music, I really enjoy hiking, backpacking, and camping. Not only has it proven to be one of the safest ways to have fun in a pandemic, but it’s also where I draw a lot of inspiration from. The last time I took a backpacking trip was to Oregon and I had so many influential moments that I was able to take home with me to foster into creative ideas. I came up with our band name at Wissahickon Valley Park one day last summer!”
Check out Diana Is Calling here:
While American pop singer-songwriter Olivia Rubini has been releasing music since the age of 15, her style throughout the years has evolved and transformed into a deeply personal reflection of her life and growth. Her dynamic pop voice has matured along with her writing style, which embodies catchy, clever, sophisticated pop lyrics. Inspired at an early age by Coldplay, Rihanna, Sigur Rós, John Mayer, Harry Styles, French Neo-Classical, and a plethora of musical styles, she’s cultivated a genuine and personal style of her own. Even at the young age of 15, Rubini’s extensive style in music was represented through her selection of cover songs released on SoundCloud, which ranged from Rihanna to The Beatles. Since the release of her debut single in 2016, she has released 10 singles varying in style, genre, & attitude. Throughout her continued experience as a recording artist, Rubini has gained popularity by being organically placed on numerous Spotify playlists including, “Discover Weekly”, “USA Live”, and more. Her songs have been used by YouTube and Instagram influencers, garnering millions of views.
Her debut album Silhouettes is an honest portrayal of her growth, both lyrically and musically, creating her own authentic sensibilities. Lush soundscapes and grand choruses engage the listener, all the while embodying a playful attitude. She adamantly incorporated a variety of sound sources, most notably real instruments, which provide a genuine listening experience.
“Performing for the UArts Radio Livestream on Instagram was a really cool experience, especially since I was able to have live musicians in the studio, which has been rare over the last year. That performance had great energy even without the presence of a live in-person audience, which can be challenging at times. As I’ve performed throughout the past year over Zoom and livestreams, it’s become easier to maintain high energy, a strong attitude, and playful banter, even without an in-person crowd. A lot of those aspects of performing come directly from the audience, so it can be a challenge at times, but I feel like it’s put my performing chops to the test and has made me a better performer. I feel like the UArts Radio show had that high energy that usually comes along with an in-person crowd, which was fantastic to experience.”
“I am currently working on an acoustic version of my album’s single “Be Well”, as well as totally brand new music. I’m not sure if the next releases are going to be singles, an EP, or a full-length record, but I’m starting to get back in the studio to release more as soon as possible! In the meantime, I’m ramping up my activity on social media like Instagram and TikTok while working on some active press, such as podcasts and interviews, to bring some attention to my latest release and debut album, Silhouettes.”
“This time has oddly been a wonderful period of creativity for me; I was able to create my album from start to finish within quarantine, void of distractions for the first time in my life. I’ve been constantly writing, lyrically and melodically, and have been in the studio as much as possible as things have started to return back to semi-normalcy. In a strange way, I’m grateful for this odd time as it allowed me to spend more time with myself, my thoughts, and my emotions, which were evident in my album. It’s been cool to have this time to deep dive into creativity.”
“I’d say my biggest hobbies outside of music are reading, drawing or painting, and yoga. I think reading significantly influences my music and my writing abilities by expanding my vocabulary of melodic words and sparking my storytelling ideas; in my songs, I want to tell a narrative and convey an emotion in a manner that connects with the listener and I think reading helps me write to accomplish that goal. Drawing and painting are just additional fun ways to express myself, whereas yoga definitely influences my music. I need to have a clear mind to write, so morning yoga is a must before I start a day of creativity.”
Check out Olivia Rubini here:
A young artist from Piscataway, New Jersey with a hunger and a passion for creating music that people can feel, Seaux is a hip hop artist with a prolific ability as a wordsmith/lyricist, along with his R&B upbringing that gave him the initial soul he now runs with. His style switches constantly from crooning to rapping, often mixing the two to either create introspective, laid-back songs or stand-out tracks that exude a high amount of energy. Early influences on his sound are Kanye West, Andre 3000, J. Cole, Chris Brown, and Musiq Soulchild. His roots started in Gospel and R&B, but his palette later expanded and gravitated toward hip hop, future bass, and even funk.
Creatively, music has been his outlet since the age of 7. He had been singing in choirs from grade school through high school, but he didn’t develop his affinity for rapping until 13 years old. Jokingly practicing his free-styling, he grew over time and by his sophomore year in high school it was clear that he had covered a lot of ground in his once underdeveloped ability. Once he had gotten to college he realized he needed to pay more attention to his production abilities in order to get the ideas out of his head and improve his sound. His main focus now is on learning new instruments and finding different ways to musically evolve his palette.
“Performing on the livestream was a great experience from the standpoint of being in the comfort of my own home. Being able to maneuver my setup was fun, along with playing the music through my speakers. Live performances, or at least the ones I’ve had, have a different energy from the standpoint of people being able to actually make noise and give you immediate feedback. It’s definitely a different feeling, but technology isn’t bad when it comes to people reacting through emojis and commentary.”
“My latest release At Least We Made It came out this past Friday, May 14th. With this release, I’m enjoying the feedback I’ve been getting and taking notes on certain ideas I implemented to see what will do well for the next release. It’ll probably be some time later in the summer, maybe closer to fall, but my main focus is (after being vaccinated) is getting together with some of my peers to put together some visuals (music videos, photos, etc.) for the singles I’m planning for the future.”
“Right now I’m creating from home with my small recording setup in my room. Thankfully, my parents are pretty cool with me expressing myself creatively in various ways (even if it means yelling ad-libs), so recording isn’t as much of a hassle. I’m currently trying to find the best way to utilize my equipment to suit my recording and engineering purposes. Adjustment-wise, I’ve had to find safe ways of going outside every now and then, finding new sources of inspiration outside of my house. I have put a ton of time into working on my production abilities outside of sharpening my lyrics because that a was a glaringly obvious weakness of mine. Musically, I’ve adjusted and improved leaps and bounds, and parallel to my music I’ve grown more mature. Both of these things have made my music what it is.”
“Outside of music, I love playing basketball and video games. Basketball was the first thing I picked up and it feels great to be able to take a break from everything and clear my mind by hooping for a bit. The work ethic I’ve put toward music comes from a lot of the basketball figures I’ve looked up to over the years. Musically, I always come up with different ways to attack a beat, lyric, or song in general, similarly to how athletes find diverse ways of showcasing their skills. Video games pique my interest, from their intricate storylines and complex gameplay. In my music, I plan to have some intricacy in my storytelling and lyrics, along with figuring out the complexities of the software I use.”
Check out Seaux Kamino here:
Mattea, a singer-songwriter from the DMV, currently lives in Philly attending UArts with a major in Vocal Performance and minor in MBET. She writes sad songs with her guitar and produces music that makes people dance! Music has been important for Mattea her entire life. Instead of saying her prayers she’d sing, and instead of playing tag she made her friends have a talent show. Mattea started taking music seriously in high school after learning guitar, her main source of inspiration being Kurt Cobain. His writing style was a great influence on hers, clearly reflected on her original songs. Though she doesn’t always make rock music, Mattea thinks in order to be a good musician you have to listen to everything and anything, there isn’t a genre of music that hasn’t influenced her own.
“Being able to perform is an opportunity I am always so grateful for, so being asked to do a set for UArts Radio was so exciting, especially since in-person performances were completely obsolete at the time. Being able to sing from the comfort of my own room and setting up a vibe that I wanted, along with singing whatever songs I chose, gave me something to look forward to during a time where there wasn’t. I missed having an audience, but seeing comments and likes was almost just as validating, maybe even more because I was a lot less nervous than I would have been in person!”
“I am currently working on an EP and a single, hopefully releasing this summer or early fall. The goal for my EP is to combine the two sides of my songwriting – guitar-heavy, darker music with music you’d hear in a club on the beach somewhere. The single is going to be a fun, girly, early 2000s pop song, perfect for the summertime.”
“Luckily I have always recorded my own music at home, the pandemic has actually been a benefit in that sense. I had more time at home to force myself to be creative.”
“Before I started becoming serious about music I wanted to go to school for fashion design; fashion is definitely my second passion. I think it also has an influence on my music because I’m a visual writer, especially when producing – I try to visualize what the song sounds like, what the characters are wearing, and what the setting looks like. I am currently getting into DJing since I love dance music so much. My goal is to be able to incorporate it into future in-person performances!”
Check out Mattea here:
You can find more featured artists from our Instagram Livestream series here!