The creative process behind JUNO nominated music: A Stories from the Studio panel - The JUNO Awards

Last spring, we invited first time JUNO nominated artists Jordon Manswell, Johann Deterville aka YogiTheProducer, Savannah Ré, and Dylan Sinclair to join host, A.Harmony for a discussion on the creative process behind Canada’s most iconic songs and albums.

Watch the panel on YouTube or read the transcript below.

 

Full Transcription – Stories from the Studio: Panel 1

 

A.Harmony
Hello and welcome, everyone, to JUNO Stories from the Studio. My name is A.Harmony. I host Marvin’s Room on CBC Music, and I’m going to be your host for today’s conversation. On behalf of myself and the JUNOS, it is with deep respect that we would like to honour and acknowledge the land we are meeting on, which is traditional territory of many nations across Canada. I’m so excited to be your host for today’s panel. We are going to be celebrating four JUNO nominees and asking them about their journeys as artists and as music creators. 

But before we get started, I’d like to acknowledge the support of our lead sponsors who make the JUNO Awards possible. TD Bank Group, Sirius XM Canada, Freedom Mobile, Ford of Canada, and Tik Tok. We couldn’t do what we do without your support. I’d also like to thank our friends at CBC Music who aim to connect, reflect and engage Canadians through music. For this reason, CBC is proud to be the exclusive broadcast and content partner of the JUNO Awards. I think our panelists are here. I’m so excited to get started. It is my pleasure to introduce 2021 JUNO nominees. Dylan Sinclair, Johann ‘YogiTheProducer’ Deterville, Jordan Manswell, and Savannah Ré. Welcome, everybody. Congratulations on your JUNO nominations.

Dylan Sinclair
Thank you. So glad to be here.

Savannah Ré
Thank you so much.

A.Harmony
Now you are all first-time JUNO nominees, and I heard from a little birdie that you’ve all worked with each other at some point in your JUNO journey from the bottom to the JUNO stage. Savannah, walk us through the relationship. Who knows who? How do you know each other? Have you started working together? 

Savannah Ré
Yeah so it’s actually super serendipitous because Jordan Manwsell and I have known each other a really long time. I’m sure he’s going to attest to that since we were teenagers. And then I met Yogi, which is probably almost, I don’t know, six years now, and we all kind of got super close. And then, of course, our newest and best addition, Dylan, and yeah, we’ve all been really like family for a hot minute.

Jordan Manswell
Yeah. Literally not even like on the music family kind of thing. I’ve met her family. She’s met my family. We kick it. We can just kick it and not even talk about music. We’re like real friends. 

A.Harmony
Like you’re on the panel with your family members right now. Jordan, what does it feel like to have this full circle JUNO moment all first time nominees on the same stage?

Jordan Manswell
It’s definitely something that like you think about, you talk about, you dream about and like kind of one of those things. And then it actually happens. I feel like I’m still not even really in the moment for real, but it’s one of the things I got to just screenshot and look at it later.

A.Harmony
That’s got to be an amazing feeling. Dylan, I’m going to start with you in terms of behind the scenes stories and making your albums and the creative process. Now, you grew up in the Church, you have Church roots, and you incorporate your faith into Proverb, the album that you’re nominated for. Talk a little bit about how your Church roots influence your creativity.

Dylan Sinclair
I mean, my Church roots influence everything that I do in the way I approach, just  the decisions that I make. So obviously it’s going to tie into my music. But Proverb was really just like me being honest about myself, and it was weird coming from the Church to be making like an R&B album because it kind of felt like secular music, which it is. But it’s ultimately just like my honest truth that I wanted to bring forth and to do that with Jordan, who’s also from the same background as me, coming from the Seven Day Adventist Church. It was just so easy for us to mesh what we’ve learned over the years and bring it into a project like Proverb. But yeah, it was a year or so of just being at Jordan’s house in Whitby and just having, like, a lot of deep conversations and getting, like, the most, like, honest side of me out. And a lot of that has to do with my faith, just, like where my spiritual walk was at the time.

A.Harmony
And Jordan, the next question is for you hearing this personal story with you and Dylan working together, how do you identify that an artist is going to have that star quality? Because you discovered Daniel Caesar or worked with him early on in the game before he became who he is now and the same thing can be said for Dylan. Like, you started in this early stage of your relationship and kind of built that up to the JUNO stage. How do you identify that star quality in an artist early on?

Jordan Manswell
I don’t even know if there’s so much of, like a formula, but it’s just something I feel. I feel like God gave me this like, I don’t know if it’s an ability or whatever it is, but just to feel certain things. Like even the first session, me and Savannah had, like, I just heard her voice and just relating to her and how she moves. Like how an artist not even just how they sing, but how they kind of carry themselves as a person. You can just feel a certain type of authenticity with them. And that’s kind of usually what I’m drawn to. So when I stumbled upon Dylan, that’s just like an automatic thing. You can tell he’s actually a good human being first. You can tell he has head on straight, and the tone of his voice is beautiful. So it’s a combination of things. I just kind of feel a certain vibe when I’m around them.

A.Harmony
Savannah, jumping on that point. The next question is for you. So your album Opia has some really deeply intimate, personal songs on that album. And one thing I noticed is a lot of artists like to write songs that they have an arms length relationship to. They’re not really personally connected in that way. But you choose this really intimate route. Why do you choose to go in that direction?

Savannah Ré
I don’t know. Because it’s real difficult. I’m kidding. Honestly. I just feel like a lot of the reason that I make music, and a lot of the reason why I write the way I do is because that’s how I speak. I’m not someone who is hyper emotional in the way that I am. So a lot of the way that I express these emotions and these deep, deep things that I won’t necessarily talk about, I do it through music. So for me, it’s very important for me to do that so I can dig that deep, to be able to connect with somebody else. Because what I’m realizing through releasing this music is so many people have gone through basically a mirror of the things that I’ve gone through. So especially for my first project, it was paramount for me to tell the story as raw as I could.

A.Harmony
You mentioned digging deep. What was the song on Opia that you had to dig deepest to write and walk us through that process.

Savannah Ré
You know what? They all really go there in their own right, but definitely the title track “Opia”. That song was probably the last song we added to the project before we put it out. And I just kept saying, like, something’s missing from the project. Something’s missing from the project. I can’t call the project something as invasive as Opia, and there’s still a level that I could go. I was like, none of these songs are making me uncomfortable yet. I need a song on this project that is going to make me uncomfortable. 

So I linked up with my co-writers Varren Wade and Marcus Semaj, and it was like a six hour session to start it. But the first 3 hours we’re just talking, it was like therapy first. It was like, okay, what are you afraid of? We’re not talking about okay, afraid of the dark. Like, what inside is like, if this happened, it would be devastating. And we did that for hours and hours and hours until we pulled out this song, where even still, it’s, like, hard for me to perform it. It’s hard for me to listen to it, but I love that because it’s true, it’s honest, and it was a little bit therapeutic for me to put it out.

A.Harmony
You definitely hear that in the title track. That’s my favorite song on the album. I love the video that goes with it as well, where it’s like the Opia experience. For those of you who haven’t seen the video, it’s people sitting and staring into each other’s eyes for like four or five minutes straight, which can feel really uncomfortable when there’s nothing else happening around you. And as the video progresses, you’re hearing people start to pull out those intimate stories. Was that authentic or were those actors? What was that?

Savannah Ré
No, that is real people. And Opia has been in the phase of ideation for a couple of years, so I wanted to make it something where anybody could kind of come and do it. But because of COVID, we wanted to keep it safe and probably would have been easier to get actors. But I was like, nah, it has to be. I can’t be pushing a project that’s authentic and true and all this stuff and then just have actors come in and pretend to feel each other. 

Now, I need real people and it actually ended up backfiring a little bit because the director was like, well, you gon’ be in the video. I was like, Wait, no, wait. Because I thought other people are going to sit in front of each other, and then they end up bringing Yogi and I in and I’m actually really glad because that experience was literally, like, life changing because it’s interesting. You can know a person for all these years, but you never are forced to sit in front of somebody in complete silence and just stare at them. It’s like there’s a third wall that gets broken. And yeah, I hate watching that video. It makes me cry every time. Every single time. 

A.Harmony
It makes me tear up, too. It’s beautiful. Yogi, so for those who don’t know, Yogi and Savannah kind of sorta know each other, like think you’re a little bit. They’re married and they both work together on Savannah’s album, Opia. Yogi, what is it like creating with your spouse?

YogiTheProducer
Honestly, it’s pretty easy. I feel like we’re almost on. It’s like a Bluetooth signal between the two of our brains, because when we sit down to work, I already know what she’s thinking and she already knows what I’m trying to do. And she’s in my brain working my hands, literally. I don’t know. It’s just so seamless. There isn’t really. I feel like because we’ve been working together for so long, we’ve kind of developed a process where there’s very little communication, and I get where she wants to go with the song and she gets what I’m trying to do with production. 

Funny thing is, for example, recently she woke up and she was like, I had a dream, and there was a song in the dream, and she actually remembered it, and she started explaining to me what the kind of vibe she wanted. And I was like, oh, you know this song by this person? She was like, yeah, exactly this. And her mom was there seeing us going through this process, and she was just, like, blown away. She was like, Yo, how do you guys just do this where you know exactly what she’s going for, what she wants? And I think that’s just a testament to us really being soulmates and knowing exactly what we need from each other.

A.Harmony
That sounds like authenticity is everything, that seems to be the common thread. Yogi, I’m going to stick with you for a second. Yogi, you made history as being the first Black engineer nominated for a JUNO Award. What does a great engineer bring to a song? And yes, round of applause for making history.

Dylan Sinclair
Thank you, guys. Thank you. I appreciate that. I mean, that itself is mind blowing. Like, when I found out I was just outta the words, I feel like Jordan was saying, it’s one of those things you kind of just screenshot and then come back to it later and then freak out later, you know? But I don’t know. I think when going into a project, my goal is to understand what the artist is going for, what they’re looking for, really take in the music, see where it let the music lead you. 

I don’t ever go listen to a song and write notes and be like, Well, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. First thing I do is get the stems loaded up into the session, play the song through a couple of times. And while it’s playing through, I kind of, like, try to feel and see the story in my head of where the music wants me to take. It like trying to figure out what instruments are carrying the song, what vocals need to be louder or softer. And these things all with the guidance of, like, let’s say if I’m working Jordan and Dylan or Sav, they’ll make suggestions as we go.

YogiTheProducer
But it’s also my duty to guide them on a technical side and be like, well, I know you want this, but I feel like if we do this, this will be better and it will sound better overall. And it’s about building that level of trust between the artist and yourself so that they actually trust what you’re doing, and you just gotta have their best interests at heart.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. Jordan, Dylan and Yogi all work together on the Dylan song “Home”, which is my favorite song on Proverb. Walk us through that Dylan, what was the inspiration for the song? And talk about working with Yogi and Jordan on that song.

Dylan Sinclair
Yeah, for sure. So that was, like the first song that Jordan and I had worked together on. I think we’ve got something here, like a very special song. It was special from the first day that we worked on it, and there’s a story to go with that. But maybe Jordan won’t want to tell that. 

But, yeah, working with Jordan and Yogi on that and also, like, there are a couple of other producers on that. Jonathan Martin co-produced that with Jordan. That song just felt, like, very special and warm to me. I was in a long distance relationship, so that song meant a lot to me at that time. Having my girlfriend across the country and us not being able to communicate the way we usually would was a little hard. So that was just like a song that I had written at that time. 

And then yeah, I just wanted to say, like, working with Yogi as an engineer, Jordan and Yogi both know I can be. Like, very picky with a lot of things, annoying and picky. But working with these guys, it’s really easy because I also have a level of trust in them, and that’s very important as well have a level of trust in the people that you work with. So when they tell you, like, this is actually like, I understand what you’re saying, but this way will be better. You have to kind of battle yourself and just be like, okay, you know what? Let’s trust what their ideas are and let’s see what this does. And it brought us here. So, I mean, I’m very happy about that.

A.Harmony
Go ahead.

Dylan Sinclair
Sorry. Go ahead.

A.Harmony
I was going to say that’s a really interesting point talking about building that trust, and that seems to be the common thread in the conversation, building a relationship with the artist you’re working with to pull something out of them. Jordan, the next question is for you. You’ve worked with Dylan, obviously. You’ve worked with dvsn. You’ve worked with Toni Braxton. You’ve worked with Mariah Carey. I’m sure all of those artists have different tastes and different creative processes. How do you adapt to be able to work and build that relationship with each artist? What do you do to kind of build that trust with each person, especially if they’re using vet with their own preferences and pace?

Jordan Manswell
Yeah. So those songs that I worked on with those guys, I wasn’t actually in the studio. It was kind of just other people in studio, emails, like those kind of things. But if I’m working with Savannah or Dylan and stuff, I don’t work with too many people because the relationship is so important. Like, you’re saying the theme of authenticity in the music is our biggest thing, and that’s why we kind of keep it in the family, because we just understand each other. We know what each other wants. We actually know each other’s full story.

So, for example, when me and Dylan first started working, it wasn’t just like, okay, yeah, let’s link up in the studio and then we make music and then go home. It was literally like, kind of a conscious decision to, like, you say we work on this music in my house, like, in my room because I wanted to get to know him. I wanted to not feel the pressure of having to book a studio and use a different engineer that we don’t really know or things like that. When he comes to my house, he has the freedom to kind of just if he’s in the mood that day, let’s just talk.

Dylan Sinclair
If he’s not feeling like recording, then we don’t have to, you know what I’m saying? So that kind of builds a stronger relationship and then that brings the best out of the music. So I kind of just like to foster the relationship first, even if I’m just getting in the studio. Like Savannah was saying with “Opia”, just like the first 3 hours of the session is like, let’s talk it. Let’s figure out who we are. Let’s figure out where at the time. So that’s kind of my favourite way of working.

A.Harmony
And Savannah, you have worked with some big names like Boi1da and Normani and the legend Babyface, you are a seasoned songwriter. How does working with those artists impact you as a songwriter and influence your writing?

Savannah Ré
Yeah, big time. A few times over the years now, I’ve gotten a chance to learn from Babyface. A lot of what he kind of teaches is just not to overthink things like come from a place of what is it that you’re trying to say? Just say it. And that’s been a big thing for me in changing how I attack my own music. I’m able to absorb and reflect energy from every person that I get to share space with. I feel like songwriting and getting to put someone’s words, help someone put their words together is like a very intimate experience. So, yeah, I learned something from everybody that I get to kind of work with and write with.

A.Harmony
And I was going to ask about that. The differences between again, going back to Opia, how personal that is to you, and you talking about that authenticity and how important that is. But writing for somebody else, how do you draw that same intimacy if it’s not necessarily your story?

Savannah Ré
Yeah. I mean, you know what? It really just depends on the artist, because at that point, I’m just there to help. I’m just there to kind of help be the vessel to kind of put together what it is that you’re saying. Not every artist wants to dig deep into the pit of their stomach and feel uncomfortable and all that. Not everybody wants to do that, and that’s totally okay. It’s a different place for me. Like when I’m writing for myself versus writing for someone else, it’s a completely different place. But I say they’re equal parts of me. I’m both an artist and both the writer, and I really enjoy bringing someone else’s vision to fruition as well as well as mine.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. Dylan, you once said that the best advice you’ve ever received is to stay original and stay true to yourself. Now you’re pretty new-ish to the game. You released your first project three years ago, I think, and you went from there to where you are now at the JUNOS. How do you stay away from the noise? Because especially on the Internet and in this day and age, people are trying to put out music every single week and stay in the conversation and try to emulate what other artists are doing. How do you stay away from that and become comfortable developing your own sound.

Dylan Sinclair
I think I literally do stay away from the noise. I don’t spend that much time on social media. I don’t post that much. Like, a lot of the time, I just spend, like, at least these days, I’m spending a lot of time just with family, a lot of time with my friends, and just, like, experiencing just, like, going through authentic experiences and not getting too caught up in what everybody else is doing in their lives. And musically, I would just draw inspiration from, like, my favorite artist. So a lot of the music I listen to, a lot of throwback more like early 2000s, 90s music. I don’t really consciously make that decision to stay original. 

So, yeah, it’s kind of, like, difficult to even think of what I actually do. I feel like I was raised by my parents to just do what you do and be, like, original and be yourself and be comfortable with that. And I’ve managed to do that and take that with me into the music industry. When it comes to listening to music, I don’t always want to listen to the music that sounds like the song that came out last week and the other song that came out the other day. I like to listen to original artists, so that’s where that passion comes for me to remain original as well, because that’s what’s going to push people to listen and confide in my music.

A.Harmony
And that can be a little risky, like, not necessarily listening to the rest of the trends. What is the biggest risk you took when making Proverb?

Dylan Sinclair
Like, musically, just, like?

A.Harmony
Sonically, anything. What was the scariest part of making that album?

Dylan Sinclair
Being as honest as I was just coming from where I come from and just, like, really speaking my mind. I think lyrically that was the hardest part for me, but when it was all done, I was very fulfilled and being able to put that out and very confident myself to be able to speak up and be honest with myself and with everyone else.

A.Harmony
Yogi, the next question is for you, especially from the engineering side, what kind of support or mentorship is available here in Canada to Black engineers?

YogiTheProducer
I feel like it’s really the network of people that you meet, right? I think that’s where the mentorship and support comes from, like, knowing other engineers, and I may have met in a session with Sav or Jordan because I think what helped me a lot is because I also produce, I was always in sessions where I may not be engineering, but I’m sitting producing. So I meet these other engineers by chance, and building on that network, I think, has helped me a lot in exchanging and learning from these people. 

And honestly, a lot of YouTubing like, just watching YouTube videos on your favorite engineers, what they do. Jason Joshua, somebody I look up to a lot as far as engineering, I would say I tried to emulate his sound a lot, and then just again, being in the producing world, it’s like I’m always engineering my beats because I wanted to sound as good as possible before I ship it out. So a lot of it just comes with, like, hey, getting down and dirty and actually doing the work and then learning from that.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. Jordan, you called Proverb the album. It was the source of some of your strongest lessons that you’ve learned. What was the biggest thing you learned making that album? It seems like it’s really special to you.

Jordan Manswell
Yeah. It was my first time taking on a project in that capacity, like, literally seeing it through from start to finish. This is my first time even, like, recording vocals and actually producing the record and first time having to care about the visuals and music video and communicate with directors and just do all these things. So it was so many first of me that made it so special. And it also came from a time where I was very unsure of kind of my spot in music, and I didn’t know where I was going to go from there or what my legacy was going to be here. I was doing a bunch of little things here and there, but it looks good on the surface, and I can’t complain. I’m very grateful I’ve worked with all the people that I’ve worked with, but just for me and what I feel good about, it just wasn’t that.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. Savannah, you said that Opia was like several years in the making. I’ve always wondered, as you progress in your career and you kind of have not less time to make an album, but it’s never quite the same as your first one where you have all of these life experiences that you’re cramming into your very first album. How do you keep that momentum going now that you’ve kind of put all of your guts into this first one?

Savannah Ré
Yeah. You know what the cool thing about life is? It’s like you’ve got to be able to live it to talk about it. So for me, it’s like where I was during that project is, of course, not where I’m at now, but I kind of just look forward to the challenge because it is a challenge. And, you know, like right now, going into the next project, one thing I don’t do is I don’t put pressure on myself when making projects. I probably should, but I don’t because for me, it’s like Opia. I mean, the oldest song on Opia is three years old, and it’s like in my heart, I need to feel like the project is done. So it doesn’t matter if you tell me the project needs to be done in three months. If I don’t think it’s done until three years, then it’s not done. 

So for me, because I feel like I have to put my best and most honest foot forward every single time. It’s not about speed. I feel like there’s so much music out there that you can consume that. But for me, I have to say something every time. Every single time. It’s exciting. It’s scary because the Savannah Ré that’s sitting here is, of course, different than the one who wrote all these songs. So, yeah, I don’t know. I’m excited. I’m in the process, but I’m taking my time.

A.Harmony
I hear you and it’s really interesting. Again, as your career progresses, that mix between business and music can be really difficult to navigate because you’re trying to stay true and stay authentic and write stories that means something to you, write songs that means something to you. But then you kind of have the pressure from your listeners, your fans, the powers that be kind of saying, okay, when is the next one going to come out? So that’s a dual question for both you and Dylan. How do you navigate the business and the creative side of music, especially as you’re becoming more successful? We’ll start with you, Savannah.

Savannah Ré
I don’t pay attention. I feel like if you allow those pressures to kind of start to get to you, it’s going to start to get to you. You know what I mean? I feel like thankfully, my twelve supporters, they respect the music. They’re not like, okay, Where’s the next one? Like right now? Realistically, a lot of the time projects are being consumed for like five minutes and everybody’s like, “Where’s the music?”. So Opia coming up on five months and people are still just discovering and I’m in such a discovery phase still, every day someone new is finding the project, which I’m happy about, but I just try not to let those things affect me because it’ll just water down the art, in my opinion.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. It helps that Opia is timeless. So I’m sure five years from now we’ll still listen to it. Dylan, same question for you. How do you kind of ride that line between business and music and maintain the creative aspect of your art?

Dylan Sinclair
Yeah. No, honestly, it’s the same as what Savannah was saying. I do feel that pressure every once in a while, but I always try to ignore it because my goal is to make music that for me, the fun is in the journey of making the project. So it’s not about putting it out and going on to the next one. I’m really trying to focus all my attention into this so that you as listeners can get the best experience out of this. I’m not trying to make music that’s like for the here and now and then. It’s just like you never listen to it again. I’m trying to make music that honestly, if you’re 20 listening to my music, I want you to be 40 with your family listening to my music, because of that and that’s like my approach to my music. I’m not going to feel that pressure to rush the music out. Yeah, definitely the same as Savannah, just, like, taking my time and trying to ignore that pressure.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. Yogi, born in St. Lucia, studied music in Jamaica. There are two questions there. The first one is how do your island roots influence your sound?

YogiTheProducer

I mean, St. Lucia is influenced by the French, especially, and it’s a lot of rhythm, right? Like drums and Soca music is huge in St. Lucia. We’re talking about high BPM, like up to 160. And just like the folk music down there, again, it’s all about drums and, like, the Creole and that type of thing. So I feel like any time, any chance I get to somehow incorporate that into, like, my drums or whether it’s sampling Creole songs from back home, I try to do that as much as I can.

A.Harmony
The second question there is how does theory influence your production? Because especially in hip-hop and R&B, we hear a lot of artists or a lot of producers who are self taught, and some of them don’t play instruments. How does theory influence your sound? Do you think it benefits you and if so, how?

YogiTheProducer
I think it definitely does. But there’s also a part of it where you have to try to draw back from getting too, I guess, technical with the music because most times, like, artists, I think as a producer, you want to still leave room for the artist. So if I’m getting too technical with the production, it leaves no room for the artist to fill in on that canvas. Right.

Dylan Sinclair
It’s like a completely done painting, and it’s like, where do I draw my lines, you know what I mean? So I think I have a good balance. I figured it out over the years because when I first started producing, I would just like, at every single instrument, every chord I know most complicated. And I’ll play stuff with Sav, and she’d be like, okay, break it down. There’s like, way too much stuff going on. So I think that’s something I have to learn over time, and it’s important to always leave room for the artists to do their thing. So it has helped a lot. For example, if I could play some simple chords that just capture the exact type that I need and then build on top of that, and it doesn’t need to go further. And then sometimes it does need to go further for just one specific part. And I always like to say, like, I like to add treats in there for musicians who do listen to, like, Sav or Dylan’s music or whatever it is, because they appreciate that, too, you know?

A.Harmony
Absolutely. Go ahead.

Jordan Manswell
Before we move on. I don’t think it should go on, I think we talked about the fact that Yogi is actually nominated for Engineer of the Year, but he still sold musically inclined, as a producer. That’s very rare because a lot of true engineers can mix and master a record. It’s not, like, a common thing for them to still have their rhythm and their true production years on. Like, he actually has a really good balance of both, and I envy that. So I just want to say that

YogiTheProducer
Thank you bro, I appreciate it man.

A.Harmony
And it is definitely a different skill set. So talk about that. Yogi, talk about wearing those two hats and what skills you have to bring to either role.

YogiTheProducer
I think, honestly, they really borrow from each other a lot, because if I’m making a beat a lot of the times when I’m creating it while making it, I’m thinking about how this could possibly work in a mixing world in terms of sounds and frequencies, et cetera. And even, like, the key of the song, like, knowing that, hey, maybe when I do get to mixing this, it may not necessarily be the best key for Sav to sing it in terms of capturing the best key for her vocal range. I don’t want to go too low in key. And then when we get to mix, it starts to like, this doesn’t stand out. And I think they borrow from each other a lot in that way, even, like, balancing out, just knowing what instruments to use and what will get me to where I need to go, the specific sounds that I choose. Snare, Kicks, 808’s, that type of stuff, they really honestly pour into each other a lot. 

And when I work on a song with Sav we’re about to demo, I could go straight from getting the production to where it needs to be, exporting it, bringing it into Pro Tools, and then get to demoing. And because I’ve kind of, like, preemptively set it up, so when I get to mixing, it’s way easier, the process is just so much better because you get a better idea of where the song is going to be when it’s actually done. And I always say if I could get the demo to sound like it’s out already, then we’re really, like, swinging heavy. So that’s always my goal. Get the demo. If it leaked tomorrow, I would be happy with how it sounded.

A.Harmony
That’s a good standard to set. We’ve got some questions from the audience. The first one being for everybody. We’ll start with Dylan, who is your dream collab? I know, right?

Dylan Sinclair
No, honestly, this is such a difficult question, but I’ve been looking a lot into production lately, and just overall artistry. I’m going to go with Pharrel Williams. I just love his approach to music. Very, like, he thinks outside the box, and he would bring something out of me that I never would have known that I could have done, like, on a song.

A.Harmony
Savannah, what about you?

Savannah Ré
That’s a good one for Pharrel is nuts. It changes. Like, mine varies. You know what I mean? It really just depends on what I’m feeling at the time. I would love to do a song with Lucky Daye. Would love to do a song with Chris Brown. Me and Dylan don’t have a record. Let’s go. Production Timbaland. I would say Pharrell as well. I have had the pleasure of working with him already, with Normani and he’s insane.

A.Harmony
Wasn’t Timbaland vibing to your music the other day? Wasn’t Timberland your listening to your music the other day?

Savannah Ré
Yes, he was. It’s just crazy. He’ll be my number one R&B, Timbaland’s the GOAT, period. So I guess that really put it in perspective. That like, you know, we’re all one degree of separation from everybody, you know what I mean? And that’s like same thing for all of us. But Dylan and I as artists, stuff like that is the goal because we’re talking about timeless and this is the producer that I grew up with. Before I was born, he’s been going and the artist that influenced me, he produced for so yeah, I don’t know. A lot of people.

A.Harmony

Absolutely. Jordan, what about you? You could pick one right now. Easy. Question.

Jordan Manswell

HER.

A.Harmony
Okay.

Jordan Manswell
I’ll say HER.

A.Harmony
And Yogi, what about you?

YogiTheProducer
I feel like that’s the hardest question ever. I feel like it’s similar to Sav where there’s so many people. I will say though, that even from the time I was in St. Lucia before I knew any of these guys and anything about as much as I do now about the industry. I’ve always wanted to like my dream was to work with [Boi]1da and full circle moment I’m signed to him and we work together often. That was my dream collab. Honestly, that was like the biggest goal of mine. Once I discovered who he was and everything that he does and the type of person he is, I feel like I connect so well with him on that level too. 

If I were to say, hey, there’s somebody else it would be Timbaland because I think he is insane and he’s influenced me as well. Especially we know that he’s like the k ing of rhythm and the drums, right. And as you know, like I was saying earlier from St. Lucia, it’s all about the rhythm and the drum. So he is somebody that definitely has a huge influence on trying to get that cymbal bounce as well.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. I don’t think you’re far off from that collab. I can’t wait to hear it.

Dylan Sinclair
I know. I hope so.

Savannah Ré
You left out your fave, Drake.

YogiTheProducer
I thought we were talking about like, producers. Every producer, engineer wants a Drake placement.

Jordan Manswell
I actually tried not to say Drake.

YogiTheProducer
I know. It’s like the thing is we know like amongst producers and artists, like everybody wants that Drake placement and especially being like Sav was saying there’s that one degree of separation. There’s me, there’s one, and then there’s Drake. So I feel like that’s something. I know that personally, I don’t want to get too caught up in just constantly pursuing and only focusing on that, but it’s there. I’ll keep sending and I’ll keep shooting. I’ll keep you in my shot. And then hopefully I get a song on CLB.

A.Harmony
Dylan, this next one is for you. Why did you choose Proverb as your album title? Is it your favourite chapter of the Bible?

Dylan Sinclair
So Proverb was… Honestly. I haven’t even read all of Proverbs in the Bible. But no, it’s essentially just the idea of this being my ultimate truth, as I was saying, just like I’m going to tell it as it is, and this is my lesson to you, however you want to take it. This is like my life experience, and this is how I’m going about the rest of my life. Just understanding that Proverbs are very Truthful statements about people’s reality.

A.Harmony
Absolutely.

Jordan Manswell
What was the original title of Proverb?

Dylan Sinclair
Testimonials. But same idea of just like, I was really in that space. I was 19 when it came out. I was 18 while I was working on it. And that was like 18 years of life. Just like, put into one project. So it came out very easily from you. But it was also the hardest part was channeling those emotions pretty much, but they were all there. And to let that out, it was like, okay, this is me being more honest with myself than I’ve ever been. So the title definitely has to do with needs to talk about that.

A.Harmony
I love that. This next one is for Savannah and Dylan. We’ll start with you, Savannah, what is the song that isn’t your own that you wish you wrote down?

Savannah Ré
Damn. 

Dylan Sinclair
I got to go through my library.

Savannah Ré
Recently, I heard something not too long ago on the radio, and I was like, shit, because I was like, Damn. I can’t help it. Pretty much anything, Beyonce. Anything Beyonce.

A.Harmony
I hear you.

Savannah Ré
Wow. You know what I mean? I loved her. I love The Lion King project. Maybe “Dangerously In Love” by Beyonce. It’s my favourite song of all time.

A.Harmony
So that’s a good pick. What about you, Dylan? I see you scrolling down.

Dylan Sinclair
This is, like, really hard. I’m going to go with 702 “Get It Together”, which was written by Donald Jones.

A.Harmony
Alright.

Dylan Sinclair
I honestly just have to choose one because there’s…

Jordan Manswell
I knew it was going to be something Donald Jones. I knew it.

Dylan Sinclair
That guy represents R&B for me in many ways. Just like to produce and write a song like that timeless. I definitely want to be able to do something like that.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. Yogi and Jordan, this is more of a technical question for the producers in the room. What are some of your favorite plugins to work with? We’ll start with you, Jordan.

Jordan Manswell
These days I’m trying not to use too many things. I like sampling one. I like working with live instruments. I like doing all that stuff. Not so much plugins. But lately I’ve kind of been experimenting with delay a lot. There’s a lot of cool things you can use to delay, like Sound Toys, EchoBoy and EchoBoy Junior. Those are incredible.

YogiTheProducer
For me. I use RC 20 on everything. It’s an amazing plugin from Excellent Audio. I use Halftime a lot. It’s just this plugin that makes everything go half time and pitch down, like, often. That’s like my signature thing to do, especially with like, piano, because I love piano so much. There’s just one plug in, Call Labs from Spitfire Audio. I use that a lot. Those three in combo are always just chef’s kiss, so I use those a lot.

Jordan Manswell
You use all three of those on “Highly Favoured”.

YogiTheProducer
“Highly Favoured”, I use it on the Kehlani songs that I did, both of them. I use it so often, but it always works. And I always try it with different instruments too. But the combo. It’s not about the ingredients, it’s about how you use it. You just have to know how it went to use it, and that’s fine. Sharing is caring. Please help somebody out there.

A.Harmony
That is it. Last question from the audience. What tips or direction do you have to offer for marketing and promotion, especially for an indie artist in Canada? Whoever wants to take it can pop in.

Dylan Sinclair
I’ll start with my approach because Proverb was like that was a very indie approach to marketing. But for me, it was like knowing my story is the first step and really understanding what you’re talking about. And from there, it’s different for everybody. I think once you figure out which type of crowd you’re trying to reach, who your target audience is and what type of story you’re telling, that will determine that can kind of help you narrow down, like, how you want to market your music.

Savannah Ré
Yeah, for me, I’d say basically the same thing, but I’d also say to make sure to just focus on the right things. Like there’s so much noise. And for me, for the first some years of my career, you’re like, oh, you’re so focused about being Canadian. Like, is anybody going to listen? Is anybody going to hear it? And especially being Black and in Canada, it’s like there hasn’t been a huge space for our music. But I think if you just have to focus on the music, the music is the main thing. 

If your music is amazing, no matter what it’s going to get heard, it’s going to get heard. The right people are going to hear it, period. And then also just being a good person, because I feel like a lot of people just want to go from A to Z, and a lot of it comes from the relationships that you make. If you are just genuinely a good person, people that you don’t even know are batting for you will be in rooms that you haven’t entered yourself, batting for you. So just focus on the music. Amazing music, no matter where you’re from, is going to find the ears that it needs to find.

A.Harmony
Absolutely. I did say last question, but there’s another really good one that came in. And Jordan, I’ll throw it to you because Dylan hinted that there was a story behind “Home”. What’s your favorite studio story? And it could be the “Home” story or it could be something else. Let’s hear it.

Jordan Manswell
I have one for Dylan and one for Savannah too. That story was like we were in my house. It was me. Jandre Amos was there, Mahja who helped co-write the record as well. And yeah, Dylan, Dylan and her went downstairs to the living room, had to be playing on the iPhone and they’re working on it and then came back upstairs to record and it was like a whole day. We ordered pizza, all that stuff, and we recorded it and we’re all like, Yo, this is special. This is one of those ones. We love this record. And then literally, as I was about to press save because I have a really bad problem, I don’t save records as I’m working on them. I just do things. So recorded everything, fixed the vocal, chopped it up and then I was about to press save and the entire thing crashes. 

So literally, the record that you hear right now is me going into the trash bin, finding all the little pieces from everywhere I possibly could and constructing the record, and it took, like an entire day to do it, but the record was too special and I knew that that record was that special because that happened to it. So luckily, I wasn’t lazy and just let it die.

A.Harmony
I hear you. Well, I’m glad you were able to save it from the trash bin. It brought you from there to the JUNO stage, so it all worked out in the end.

Jordan Manswell
Yeah, for real.

A.Harmony
Oh, man. This has been a great discussion. Dylan, Yogi, Jordan, Savannah, thank you all so much for being here today and sharing your stories. It has been so good learning from you. On behalf of myself and the JUNOS, we wish you success and we’re so excited to find out who’s going to take home some JUNOS next weekend when the winners are announced. There’s lots of events happening to celebrate the JUNOS 50th anniversary next week. For full event listings and details, visit staging.junoawards.ca. Thanks to our audience for attending JUNOS Stories from the Studio. My name is A.Harmony. It has been a pleasure to be your host for this conversation. Have a great day.

Savannah Ré
Thank you.