On The Radar: Drew Wilken
by Annette Lucero

Raised with a love for classical music, Drew Wilken’s natural draw to melodic chords presented him with a new twist: Ableton. The software’s multi variability appealed immensely to Drew; so much so that after 8 years, he’s not even close to being done with it. His journey through Ableton and recent success is featured below – check it out!

Did you go to school for music production, or are you self-taught?

I am 100% self-taught! I started learning Ableton by myself and from the help of my friend Michael. Obviously, I can only learn so much on my own, so I have watched a bunch of YouTube videos, watched other artists in the studio, asked friends, etc! I’ve also been using Ableton since early highschool, so probably around 8 years now. It’s my favorite program, by far.

What’s your current, favorite genre to produce in? How did you get here?

Well, it really started with dubstep. When I first started making music, I really wanted to be a dubstep producer and make the big bangers that everyone went crazy for, but with my musical background in piano, it just seemed way easier and more natural to create melodic pieces. So I kinda went all over the place, from dubstep, to house, to trance a little, to what is definitely my favorite: future bass. It just seems to have this flow and this vibe to it that just is so fun to me and it’s definitely my favorite to make, and it seems to be the most natural for me to make. My sound sort of seems to be moving more towards that type of future bass that has heavy drums and the deep pulsing feeling you get when you listen to it.  I love to incorporate really quick chords and plucks and just kinda going for that groovy and vibey sound. It’s definitely my favorite.

Pursuing music and a degree at the same time can feel like getting yourself split into two. How do you keep yourself focused on both computer science and music? Do you find yourself feeding off this dynamic energy in both good and bad ways?

I’ve definitely had to master time management and face the struggle of what I want to do post-grad. I study computer science at the University of St. Thomas and I am so close to graduating. Studying computer science at the same time is obviously super tough. I feel like I’m split in two when I have to work on both. I usually try to take time to do both when I have to, but lately I’ve been prioritizing music far more than computer science, but obviously still getting my work done. I usually will just spend a few hours on computer science projects when I have to, but all my free time is spent on my computer writing music and playing on Ableton.

The dynamic obviously has its benefits, like giving me something to give me a break from being creative so that my mind can refresh. But computer science and coding is another game in itself and both require all of your time if you want to be good at it. So, it’s hard for me to focus on computer science and music, and pursue both fully.  It’s a huge dilemma for me to either try and pursue something risky like music, or go the safe route and just go for coding. But music wins every time, and I think it will continue to do so. When I study computer science, I definitely struggle to find enough time to work on my music and accomplish my goals within the industry, so I’m looking forward to having graduated!

How do you stay organized and keep yourself on track with music production?

Honestly, I just try and finish what I start. A lot of times I hear of a lot of people starting a bunch of songs but never finishing anything and that has motivated me to try and finish music as much as possible. Even if I don’t release it, I think it’s a good habit to just finish. So, I just try to push myself to not think too hard and just write music. If a part is taking me too long, usually I’ll set a deadline for it, or I’ll just take a break and get back to it later and then work on something else. The trick is to always be working on something.

How has networking helped mold your perspective of working in the music industry?

Building connections and networking in the local industry has helped me so much. It has showed me valuable perspectives on music production – learning from others has been a huge factor in my improvement over the years. It also has just put me in a community with a lot of like-minded people who have a passion and love for music. It’s contagious! The support I’ve gotten from people in the local scene has been awesome, and it’s really showed me that there’s a lot of love.

What is something you wish you had known sooner about working in music?

The music industry is really dependent on ‘who you know’ and that it’s good to meet a lot of people. I wish I had known this sooner too, because obviously networking is a huge, huge part of it. But, I’m just so happy to be where I’m at right now. I also wish I would have worked with other producers way more often when I was starting off to get an insight at what others are doing – but I’m definitely doing that now!

Are there any highlights you’ve experienced that celebrate your progress as an artist?

Some of the proudest moments would have to be when people are recognizing me after a set and telling me they really liked it. Or when someone I don’t know messages me on Instagram and tells me they love my music. Those are the moments that keep me going. Another huge milestone for me was recently having the honor to release my first single on one of my favorite channels and labels of all time: Proximity. I’ve been listening to their releases since I first started djing, and to have a track on their channel really is a dream come true.

You have an awesome release with Proximity called “Move On”. How long did you work on that track? What was the hardest part about creating “Move On”? How did you find the vocalist?

Thank you so much! It’s definitely one of my favorites. I worked on it for about 2 weeks, it really came out so easily and naturally. The hardest part of writing the song was probably just the intro and getting it to flow nicely into the drop, as I had written the drop first, then met Montana after! I met her at a party through some other friends and she told me she was a singer, and I just immediately reached out to try to get her to sing for a track!

What vocal elements were you looking at when considering Montana for this track? How did her vocals end up playing up the song?

She showed me a few videos on her Instagram of her singing and I thought she’d be a great fit for my music. The styles of vocals that I usually look for completely depends on the track I’m making, but for this one, I wanted a female vocalist with a powerful voice, but also the ability to sing softer (for the intro). It worked out super well because she was exceptional in both of those fronts! Her powerful vocals really added a strong emotional aspect to the song, the kind that gives you goosebumps.

What “doors” has this track led you to, or what has it taught you in terms of “getting yourself out there”?

Having this track out and also having it as my first officially released vocal track, especially on such a big label, has really gained me some recognition from others. Also, having a track on the channel and label really shows that people like my music and I couldn’t be happier with that! It also showed me the process of how getting a track signed to a label is and how the release process goes. Super valuable knowledge and I can’t wait for future releases!

Word on the street is you’ve got a recent release with Hoop Records, a record label based out of Italy. How did you discover them? Is there a story behind why you chose to release “Beautiful” feat. Mason Murphy with them?

Yes! It came out February 1st! I actually found them while looking online at different labels and listened to some of their releases, and I felt that my track fit super well with them. They love emotional and melodic tracks like mine, so it was only natural to send it to them and see what they thought. They loved it and we thought it’d be a great fit to their label! h

What did “Beautiful” feat. Mason Murphy teach you about yourself as an artist?

My track ‘Beautiful’ was such a fun track to work on. It showed me that I can really turn ideas in my head into reality. I actually came up with the song when I was in one of my classes and I had to step out to go and record me humming it so I wouldn’t forget it! I’ve actually come up with so many ideas like this. Writing this track just furthered my knowledge in writing singles and was just a great experience!

If you have not yet, make sure to check out Drew Wilken! This up-and-coming local is creating his own waves, with music to change the tides.

Facebook: fb.me/drewxwilken

Instagram: instagram.com/drewxwilken

SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/drewwilken