Written by Kiersten Gerard
Over the course of just this past year, Mud has amassed over 1.5 million followers on Tik Tok. Though popularly known for his character content, he's been writing and producing original music for the past 7 years. We got the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about genre blending, how mental health impacts music, and doing what makes you happy.
What is your relationship with music and how did it start?
I’ve been into music my entire life. As a theater student I was introduced to music from a pretty young age but in terms of more recently, at the end of high school I downloaded this software and taught myself how to use it so that I could make my own songs. I bought myself some equipment, learned how to use it, and I’ve been doing a kind of independent study on it for the past 6-7 years of my life. Which is weird to think about. It’s been an interesting journey to say the least. A solitude journey. I spent all of study hall senior year sitting on my computer learning how to make music. It was a really nice way to get through the sh*tty parts of high school.
Who were the first artists that got you interested in music production?
The effect of being a theater student, I didn’t really get into popular music until my junior year of high school. Some of my friends in my chorus class interestingly enough started putting me on to Childish Gambino. He was the first artist where I was like “Oh my god, what have I been missing for so long?” After that I just sat and listened through so many artists and fell in love with a very different type of music then I was used to. It was a nice escape. Made me feel like I was a person separate from someone who did theater. Childish Gambino is a really big one. I remember also going to a music festival with my friends to see Kendrick Lamar. These were all really new experiences for me and I remember thinking that this was the cool type of music. I love it now.
How would you describe the genre your music falls under?
I was hoping you would ask that! It’s interesting because I’m really really heavily inspired by a lot of hip hop and R&B but what I’ve tried to do with my own music is tackle literally every single sound that I possibly can. To this date I’ve only released 5 songs but those 5 songs very much cover a wide variety of music. They’re all very hip hop/ R&B oriented but I like to mix it with my own style of soft ballad type music. I love combing sounds so I don’t know if I can say that I have one specific genre because it’s all an experiment right now.
Your song “Timing” is a prime example of that genre blending style. What was that writing process like?
I wrote that song in 3 parts over the course of a month and a half. I wrote the first verse and chorus and thought “Okay, where does the song go from here? Do I just do the same verse chorus?” and then I was like “No no no, let's just rap for no reason for the second verse.” I thought that was awesome and I wasn’t sure where to go from there. Do I do another chorus and then a bridge? No. I’m gonna end it with a type of weird rock ballad. It’s very much a concept piece.
How long on average does it take for you to write, record, and produce a song start to finish?
It’s important to say that everything is done by me- the writing, mixing, mastering, vocals, production, that’s all me. To use “Timing” as an example, I sat down one day to write when I was home. To be quite transparent, I was in a very numb, depressed state and I wanted to write about it. I wrote a very simple backing track. What I usually do is make part of a song and listen to it for a week or two until I figure out what I’m going to do next. With “Timing,” I sat with that opening for about two and a half weeks. Then I flew up to New York to quarantine for school and that's when I thought to add a rap section to it. That song specifically was a long process, it ended up taking about a month and a half of work. Sometimes I’ll sit down and work on a song and finish it in 4 hours. It really depends on how intricate I want the song to be. It depends on the subject matter for sure. Whether I’m just having fun making a stupid song that has a very pop-hip hop sound or I’m sitting down to work on a serious project. It very much varies.
Do you prefer writing lyrics or beats more?
I am really production oriented, I think that’s always where I start. I sit down probably everyday and make a new song or beat or whatever. Am I always going to do something with it? Maybe not. I wait until I make something that is inspiring to me. The best way to put it is I’ll make something and unexpectedly surprise myself. I’m always trying to one up my previous work. If I release a song I always want it to either be better or vastly different from the song that came before.
When you’re writing lyrics do you have any specific themes that you write about often?
I feel that subject matter when I write music comes down to how I’m feeling at that current moment in time. When I wrote that little two track thing I was in a very depressive periods I decided that I would use music as an outlet for that. “Timing” is about 3 different parts of that month and a half. The first part is about me being depressed sitting in my room at home wanting to do something more. The second part is about how I felt nervous coming back to school and being socially anxious around all of my friends again. The last part is about love. It really depends on how I’m feeling at the time. I’ve yet to write something that’s fun and happy. It’s impossible! There’s plenty to be happy about but I think art, especially music often comes at times of emotional struggle. Even with love songs, love is sometimes an emotional struggle. The song can be saying “I love you, never let me go.” Yes it's about love, but that song was written because the writer is afraid of being left. It’s very fascinating.
When you’re thinking about the future and your career after college where do you hope that path will lead?
If you asked me that question less than a year ago when this whole “fame” thing started for me my answer would be completely different. I’ve been placed with this massive opportunity that I don’t exactly know what to make of yet. The good thing is I’ve still got a little more time here to figure everything out. It’s nice to be doing something and be successful at it. It’s presented me a very unique opportunity. In terms of what I’m going to do next, who knows? Maybe it’s this. Of course I’m going to keep releasing music and making videos and stuff like that. I’m really interested to see where this all takes me after Covid is over. It’s going to be a very different scenario.
How has Tik Tok impacted your music career? Do you think you’ll start incorporating more of your music into Tik Tok or will you keep the two separate?
Definitely something I’ve been thinking about. Tik Tok has definitely been something I’ve been able to use to boost my music career. The first song I released when I didn’t even have many followers is working on getting upwards of three hundred thousand streams on Spotify which is crazy. And I consider that to be one of the most poorly produced songs I’ve released. Certain members of the community are so supportive of what you do no matter what, and some will say “screw you” and call you a sellout. Tik Tok is the most bizarre thing of all time. I haven’t been noticed in public- people ask me all the time about what it feels like to be a “celebrity” but I’m not. I really don’t think that I am. It’s such a small scale, so niche.
Who is your favorite artist at the moment?
This guy named Benny Sings. He is the absolute man. He’s been making music for years but recently he’s been collaborating with a lot of small alternative artists. He is the king of bedroom pop. Every time he releases a song it’s a hit. He makes feel good music. He’s actually a super heavy inspiration for a lot of the music I’ve been working on. Love Benny Sings. Great guy. Don’t know him personally, but great guy. Love him to death.
What song has been stuck in your head lately?
The song that always plays in my head when I’m walking around and I want to have a theme song is “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz. It’s incredible, one of the greatest songs. Very ahead of its time. That song is stuck in my head all the time for sure. I also work on music with a lot of people from Tik Tok. One of My buddies Rohan sends me his stuff and those songs get stuck in my head all the time. It's a really unique experience to love songs that no one else has heard. It’s awesome.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to make music?
If you’re good at something and you want it enough literally just do it. Just do it. I mean that’s what I did, I was just doing it. Especially when it comes to music, if there’s something that you’re passionate about, put it out into the world. Someone is going to listen to it. Use whatever platform you have. Share it with your friends. I remember I was terrified to share my music for the first time. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I would just upload it to the internet hoping it would work. Share your music with people. You never know how your friends are going to react. Just do it. And keep doing it. Consistently. Or, I would never want to put pressure on anyone so do it to a point that makes you happy. If it’s making you happy and you are enjoying doing it, that’s all that matters.
Is there anything you’d like to plug?
Of course the music, always the Tik Tok. I haven’t been on there in a while but I’ll be back soon. Otherwise I don’t really like to plug myself. I just do my thing and if people enjoy it, they’ll enjoy it. So check it out if you want, it is what it is.
Check out Mud’s new release ? with the tracks “Timing” and “F**k Up.”
Find him on Tik Tok and Instagram @mud.consumer and twitter @themudconsumer