NXTSTYLE’s 2020 Songs of the Summer: ESS SEE “Overdrive”
INTRODUCING NXTSTYLE’S 'SONGS OF THE SUMMER,' HIGHLIGHTING OUR FAVORITE TRACKS WE'VE DISCOVERED THIS SUMMER. OVER 70 SONGS FROM NEW AND INDEPENDENT ARTISTS FORM OUR SUMMER 2020 SOUNDTRACK. TODAY WE FEATURE ESS SEE. THE BROOKLYN-BASED SINGER/SONGWRITER ROCKED OUR PLAYLIST THIS SUMMER WITH THE VINTAGE-STYLED ANTHEM “OVERDRIVE”. FROM HER APPEARANCE TO HER SOUND AND MESSAGE, WE LOVE WHAT’S SHE’S PUT INTO HER ARTISTRY AND LOOK FORWARD TO WHAT’S AHEAD FOR HER. GET TO KNOW ESS SEE IN OUR FEATURED INTERVIEW.
“Overdrive” is an empowering single that talks about heartbreak and moving forward. Take us through the creation of the single and your connection to it.
In 2019, I released my debut album, ‘Waiting For The Sky To Fall’ — which was written in the midst of a romantic relationship that was doomed to fail, I just hadn’t faced it yet. After that breakup, I wrote a lot of music to help myself recover, but never really felt compelled to finish those songs.
Finally after a lot of time and a ton of support from great friends, I began to feel like myself again. I fell in love again. I got engaged. And, I started to reflect on the immense power of resilience and starting again. It can be so painful and daunting, but every now and then, it works, and you get it right. Over Christmas of 2019, I sat down with my mother and began to write the skeleton of what would eventually become “Overdrive.” I came back to NYC and dove head first into producing the song. I’d always produced my demos, but I’d never fully self-produced a song to completion. “Overdrive” is about finding my new, stronger self (in love and beyond), so it made sense to me that I should take on the challenge of producing the song on my own—in order to capture the truest version possible of that new self. It quickly became a highly collaborative effort. With Charlie Rauh on guitar, Oskar Haggdahl on drums, and Mitch Friedman on bass, it’s my first song with so much live instrumentation. For the first time, I was fortunate to work with Albert Di Fiore to dial in the final mix and upon hearing it, I knew we had done it. There was no doubt in my mind that “Overdrive” was the perfect follow up to the album, and the beginning of a whole new era in how I make music.
Through its theme and powerful chorus I can see this single fitting perfectly in a TV commercial as well as a TV show and featured film. If you had a choice what would be the ultimate sync placement for “Overdrive”?
Grey’s Anatomy. The show is 16 seasons in, and I’ve watched every episode I’m a sucker for every dramatic twist and turn in the plot. “Grey’s” has a history of making music an integral part of the story telling, and someday, I hope to be a part of it!
Outside of “Grey’s” I dream of having one of my songs become the theme song for a binge-worthy series (think HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Showtime or honestly any network…) The goal is “Golden Girls” theme song status.
I love the music video for “Overdrive”! I read it was edited footage from an old U.S. postal service commercial. It’s such a unique way of capturing this song and feels like an idea that came through in a dream. How did this concept come about and what about the footage of the commercial made it the best portrayal of the song?
Unfortunately, the idea was born out of the opposite of a dream. By the time the song was finished, COVID-19 had taken over, and lockdown life was in full effect. I knew I couldn’t shoot a proper music video, so I knew I had to get creative. I turned to the internet and found a few websites with footage that was available in the Public Domain and went to work digging. Within a day, I found a 15-minute-long 1967 United States Postal Service PSA encouraging people to use the “new” ZIP code system to mail letters. One of the vignettes featured in the PSA was about long-distance lovers, and it was perfect. It was the same story of “Overdrive”: overcoming heartache, picking yourself up, and trying again. Plus, the long distance factor was especially poignant because there were so many people who couldn’t currently be with their loved ones due to the virus. The combination of the footage with the song felt hopeful in a bleak time, and comforting to me to know that the story was so universally human that it was still just as relevant today as it was back in 1967.
``OVERDRIVE`` NXTSTYLE'S 'SONGS OF THE SUMMER'
A commonality between all your songs is that they are emotionally heavy and feel very real. For a listener that can become a sense of healing and just the feeling of not being alone if they are going through a similar situation. Take us behind your artistry and what you feel your purpose is as an artist.
Wow, thank you. My songs are born from personal experiences, and often help me process things I don’t understand yet or may not feel fully comfortable talking to people about. I don’t try to tell stories or touch on subject matter I know nothing about. Rather, songwriting is where I can face my own fears, insecurities, and personal victories head on—and feel safe doing so. It’s where I digest and figure out how I feel about things happening in the world. Sometimes it’s just sharing where I’ve been or my hopes for the future. It’s where I realize most that I am just like everyone else, which is a beautiful and comforting feeling. I think my purpose as an artist is to create music that is open and honest, for better or worse, and give listeners a place to feel seen, understood, and connected to something bigger. In the end, I’m just hoping to be for others what so many musicians have been for me throughout my life.
With the challenges of the pandemic, has it altered your perspective on life and relationships? Do you see it influencing what you write about?
Yes. Like many people, I’ve found my life getting a lot smaller and more focused. I’m less worried about the future and more concerned with loving the people closest to me and making the most of the present. It’s given me a better understanding and acceptance of my mortality and made me appreciate all that I have more. It’s made me more compassionate and helped me learn to be quiet and listen.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about something I heard recently about fine art after the 1918 Flu Pandemic which coincided with World War 1. As the 1918 flu and WW1 barreled on, popular art shifted from being primarily focused on the human figure and morphed into abstraction. People were depressed and exhausted and the sight of more bodies and figures in light of all the death they were experiencing was not appealing. Abstraction in art was a means of escape from reality. I don’t know if this was conscious or unconscious but I find it fascinating and I am curious to see how our recent experiences will impact artistic works in our time.
In contrast to the artists of 1918 (for me personally) there is a shift towards more humanity, truth, and reality. The pandemic and political climate has influenced my writing as well as the sonic landscape I’m finding more appealing. In my new music, I’m using more organic sounds, layered vocal harmonies, and live instrumentation than I ever have before. I think this is linked to a desire for human connection and maybe even an expression of nostalgia and hope for better times. I find myself listening to more music from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s—lots of music my parents listened to. I’m finding a lot of comfort in these songs, and have been listening less to more sample-heavy, fantasy-driven pop music (which I also adore, it’s just not where I’m at right now). I guess the current landscape of the world has me craving things that feel very real, human, and grounded—like I need to remember we’re all still here, we’re all still pushing forward—and it’s manifesting in the music I’m creating today.
With more down time this year due to the pandemic, people have placed their energy on things they previously didn't have time to focus on. What is something you’ve been able to connect with that you wouldn’t normally have time for or even think about?
I’ve actually started playing a lot of golf. I grew up playing with my dad in Arkansas, and then played in high school and college. Once I moved to New York, there wasn’t much time or opportunity to play. But then the pandemic hit and life changed drastically. It turns out, golf is a perfect pandemic / social distancing activity! I’m not as good as I used to be but being able to be outside for hours in nature with people I love, has been such a great gift.
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Of the talented artists, songwriters, and producers out there is there someone you would really love to collaborate with next?
I’d love to collaborate on production with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. The man is in his 70’s and still pumping out some of the best music of our century. And he’s successfully adapted and stuck around in an industry that is constantly changing. I admire him a lot.
I’d also love to write with Lana Del Rey. I think she’s one of the greatest lyricists and poets of our time. The way she is able to synthesize the American cultural landscape as well as her own experiences into words consistently blows me away.
As we head into the second half of the year what can fans expect from you for the remainder of 2020?
I’m going to keep using 2020 to better my skills as a producer. I’m almost finished with my second self produced single, that I plan on releasing in late summer or early fall. There are a few others in the queue I’ll work on after that. I’m hoping to grow by continuing to collaborate with other musicians and push myself to explore new directions in my sound.
ESS SEE's Top 5 songs this summer:
- Grace Jones “Pull Up To The Bumper”
- Neil Young “Computer Age”
- Caveman “You Got a Feeling”
- Lana Del Rey “The greatest”
- Harry Styles “She”
Listen to all of our featured artist’s favorite songs of the summer on our special Spotify playlist.
ESS SEE’s ‘Firsts and Favorites’
First concert: Bush / Veruca Salt (1997)
Favorite Album: This is VERY hard to choose just one. Here’s a few (sorry!):
Deja Vu – Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell, Frank Ocean – Channel Orange, Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo – LSD, Carole King – Tapestry
First song you fell in love with: “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses” – Kathy Mattea
Tanya Tucker at Town Hall NYC or
Sharon Jones at the Williamsburg Waterfront or
Ringo Starr and his All Star Band at Borgata Atlantic City
First performance: Ever? Probably the local talent show at Jerry Van Dyke’s Theater in Benton, Arkansas — (I did NOT win)
As ESS SEE – Summer of 2016 at C’mon Everybody in Brooklyn
Favorite thing to do outside of music: Golf!
BROWSE ALL OF OUR ‘SONGS OF THE SUMMER’ INTERVIEWS
MUSIC IN 2020 INTERVIEW SERIES
WE INTERVIEWED MUSIC PROS AND TASTEMAKERS TO GET THEIR PERSPECTIVE ON WHERE MUSIC IS HEADED AND TO DISCOVER WHAT NEW MUSIC THEY'RE LISTENING TO.
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THE ‘NEXT IN MUSIC’ PLAYLIST
Discover a wide range of new music we’ve recently added including our featured songs of the summer. Follow the ‘NEXT in Music’ playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud.