DEREK POPE is no stranger to the road less traveled. Growing up in Oakland, California, he moved to Los Angeles at the age of 22 and quit his day job four years later after achieving some breakout success with his first single, "Raincoats." After releasing several projects, his latest album, Miracle Mile, highlights his journey of overcoming mental health and substance abuse, and he recently began streaming on Twitch to continue to reach out and help his fans deal with their own demons.
What or who inspired you to get into music?
I began to produce my own beats at the age of 14, as a lot of my friends were rappers, and from there I started to look at my own artistry. There was nobody that talked about what I wanted to talk about, in the way that I wanted to talk about it. So, I set out to find my sound - a vulnerable exploration of the highs and lows of my mind, backed by a creative blend of multiple genres that took over a decade to fully develop.
How would you describe your style of music and performance? How would you describe your philosophy and style as an artist?
I have great difficulty categorizing my music into a genre - I always tell people it's "as if Tame Impala and Travis Scott had a baby" - but it takes a lot of sonic influence from hip-hop, pop, and indie sounds. For every album I make, I envision a world for that album to live in, which gives it its cinematic undertone. I always want a song to sound as big as possible, to give the listener plenty of space to explore.
Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and give your younger self advice, what would you tell them?
Don't be so focused on the little things, and don't be so hard on yourself. There's a balance between pushing yourself to the next level with every song, and beating yourself up for things you can't control - and I definitely did the latter more than the former.
A recent study revealed that 80 percent of independent musicians aged between 18 and 25 years old said they had suffered from stress, anxiety and/or depression in relation to their music creation. How do you make sure to take care of yourself?
I felt depressed for the majority of my early career because I would internalize my low numbers as outright failure - when in reality, for most artists, it's a marathon, not a race. A year ago, when my depression started to affect my day-to-day wellbeing and I was unable to even record music, I was prescribed Bupropion, which helped even out my lows and gave me a baseline to work from. I try to exercise a few times a week, and I take a break from the studio when I get writer's block. And even at this stage in my career, I still get anxiety when I release an album, because I never lose that feeling of, "what if my core fans don't like this?" But now, I just remind myself that I'm always doing the best I can do, and there's nothing else I can do beyond that.
How do you think the music industry’s approach to ensuring the mental well-being of artists has changed since the beginning of your career, or should change going forward?
It's still a business, so I don't think it's changed much, but I do think the industry as a whole is shifting towards the model of supporting an independent artist, which should definitely include supporting their well-being. Things like transparency, fair royalty deals, and genuine social interaction all play a part. At the end of the day though, I believe artists, like all people, are responsible for taking care of their own mental health to the best of their ability.
What's next for you? Any upcoming projects or plans for 2021?
I just released an album, Miracle Mile, on May 14, and launched my Twitch channel the week before that, where I make music live, play games, and chat on my stream. I wanted to create a place where my community can hang out between album releases and be there for each other. We had our first "Popecast" night this month that was dedicated to mental health, and I look forward to doing more in the future.
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