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Songtrust Spotlight: Xan Griffin

My name is Xan Griffin. I was born in Gardena, California, and raised in Apple Valley and Hawthorne California. I am 21 years old and have been producing for 12 years and the last 4 years I started to perform my own vocals on my songs and do every aspect of my music. I have accumulated 90 million+ streams on my music across all platforms. The last 3 years I've been experimenting with a few different genres with the goal of creating my own unique sound or subgenre of music in the future.


WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO MUSIC?

My father and older brother introduced me to music production at an early age. I made my first beat on my older brothers AKAI MPC 2000 when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I began producing my own finished songs all by myself when I was 9.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND STYLE AS AN ARTIST?

If you asked me the first part of this question 4 years ago; I would have considered myself an electronic music producer. Now after 12 years of working on my own music I perform my own vocals, write the lyrics, produce, mix, and master my own records. 

I identify with the ideals of a renaissance man not only in my music but also in all areas of my life. My style and skillset change over time as I continue to develop as a person, and currently I have been doing a fusion of Electronic, RnB, Indie Electronic, and Hip Hop for the most part.

Recently I have been reading the book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein. There is a sentence in the 4th chapter that deeply resonates with me.

When a knowledge structure is so flexible that it can be applied effectively, even in new domains or extremely novel situations, it is called "far transfer."

I am always looking to learn and take elements from different genres, hobbies, and life experiences to obtain “far transfer” knowledge structures. I definitely don’t believe I am in my creative prime, and I continue to experiment and take elements from different genres to eventually create my own unique signature sound, and possibly my own genre of music.

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO CREATE, AND HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF IN MUSIC?

My creativity is driven by too many things to list but to give you an example: it can be as simple as a nice paint job on a car that inspires me to make a song, the color grading of a photo, hiking in the mountains, or enjoying time with my family. My drive for creating is inspired by ordinary and extraordinary experiences in my life. 

How I’d define success for myself in music changes with time but, even as my ideals change, there is a common abstract goal I have of creating my magnum opus piece of music which is made entirely by me (including self-made artwork). I don’t quite know when that will happen or what it will sound like, but that is the moment that truly defines success for me personally in music.

THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, WHO HAS HELPED YOU THE MOST WITH DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT?

My family has been my biggest support from day one. Originally I didn’t even want to make music, but my mother, father, and brother persisted in convincing me to do it, and I feel deep gratitude for their foresight and encouragement. I also have immense gratitude towards Sound Remedy who has been like an older brother to me and helped me understand and navigate the industry. 

I am also very grateful for Lani Rose, who has also been like a brother. He inspired and encouraged me to start singing on my own records.

SOMETIMES BEING IN THIS BUSINESS CAN BE OVERWHELMING. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAINTAINING PERSPECTIVE AND NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF?

I can speak from my own personal experience and what works for me. As I said earlier, I identify with the ideals of a renaissance man, so I have many hobbies besides music which really give me perspective, keep me inspired, and keep me motivated. To list a few: I have always been an athlete, so I love any physical activities, and love keeping my body fit by going to the gym, hiking, and trying out new fitness regimens. I find it to be one of the best stress relievers in my life. I love photography as well and recently have been learning the Javascript coding language. 

These hobbies are a few examples of when music becomes too stressful and overwhelming, it’s good to have other outlets that take your attention away from music. Getting involved in other activities can inspire new sources of creative inspiration. But also give you the rest and perspective you need to efficiently progress.

WHAT CAN OR SHOULD THE NEWER GENERATION OF MUSIC CREATORS, AND MORE SPECIFICALLY BLACK MUSIC CREATORS, FOCUS ON AS THEY ENVISION A NEW MUSIC FUTURE?

If I'm being honest, I don’t believe I can speak for my race as a whole, but personally, as a Black man, and from my experience, I don’t believe you should limit the type of music you make based on your skin color or culture. 

The first genre of music I got serious about was progressive house music, and I could barely, on one hand, name the amount of Black progressive house producers I knew of in 2011. I didn’t let the absence of people who look like me discourage my passion for making that genre of music. 
If I am being real with you, I had some Black and white peers who respected my abilities and knowledge of production, but not the type of music I made or listened to when I showed them. This made me feel a bit isolated, but I knew what I liked and kept making it. 

Create the type of music that resonates with you and don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t or shouldn’t make because of how you look. Don’t be afraid to fuse sounds or break barriers in music that have been created. 

There is a pattern in music of there being a “standard” and that “standard” is ignored by a few individuals, and a whole new popular genre, sub-genre, or “sound” of music is created over time. That would be my advice for not only Black music creators but music creators in general.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY DO TO TRULY BE A REFLECTION OF THE CULTURE AND COMMUNITY IN WHICH IT CREATES?

Overall, I think what I want is slowly already happening. The industry is in a transition period towards a big shift in the power independent creators have and the number of opportunities and exposure for independent artists through various social media platforms and distributors, which is amazing! 

In an ideal world, I’d love streaming royalty payouts to be 2x what they are but, logistically, I don’t know how streaming platforms would do that and maintain the same profit margins they do without increasing the cost of their subscriptions.

BLACK ARTISTS, SONGWRITERS, AND CREATORS HEAVILY INFLUENCE MOST TRENDS IN MUSIC, ENTERTAINMENT, AND SOCIAL MEDIA - BUT THEY OFTEN DON'T RECEIVE THE RECOGNITION THEY DESERVE. DO YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR DEVELOPING CREATORS WHEN IT COMES TO PROTECTING THEIR WORK?

Strive for independence. That doesn’t mean you completely stay away from labels, as they can be beneficial depending on the label and deal you sign. Leverage the power of labels to build your own fanbase, knowledge of networking, marketing, and even capital so you can release your music independently and own the rights to everything you do in the future. 

Owning the rights to your music doesn’t sound that important when you are getting 1000 streams per year, but once you are getting 30,000,000 per year and you own 100% of everything, not only do you collect ALL of the royalties, but you now have the opportunity to sell your catalog for a lot of money or leverage your independent success for a way better deal. It is a much longer path to take this route of independence, but how I believe it will protect you is to think of the ownership of your music as an asset -- it's like owning a piece of real estate or a limited edition baseball card. Having ownership but also gaining the knowledge of how to market your music protects your work and the integrity of your work.

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS JUST STARTING THEIR CAREERS, BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED?

Even if you don’t want to be an independent artist or do everything yourself, PLEASE take the time to generally educate yourself in every area of music, both on the creative and business side. If all you want to do is sign to a major label and sing that is fine! BUT, the creative and business side of things will be much more rewarding and efficient if you are able to properly communicate what you want to hear to your producer and engineers, or if you are a producer what you want to communicate to your artist.

Also learning the business side generally will help you in so many ways. You will be able to have great discernment of a good manager, a good label deal, a good lawyer, etc. Knowing the fundamentals of all the areas of the creative side and the industry will only benefit you. There are lots of great resources for all of what I mentioned on YouTube.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE COMING UP IN 2022?

I will mainly be spending this year further educating myself on and exploring my sound in music. I am 21 now and, since graduating high school, I have felt the need to really develop my creative skills as opposed to trying to do big projects or make an album at the moment. I will make another album one of these years but for now, I really want to refine my skill set as an artist and develop my vision for what I want to create. You can expect at least six singles this year (probably more music) and I have a new song out on all platforms titled “Let Me Be a Man” on February 11th. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and perspective, and thank you for taking the time to read about my experiences!

Follow Xan Griffin on:

  1. Instagram

  2. YouTube

  3. Twitter

Keep up with Xan Griffin and listen to their music on:

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