Just like KRK Systems, ROKIT G4 user Gabe Simon is Behind Great Music as an all-in-one songwriter/producer/musician. He began his career while in college, writing for and fronting the indie-rock band Kopecky which had great and widespread critical acclaim and Alternative Radio success for the 2012 release of “Kids Raising Kids” via ATO Records and the 2015 sophomore release of “Drug For The Modern Age.” Since then, Gabe has been busy producing and writing songs for numerous projects including Dua Lipa, Wilder Woods, Jai Wolf, American Authors, Adam Lambert, Coin, and Fever 333 to name a few. Gabe is currently working with Grandson, MXMTOON, Miya Follick, Whethan, Lovely the Band, and Grizfolk.
We are fortunate to have Gabe as a “KRK Blog-takeover Artist” who has shared his songwriting approach and perspectives with us through his unique world:
As a producer/artist/creator, I spend about half my time co-writing. Before Covid-19 2020 I brought people into my home to collaborate 3-4 times a week. And now, with Zoom and plug-ins like Audiomovers, I’m collaborating probably 2-3 times a week.
I think people have trouble getting into co-writing because they think it’s scary to work out great/shitty/weird ideas in front of people. Or they think it reflects on their creativity in some negative light. But music is collaborative by nature. Playing guitar in your room is just playing guitar, but bring a friend over on drums and it becomes music. A great idea can happen in a split-second flash and if you’re not paying close attention, the moment will slip by without anyone noticing.
I’m terrible with this—I have a horrible memory and half the time I forget to hit record on my iPhone to capture the 30-seconds that happened over a 3-hour period of coffee and cigarettes with another songwriter, so I started tracking the entirety of my sessions. I don’t like when people feel like they are being recorded, (even though, ironically, that’s what we are there to do). People have a tendency to change once they know they’re on tape. So now, I’ll usually turn on my piano mics (a pair of Electro Voice 635As), and they pick up conversation incredibly well.
As a co-writer, you have to be spontaneous. Sometimes the moment is perfect, so we just have to record it where it is. I operate a studio that’s ready to go at any second, so usually I can throw a mic on the guitar (87 or 414c) and cut a vocal (SM7 or 87) in 30 minutes – then I’ll dive into production to keep the moment going.
I find co-writing is all about scene changes. The idea that sparked the excitement might come from a guitar and vocal, but the concept for verse two starts with an 808 or Mellotron line, so I want to be ready to run. I understand this isn’t feasible for everybody, but the more you can streamline your set up, the better. It helps you get out of the way and allows the music to happen.
I started producing for this very reason. I was sick of walking into rooms and running faster than the producer. I thought the pace killed the vibe because they always seemed caught off guard when we needed to hit record, so I started producing and creating in a way that focused on the moment. Thankfully, artists and writers love the efficiency and excitement of this creative process. It’s not original, but I do it my way.
But it all comes back to the moment when the universe aligns, all existence is at peace, and the greatest song idea ever is born. That moment usually happens when you’re dropping the kids off at school, or cowering in a coffee shop, or out of breath on a treadmill, but the co-writing session begins before the co-writing session. It doesn’t matter what the style is: trap, hip hop, rock, alt, pop, bedroom, electronic, or just plain old piano vocal – but come into the room prepared with something.
By nature, I’m a melody guy. I hear things and then I sing them in an unintelligible language. I do that over and over again until the chants of some lost tribal language turn into lines like “you can bury every hatchet, but you can’t bury the past.” It’s my process—it’s bizarre, but I like it. My wife hates it and my kids don’t get it, but it’s my thing. Do your thing!
Some of my best ideas come from this process. I have over 10,000 voice memos on my phone and only around 20 are worth a replay. Or at least that’s what I think… Sometimes I send one of those other 9,980 ideas to my manager or publisher who say, “You know, this song ‘New Recording 5938’ is kinda dope”. That’s the best and worst part about managers and publishers; they make you question everything. Sometimes you send what you think is the best idea ever – I mean “Let It Be” on MDMA – and get a… “Meh”.
But I love that questioning. It Keeps me on my toes—makes me work harder. Also, I only trust a few people, and I really trust them. And my own instincts. And if my wife hates it, it’s a hit.
If a song gets an A+ in all those categories, we are doing great. I want my team to love it, because if they love it they can pitch it and help it find a home.
Sometimes my team doesn’t like a song. If they don’t think it’s a hit and I do, I’ll go pitch it. There was a song that I pitched in an A&R’s office and I told them the story, and why it was great, and then I left. The next day I got a call saying, “So-and-so wants to cut it.” Your career in music only works as hard as you work. This same rule applies to your team.
My publishers (Pulse) are badasses. Not only do they make sure songs are registered properly with ASCAP (or whichever Performing Rights Organization you like), they do all the yucky split stuff. It’s usually easy: 3 people in the room, let’s split three ways. But sometimes, you got a dude who has a dude, and they brought in their mom, and her sister adds a snare on the last verse, and the artist wants 25%. Suddenly, you’re only getting 5%… so you need a publisher and a manager who fight for every piece.
You gotta knock on doors if you believe in something. I call people all the time. “What’s exciting? Who’s looking? When can I get them in the studio?” I don’t think it should be intimidating. It’s music, not life and death. And the people in this business all want the same thing you do: the moment. Where they get to be a part of building something – to hear that hit before anyone else – to dream things that 3 minutes ago didn’t even cross their minds.
“Go. Be reckless. Be smart! Create in bizarre ways. Be prepared for the unknown. Make dope shit and they will come.”
~ Gabe Simon
Gabe Simon uses KRK Monitors, Epiphone and Gibson guitars.