David Ottestad of The Workday Release: “Seek out criticism early and often”

Seek out criticism early and often. Your friends and family are going to say what you’re making is good. They love you and want to be supportive. That’s great but it doesn’t do much in the way of helping you evolve. Even if you disagree with the criticism someone offers you, I think it’s beneficial […]

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Seek out criticism early and often. Your friends and family are going to say what you’re making is good. They love you and want to be supportive. That’s great but it doesn’t do much in the way of helping you evolve. Even if you disagree with the criticism someone offers you, I think it’s beneficial so long as you learn how to filter it through the values you define for yourself and your art. We need outside perspectives to help us elevate the quality of what we’re making.

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing David Ottestad.

The Workday Release is a project created by songwriter/producer David Ottestad. Since its inception, Ottestad has released over 60 songs and amassed over 100 million streams worldwide as a solo, indie artist. Ottestad describes The Workday Release not as a band name, but rather a safe space for reflection and conversation based around songwriting. Ottestad recently signed with Enci Records and is preparing to release an 11 track full-length album for The Workday Release titled ‘Like The Light Of Stars’ on April 16th for which is the sole writer and producer.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town in Orange County, CA called Brea. Most of my upbringing was influenced by Church and my sister’s ballet career. My earliest memories of the arts were either the Church band or classical pieces hanging out in a dance studio while playing with my action figures. And I was also really influenced by movies and spent most of my time as a kid directing friends with a camcorder reenacting our favorite films.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My first creative love was and still is filmmaking. I went to college for 1 year as a film major and pretty quickly realized that it required a lot of time and compromise with a large team of people to making anything happen. It was frustrating. I have a pretty specific vision in mind when I feel inspired to make something and I found that with songwriting I could create, finish, release and engage with someone else’s experience of what I had made so much quicker. I don’t think I thought of it as a career option at the time, but I knew that as a creative tool, songwriting was something that felt more rewarding and practical.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was writing a song about fame and specifically young kids’ obsession with attaining it called “Fortunes”. When I was thinking about cover art for the song’s release I went looking online for architecture that might resemble a crown. Very specific. I found this building in Germany called Tempodrom which is an event building. It’s beautiful, anyone reading should look it up. I had never been to Germany and never thought I’d be in Germany at that point in my life. 2 years later when I had completely forgotten about this and happened to be in Germany, I got out of a taxi one night for dinner in Berlin, looked up from my phone and found myself standing in front of Tempodrom. It was such a surreal moment. I couldn’t remember how I knew the building and after a few seconds when I did remember I began shaking. It’s hard to describe. Originally, there had been such a disconnect for me finding a photo of that building for a song and not considering for a second that I’d ever see it in person. Honestly, maybe a top 5 moment in my life. I posted a photo on my Instagram of me standing in front of it. The sky was beautiful. I just remember feeling like I had experienced something incredibly spiritual. Pretty awesome.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes? How do I pick just one… Recently I was going through old emails I was writing to labels, booking agents, radio stations, etc when I had first started and it was difficult to read. I was so eager. I don’t know if it was a mistake to send those emails but knowing what I know now, it was time I should have spent on tasks more within reach. I think it’s common for aspiring artists to feel the need to be reaching for their quick way up. That’s what those emails read like to me now. Just a kid who’s desperate for a hand to pull him up to the top when he should be working to do something substantial on the ground first. I’ve learned to stop focusing on getting to some next level that prevents me from enjoying where I’m at. I focus on creating music and making sure the people who are listening know that they’re appreciated.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

This year I’m releasing 2 full length albums under 2 different names. I’m a songwriter first and foremost. I write very often and very fast. It’s just really exciting to be working with a label like Enci who knows what I’m good at and is enabling me to do what I love doing in an effective way. The first album ‘Like The Light Of Stars’ is an 11 track record coming out under my project The Workday Release. I have another full length coming out under a newer, more atmospheric, energetic pop project I’m calling Clo Sur. Really excited for people to hear both.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

The human experience is so wide and complex and I think it’s dangerous and limiting to remain in a small bubble of experience geographically. As a white kid who grew up in Orange County and whose culture is defined greatly by privilege, it’s time for people like me to listen to and amplify the voices of other cultures. Art has always led the way in this global conversation and I’m inspired by the diverse group of artists who are rightfully leading us towards a more inclusive future. I think all people benefit from having their experience of what it means to be human widened through the cultures, traditions and histories of other peoples.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Do it cause you love it or odds are you’ll be miserable. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now and it’s not because I make a ton of money or because I want to be famous. I’ve really learned to place my value in the process of writing songs and connecting with the fans. Many people do things today simply as a way to pursue wealth or fame and I just think it’s a quick path to unhappiness.

2. Hearing “no” doesn’t mean you’re not good. I like to say now, even 10 years in, that when it comes to trying to get something to happen I need to go “collect my nos” to get it done. Rejection is just part of the game. Luckily when it comes to making music these days you don’t need anyone’s permission really. Write a song, record that song, put it out. There’s no one standing at the door saying you can’t come in anymore. Of course when it comes to other parts of a career in music you have to be willing to hear no or even just be ignored when trying to move forward. It’s part of the process.

3. Seek out criticism early and often. Your friends and family are going to say what you’re making is good. They love you and want to be supportive. That’s great but it doesn’t do much in the way of helping you evolve. Even if you disagree with the criticism someone offers you, I think it’s beneficial so long as you learn how to filter it through the values you define for yourself and your art. We need outside perspectives to help us elevate the quality of what we’re making.

4. Art is subjective and no one really knows what they’re doing. Criticism is a valuable tool to help you create what is, in the end, a subjective piece of work. Keep in mind that all art is about expression and there is no absolute right or wrong. There are plenty of people that will tell you as self-defined “experts” that there is a right and wrong way to write, record, perform, etc. It’s all bull shit. I have been around some of the most qualified-to-brag individuals in the music business and they are some of the most humble, “I’m just making it up as I go” types of people. It’s hard to balance 3 with 4, it’s a learning process. Make what you can as passionately as you can, as best as you can and when you get it done and move on to the next thing, you’ll undoubtedly evolve and grow in your “ability”.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Everything that makes me feel burnt out is the stuff that surrounds the creative process. Social media. Marketing. It’s important to take breaks and evaluate where your mental state is at with those things that can shift your focus from keeping your value in the creative process and moving it to the promotion and acceptance of what you’re creating. Having intentional time for mental health is so important and if you don’t make time for it, you’ll find yourself spinning.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to inspire better communication. Better communication with the self. Better communication with people we’re in relationship with. Language is a tool that even when used perfectly, fails to properly and completely communicate what is happening within us. I love words and I spend a lot of time focusing on lyrics that will hopefully inspire healing and positivity. I love a tragic, sad song and have written many of them and there is so much worth in acknowledging pain and suffering. However, I always want my songs to open the door even just a little to hope. I think at the core of almost every major problem in our society is the issue of communication trauma.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife is my number one. She’s been there since the early beginning of my music career, she’s been there when I’ve wanted to quit and encouraged me to continue, and she’s celebrated with me in moments of success. There’s no one like her and I’ll never get writers block cause I never have enough to say about her.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The only thing that comes to mind right now is this bible verse actually. 2 Corinthians 4:17–18

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Regardless of what your opinion is of religion or the Bible, this idea of shifting our focus from what’s temporary to what is more long lasting is an important influencer for me personally. Reading those words can change my attitude in any circumstance.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Okay, breakfast actually is my religious experience of the day. I love breakfast. It’s not a time of the day by the way, it can be any meal of the day whenever you need it. I think I’d like to have breakfast with Taylor Swift. I think we’d really get each other. I like her songs. I like her outlook, from what I can tell. I don’t know, I just respect and admire her.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can follow me on Instagram @theworkdayrelease or Twitter @datsettodivad (my full name backwards, it’s confusing).

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you!

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