Rising Music Star MkX: “Why we should start a movement to indeed talk to strangers”

I know this is the opposite of what we are taught as children, but TALK TO STRANGERS!! Hold the door for people, ask them how their day is going. Some of the greatest friendships I’ve ever made was from going up to people and starting random conversations. When I was younger I feel like people […]

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I know this is the opposite of what we are taught as children, but TALK TO STRANGERS!! Hold the door for people, ask them how their day is going. Some of the greatest friendships I’ve ever made was from going up to people and starting random conversations. When I was younger I feel like people socialized a lot more, even if they didn’t know each other. Nowadays, people automatically get sucked into their phones. It’s kind of eerie, you’ll be in a room with 15 or 20 people and everyone’s just zoned into their phones. Dead silence. Don’t forget to look up from your screen and start REAL conversations with people. Who knows? They could be your future best friend, business partner, the list goes on and on.

As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing MkX. Transforming the outlandish concepts inside his brain into fully realized productions using a laptop and microphone, multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer MkX is quickly emerging as a fresh, innovative pop trendsetter. Juxtaposing electronic, R&B, future bass and trap production with dynamic and infectious pop songwriting, the Boston based artist is building an intense buzz with the five singles he has dropped over the last two years. MkX built momentum with his Pop/R&B debut track “The Look” and its haunting and dramatic follow-up “Ghost.” His following release “One Sided Love” scored big at pop radio, placing #37 on the Billboard-BDS Mainstream Top 40 Indicator chart and #2 on the Mediabase Top 40 Indie Label Report. His next drop “Highlights” was an artistic turning point for MkX, using grittier production textures and more experimental sound design. His discography has been played throughout retail stores nationwide with regular spins at H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Sephora, Gap, Old Navy, Best Buy, and many others. These in-store plays earned MkX the coveted #1 spot on the What’s In Store Music Currents chart with an average of over 61,000 spins per week nationwide. MkX releases to date have surpassed 2 million streams on Spotify collectively. Aside from his solo project releases, MkX is also writing and producing for other artists. He co-wrote (with Kim Petras) and produced the track “Young & Wild” for K-Pop group TWICE, which appeared on their platinum selling EP “YES or YES”. The EP went #1 in South Korea and Japan. “I want to write songs that reflect what I am going through and that everyone who listens has gone through at one point or another,” says MkX, who is currently studying electronic production and sound design at Berklee College of Music. “I’m really into creating records that have a unique level of detail and cleverness in the wordplay, but keep them a bit vague so that everyone can connect with them on a personal level. As a longtime pop super fan, I know how important it is as a listener to be able to connect with what the artist is saying.” MkX’s music is the foundation and driving force of an overall self-branded vision that includes a unique and eye-catching fashion style he describes as “blending nostalgia with futurism.” “I love to incorporate elements of different decades into my work, whether it’s the overly-dramatic futurism of the 80s or the street/city infused energy of the 90s and 00s. I also love to incorporate my love for technology into my clothing and into the show. I created all of the video content that plays during the show. Each song that I write has a visual concept and aesthetic that goes hand in hand with the track. I digitally replicate this as a video backdrop to give the audience a glimpse of what goes on in my brain during my creative experience.” Before emerging as a solo artist, MkX was on tour opening for Ariana Grande after hitting the road in the past with Christina Perri. A popular live performer since the age of 7, he laid the foundation for his current releases with over 300 shows nationwide, many as an opening act for Top 40 artists. The venues he has played include the Whisky A Go Go and The Roxy in West Hollywood, CMJ Music Festival, El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Times Square and Lincoln Center in New York City, and House of Blues and Hard Rock cafes nationwide. He was asked by the musical director of Britney Spears’ Vegas residency to apprentice under him, working on the digital audio during the show. While crediting his parents with being happily supportive of his passion and drive, he has also indebted to the formative influence of his favorite artists past and present, including Avril Lavigne (“a badass who spoke her truth with an edgy attitude”), Shakira (whose penchant for putting out multiple remixes of her hit singles “fascinated [him] from a production standpoint at age four”), and Lady GaGa, who “has such a fantastic creative eye and 360 concept for her artistic visions, which [he] thinks is such an important part of being a great artist.” MkX has looked to music not only as his form of self expression, but also as a remedy and an inspiration to overcome obstacles. Having had success as a young performer while at the same time having to navigate through the judgement of being creatively bold and different, he went through a period where he felt his identity as an artist disappeared. Eventually drawing on the multitude of skills he cultivated as a kid while sticking to his creative instincts, he has developed a sound and style all his own that has resulted in his self rebranding as MkX. “The ‘X’ in my name represents self-expression through art,” the singer adds. “I used to be very self-conscious of what people thought of me. It affected how I acted, wrote music, and lived my life. I decided to create a persona that embodied everything I wanted to be as a person. From auditory/visual art and fashion to attitude and confidence, I developed an identity that represented the best version of myself. After a lot of work and self-discovery, I eventually became the person that I wanted to be. I want people to use my music to bring out their inner confidence. I want my music to change the way people carry themselves. I want them to feel like a badass as they walk down the street with my song playing through their headphones. I want to make people the best them they can be with my art.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us MkX! Can you tell us the story of how and where you grew up?

Of course!! I grew up about 40 minutes North of Boston, MA. I had a strong passion for music from a very early age. I didn’t grow up in a musical family at all, my parents actually own a toy company. There’s a running joke in my family about when I was little, I was surrounded by tons of toys but instead of wanting to play with them I would always rather go to the CD store. I loved to scan the barcodes of the different CDs and listen to snippets of each one. The CD store in the local mall was essentially my playground. When I was six years old I asked my parents if I could take guitar lessons and they were super supportive. I eventually started doing shows around Massachusetts which eventually lead to nationwide shows by the time I was a preteen.

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

I’ve had a deep fascination for pop music since I could talk. I always wanted to be ahead of the curve when it came to music and would study the format and patterns of the songs on Top 40 radio. Of course most of the lyrics went over my head at the time, but a lot of those songs still heavily inspire my sound and artistry today.

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

I’ve been recording music since I was around 9 years old, but I started getting into electronic music production when I was 15. Before that, I felt kind of trapped. When I would write songs, I had a bunch of elaborate production ideas and felt really limited by the guitar. Eventually I started taking piano lessons but I still had that same feeling. I always toyed around with Garageband growing up, but it never really hit me that it was the stepping stone to music production. Once I realized I had such a strong passion for creating songs on the computer, I started learning Logic and Pro Tools. I immediately fell in love with the endless amount of creative possibilities these softwares gave me.

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?

A few years ago I was doing a show in Times Square. It was the first show where I implemented electronic sounds through my laptop. The sound guy didn’t really know what he was doing, and I was very new at running this electronic show. Let’s just say between us, it didn’t go well at all. I was playing guitar/keys, so I had a metronome playing through my in-ear monitors. The guy ended up putting the metronome through the main speakers and not the music, then would all of a sudden BLAST the music and startle everyone, it was such a mess! It’s funny to look back on now, but during the performance I felt terrible. I learned that even though sometimes things go disastrous and feel never-ending in the moment, they eventually go by and you learn from your mistakes. Now I run my show through one cable rather than a few separate signals so if there are any mixups with audio it’s on me!

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

I just dropped a new single, “right place at the right time.” I wrote, recorded, and produced it by myself, then I mixed it with Steve “Dreza” Dresser who is the MAN! I came up with a super vivid concept for the music video. I wanted it to capture the past 3 years of my life, living right smack in the middle of the city. I grew up in a quiet town and went to school in farmland, so when I moved to Back Bay I really found myself and honed in on my brand as an artist. I made some of the greatest friends I’ve ever made and I wanted this video to capture our lifestyle and all the cool shit we do together. Of course I wanted everything to be exaggerated since I love dramatic imagery. Andy Koeger and Henry Drayton directed the video and totally made my vision come to life. It should be coming within the next week or two!

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 the music industry? How can that potentially affect our culture? How does your music address this?

I think diversity in the music industry is extremely important. Every artist has their own persona and sense of originality. It’s important to show the world the significance of being different. As artists, it’s our job to show the world that there’s room for everyone. Everyone is different, and we should embrace that. It shouldn’t matter how someone dresses, how they present themselves, who they’re sexually attracted to, what their ethnic background is, or what their gender is. When I write music, I want to be as inclusive as possible so that anyone can relate to the lyrics with their own situations. I avoid pronouns like he/she or boy/girl because I remember growing up with incredible songs that I couldn’t fully connect with for that reason. Music is for everybody, and it’s our job as artists to demonstrate that practice.

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

  1. It’s very important to value the opinion of others, but at the end of the day, stick with your gut. Don’t be too quick to say no to things, but don’t keep quiet and say nothing at all. You may have lots of people throwing their opinions at you, don’t be overwhelmed. Take advice with a grain of salt and apply the useful bits to improve your work.
  2. ORGANIZE YOUR SAMPLE LIBRARY!! For years, I had tons and tons of audio samples in random folders with no organized system. Eventually I saved my favorite and most frequently used audio clips and put them in designated folders. It speeds up your work flow like CRAZY!
  3. From around age 14–16 your voice is gonna be TRASH but DON’T WORRY it will readjust with time. When I hit puberty my range shrunk down to a few notes and my tone was ridiculously nasal. I was extremely discouraged because I didn’t understand why all of a sudden I lost my voice, and I didn’t know if it would come back. Once I turned 17 or 18, my full voice came in and now my technique/resonance is even better than before.
  4. Don’t be scared to collaborate!! For a long time I would produce and write songs by myself, collaborating was nerve-wracking. But once I took the leap of faith, I fell in love with it. I’ve been writing with a ton of people at Berklee College of Music and out in LA. You never know until you put yourself out there and see how you work with other people!
  5. Don’t be afraid of failure. Whether it’s a song idea, a visual concept, or a daily occurrence, it’s okay to fail and learn from your mistakes. When something doesn’t come into fruition like expected, it can be really discouraging and you may start to doubt yourself. Just remember that everything happens for a reason and mistakes happen so you can LEARN.

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

Make sure your intentions are in the right place (no pun intended HAHA). If you’re making music that means a lot to you and you strive to change the world with it, then you’re on the right track. Just keep creating and be innovative. If you’re making music just to get clout or just to make money and don’t have that passion or drive, you’re destined to burn out.

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 know this is the opposite of what we are taught as children, but TALK TO STRANGERS!! Hold the door for people, ask them how their day is going. Some of the greatest friendships I’ve ever made was from going up to people and starting random conversations. When I was younger I feel like people socialized a lot more, even if they didn’t know each other. Nowadays, people automatically get sucked into their phones. It’s kind of eerie, you’ll be in a room with 15 or 20 people and everyone’s just zoned into their phones. Dead silence. Don’t forget to look up from your screen and start REAL conversations with people. Who knows? They could be your future best friend, business partner, the list goes on and on.

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 parents have been extremely supportive throughout my entire life. I was a pretty odd kid, I had this unique obsession with Pop music and didn’t really like what normal kids were into. They encouraged me to be myself to the fullest and to take chances. If I wanted to try learning something new, they were fully supportive. If I wanted to quit something, they were fully supportive as well.

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

“We’re not famous, there’s no paparazzi chasing us, but when we walk down the street people wonder who we are. And that’s that inner fame. That’s that swagger, that inner sense of passion for your music and your art, your style, your knowledge about what you do. That’s infectious.” — Lady Gaga

When I walk down the street, you can see me coming from a mile away. Bright jackets, ripped jeans with spikes and studs, cassette tape on a necklace chain or an outlandish pair of sunglasses. I’m myself to 1000%. One of the reasons I look up to Gaga so much is that she is a 360 artist. By that I mean when she creates, she has a full artistic vision. From the music, the fashion, the visuals, the technology, it’s a full cohesive concept. To me, that’s the definition of being a true artist. It’s about bringing your art to life, living and breathing it everyday. Expressing yourself until your creative aura oozes out of every pore on your body.

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. 🙂

I would love to have lunch with comedian Anjelah Johnson. I think she’s absolutely hysterical, I used to listen to her live stand-up albums over and over in middle school. I recently saw her live for the first time a couple weeks ago and I was laughing NONSTOP.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m most active on Instagram, so if you want to interact with me follow @MkXMusic

Here’s my Spotify artist page: MkX

My Facebook Page is: MyNameIsMkX

And my YouTube channel is MkXbe on the lookout for the new video release!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank you! It was a pleasure.

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