The thrill of putting together his own beats, tunes and words have been with James Crothers since childhood - he’s now studying towards a Bachelor of Songwriting and Music Production and planning a career in the music industry.
James is in his second year at the Fairfield campus and says that as a youngster he loved using the Sibelius program Groovy Music, which brought his tunes to life.
‘It’s really cute, you had buildings, which were the beats, clouds which were the chords, and you had other things that represented other musical elements,’ he says.
‘And that's how I started getting into producing and then from there I moved on to other more advanced programs and I’m here now.’
He arrived at Melbourne Polytechnic via sessions with his secondary school careers counsellor and a search for tertiary courses on the Melbourne Musicians’ Facebook page.
‘It came up with all of these people asking the same question as me – what course is best? - and by far Bachelor of Songwriting and Music Production came up as the most recommended. I looked it up and I was like wow, perfect!’
James did Music Performance for VCE and is now adding to his skillset with his songwriting and production studies: ‘I sing, I produce my music and dance is also part of my performance, it’s a whole package.
‘I play a little bit of piano but that’s pretty much only to get started writing, that’s how I start my songs.
‘I perform to backing tracks which I created myself, so I create the beat, I create the melodies and I produce everything. I use some samples for the drums and I like to add a little choreography when I’m performing.’
James describes his music as ‘hard-hitting punchy beats and bold synths and evocative lyrics, packaged with visuals and choreography to give you an all-encompassing, kind of very emotional experience’.
He cites as musical influences Destiny's Child and Beyonce when he was very young, and now there’s artists like Tinashe and alternative R&B and electronic artists.
His mum’s taste in music is mixed in there too: ‘She plays her Ethiopian music quite a bit, so that's definitely been an influence. And especially lately, I've been really wanting to incorporate that into my own music and get that influence in there because it's such a prominent part of my music journey.’
Multi-talented James is also in a dance crew that’s a bit hip-hop, a bit K-Pop.
‘K-Pop has been a really huge influence on the way that I produce music, the way that I write music, the way that I package visual and dance and music together,’ he says.
‘Music is so important to dance and dance is so important to music I think I just see it together.
‘I know that I will come up with a really good song or good release idea if the music, the visuals and the dance come together in my head.
‘I've had that happen, it just comes at the same time. It’s really overwhelming sometimes because sometimes I'm on the train and it just comes!’
Looking ahead, James is more focused on the Melbourne Polytechnic study experience than the degree.
‘I'm not exactly fussed about the piece of paper I get at the end of the course, that’s not the end goal here. Because I think by the end of this course, I'm just looking for growth and development and connections and networks and ways that I can monetise my music so I can try and work towards some financial stability.’
James has an EP out soon, called Dysfunctionally Alive. What does that mean to him?
‘Pretty much the vibe is life in general is really full of flaws and imperfections and full of dysfunctionality and I think the best way to cope with that is to just embrace it and be like, this is life and this is how it is and that’s cool and I’m alright with it. That’s what the concept is.’
Dysfunctionally Alive is available on all major music platforms on February 26.
Find your [something] in a Bachelor of Songwriting and Music Production here
Image: Rhiannon Gamble