Soulquest LAB #10 - An interview with Theo

This week’s guest of the Soulquest lab is Akron, Ohio based producer, curator, tastemaker and multidisciplinary creative Theo. From being featured on the globally-recognized Soulection radio show on multiple occasions to Djing and curating his own platform ‘’The Session Ohio’’,  Theo tells us about his motivation, his intention and the way he’s been able to sustain this project throughout the years.

Hey man, thank you so much for doing this. We really respect and admire the work you been doing for so many years and we’re very thankful for having you today.

Yessir my g — appreciate you for having me on your platform. Thankful to be here.

Does our introduction do justice to the renaissance man you are or is there anything you’d like to add ?

Haha I can’t lie, that’s almost the same introduction everyone uses. Eventually it turns into a run-on sentence haha. But nah you hit it on the head man — everything from curating & producing to videography & creative direction really.

There’s a lot to cover but let’s start with The session Ohio if you don’t mind. ‘’AUDIO FREQUENCIES FOR THE SOUL’’
What was the initial intention and motivation behind this project and how would you describe it in a few words?

For sure. The motivation behind it really was just what the tag is — audio frequencies for the soul. And in even less words, emotion.  It’s a known thing that music relates to emotion, and I search for the soul feel in every track regardless of the genre.

You’ve been sustaining this project for a while now (around 4-5 years). What would you attribute this longevity to ?
Any tips for consistency? (maybe batching some of the work, maintaining a calendar in advance etc)

Definitely! Been steady at it for a while now. I’d attribute it to great fans, great music — and honestly, my love for music in general. With growing up in a deeply rooted church musician family, it’s something that I connect with heavy.

As far as tips for consistency, it’s all about doing what interests you. I love a multitude of genres from deep house to neo-soul — and I also LOVE showing folks & friends new music they’ve never heard before. Like, LOVE it haha.  Also yes, maintain a schedule. I always curate even if I’ve just released something so I stay a few months ahead.

One of the things I really like about the project is that you don’t limit yourself to one specific genre of music. The sets can feature old school house, hip-hop, r&b, soulful gems, future beats. Have you always been attracted to such a wide array of genres ?

Haha I love it keep an open mind to sounds. But actually I grew up purely in gospel. As you may know a lot of genres originate from gospel chords and vocals.  It was only a matter of time before I figured out there was more music out there than gospel haha — one thing led to another. Anything that gives me that “stank face” or makes me thing of visuals in my head is good in my book ha! (excluding country whew no)

In terms of your own music, who are you biggest inspirations or favorite musicians and producers ? How did you start recording music?

I’d say some of my biggest inspirations would be Iman Omari — was always a fan of his vocals and production from the jump. It’s different but whew. KAYTRANADA too — he really paved a whole style, like people make “Kaytranada” beats haha but they can never touch his lol. Also huge fan of Devin Morrison — takes me back to early church days, he’s wild on the vocals and keys.

I simply just started producing because of my origin. Everyone in my family played piano, directed the choir, or was a singer.  So it wasn’t too much to start using FL studio and eventually getting my first placement honestly.

Is there any rapper/singer you’d particularly like to work with ?

Honestly, not to be mainstream but I’d love to work with Drake. He’s a versatile artist and the beats he uses are simple but smack at the same time.  Other than that, maybe Saba because he’s a great storyteller and can change his flow at the drop of a dime. And someone a little more low-key, there’s an artist / producer by the name of Ahki from Quebec. His tracks evolve over the length of the song like mine do so I’d love to hop in the studio with him for sure. Low-key legend. On the female side, maybe Joyce Wrice, SZA or Alex Isley. Love them.

As someone who’s been using Soundcloud for both your platform and your own music, what do you think of the way it has evolved especially in the past 2-3 years ? Would you maybe consider transitioning to a different platform in the future ?

Mannnn…. Anyone will tell you, nothing will compare to like 2011/2012 - 2016 Soundcloud. It was just different. You’d find so much GREAT music. Nowadays Soundcloud has made it hard to really dig for the good music out of the oversaturated pool of producers and artists now. They could EASILY fix it, but they neglect to.
Honestly if there was a platform that was like 2014 Soundcloud and didn’t change for monetary gain — yes. My email is already ready for my account. Big Bandcamp fan though, if they ever made digging & broadcasting easier it’s a wrap.

Even though our two projects are very different, we seem to have common aspirations. In different ways, we’re both giving a platform for other artists to express themselves. For example, you always add a track list and credit and tag the artists.You may also know the struggles of not having your art mentioned. Do you think being a producer yourself gives you the right position and mindset to understand the artists needs ? 

Yeah definitely. Even if you didn’t know the tag/feature was coming, it always helps getting some extra eye and direction on you. Whether 2 people follow you from what I do or 1,000 — it’s the reason I’m here for. Great music in need of recognition.

We relate to you as being someone with many various interest and skills. Music production, Djing, curation, photography and even graphic design. We once had a conversation about having enough skills to do everything on your own but still wanting to outsource some of the work to focus on what’s more important. From your experience, what are the pros and cons of being a ‘generalist’ ?

I’d say it’s great knowing how to do everything because I know what looks good and not. Also I can quickly fix things. But on the flip side, it’s a lot of time spent in areas I’d rather trust other people’s creativity for. Long as we relate on the vision, I trust them. Can’t say I’ve really came across them yet but hey — in due time (I pray haha)

In terms of Djing, what’s your process like ? Do you prepare your sets in advance or  just go with the flow ? Do you record them with a specific idea and intention in mind or do you improvise ?

Whenever I do a live set, I really just put together a few songs I definitely want to play, then after that I just improvise. I’m known to just play whatever feels good — I’d rather play for the crowd instead of to the crowd.
As far as the mixes I do make a list though. Over the month I save songs I really feel heavily regardless of genre, add in some older tracks I’ve dug for over the years and some Ohio artist tracks then boom, got yourself a new session. DJ it all together and that’s that.

What are some of the skills you think a good DJ should have?

Really when it comes to being a DJ, I tell people it’s two things — Being able to count music / understand music structure, and most importantly your library. Personally I don’t know how to scratch haha, but I have an emotional connection to my music library and I know music, so I can add effects and blend two songs together pretty well for real.

You obviously have a huge passion for music, strong technical skills and from an outside perspective, you seem to have an outgoing and charismatic  personality. Do you think the way you engage with your community and listeners is part of your success?    

Definitely is — more-so in person. Whenever I’m around people always know me to know everyone and have the jokes haha.  As far as online, I’ve got some personality work to do since I wasn’t always big on hosting/commentating — but it’s in progress! Haha the upcoming video content will help the online listeners understanding me for sure.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of being a DJ and curator ?

I’d say the most rewarding part honestly, is people texting/calling/messaging me about a track or artist I showed them and being like “mannnnnnn who is this!!!”. Same with being a “DJ” — it’s always great to play a set and folks come up like “I didn’t know you knew —“ or “mannn. Where can I find more of that at?” …Next thing I know they’re sending me tracks back haha. That’s one of my love languages for real. Send me some good music.

Thank you so much for your time and interesting insights man ! Was great to have you. Anything special you’d like to add ?

For sure my g! I appreciate you for reaching out to me. Anything special I’d say is, be open minded. Between life & music be open minded. Tap in with with The Session mixes, Spotify playlist, artist label releases, & future Merch and video content. Much love brodie

Support and follow Theo on his instagram, and Soundcloud to get updates on his new releases, projects and gigs.

Interview by Karim Chibani 

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