For a product of a fight between two rival bands, Oh, Be Clever has shown a surprising grip on the concept of harmony. Behind the powerhouse vocals of singer/songwriter Brittney Shields, and the master of all trades production and writing skills of Cory Layton, the group has crafted a perfect combination of indie, electronic, soul, and pop music with a ceiling that has yet to be seen. I recently sat down with Cory and Brittney to talk music. Hit the jump to read our conversation.
Kyle Copier: Thanks for hanging out with me here, guys.
Cory Layton: You are welcome, Kyle
KC: So, Spotify has been in the news a lot lately with artists like Taylor Swift taking their music off of the platform, and I’ve heard the argument of up and coming artists and groups wanting to make use of Spotify, but at the same time it digs into their pockets. Where do you sit on this issue?
CL: I look at Spotify as a promotional tool. If you have a million plays on Spotify, you’re going to get kids out to your shows. Who cares that you’re not making money on Spotify, who cares? When they come out to the show, they’re gonna pay $20 to see you… Spotify helps build their brand. We have 250,000 plays on one of our songs, and that’s getting us recognized. I don’t care if I’m getting paid for that, we’re getting recognition, which is what we need as a small band. They pay 70 percent of money back to artists… If you understand how Spotify works, you’re not gonna be against it.
Brittney Shields: I would rather have people know who I am, and enjoy my music, than get paid, because I make music for the sheer enjoyment of making music.
KC: On the topic of Spotify, do you think albums, especially from the perspective of smaller groups, are dead?
CL: The idea of going and buying an entire album is dead. Because in past decades, if you wanted to buy a single, you had to get the whole album. Now, you don’t have to do that, now we can pick and choose, we can cherry pick. Because the industry is changing, artists have to adapt and change too, so you’re seeing a lot of artists nowadays releasing single after single after single, because it’s smarter for them.
BS: Yes, absolutely, I think that albums used to tell an entire story, and now we just release single after single after single, we’ve done that, and I think that buying an album, or buying a CD, is totally dead, because you can either torrent it or use Spotify.
KC: On that point, in 2008, Mark Cuban said that artists should consider “serializing” the release of their music, and release new songs in the same pattern as a TV show. What do you guys think of that?
CL: I think that’s very similar to what we were just talking about. I think that could work. We can buy TV shows episode by episode on iTunes. That’s a great way to think about it.
BS: Interesting. I don’t know, because I still really like the idea of an album telling an entire story from start to finish. And I think that [that type of release pattern] takes the artistry out of it. Singles are fine when you’re in the stage that we’re at, but I still believe in albums when you’re an established artist.
KC: What did you think of Drake’s surprise album, or just the surprise album concept?
CL: I don’t really listen to Drake, but a lot of people respond to his music. I mean, if you can release an album without any press, and it sells, you’re doing something right.
BS: I kind of love that, because when Beyoncé released her album and she had an entire thing of music videos for every single song on the album, I thought that was really cool.
KC: What is your dream collaboration?
CL: On a track? Well, I would have my own singer on a track, but writing wise, I would love to write with Ed Sheeran. He’s a phenomenal songwriter. Taylor Swift also, I would write with anybody who is a great songwriter.
BS: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Annie Lennox, David Gilmour, Jack White. We’ll just go with those three.
KC: So, where do you think the industry is headed, currently?
BS: When I first started singing, I had no idea what the industry was about, what it took to get noticed or get recognized. Now that I’ve kind of gotten to see a little bit inside the industry and what it’s like, and how shady it actually is and how dog eat dog it is, I feel like you almost have to sell out to get somewhere, but then I feel like the people that do sell out initially, they kind of fizzle away, you have these people that come in and have these great hits and then they kind of disappear.
CL: That’s because they have no established fan base.
BS: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying, in the pop world, it’s really hard to keep up with momentum. Because you’re batting with the big leaguers, people who have been around a while, like Rihanna… She’s got a very established fan base, Lady Gaga is the same way. Those people have established fan bases. But anyway, I feel like the industry has destroyed being an artist. I don’t feel like people are as genuine with their work anymore and I feel like people are just trying to write catchy song after catchy song, even we do it. For me…it took me a really long time to understand the concept of good songwriting, and I still think that I have miles to go to understand it, but I always try to make sure my songs have substance, I want them to be real and relatable, but at the same time catchy without being fluffy. I feel like the industry has really destroyed that, and I kind of hate it now, I kind of hate the industry. Which is why I really don’t care if I ever get famous, I want to influence people to be happy and positive and to know that they have someone out there that cares about them. If I end up being known for my music, and I end up being able to make a comfortable living from it, that would be dope, but that’s not why I do music.
KC: I wanted to talk about your suicide prevention video and song, “I Will Carry You”.
CL: I want to help as much as possible, but I have been lucky, so I don’t fight with that on a daily basis, Brittney, however, experiences it, and she’s the one leading that.
BS: Within the last year or so, I’ve noticed a spike on my Facebook feed about people losing friends to suicide, I just barely lost a friend to suicide, and I personally have been that low to where I wanted to commit suicide, I know what that feels like. What people don’t understand, like when people say “Oh, it’s a cry for attention”, and sometimes it may be, but whether or not it’s a cry for attention, it doesn’t negate the seriousness of it. I think people usually see it as a cry for attention and they forget that it’s actually an illness, that it’s an actual chemical imbalance in your brain that causes you to feel that way. It’s a very real thing. Depression is one of those things where people are just like “well just choose to be happy. You can choose your happiness.” That’s true to an extent, but for someone who suffers with severe depression, you can’t do that. So the whole idea of raising awareness for it, for me, because I know how it feels and I know what it feels like to be that low, my hope and goal is to bring some normalcy to talking about it, making it less taboo. I think the more we talk about it and the more normal it seems to people, the less scared people will be to ask for help, the less afraid people will be to admit that they have this kind of feeling. It’s an epidemic. It’s happening every single day…it’s out of control. I feel like the more we talk about it, and the more normal we make it seem, the more lives we’re going to save.
KC: That’s great. Thanks again for hanging out with me guys!