Name: Jelly Crystal aka Filip Johnson
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, producer
Current release: Jelly Crystal's debut album Freak Show is out via Smuggler Music/PIAS.
If you enjoyed this interview with Jelly Crystal and would like to stay up to date on his output and activities, visit him on Facebook and Instagram.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I think it’s a mashup of so many different things together and just separate situations that give you something to hold on to creatively.
People in general give me a lot of inspiration when it comes to building a character or a story. Conversations with weird ones on the street, dumb but funny story telling can give you a lot. I make up a lot too. It’s not that often that I write about something from my real life, rather than fictive stories.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
No, it’s the opposite for me I think. I just start doing it and in the end of the process I can see the full story and meaning of the song.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I write best chords and melodies just by myself in my apartment or at the studio with a nice guitar, piano or synth. Drown me in reverb and I will get stimulated.
I write best at nighttime, it stresses me out sitting in daylight trying to do something. My curtains are always down if writing in daytime.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
For me, the first chords with a melody are the whole thing. Like a beginning of a verse or a chorus. If you just figure out that part, then you can go to the studio and start working.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
The lyrics are always written at the very last part of the process. It’s a bonus if I get some good lines in the beggining trying to figure out a melody. But otherwise I sit down at the end, when I have all the melodies and try to fit a text to it.
I rather have a bad lyric then a bad melody.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
It could be a funny story, a sad love song, fake English. It depends on the song in general. I can listen to a French song and understand nothing about it, still feeling so much anyways. In the right context you can write about anything I think.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
Yes it does! I guess you’re affected all the time in life. Just walking out the door can give you new ideas and thoughts. I just go with it. I often bring the ideas in welcoming them into a song.
And I try them out in different ways and sometimes it ends up in a whole different sound or arrangement. If I like it, I keep it!
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
When I can sit down and listen to it without feeling embarrassed to release it. When I like it myself and feel proud of fit. That feeling doesn’t always stick with me, but if I feel that at some point the song is ready to see the light of day.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
It’s important with everything. I’m in the process all the way from the voice memo to mastering.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Yeah! Everything takes too long. I don’t understand why that is. So in the end you almost have no emotions or feelings left because you’ve been into it for such a long time. Maybe that’s why it feels so empty after the release. But, so far I haven’t had problems starting on new things.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I have never managed to make me a good cup of coffee. But, I guess that’s art too. I’m not sure but I think I can express myself through other things than music of course. I just figured out that writing songs gives me the most.