Name: Marcus Gad
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Nationality: New Caledonian
Current release: Marcus Gad and Tamal team up for Brave New World, available via High Records on November 5th 2021.
If you enjoyed this interview with Marcus Gad and would like to find out more about him, visit his official homepage. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
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 feel that there are no boundaries in the process of creation.
Inspiration comes in many different forms and constantly renews itself. Music acts as the syntax of emotions in a given moment, it is like a language to describe the indescribable.
In that sens life itself is the main inspiration, every little thing can inspire words and melody.
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?
As I was saying, songs tend to come in different shapes. Sometimes I’ll reflect on a specific subject and decide to write about it. This process induces research, I will seek for a melody that translates this specific feeling.
Other times songs will just pop up in my mind as if the melody and words already existed somewhere in space and time. I like this idea that man is a vessel that can channel all these frequencies.
Then again each song has its own story. Some songs are sung for years before a studio version is recorded. So it undergoes many phases, maturing with time. Some other songs are written and recorded spontaneously during a studio session.
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 like to put myself in an immersive state. The inner and outer settings have to be in tune for the vibe to be right. The studio is a great place for that as it has this mellow ambience.
I like to burn incense and dim the lights. I do read a lot and many of my lyrical inspirations take source in those readings. If I want to write a song about a certain subject I’ll read about it for a while.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
There is always that first spark. The first line of words and melody that ignites the fire. It usually appears in a second. Then you must feed it wood to keep it alive!
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?
A lot of artists write lyrics before writing the music. Well written poetry can fit to any music. With me, the music usually comes first. I’ll come up with a new riddim and write to it.
But as I said before, sometimes the lyrics and melody just pop up in my head altogether and in a fraction of a second a song is born.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
From the beginning, my lyrics have been about seeking the truth. Knowing one’s self and how to be a sovereign human being on planet earth.
I remember as a youth how I was positively influenced by many artists and their lyrics. Music is a healing, it is medicine and if words and melodies can help fellow humans get through good and hard times then my mission is accomplished. My inspiration is my life and I have to live it to sing it, sing it to live it.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
When in the studio with Tamal, I’ll usually write a song from beginning to end before we record it. The process can take from a few minutes to several hours, but once it’s on I like to seal the song and record it to keep record of that fresh vibe.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I like having a sense of openness when writing. I’ll sometimes go straight to recording and sing gibberish, to get a record of the first, virgin inspiration. These first melodies which come without mentalizing the creation process are usually the best ones.
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?
A lot of times I’ll write whole verses that don’t make it to the final version of the song. I feel sometimes it is important to explore a song. Sing many different vibes to it, until that riddim feels like home and you know exactly what you need to sing to it to make it lit.
It is good to follow the flow, and no line is ever written in vain. I’ll sometimes use lyrics left out from a song to create a new one.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
It is a very mysterious process to me. I feel like there is a profound and straight connection to the Spirit that one can perfect by leading a healthy and conscious life. To me it was like a calling. There is a mystical feeling when that connection happens that is beyond words. Music is the language to express it.
I’ll always remember that first song I wrote when I was a teenager. I was walking in the streets of my hometown Nouméa when the lyrics and melody to "Rise Up" just started playing in my head. The whole song just appeared and I started singing it as I walked. I ended up running back home to grab a pen and guitar while singing the song on repeat so I wouldn’t forget 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?
From the moment a song is born, I get this snapshot vision of the finished work in my mind, a sort of still picture. The whole process is about fulfilling this vision until the sound matches it.
A lot of time is spent getting the sound right once all is written and recorded.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
Once a song is done I’ll usually listen to it on repeat for a few days. If anything needs to be fixed it’ll reveal itself after a few listenings.
Some songs we’ll work and reflect on for several months. I find it important to let songs mature for a while without listening to them. Once you play them again it comes clear if the vibe is right.
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?
Tamal does all of the mixing work. I’ll usually be in the back listening while he does so and share my vision and ideas. We have developed this creative relationship where he knows exactly how to translate my feeling in sound texture.
I’ll usually help in the early stages of mixing, and trust Tamal’s expertise for the rest of the process.
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?
I’m usually working on many different projects. As of now I am working on two different albums while releasing a third one! I like to work on all these different projects as it allows me to switch between vibes and inspirations which provides a sense of freshness.
Creating never stops, I sometimes feel like the energy behind a release is fuel for the next creation!
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?
People who know me know I love cooking. I find creating in the kitchen to be the same as music. You have to skilfully pick the correct ingredients and mix them in the right manner, following the right timing. You are trying to positively move the people you will feed this food to. You want it to be healthy and tasty, to make the body and mind right. You want the people to feel well and delighted.
To me music is the same, as is every form of art. It is all about transmitting emotions and ideas. Everything can be done artistically. It is the intention we put into our creation that makes it what it is.