Name: Dallas Cotton aka Yung Bae
Recent Release: Yung Bae's Groove Continental Side A is out via Arista.
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For many artists, a solitary phase of creative development precedes collaborative work. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your first collaborations?
The current album was a brand new way of collaboration for me.
When I worked with other artists in the past it would typically be remote. Despite the pandemic and the lockdown we were still able to meet in person and work on the majority of these tracks together. For me it was a brand new experience but also one I welcomed.
I can’t count the amount of times that ideas sparked from sessions with others that may have never come about if I wasn’t collaborating.
Tell me a bit, about your current instruments and tools, please. In which way do they support creative exchange and collaborations with others? Are there obstacles and what are potential solutions towards making collaborations easier?
My current work flow is actually fairly simple. I usually have my guitar, bass and a couple pieces of analog gear like my Sub 37 Moog. I typically like working with just my MacBook and using what I’m familiar with.
This album was quite different from the past since the majority of it was played live or was made using real instruments. At first when I set out to tackle the album it was a bit intimidating but now it’s made the process overall so much easier.
What were some of your earliest collaborations? How do you look back on them with hindsight?
Like I said before, most of my collaborations in the past were mostly remote. These collaborations included some of my favorite artists like Across 82-99, Desired, Paper Idol, bbno$ and others. I always look back and I’m so grateful that I was able to even work remote like that in the past.
Besides the aforementioned early collaborations, can you talk about one particular collaboration that was important for you? Why did it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
For me it was working with Nile Rodgers.
I recently went to his house on the east coast and spent the weekend working with him and my buddy Adam Friedman. We started the chat over email and then it blossomed into us flying out to work in person. It felt super special seeing as he’s one of my all time heroes and one of the major contributors to disco and funk as a whole.
It ended up being my favorite session to date and we were able to just jam and have fun!
What are some of the things you learned from your collaborations over the years?
The main thing I learned was how to work with others in a way that complimented both of our sounds and work flows. It’s always a little tough meeting someone new then having to work with them on creative for a day but I’ve learned that you almost always get ideas you wouldn’t think of.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration?
It’s never been an issue for me to be honest.
When I’m in with someone else or another collaborator I may have days where I go in looking to work on something specific and if it doesn’t shake out that way then I always have a blast regardless.
I’ve found over the lockdown that I’m able to express myself just as much solo as I would working with someone else. It almost always feels like I’m gaining something from being in with another musician, whether that be new techniques or even just the simplest ideas for a track.
There are many potential models for collaboration, from live performances and jamming via producing in the same room together up to file sharing. Which of these do you prefer – and why?
For me it’s being in the same room as someone else. When it comes to performing, my project has always been solo led but when working on new tracks or jamming up ideas I find that’s where I truly shine.
Part of me is still very married to the idea of working remotely and passing stems back and forth since that’s what I came up on, but now that I have all of this access it makes me want to utilize what I can even more.
Is there typically a planning phase for your collaborations? If so, what happens in this phase and how does it contribute to the results?
There really isn’t as much planning as you would think.
Typically I’ll have an idea of who I’m working with, or who I’m going to feature on a track. After that we’ll go in and just kinda wing it! I may have a track bed or idea started that we lean into but if that isn’t the case then we’ll usually turn it into a jam session and see how we can strike a blend between our sounds.
What tend to be the best collaborations in your opinion – those with artists you have a lot in common with or those where you have more differences? What happens when another musician take you outside of your comfort zone?
The best collaborations I’ve had have been with some of my closest friends.
I keep the circle of people I work with consistently pretty tight as well. Those are the people I can confidently walk in and we don’t even have to think to know what we want to achieve or create that day. More often than not, these are people I just genuinely enjoy being around and that adds to the process and makes me more comfortable.
Do you need to have a good relationship with your collaborators? Or can there be a benefit to working with someone you may not get along with on a personal level?
I really think a good relationship with a collaborator is always a benefit, but not necessary. At the end of the day we’re all in there to create. Even if they aren’t my best friend in the session it doesn’t mean we can’t work well together.
For me it’s almost like this fun little challenge to see if we can create something out of nothing.
What's your take on cross-over collaborations between different genres?
These are hands down my favorite collaborations. I'm always a fan of incorporating as much contrast into my brand as possible. For me, that’s what makes music so special.
I may not be reinventing the wheel when it comes to certain things but at the end of the day if I’m hearing a specific feature that might not make sense surface level for everyone, if I believe in it, I’m going to pursue it.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you as part of a collaboration? In which way is it different between your solo work and collaborations?
For me I always have to be in the right state. I always have a routine before I work and I try to stick to that as often as I can. I’ve always preferred working solo which allows me to work at my own pace and tackle things how I would want to.
With collaborations you always have to meet in the middle creatively, which isn’t a bad thing, but you definitely have to keep up a different pace and make sure everyone is on the same page;.
Collaborating with one's heroes can be a thrill or a cause for panic. Do you have any practical experience with this and what was it like?
I’ve had this happen a few times! Some of the collaborators on my album I’d actually been listening to since I was in high school.
At first it was a bit intimidating but once you get in with most of these artists it’s like second nature. I’ve realized that they’re there for the same reason - to create. Once I realize that in a session that stress is always gone immediately and we just get right into working.