JaMichael, “Swallowed by the Sea”

For those of us who have braved the global pandemic in landlocked cities, the ocean is a distant memory we occasionally remind ourselves of when scrolling lovingly through old holiday photos. So when upcoming Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter, flautist and dancer JaMichael released his debut single “Swallowed by the Sea” on June 5th, it was like much needed musical waves to our ears. 

It starts with a warm and soulful piano introduction that sets up a wide and spacious musical scene into which vocalist Malaya wanders into with an exquisitely rich voice. The production is organic, the sounds of real instruments played by real people is refreshing and JaMichael’s flute melodies are weaved magically throughout this hydrating musical texture (see what we did there?…hydrate…like water…like sea…it’s easy to forget what counts as humor when you haven’t left the house in a hundred months, #tonemamajokes). 

When the song comes to a close, it feels as if it gets ‘swallowed’ in the production, slowly sinking underwater only to explode back into a powerful chorus and a rejuvenating musical outro where JaMichael’s prowess as a flautist comes into full glory. The flute deserves one more compliment – it is effortless, sensual, prodigious and majestic at the same time – in fact, it is reminiscent of the very ocean the song is depicting. The song’s overall usage of jazz harmonies might seem unfamiliar to a more pop-conventional-minded listener, but perhaps it is especially for those listeners that there is an even stronger sense of being soothed with a warm blanket of harmonies that drip down the skin. Close your eyes and let the music wash over you like a delicious waterfall of gorgeous notes and words.

Best enjoyed: On a Sunday morning sitting in the sun

Listen for this moment: The most grandiose vocal riff on the word “sea” at 2:34

Listen here

Nono Chen – Would You Read My Mind

f you’re looking for fresh new music, by fresh, new (and deeply talented) NYC-artists, look no longer. This Chinese singer/songwriter/producer creates unique tunes, currently as a one-woman-team.

Nono began playing piano at the age of four and was trained in classical composition at Shanghai Music Middle School. She went to Berklee College of Music in 2017 and completed her Bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Writing and Production in 2019. She is now a Songwriting master student at New York University.

Nono’s latest single “Would You Read My Mind” has the contrasting aspects of dreamy and clever. The 21 year old Master’s student (whaaaaaaaat?!)  has produced an ‘80s inspired underwater synth-production. When the groove hits at the 33 sec mark, you have no choice but to tap along. The song is a train that’s never stops, but keeps taking unexpected turns. The bridge is a total mood-changer that goes straight back to the groovy chorus with a variation.

Nono clearly has an ear for details. She has done her homework and now she is not afraid to think outside the box. She is absolutely worth paying attention to, cause there is no doubt she is going far!

Best listened to: When you’re cleaning the apartment and you need that extra bit of motivation and attitude!

Check out Nono here !

MACKLIN – “Don’t Leave Me”

Hailing from California, MACKLIN is a NYC-based singer-songwriter wearing a multi-colored robe of influences including Soul, 60’s and 70’s R&B, Gospel, Classical Western music and a splash of the Americana singer-songwriter genre. He is the lovechild of Nina Simone and Donny Hathaway. And they taught him well: there is a passion, presence and rawness that can only accurately be described as rare in today’s jungle of overproduced productions. 

On May 10th, a breath of much-needed-fresh-air-in-an-otherwise-corona-filled-world entered our homes through the opening warm tones of his debut single, “Don’t Leave Me” from his upcoming EP, Little Boy Blue. In the track, Macklin perfectly executes a performance of desperate heartbreak over an beautifully organic production. It feels deliberate in design through clean and considered arrangements while leaving ample room for spontaneous vocals that claw at your heart. There are real people behind this song, real people behind their instruments and a strikingly honest, poetic and real talented gentleman who pulls it all together in a musical treat that has left us excited to hear more from him!

“Don’t Leave Me” – don’t worry, this will not be leaving our playlists for a while. 

Best listened to: while walking home on a summer’s night while feeling tipsy, nostalgic and ready to wallow in some drama

Listen here

The Hyper-Realistic-Non-Sitcom Version of How to Survive as a Musician in New York ~ with Pance Pony

Join us for an unfiltered look into the life of one talented upcoming musician living in the Big Apple

Meet Pance Pony. Pance is a musician of admirable diversity as seen by the impressive collection of hats she wears: the producer hat, the artist hat, the songwriter hat, the cellist hat, the educator hat, and when not wearing a hat, her bouncy brown curls serve as a natural hat framing her beaming face. Pance grew up in Pittsburgh, and then studied cello at the Ithaca Conservatory, worked for “Teach for America” in Texas before eventually landing up in New York City. 

Though not a native to the city, she is the picture-perfect embodiment of Brooklyn. “New York has a personality type – when no place is moving fast enough for you and you have to work all the time, well that’s the energy here.” Pance laughingly tells us. In other words, stepping into the city feels like stepping into a cloud knitted by strands of chaos, creativity, sweat, tears as well as passion. Pance is no stranger to this cloud and has numerous funny stories to tell us since identifying as a New York inhabitant including: meeting a girl that swore to be her protector while Pance was busking for money, meeting a guy at a blue-grass jam who lent her his apartment for a few weeks (and who also happened to own an island), or the time she went on a 15 mile hike with senior citizens on the 4th of July.

All these stories are great to store in a box and pull out once retired when it’s memoir-writing time, but for now we’re interested in Pance as a music creator. More importantly, how did she manage to turn herself into a working musician in order to pay New York rent (which I believe the going rate now is 60,000USD per week for two square inches)?

Like most freelance musicians who move to the city, Pance started out teaching music at a school in Williamsburg. A big advocate for community music, she put dedicated effort to finding out what the kids around her were listening to. This led to a grass-roots education in hip-hop and indie music as well as an insight into the local songwriting happening in the neighborhood. Pance unknowingly found herself assisting kids with their songs which awakened the interest in her own songwriting. Then in 2017 she won The Global Music Award Songwriting Competition. Encouraged by this external validation, she made her way to NYU first starting out as a Music Technology grad student before making a shift to join the Songwriting department. She was right at home.

For the non-traditionally-educated musicians reading this, we wanted to ask your question to her: is it worth the monetary/ time investment to study music? Was she happy with her decision? 

Very happy!” Pance answers us cheerily. “I’m lucky to have a degree, it’s so valuable, just not necessary. So if you don’t get into the school you wanted to, it’s not the end of the world because in the music industry your school credentials don’t really matter. What I got out of my education was meeting professors and adults that already had done what I was busy doing. It helps you through the tough time, because you have a role model! Plus you meet all these people that are like you, but not like you! So you’re graduating with a ton of friends that you know are good! Plus it’s nice to have a knowledge of basic language and terminology.

Well, having a strong community of friends and peers is definitely a major benefit to studying music, but what happens when a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic hits, and all your traditional sources of community are put to the test? 

Wake up, meditate, sing, practise piano, practise cello, stretch, I’m trying to learn how to do the split…I’m experiencing that stretching is great for writer’s block. Physical tension and emotional tension is so connected that when you get into a really uncomfortable yoga pose, the ideas just start flowing. Also I lost about ⅔ of my income, so I’ve done more voice recordings for an ESL (English Second Language)  company that I normally do sound-editing for.

Finally, we got to ask Pance the golden apple question: pretending for a moment the global pandemic doesn’t exist and remembering the days when we brushed up against people on the crowded subway..(.yes, you remember it to?): how do you survive as a music maker in the city that never blinks an eye?

Pance doesn’t waste time with answers, and so here you are graciously given a beautifully numbered list of Pance’s Hyper-Realistic-Non-Sitcom Version of How to Survive as a Musician in New York:

Number one: routine, routine, ROUTINE! Have self-discipline that keeps you centered, grounded and constantly improving. Every single day, push past a fear or anxiety you have because writing music because you have to pay rent compared to writing because you want to are two completely different experiences.

Number two: Say yes to everything! One time I skipped class to go to an audition that I thought was for a cellist, and it turned out it was for a part on a tv-show where the character played cello. But I still said yes, I got the part and I actually ended up getting more work from them later as well!

Number three: Stand up for yourself, but don’t necessarily spread bad experiences around. You don’t want to come off as a negative person. Always give honest feedback ,but to the right person at the right time.

Number four: Be a nice person, music is all about whether people want to hang out with you!

Number five: Show up! On time!”

We told you Pance wasn’t messing around! We don’t hesitate to say you might have just received a condensed, free version of the most important lessons others have paid 100,000USD to learn in a graduate music program. (You’re welcome. Also, thanks Pance.)

There were also some tips on how to survive as a mere human in New York City, which mainly consisted of how to save money and still party hard and socialize in Williamsburg, but you will have slide into Pances’ DMs to hear more about that!

So there you have it, Tonemillers. We hope you are as happy as we were to hear the thoughts of a special, talented, wise human who can remove whatever rose-colored glasses you might have been wearing and tell you the truth behind being a music creator in one of the world’s most sought-after entertainment city centers. Also, Pance will soon be releasing her own music so give her a follow and keep up with all the creative shenanigans of our first 9th floor guest, Pance Pony!

Check out Pance here