Pop singer-songwriter Whitney McClain meets with us at Blvd Cafecito in Burbank, CA to chat about her latest single “Cruise” and it’s wonderful remixes, the launch of her music career through YouTube, and the pressures musicians face with the current music listening generation.
So to start off, you’re riding the high tides of your current single “Cruise” and all of its remixes. I wanted to say congratulations.
Whitney McClain: Thank you!
I actually heard it one of the remixes at my gym and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I get to interview her soon!’
Whitney: How awesome!
I wanted to ask you, what inspired the lyrics of the song and also the instrumentation and your decision to do the remixes?
Whitney: So this came from when I first started songwriting and diving into making my own music. I originally had my producer kind of help gear the song into the direction of what I wanted the instrumental to sound like, and then ended up having the track just sitting by itself for, like, two years because all I could come up with is like the concept ‘cruise.’ So I got with my writing team, and we just talked about how right now there’s a lot of hardship in the world with people just having a lot of negativity towards everything. It’s better if we just choose to rise above and get along and try our best to make it a better place. So it came from that concept initially, but the song can also be viewed as a love song. Like, when you go through hard times in a relationship or even with family, you know just choose to be the bigger person and to choose love over everything else. I mean, with all these songs there’s only one side of the story. But only you know that there were two sides. You’re just showing your side in your music.
Right. And how would you say that the songwriting and recording process for “Cruise” was different than that of your past work and also in terms of all the remixes?
Whitney: “Cruise” was one of the first songs that I really had my hand in the songwriting process for so that was different compared to my other songs that I did. For the remixes, we gave some producers “Cruise,” and they all embellished however way that they felt the song would be best showcased. So I feel like I can’t really take credit for the remixes, but I love them and I think they’re awesome interpretations of the song.
Absolutely. It’s always cool to hear different aspects and styles of one song. Just finding that specific thing and working on highlighting it.
Whitney: Yes! And all of them definitely did that.
So I saw that you were starting to tease a new song on social media. I wanted to ask you if you’d like to give us a sneak peek at what we should be looking forward to?
Whitney: You know I’ve been working on quite a few songs actually, including the one that I was sharing. *laughs* But as far as the upcoming music that I’ve been working on, I’d definitely say that the songs are a lot moodier compared to the previous stuff that I’ve put out. Something new and different that’s dark but not too dark, you know?
Totally. And I’m sure that your fans will enjoy anything you put out.
Whitney: I sure hope so. *laughs*
And speaking of social media, do you think that it’s made it easier or harder to kind of break out and reach potential new fans?
Whitney: You know, I think it just depends. Yes it’s easier because it gives you more people to reach, but at the same time you are also competing with everyone else because we all have the same opportunity to share whatever we’re doing with our music. I feel like knowing how to market and promote yourself is like the biggest thing, and I even have a hard time with that. I’m trying to learn how to market myself better on my social platforms so I can try to reach as many people as possible.
Do you think that social media has kind of taken over as the main form of marketing?
Whitney: I would definitely think so with music. I mean, it’s everywhere! I use Instagram a lot, and I just constantly see people putting their music out. On Facebook too! But yeah, there’s always so much out there and sometimes it’s a little intimidating.
Would you say that there are any differences in regards to how you market yourself between all the different platforms?
Whitney: You know, I think it’s hard to do that because I still don’t have it down. When I figured out how to do ads, that’s a big thing that helped with me with finding new listeners. Many people have said, ‘Oh I saw your music on this and I decided to click the ad.’ So I think, at least from my experience, doing ads and videos for YouTube and having it blend over to Facebook and stuff is a good way to get yourself out there.
And speaking of YouTube, you had gotten a lot of love from them and it pretty much launched your career with your first single “Bombs Away.” Would you say that YouTube is a huge power player in regards to how musicians are discovered?
Whitney: In terms of like a video portfolio, I think YouTube is extremely influential for musicians. There’s a whole community within them. Obviously for me, YouTube was very helpful over the past few years. I don’t know if YouTube is as influential like with Spotify now being so big for new artists, but I still think it’s still a good avenue to get your stuff out through and to spotlight your work.
Absolutely. I feel like we’ve gotten used to having successful careers starting from that spotlighting tactic. Would you say that singles based releases are a little bit more successful as opposed to a full length release in regards to social media?
Whitney: I definitely think so. We’re in a generation where we want things to be quick and fast and just right there when we want it. I think true die-hard fans will buy the album because they’re the ones who are invested, but I really do think singles take more of the cake these days. I mean, you’re starting to see these huge bands and artists starting to release only singles lately. But then in a couple years they’ll put out an album.
Definitely. And with the whole thing about today’s generation needing to have something right now, do you think that’s going to stay here for a while or do you think it will change in the future?
Whitney: Honestly, as it’s looking right now it seems like I’m probably going to stick with the singles for a minute. There’s a lot of pressure to put out music, and for me as an artist, I like to take my time. Having to pop out songs left and right is kind of intimidating, but what can you do? You just hope that the fans are able to appreciate when artists do put out albums and the amount of time that it takes to really put that whole portfolio of work together.
It can take years, it could take months, it just depends.
Yeah. Probably depending on how you’re feeling about the songs too.
What would you say that your average amount of time recording process of a single would be?
Whitney: You know, it kind of depends on who I am working with production wise and if I’m recording myself. If I have the most control in creating a song, it’ll take me forever because I’m such a perfectionist and like to critique everything. *laughs* I have songs that I’ve been working on for, like, months that I still haven’t even released or finished. So it just kind of depends on the song.
Totally understandable. And which three artists would you want to collaborate with in the future and why?
Whitney: Oooh. That’s a hard question! *laughs* Someone who I think would be really cool to work with is Pharrell, because I’ve always loved the kind of music he’s put out and the beats that he makes are just amazing. I think working with Beyoncé would be cool, because she’s just full of so many different tools and talents.
Yes, the dream.
Whitney: Oh yeah, that’s the true dream. *laughs* I also think it would be cool to work with Adele, she’s really interesting.
Cool! Which artists would you say have influenced you in terms of your songwriting and your sound?
Whitney: Definitely Amy Winehouse has been a big influence on me just from a vocal and sound perspective. Adele as well. Beyoncé’s older stuff that had a bit more soul in it. And I’m inspired by a lot of Motown music.
Yeah! It’s always making a comeback some way or form.
And if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Whitney: Oh gosh! *laughs* This might be a crazy tour, but I would love to go on tour with Beyoncé, Adele and Ed Sheeran. I really feel their vibes and they’re the most similar to my style of music.
And then we can have Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran do their duet of “Perfect” every single night! *both laugh*
Whitney: True! And then I’ll include one of my friends into the mix and it’ll be perfect!
And how important do you think it is for independent artists to show some support for each other? Especially since we were just discussing that the social media realm seems almost a little over-saturated and intimidating.
Whitney: I think it’s so important because we’re like a little team trying to come up without having the support and backing of a label to open doors for you to get exposure. So I think it’s up to us as independent artists to get together with our friends that are doing music and show our support for each other. Even just sharing their stuff on social media and trying to do shows together is another important aspect.
I definitely agree. It shows kind of a united front between the indie artists. Now kind of getting into a couple of deeper questions, do you think that women in the music industry have to portray themselves in certain ways in order for them to be successful?
Whitney: I don’t think that women should have to, but I do feel like a lot of women in the industry tend to pick a role for themselves to portray to the public whether they’re trying to be sexy or trying to be rebellious. It makes me sad, but it’s the world that we live in. Unfortunately sex sells, and women are still fighting for their place in a very rough business that is highly driven by men. Hopefully we can change that in the upcoming years.
Definitely. I hope so too. For our sake!
And if you could give your younger self advice in regards to the music industry, what type of advice would you give her?
Whitney: I would let myself know that I don’t have to figure it all out by myself. I would tell myself to maybe try to start earlier on getting serious with my music. And to not give up on piano lessons. *both laugh*
And to go along with that, how important do you think it is to preserve that live instrumentation aspect in the digital age?
Whitney: Oh my gosh! I think live music over anything is so much better. But with the age that we’re in, it’s so much easier and quicker to make a song with a beat through the whole computer. I really do hope and wish that live instrumentation is embraced more and that it becomes more affordable. It’s important to try to keep that going because it just adds a whole different layer to song that a computer can’t do. And for me as an artist, it’s all about the instrumental and the feeling that I get from it that it inspires me to write.
And I mean you have to perform live right?
Whitney: Right, and it definitely sounds better when you have that live instrumental base to it.
Definitely agree. What do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Whitney: My goal as an artist has always been to make music that’s relatable and that people can use to heal. I know it sounds kind of extreme, but music has always been very therapeutic and healing for me. So that’s my goal, just to be able to give back through my music and for people to be able to take it and absorb it in whatever way that they need to.
Yeah. I mean, so many people say that but it’s so true. Everybody feels a certain way towards music and that’s why we leaning towards it as a crutch sometimes.
And to end us off, apart from new music that you’ve already been teasing, what other exciting things should we be looking forward to?
Whitney: Well, I’ve been hiding from performing for long enough so I’m working on getting my live gigs going. Hopefully soon I’ll be performing around L.A., so fans in L.A. look out for me!
About Blvd Cafecito:
Oh Burbank, how you always provide a new reason to come back to visit from Porto’s to thrift stores. This time, you’ve got us never wanting to leave with Cuban Inspired coffeeshop Blvd Cafecito. While tiny in stature, you’re going to feel like you stepped into a cozy hipster’s paradise with a fun interior design comprised of wooden paneled walls, witty artwork lining the shelves, tiny succulents, and a typewriter as the cherry on top of the cake. Added bonus, they play awesome alt-rock music in the background and their baristas make you want to be besties with them, so why would you not want to pop on by?
They got a great selection of classic caffeinated beverages with additions of Latin recipes like the Mexican Mocha and the Horchata Latte. But the highlight of the menu has to be their Cuban specialties, which is comprised of the Cortadito, the Colada, the Cafe Cubano, and the Cafe Con Leche. Pair one of these bad boys with a yummy pastry displayed on one of their cake stands and you’ve got yourself a reason to never leave. Or at least a great food and drink combo to hit up all of the the cool shops on the strip.