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News February 4, 2022

WA music has never been more exciting: A producer’s perspective on shaping a new West Coast sound (Op-Ed)

Sam Ford
WA music has never been more exciting: A producer’s perspective on shaping a new West Coast sound (Op-Ed)

Western Australia is producing some of the country’s freshest and most exciting names. Tame Impala and Methyl Ethel have given Australia’s West Coast global recognition in recent years, but being on ground and working within the rich community of artists really carving out unique musical spaces in the industry for themselves — it’s an exciting time to be a music fan.

Tone City Recordings has become a second home for me and has allowed me to work on an eclectic mix of projects as a producer, mixer and musician. Based in Perth, the studio has seen the likes of POND, Birds of Tokyo, Abbe May, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets and more come through and bring incredible records to life.

One of the things I love about the WA scene is how it’s shaped my work opportunities and artist relationships. They’ve almost all grown out of a mutual respect of what each other is doing or via connections made through playing music together and building excitement about a project. Projects that are satisfying and challenging creatively, great fun and enjoyable to be a part of. If you have that emotional and creative connection, only good things can follow.

From my perspective, we’ve been extremely fortunate over here in the west when it’s come to navigating the pandemic. Without having major breakouts or major lockdowns so far, our lives, creating, recording and even live performances have not been completely shut down.

Not to say there hasn’t still been a heap of adversity and heartache to overcome – mostly for artists needing to tour and live music venues having to stay afloat under much lower capacities. I feel like in the grand scheme of things, we’ve managed to hold it together and still have a thriving live scene; it puts more of a focus on artists that can’t tour, to stay in a creative space.

perth band Psychedelic Porn Crumpets 2017 press shot

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets

As for WA artists breaking out to the rest of the nation, our isolation creates a boiling pot for artists. Because touring to the east coast is so costly from WA, you really need to have built a presence, following and industry awareness before you can make the leap into national touring. This makes the artists that do hit the radar on the east coast have to be stage ready and have the songs to match it.

It’s becoming a little easier to gain momentum on the national stage as there’s more of a spotlight on Perth due to the success of bands like Methyl Ethel, Tame Impala, Spacey Jane, and others. There’s also a heap of smaller festivals and events that help emerging WA talent and extend their reach to the broader music industry and audiences.

Generally speaking, I think the WA artists that do make an impact on the rest of the country have already developed over here and are ready to take on the next challenge by the time they hit the radar.

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I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’ve gone through some tough times in the music industry. It’s been a super enjoyable adventure so far, but also a hard and sometimes lonely one. In the last few years I feel like I really found my calling. Getting back to what I always loved about producing and going all in.

This year, Tone City has launched a record label (Tone City Records) as well as an Artist Development Program, both built with the objective to work with and nurture the next generation of WA artists who we feel can do amazing things beyond the border too.

I love feeling like I’m a part of the whole process when I work with an artist or band. I’ve always been about community and collaboration. For me, the last few years have been super rewarding. I’ve found myself much more involved in helping artists find their way through all the elements of how to reach their goal in the studio, but also finding collaborators for artwork, live events, PR and video.

It showed me how expansive the need for support and assistance young and established artists alike need, whether it be to help have the confidence to keep pushing in their careers, or to navigate how releases work and assist with finding their creative vision for new music. Now that I’ve built some really solid relationships with some super talented people with a shared vision and a belief in me, I thought it was the right time to jump in and challenge myself in a different way.

The Tone City Recording AD Program is designed to allow for a healthier, positive music community assisting young artists. AD will provide a full and comprehensive artist development program, covering all aspects of creative development, from song creation through to full commercial releases.

It’s designed to give young and upcoming artists as well as established artists, a complete in-house, development plan. This will include songwriting, pre-production, recording preparation and music industry mentoring – arrangements – production – recording – mixing – mastering! Complete scheduling, event management and execution of releases.

I’ll be working with a curated team of experienced industry professionals, all of which I’ve worked with extensively before and both myself and the artists have great relationships with. The AD program roster for 2022 is made up of five diverse and equally exciting artists. Supathick, Romeo Walker (Benjamin Witt), Siobhan Cotchin, DICE and Nectar. We’re like one big family and everyone is working towards each other’s success.

We have some of the best talent in WA. I think it’s incredibly important that our industry provides more hands-on support and programs for artists to be able to allow them to make their art; make great art that’s well received and contribute to the continued success of the WA music scene and I feel humbled to be a part of that process.

Sam Ford is the owner of Tone City Recordings and the newly launched Tone City Records label, based in Perth WA. With over 15 years in the music industry, Sam is one of WA’s leading producers and engineers, having worked with the likes of Birds of Tokyo, POND and more.

Visit Tone City here

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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