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An Interview With Darren Majak
Finding success as an independent musician is no easy task. However, one thing is for sure, the challenges you are facing are faced by the majority of your fellow musicians.
The amazing thing about networking and collaboration is the ability to pick the brains of others and learn from their experiences.
Starting piano at the young age of 5 years old, then gaining experience in musical theatre as a young child, Darren Majak picked up jazz music and orchestral music, performing the alto saxophone as a teenager.
All laying the basis for his solo career as a composer and singer songwriter.
I caught up with Darren to find out more about his background in music and to get a look at how he is dealing with the challenges that the majority of independent artists are currently faced with.
Below is our discussion.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you ended up getting into music?
I kinda started in music very young. I grew up going to church every Sunday so music was a big part of every week. My mom made me and all of my siblings take piano lessons at the age of 5. I also started performing at a very young age as well.
The very first play I was in, I was about 4 years old and had a tiny part at this local theatre. From there I started writing my own music at about the age of 12 or 13 years old.
I began to teach myself guitar and started training as a jazz musician. I ended up playing the saxophone in junior high and high school, which really got me into improvisation.
I’d say this really helped me grow and learn how to write music because that’s mainly how I write now. I improvise first and then grow on the parts that I like.
I also started university and got a degree in Electrical Engineering but while I was there, I was living with some roommates who had heard my music and really encouraged me to start putting it out.
Not too long after I began putting my music out online, I was getting contacted to start playing shows around Edmonton (Alberta). The more shows I played, the more I started putting music out as well. I also started doing more acoustic stuff along with more electronic and experimental music.
Music has been a big part of life for a while but only in the last couple of years have I really begun sharing it with people.
You mentioned your electrical engineering background, and I am not to sure if you are working on top of that as well. How do you manage balancing the obligations of life, school, and music?
So right now I’m doing my masters in Electrical Engineering, so yes I’m a bit of a nerd haha. School’s difficult because it obviously takes a lot of my time and since it’s engineering the course work can be really tough.
I find that it obviously hinders the ability to focus on music but it also helps in some ways as well. Music seems to help me with engineering and engineering helps me with music.
This is because they are both creative but in different ways. When I’m playing music it gets me away from the science aspect of things and I can kind of warm up my brain in a different way.
You seem to be really establishing your sound and the direction you want to go in with music, focusing on the electronic/jazz influence. Do you have any musicians that have inspired you to go down this path?
When I do more electronic or composed pieces I’m really inspired by the likes of Sufjan Stevens, because that guy’s insane.
He can play a million instruments and the way he is able to bring a balance to his music and make every instrument work together is really interesting to me. Others like Leonard Cohen and Regina Spektor are really good at telling stories and I also find them very inspiring.
You’re really well versed when it comes to instruments. You mentioned being able to play the piano, guitar and the saxophone but are there any other instruments that you’re able to play?
Those are really the only instruments that I use. I mostly compose with the piano and guitar. When it comes to doing live shows, I’ve used all of these instruments at some point.
For some shows it’s not really logical to have a piano at the venue for example but I have done shows where I switch between instruments and have also done shows where I use backing tracks along with live instruments, so it really just depends.
When it comes to production are you producing your own music, or do you have people that you turn to too help you with that?
I pretty much do it all by myself. I produce, mix and master all of my own tracks. With that said I have been looking for people to collaborate with, especially when it comes to mastering which can get a bit complicated.
Where distribution is concerned what company are you using to get your music live on the major platforms and what other strategies are you using outside of that to get your music out there?
The number one thing that has been huge for me is definitely instagram in terms of getting my music out there.
As far as the music distribution company that I use, I upload my music through Spinnup and I am also leveraging Soundcloud, YouTube and Bandcamp.
I am a perfectionist in a way and have a ton of music that I am sitting on and haven’t put out yet because I just feel like it could be better. However, I know deep down there is no such thing as perfect and I should probably just start releasing them.
Distribution and exposure are huge but engaging and growing your fanbase is also important. What are you doing at shows to nurture and attract new fans?
This is something I have been thinking about a lot because during the show what I’m trying to do is engage the audience on some level.
Especially when you’re playing a smaller venue like a bar or coffee shop, people will very easily stop paying attention, start talking or get up to get a drink. So from the opening song, I really try to grab people’s attention.
I am also really pushing people to come connect with me afterwards and drive them to my website or social media platforms, especially instagram. I have done my best to make sure that my handles across all platforms are consistent and all the same so that people can easily find me.
What do you find is the biggest challenge that you’re facing individually or that artists face overall?
I feel like the biggest challenge are technical ones. I have no problem writing or composing the music. The challenge is when it comes down to getting the quality of the overall recording just right.
Finding the right studio or making sure that the mixing and mastering is right can be a challenge. You can’t be an expert in everything and my expertise is in the performing and writing, which is where I love to focus my energy.
The other thing is that as an artist, you tend to have limited resources. Yeah you could go to a nice studio but then you need to consider the other aspects where you may incur expenses.
My thing is to try and collaborate and find people in similar stages of their careers who are talented so that we can grow together and help each other out.
Key Takeaways From The Interview With Darren Majak
Darren has worked hard, landing himself a number of gigs that are helping him get his name out there. Although he is very talented you can tell he has a grasp on the fact that he has work to do to cultivate the fanbase he wants.
During our discussion, there were a couple of things that Darren always seemed to come back to which I believe are critical for all independent artists.
Below is a list of some of the key points from the interview.
- Often times we won’t be able to do music full time when we desperately want to and balancing the other aspects of life can be a challenge. However, embrace your situation and make the most of it. If music is your true passion then you will find ways to make time for it and create more opportunities for yourself.
- The perfectionist syndrome in my eyes is a double edged sword. Being one myself, I hate to say it but sometimes good enough is good enough. Worrying about the little details is important but don’t let it keep you from moving things forward. Mistakes are inevitable and not every project will be your best work but have faith in your talents. The video below with Gary Vee and rapper Gunna is a huge eye opener on the topic.
- Having a plan for how you nurture and obtain your fans at shows is critical. Your job isn’t done when your set ends.
- Another amazing point Darren made was with regards to making all of your social handles the same if possible so it is easier for people to find you.
- Lastly, networking and collaboration are key to your success. This is the thing that Darren mentioned a lot and is very important. Working with others and creating strong business/music relationships is one of the best things you can do for your career.
Wrapping It Up
Darren Majak, has a unique and fresh sound that crosses genre boundaries, mixing folk, ballad, pop and electronic music to create an original sound. Located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada his dramatic music matches the climate of North America’s most northern major city.
We hope you enjoyed the interview and if you would like to find out more about Darren you can find him at the links below.
Music With Flavor Staff
Helping You Taste Success In Music