Colin Munroe Interview
|Next Project:||"Don't Think Less of Me" (Out Q1, '09)|
|Twitter:||Colin Munroe on Twitter|
|Website:||Colin Munroe's Website|
It’s common knowledge that, in the course of the current decade, the music industry has undergone considerable change. Though many, major-label executives included, would argue that the upheavals they’ve experienced have had largely negative effects on their business, driving down sales and rendering traditional means of promotion ineffective, we at DJBooth.net have watched as a new generation of artists have grown into their roles as players in a changed game. The biggest upside to the wide-open nature of today’s hip hop scene has been the opportunity to experience the musical stylings of artists from an unprecedented variety of backgrounds, and one of the most unique up-and-comers to hit the scene in recent days is singer/songwriter/producer Colin Munroe.
Born and raised in North Gower, Ontario, Munroe was home-schooled by his religious parents till his freshman year of high school, when he convinced them to allow him to attend a nearby performing arts school, where he learned the tools of the trade that would ultimately become his career. After moving to Toronto to attend university and experiencing the big city’s hip hop scene, he was inspired to set off on his own musical journey. Introduced to the Booth in late November by way of his remix of buzz single “Will I Stay,” off his recently-released Colin Munroe Is the Unsung Hero mixtape (available here), Colin is currently preparing his debut studio album, Don’t Think Less of Me, for release in the first quarter of ‘09.
In an exclusive interview with our very own DJ “Z,” Colin Munroe steps into the Booth to discuss his unusual path to success, the pros and cons of “buzz,” and why he considers himself an Unsung Hero.
Listen to the Interview
Colin Munroe Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a new-school musician in every sense of the word. Signed to a joint label deal with Dallas Austin’s Rowdy Records, Marked Music, and Universal/Motown, this performer/songwriter/producer will release his debut album, Don’t Think Less of Me, at the top of next year. Please welcome a native of North Gower, Ontario, Colin Munroe – how you doin’?
Colin Munroe: Thank you sir, thank you sir. You almost made me blush there – that was a very, very nice introduction.
DJ Booth: That’s actually what I was goin’ for: I was hoping that, by the end of the intro, you’d say that I made you blush.
Colin Munroe: [laughs] Well, you’re off to a good start, my friend.
DJ Booth: Sounds good. Colin, I was doin’ some research, and I read that your parents home-schooled you from third grade all the way up till freshman year of high school. So, would you say that that experience helped to create the artist you are today, or simply delayed the inevitable?
Colin Munroe: It certainly took a part in shaping it. I’m one of those people who believes you are kind of born with a purpose, so whether I was home-schooled or not, I’m pretty sure I would’ve found my path in life. That experience has certainly colored my childhood and taught me a lot of things.
DJ Booth: You convinced your parents in ninth grade that you wanted to make the move to a performing arts school. What did it take to convince them? Was it easy? Was it hard?
Colin Munroe: You know what? I didn’t eat for like two, three weeks. I just couldn’t deal with it because I was so used to, after all the years of home schooling, making my own schedule, doing whatever I wanted to do for the most part. I mean, this concept of getting up in the morning at 6:00 AM to catch a bus – this school was on the other side of town – it just threw me. Like, sitting in a class full of all these students, and, what, I have homework?! What the hell is ‘homework?’ So it was quite a shock. Eventually I got used to it and I loved it, but it took a second.
DJ Booth: How was it dealing with the cafeteria food? Were you used to the whole macaroni and tater tots diet?
Colin Munroe: [laughs] Well, you know, it’s never been my favorite way to enjoy food, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Colin, your music is not easy to classify. The best I could come up with is an indie rock sound over hip-hop influenced basslines. Does that sound about right, or would you spin it differently?
Colin Munroe: I suppose the way I’d put it is, I think I’m part of the newer generation that’s coming up now, that has existed for the most part with digital music, which allows people to mix and match playlists, to listen to whatever they want to listen to, a generation that’s really starting to understand the blurring between genres, so I feel like it’s just a natural progression. I mean, it’s not something that I sit down and try to do, it’s really not a formula, it just kinda comes out that way.
DJ Booth: So, when you’re making music, no part of you consciously is trying to go with one sound over another?
Colin Munroe: No, no. It’s more to me like sort of stretching your arms out into the atmosphere and trying to pull down something that’s special, something that feels like it’s magic. Wherever that little kernel of magic might be, you pull it down. I feel like it’s more abstract than, “I want a hip-hop bassline here and I want rock drums there,” you know?
DJ Booth: Yeah, absolutely. Well, speaking of magic tricks, you pulled one off earlier this year, when you did an unofficial remix to Kanye’s then-hit single, “Flashing Lights.” That’s really what got you up on my radar. Did you have any idea whatsoever that your version would create so much positive attention?
Colin Munroe: I had no idea. It was really just an exercise in, “Hey, maybe I can do something with this track. It’s cool, I like it, but I hear these melodies, I hear these other production ideas – let’s see what I can do with it,” and then throwing it up online after the video was made, you know, maybe a couple blogs will be into it. And you never can tell what that thing might be that people see in something, and I guess they saw something, and it did what it did. I’m certainly very grateful that it turned out that way, but it was never my intention.
DJ Booth: Well, it worked out great, as you said. Colin, the word “buzzworthy” has become overused and extremely cliché when referencing an artist’s most unrecognized talents. Do you feel like your work up to this point deserves that “buzzworthy” attribute?
Colin Munroe: To me, it has pros and cons. To me, the cons are, it can really build you up, and start to create expectations that are completely unrealistic. It seems these days that cool and hype have completely overshadowed the actual musical elements of artists and artistry, and it can shoot you dead in the water before you even get a chance to grow, ‘cause it’s a process, right? It’s not like the Beatles came out of the box being the geniuses that they were – they went through a process. So you’ve got to give artists time to kind of find their place in the world. So that’s the con; the pro is, hey, it’s fun – people want to hear what you’re doing, and if they say there’s buzz around it, that must mean some people are into it, so that’s always good.
DJ Booth: You said “finding an artist’s place;” do you feel like you’re on the cusp of finding that place, or have you found it?
Colin Munroe: No – to me, it’s a process. It’s something that I’ll probably be doing for a while, and I’ll probably go through different phases with, and will probably find different places at different points in time. I think it’s dangerous for an artist to think, “Ah – I’ve arrived! This is my place.” That’s when things start to get stale.
DJ Booth: So you’d say that comfort does not breed better new music.
Colin Munroe: I’d say there’s definitely a case to be made that that’s the reality. Like, you look at plenty of people’s careers, and that seems to be the case. Whether or not you can prove that from the inside, that’s certainly how it looks from the outside.
DJ Booth: Colin, you recently released a mixtape that we featured here at DJBooth.net entitled, Colin Munroe Is the Unsung Hero. Does the title of this prelude to your album express a sincere sentiment? Do you really feel that way?
Colin Munroe: I’ve felt that way for a long time. You know, I was never the most popular kid, the best-looking kid, the strongest kid, the biggest kid. I just have always identified with that underdog mentality. I don’t know if I’ll wear that persona for the rest of my life, but I’ve worn it for a while, and I think most people do at some point in time, as they’re trying to find their place.
DJ Booth: As you have started to pop up in headlines, and your music has made its rounds, have you noticed an influx of calls and Emails from people in your past who didn’t appreciate what you had to offer? You just said a second ago, you weren’t always, and you listed a few attributes for me – have you found that to be the case?
Colin Munroe: [laughs] Yeah, there [are] definitely some people that start to look at you differently. And [on one side] it’s just a business, and I understand that part of it, and something that didn’t look like it had opportunity in it before suddenly does; as a businessperson, you’ve got to pay attention to that. On the human side of thing, yeah, it’s not always the best feeling, but I keep a tight circle around me, and I know who my champions were from day one, and I don’t forget.
DJ Booth: Well, I have a feeling, my friend, that you are going to have the last laugh.
Colin Munroe: [laughs] Well, I certainly hope that that is how the final chapter [goes].
DJ Booth: Colin, we featured your Wale and Dallas Austin-assisted “Will I Stay,” from your new mixtape. In it, you sing, “Will I stay or will I go? I don’t know. I cannot make up my mind.” So, naturally, this leads me to wonder, up to this point in your life – you’re 28 – what has been the hardest decision that you have had to make?
Colin Munroe: There have definitely [been] some… like, that song was actually based on some romantic instances where I felt like everything was in place, and there was a future, and the possibility of forever hanging in the balance, but a couple missing pieces, and that being just enough to make me walk away. I haven’t had to make any decisions that I would consider life-or-death, on that level, but yeah, I’ve had a few.
DJ Booth: Is there a special someone in your life that you’re trying to juggle right now?
Colin Munroe: At the moment, no. I haven’t been able to do that for a couple years. I’m a 100% person – I prefer to be in something 100% and be able to give 100%, and if I don’t feel that I’m able to do that, I can’t bring myself to try.
DJ Booth: Well, I [can attest] to that because, in my findings, not many women understand what it takes.
Colin Munroe: Yeah, it takes a special individual.
DJ Booth: In addition to your music, your viral videos have also captivated the worldwide web. How large of a role do you feel that your online presence has had in your current situation, which is signed to a major label, and about to release your debut?
Colin Munroe: Without the online, I don’t know where I’d be. Without bloggers, I don’t know where I would be. Without the ability to put a video up and let people share it, I don’t know where I would be. To me it’s the new radio, it’s the new Times Square, it’s the new commercials on television, and what have you. It’s a very powerful tool, and it’s been kind to me.
DJ Booth: Based on what you just said, how do you feel when you hear about major labels, Universal/Motown included, not knowing exactly how they want to go about marketing and promoting an artist online?
Colin Munroe: It’s what happens when a system doesn’t grow: it becomes extremely entrenched and simply doesn’t evolve. You know, eventually it’s going to become outdated and show its rust, and that’s what you’re seeing now. There’s people in the industry that want to make it work, that are trying to make it work. Once the systems catch up, I think ideas and creative people on the business side of things will be able to do what they used to do – you know, it used to be that there were admired businesspeople on the music side of things. I think there’s still a space for that; the systems, they just need to be updated.
DJ Booth: We’ve alluded to it several times throughout the interview: your debut album’s going to be dropping somewhere between February and March of next year. It’s entitled Don’t Think Less of Me. I need to know: why would anyone think less of you, Colin?
Colin Munroe: [laughs] First of all, the album is really all about me leaving home. A lot of what I talk about on the record has to do with my family and how I grew up, and some of the mindsets that I carried away from it. And that’s really something I’ve felt for a long time: I never really felt like I was supported in what I wanted to do, I wasn’t really encouraged to dream, and there was a lot of pulling away of some negative, discouraging mindsets, and that was just a phrase that came into my head one day, as a way to deal with it.
DJ Booth: Well, I think, after one listen, no one will think any less of you. Has this whole situation been a whirlwind of emotions?
Colin Munroe: Not so much a whirlwind as a journey. It’s one day at a time with me. I mean, there’s no road map for any of this. It happens the way it happens, and the most you can think about is the next footstep in front of you. For me, it’s just been like a long journey on foot, walking through sometimes deserts, sometimes forests. At the end of it all, good stories come out of it.
DJ Booth: Give everybody a website or a MySpace page, so they can find out more about you.
Colin Munroe: Sure. You can find me at myspace.com/colinmunroe.
DJ Booth: I wish you nothing but the best of luck, and I appreciate you takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth.
Colin Munroe: Hey, man, I appreciate yours.