Mentorship is a word thrown around a lot in the music industry. For good reason – no one makes it to the top without help. It’s the real reason why we are running this year’s Tracklanta, even though we can’t travel to Atlanta like before.
Because you get to learn from people who have more experience than you. Because you get to connect with the right people who will open the right doors.
And no one can tell you that better than last year’s Tracklanta winners. ILENE, rapper, singer, songwriter is one of them. She recorded at Patchwerk with grammy-winning producer Tasha Catour and when out of the studio, she was dropping bars at Battle Royale.
“I was able to shake hands with people who believed in me. I was able to find my voice, and acquire the right mentors for my journey,” ILENE explains, “and Tracklanta was the catalyst that facilitated it all.”
One year since Tracklanta, ILENE has a fresh outlook for her music. We catch up with the free-spirited artist and find out how her life has changed since Tracklanta.
It’s been one year on from Tracklanta, fill us in on what you’ve been up to in the music world?
A year after Tracklanta, I’ve been learning so much. Lately, I have been creating quietly at home, stockpiling songs (and ideas of songs) in various methods of storage. I also have so many unlisted songs on BandLab that I’m trying to refine and perfect before their release…and I’ll admit, I’m probably sitting on hatched eggs. It’s been a long time coming.
A long overdue question – what were some of your fondest memories of Tracklanta 2019?
Ah where do I begin! From start to finish, the entire event is near and dear to my heart. The entire process of being included in such an educational and wholesome experience.
A few standout memories:
- When Tasha dropped her beat and I came up with the hook to “Scary B*tches” on the spot and she started feeling it, that was pretty dope.
- Vibing at Patchwerk with T.W.I.N. I loved her lyricism, professionalism, and her style.
- Battle Royale. It was an entire mood of its own. That was actually my first time being in front of a “true crowd”. It was amazing to feel the love in the house and feed off of the crowd’s energy. So many people who didn’t know me from anything were really feeling my bars, and supporting me! My heart was entirely and completely full that night.
- And of course, the get together dinner. It was so wonderful getting to meet the faces and people behind BandLab that make it such an inclusive, organic platform that truly holds the future of music making. Meeting everyone was such an honor and a privilege I won’t forget. And everyone was so genuine and nice. It felt like meeting old friends. Whenever travel is allowed again and I go to Singapore, I’ll definitely have to pay the BandLab crew a visit.
What’s the biggest thing that has changed for you since Tracklanta?
I was able to network with individuals who have experience and knowledge in the music industry. I was able to shake hands with people who believed in me. I was able to find my voice, and acquire the right mentors for my journey,
The biggest thing that has changed for me since Tracklanta would be my confidence in my art and my ability to create hit songs and good music, and to share it with other people.
I’ve always thought of making music as an intimate act, and used it to process emotions that I’ve hid away in my stoic demeanor. For many years I simply hid my music from the world. I never really took music seriously, or allowed myself to entertain the thought that I could actually do this for my profession one day.
Tracklanta changed all of that. It widened my mindset tenfold. I was able to network with individuals who have experience and knowledge in the music industry. I was able to shake hands with people who believed in me. I was able to find my voice, and acquire the right mentors for my journey, and Tracklanta was the catalyst that facilitated it all. For that, I am so grateful.
After spending quality time with the producers in world class studios, what are some takeaways that have impacted the way you approach your music making?
Tasha has such a chill vibe. She could be in the room, in a corner somewhere quietly dragging and dropping, mixing, editing, and BAM it’s a hit. Her demeanor in approaching song writing/beat making impacted me in subtle ways and it inspired me to tweak my own approach in making music.
It was like learning how to drive for the first time on a Rolls Royce. I was so nervous at first, but then I remembered to breathe and trust the process.
Now instead of forcing an idea, or being nervous, I decide to just go with the flow and say the first lyric that comes to mind (no matter how crazy or random it sounds). I just do it. Things turn out more natural and unexpected this way, when you relax and just have fun.
I also find myself more at ease when I’m in front of people as I’m recording. Being at Patchwerk studios in Atlanta with Tasha Catour was the first time I had ever recorded in a real studio. It was like learning how to drive for the first time on a Rolls Royce. I was so nervous at first, but then I remembered to breathe and trust the process. The time spent with Tasha Catour and the talented Patchwerk engineer, Alverne Emmanuel, made me comfortable in other studios recording, and really be able to get out of my head and into the game.
Out of all the things you learned, what was the most valuable piece of advice you got from your mentor?
“Keep going. It’s not just one single thing that will get you where you want to be”. That’s something Tasha said that really resonated with me. A lot of artists (formerly myself included) really fall victim to thinking that one singular event or competition would propel them out of obscurity and into the limelight, but the music world just doesn’t work that way. Of course there are a few exceptions to the rule, but most of those exceptions go on to become one hit wonders. I want a lasting, refined by the years, career in music.
If you want something bad enough, keep going at it. Keep applying to contests, cyphers, battles, submitting your music. If you don’t put yourself out there enough, no one will know you exist. Build your fan base and build your following. Have a quality social media presence. There is a market out there for everyone.
I still struggle with maintaining an online presence, but her advice was extremely helpful and so valuable to me that I’ve shared it with other artists.
“Keep going. It’s not just one single thing that will get you where you want to be”. That’s something Tasha said that really resonated with me.
Do you still keep in touch with the producers, fellow winners, or anyone you worked or met at the A3C Conference?
Yes! I actually connected with Tasha Catour, as well as several Patchwerk engineers, artist managers, record label execs, A&R, and other independent artists that I’ve met at the A3C Confrence via social media. I’ve also kept in touch with T.W.I.N. It has been such an enriching experience to just be able to connect with likeminded individuals who strive for greatness and won’t settle for less.
Tell us more about your inspiration.
I am inspired by life, conversations, situations, people, places, things…truly everything. I could be thinking a random thought and find inspiration, overhear something in line at the grocery store or the beauty shop, or be going through a big ole heartbreak of unrequited love from a guy I‘d never even dated.
Most of the time, ideas are constantly running rampant in my mind. It’s like a river, or wild horses. Songs are constantly in my mind. Some ok ones. Some are bangers. I even get songs in my sleep. One time in particular, a full song complete with instrumental came to me, and I woke up to write it down and forgot my pen and lost it all. Ever since that happened, I keep a pen and paper by my nightstand.
Sometimes the inspiration can be intrusive. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I can’t shut this ability off. At any given moment and time, I can make a song. Lyrics and all. Just off the top of my head. Dear God – is anyone else like this?
What do you want people to know about you as an artist?
Probably the last thing I said! I think it’s weird that I don’t have to try hard to create any of my songs because they literally hunt me down and find me. Also if I hear a beat, or an instrumental, within less than 5 seconds I can improv along to it, and have an entire rap or song. I don’t understand how it works, but it does.
In addition to that, something else I’d like for people to know about me as an artist is that I’m incredibly raw and real as an artist. Everything I sing is something I’ve either gone through, am currently going through, or I’ve thought about deeply. I struggle to open up with my emotions in conversation, so music is my smoke and mirror. It makes it easier for me to talk about trauma. I also have a lot of hidden meanings in a lot of my songs. Kind of an Easter egg hunt, if you will. A truly rewarding one, not the kind that’s an actual gross hardboiled egg in the grass, but the plastic ones you crack open to find there’s a $20 inside.
What’s next? Any new albums or collaborations?
I am dropping my first single on all major platforms very soon. This single was actually a collaboration with a fellow BandLab producer, Maddeer, and I’m very excited about it.
BandLab producer Wolftank released his album “Dreams…” this May to all major platforms where you can find me on “OMMFG”, which is another one of those songs that wrote itself. I really enjoy collaborating with him. We seem to build off each other’s talents well.
Later on, T.W.I.N. and I are working on releasing those cherished Tracklanta collaboration tracks.
My very first EP or album will be on the horizon this fall. I am so very thrilled to share my passion with the world, because I am simultaneously the queen of introversion and procrastination.
I hide from the public eye and sometimes run from my music and life, but nonetheless it still keeps going on. I’ve finally gotten tired of running away… so now, I’m running towards it. X
Battle Royale was hosted by Corey Charron from MTV’s hit show Wild N Out. For Tracklanta 2020: Virtual Remix ft. Charron you get the chance to go head to head with him virtually at the A3C Virtual Event!