“You don’t need to fly to some Scandinavian country to write an album”, said Singaporean artist MYRNE. A young duo behind a Singapore-born studio could attest to that. Founded in 2016, Homeground Studios was conceptualised in Singapore, by Jason Gelchen, to provide a space for artists to feel comfortable as they push their own creative boundaries.
Their portfolio, within a year of its inception, already ranges from artists including Gentle Bones, Jasmine Sokko, The Boris Suit (from Jakarta) and Villes, to brands like LAZADA, Puma and Bridgestone. In 2018, the studio welcomed composer MJ (short for Ming Jie) to the team.
Now a dynamic collaboration between the two, Homeground Studios is committed to achieving their clients’ aural vision with a thorough musical and technological knowledge of production and curation.
Popspoken chats with the duo from Homeground Studios to talk about the inception of their home studio, why they chose to pursue music production and some music matters closest to their hearts.
Popspoken: Introduce yourselves! Who is Homeground Studios, and when did you start producing music?
Jason: My name is Jason Gelchen and I’m the producer, recording and mixing engineer of Homeground Studios. I started producing music when I was 18, while I was pursuing my Diploma in Music & Audio Technology. The spark for production was lit after I listened to Swedish House Mafia and tried to emulate their music. That curiosity branched out into learning how to produce different music genres and even bands.
Ming Jie: I am MJ, one-half and partner of Homeground Studios. I met Jason prior to the studio’s inception as a performing artiste in local rock quintet ‘VILLES’. At the same time, I enjoy film & TV music and have written and produced works for short films and advertisement campaigns since.
Popspoken: How did the idea of a studio come about? Was it intentional or accidental?
Jason: Completely intentional! Before I created Homeground, I went through many stints under different music producers. I saw how music artists could have their tracks and careers at the mercy of any producer with sketchy work ethics or practices.
Popspoken: You guys have worked with the likes of Myrne, Gentle Bones and Jasmine Sokko. How was working with each artist like?
Jason: Each artist has his or her own little quirks and different music tastes. Jasmine is more soft-spoken and open to different ideas whereas Gentle Bones & MYRNE know exactly what is the vocal sound they wants and need me to achieve it or build on it.
I got to challenge myself daily by tackling the different demands each of their tracks entails. For example, I felt that Jasmine tries to invoke feelings of melancholy with her music. Thus, I keep that in mind when writing vocal melodies and harmonies with her. Gentle Bones, on the other hand, would be looking for vocals with more of a Pop influence but blended in with RnB style rhythms. This would require more focus on the main vocals and less on harmonies in general.
Popspoken: Are you guys doing this full-time or on the side? If it’s the latter, how do you balance this with work?
Jason: Homeground Studios is my full-time job now. I spent last year doing this under the radar, while enlisted, at home in whatever time I could spare at night. I think I barely slept more than 3 to 4 hours a night, even on weekends, and didn’t take any holidays.
Ming Jie: I personally do dabble with on-set production affairs for film and corporate advertisements. It is always good to put your eggs in different baskets at the start and knock off that 18-20 hour hustle whilst you still can. Juggling and balancing work is not an issue.
Popspoken: In your opinion, can anything be improved about the ability and accessibility of music production in Singapore?
Jason: I think in ability, with other producers like FlightSch and Evanturetime, Singapore is definitely at a level where I can proudly say that we do not lose out regionally in South-East Asia in music production.
I think accessibility is more of an issue. Unless you compose your own music as both a music producer and an artist, there aren’t many platforms covering those who work behind the scenes. It’s hard to find anything online on the people who produce or mix and master the Extended Plays (EPs) and Albums of our local acts and that needs to change.
Ming Jie: Someone I look up to once told me, “Be a man of possibilities, not limitations”, and I am trying to adopt that unto everything I do. Take on the necessary research; always attempt to grow horizontally as well vertically. Learn the business framework for music and it’s economical climate here in Singapore as well as regionally, even internationally. Most consumers these days would like to make a one-stop destination for their needs so it is always good to consider services outside composition. This may include audio post, sound design etc.
Popspoken: What advice would you give to budding music producers?
Jason: Being budding music producers ourselves, we feel your pain. My advice is to not be afraid to work for free initially to build your portfolio. But know your worth once you’ve done so. When I first started, I did a lot of cheap or free work to build my portfolio fast because I had none. But once I felt I had enough under my belt, I started charging higher. You will lose clients at first when you do this, but the ones that remain truly value your craft and those are the ones to keep. Additionally, if you are putting out good work, more clients will come eventually. You just have to tough it out and be patient.
Ming Jie: I think learning to trust your judgment as a music producer, telling your artistes and clientele what works and what is rubbish is definitely vital. At the end of the day money has been invested and you are entrusted with the capability to make assertive decisions. Acknowledge this privilege in collaboration with full transparency and open communication.
Popspoken: If you could choose one problem to solve in the music industry, what would it be? How would you go about solving it?
Jason: I definitely would want to solve the way artist earn their revenue, especially with the current issues on streaming.
With Spotify and Apple Music gaining more ground in our daily music consumption, streaming will be, and probably already is, the main way artist will make money from their tracks. However, with Spotify paying $0.00437 per stream (Source: bit.ly/KIB_stream), to earn minimum wage in SG, an artist would need 336,842 plays per track. That’s insane!
The solution, in my opinion, is that music artists need to realise that this streaming problem isn’t going to change. It’s better to spend time and resources into building your personal brand, as endorsements will be the new way to make ends meet, besides live shows. I see that the future of music artists is to become brands and to use their music as their brand-building tool. This might sound sad and foreboding, but unfortunately we have to adapt to the changes that comes with time and improvements to technology.
Ming Jie: I don’t think I want to ask for too much here, but I think it would be a great start for everyone within the industry, regardless of craft, to discuss and communicate about projects in well-crafted emails, establishing every terms and conditions before commencement. It’s always good to hash things first instead of getting awkward halfway through the production phase. You would be surprised the encounters we’d been through thus far.
Popspoken: How do you want “Homeground Studios” to impact Singapore’s music industry?
Jason: I intend to use Homeground Studios as a platform to bring the music production standard in Singapore beyond regional and to an international level, comparable to the standard of the United Kingdoms, America, China and South Korea. Whether that takes years or decades to be achieved, I’m always up for a challenge.
Ming Jie: I intend to position Homeground Studios at the forefront of modern film & TV music. There is a lot to learn from the infrastructures available in other countries, but we have very talented musicians and performing artistes who I believe are ready to take on the spotlight, creating our very own Singaporean movement.
Homeground Studios is a home studio located at 9 Happy Avenue Central, Singapore 369962. Visit www.homegroundstudios.com for more details!