Musician proves to be the ultimate do-it-yourselfer

In Arts & Entertainment, Music
Photo by Deanna Trombley
Photo by Deanna Trombley

The annual trade show, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention, reeled in music enthusiasts from all over the country.

It is where collectors reap shiny new guitars and musicians gander at the fancy new products that major music companies have to offer.

The convention invites high caliber companies such as Fender, Roland, Pearl and Pioneer to showcase their latest and most popular products.

It’s the perfect time for musicians to start filling out their birthday wish lists.

Singer and songwriter Gavin Castleton was one of many musicians who made an appearance and even gave patrons a free performance.

Castleton performs with a TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch 2, a sophisticated touch-activated vocal processor and looper. Castleton mixes, produces and synthesizes all of the sounds in his music.

This one-man band is able to produce unique, clear-cut beats thanks to his gadgets like the VoiceLive Touch and the Alesis Vortex Keytar, an elaborate instrument that syncs on Mac, PC and iOS devices.

Castleton’s music and performances have allowed him to grow as an artist. He admits that his mother is the reason he first started playing music.

“She made me take violin and piano when I was little,” said Castleton. “It looked like a cigar box although no one smoked, and then I realized my fingers were abnormally fat, so I gave up the violin.”

Crediting his mother for his love of music, he eventually transitioned from violin to piano.

Castleton’s creative education continued when he began mixing and synthesizing music on his computer.

“That’s a pure necessity, for just being a broke musician. You have to learn every single part of the trade,” Castleton said.

When he delved into sound engineering, his equipment evolved drastically from his earlier work, such as Hospital Hymns (2006).

“In the earlier days, I just used whatever I could get, which was very crappy … From then to now there’s a world of difference. I use more computer-based. I now have much more professional gear, even though my keytar looks like a toy … Theoretically, I’m not a poor teenager now, I’m a 20-year–old … I’m still poor now!” Castleton smiled.

With his music centered on synthesis, engineering, mixing and production, Castleton’s computer holds the core of his career and hard work.

“If something happened to my laptop, a Macbook Pro, I would literally die,” Castleton said.

Ableton Live is his main sequencing program. He cites things like a wave-warping feature as facilitating more experimental sound creation.

Castleton advised that aspiring musicians take every piece of information they’re given seriously, and not take any knowledge for granted.

“I asked a lot of questions to a lot of good, friendly people that were kind enough to show me all this stuff,” Castleton said. “A lot of them are generous enough to show you what they know because they like the trade and they care enough about it.”

While Castleton has much admiration for musicians, he admits he is more influenced by books, films and life experiences.

It helps him develop fresh, original themes for his music, which also setting him apart as an artist.

Revealing a soft side as well, Castleton is currently working on his upcoming album, a tribute to the passing of his dog—his best friend of 15 years.

“Even dog owners deserve an album,” Castleton said.

The new record will be far more complex than his previous work. Castleton is still in the writing stage of the self-produced album Moratorium.

He plans to visit themes such as growing up, careers and adult fears.

Castleton constantly pushes himself to grow as an artist. NAMM is a tremendous atmosphere for enthusiasts and aspiring performers to find new ways to do so.

“That is the beauty of music—just like us, it’s always growing,” said Castleton.

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