Chase Klein ’14 discusses experience making first EP

by Haley Gordon | 4/26/15 5:33pm

Growing up in Edgemont, New York, Chase Klein ’14 has had a love for music all of his life — he has always listened to a wide variety of genres, played the piano and the guitar in high school and founded the student band Chuck, now known as shArk, during his time at the College. And yet, despite his passion for music, Klein said he never considered performing professionally until his senior year. Just one week after graduation, Klein moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music, performing under the name Chase Byrne, as well as working for Disney animation.

What made you decide to pursue music after college?

CK: I had a buddy that made a demo tape of [Chuck’s] song “Stella.” It was okay. It was good quality — it wasn’t professionally produced, but it was good. We sent it around, got positive results, but it’s friends, it’s college people. Then, it caught the ear of a woman in M:M Music, which is a radio promotion company. I looked them up — I didn’t know anything about them — and they are for three years running the biggest radio promotion company in the country. She called me and said, “Send your stuff and we’ll talk.” So I sent them my stuff, didn’t expect to hear back from them because that’s how the industry works, and then about a week later she responds to me and calls me back. She told me that she hears something very unique and interesting in my voice and that my songwriting is phenomenal and what she wants me to do is make a full-length EP, invest in it and talk to them, and they’ll talk about possibly working with me. When I heard that from someone at the top of the industry, the top of the best company in the industry, that was the biggest confidence booster, the biggest pat on the back you can get, and that made me sit back and say, ‘Wow, maybe I can do this for real.’ From then on there was no looking back.

Did you always want to sing?

CK: I wasn’t going to do this — there was no way. I hated singing. I never thought I had a good voice. I was in musical theater, and I thought that my biggest weakness was my voice, until we started Chuck, where people said they liked what I heard. To me that was kind of funny. [Chuck] was really a kickstarter for my whole career. It really gave me the confidence to say this is what I want to do. Also, it was during one show, we had one song I wrote called “I Can’t Talk to God” that kind of went viral around the school, which is hilarious. When I started playing that during a show at [Psi Upsilon fraternity] and I literally stopped playing, stopped singing, and I was just looking around and people were mouthing the lyrics. We didn’t even have a demo out or anything like that. The fact that people were singing along to those lyrics, dancing and smiling and having a crazy time, was a single moment where I just said, ‘Wow.’ That’s the coolest feeling in the world.

Why country?

CK: In college I started listening to a bunch of country music. What I love most about country music is that it’s just pure fun. You listen to it and you’re going to have a good time. But it’s also the songwriting aspect of it — how it’s just straight storytelling. There’s no fluff, there’s no deep, deep metaphors that you have to really focus in on — it’s not like an English paper. It’s really straight story, from beginning, middle and end, and, to me, that’s the most appealing part. I’ve always loved telling stories and being creative — I make films and I do animation — it’s really all just connected. I really just gravitated to that songwriting style, which in turn led to a country sound. But the fun thing about my music and my identity, and what I worked out with my producer before I started, was that I’m not a “country” country artist. I’m not in the country genre. My song, while it’s got country roots and country identity, has a lot of rock and roll elements and a lot of pop elements. It’s really a fusion. When we started it, we said it’s not going to be a country EP, it’s going to be our own take on country music with a California twist.

What kind of work goes into making an EP?

CK: It was probably a four-month process. It started with preproduction, in which me and my producer — and I was still in school, we worked it over Skype — I would record videos for songs on my phone and he would give me songwriting advice. It was all constructive. I don’t have a band and I wanted this to be professional, so I hired session musicians, professional musicians for each instrument. Then the producer has to put them together, which takes a lot of work. He’s got to do vocal tuning, he’s got to do a gazillion things. There are so many layers and things that are invisible to the naked ear, that you’ve got no idea goes into this stuff, that these guys just can do. Without it, you hear that this is not that good, and there’s so much work to be done technically. Stuff that I don’t understand, don’t want to understand, and that’s why producing is a job. It’s an art form and it’s so technical, and you have to be so knowledgeable and so skilled. You have to find the right one. Everything you’re envisioning and then some, audibly, it’s their job to make happen technically.

Do you have any advice for current student musicians who might decide to take the professional route?

CK: You can’t go into it with your feet dipped in the water. You have to just jump in full force. You’ve got to treat it like two different jobs. Whatever you are doing to support yourself, that’s great, but this is a job. This is not just music, not just writing music, not selling — it’s presenting yourself. It’s a business, it’s planning things out — what logistically makes the most sense, what to release, what to spend money on, what to invest in, what not to invest in. The kind of team you are trying to put together to support you. It’s a business and no one is telling you how to do it. There are no rules, everyone does it different ways, a lot of people fail and a few people succeed. It’s a really, really difficult burden. If you’re going to do it and you’re going to give up, then it’s not for you. You’ve got to go into it full force and have confidence and have a plan.

First concert: Radio Disney (headlined by Aaron Carter & Baha Men)

Go to karaoke Song: “Shut Up and Dance” (2014) by Walk the Moon

First song learned to play: “The General” (2014) by Dispatch

First CD bought: Millenium (1999) by the Backstreet Boys