It was a wide-ranging yarn when we sat down for an interview with Mellowbop earlier this month.
With two albums under his belt and the particularly banging Mellow Theme to his name, the Atlanta crooner is serious about his songwriting, which he says “flows from me like the rivers of Nazareth.”
But beyond the simple words and chords, Mellowbop is unabashedly open about the roads and experiences that led to his artistry.
Below, Mellobop swings by Happy Mag for an insightful chat about music production and collaboration, taking shrooms and spinning playlists, and perhaps the greatest muse of all; booty.
Catch our full interview with the Atlanta musician below, and scroll down to listen to his chill-fi heater, Mellow Theme.
HAPPY: What are you up to today?
MELLOWBOP: I’ve been on a kick recently watching PS1 CGI cutscene compilations. Stuff like Tekken, Final Fantasy, etc.
It’s really uncanny. All the characters have this freaky glossy look in their eyes and their hair looks like uncooked macaroni. The 90s was a scary time.
HAPPY: Tell us about where you are from? What’s the scene like in your neck of the woods?
MELLOWBOP: I’m from a sleepy anytown suburb of Atlanta called Kennesaw. They got a school there and some churches, it’s a great place to retire and wait for death to claim you. Lots of grocery stores and opiods. Fun times.
I try to spend as little time there as possible. As for the scene, the scene’s dope man, it’s a big reason I still live here. Atlanta has a lot of different subcultures, it’s beautiful.
They don’t get along but they all have their own little things goin on. In a musical context that’s carte blanche for me. There’s great punk, hip hop, r&b, folk, metal, rock shows every month.
Super talented folks live and work here. Like all “scenes” though, there’s a lot of elitist gatekeepy cool kid stuff, and I’m not a fan of that. It’s a mixed bag.
HAPPY: What’s a typical day in your life like when you’re not creating music or performing?
MELLOWBOP: I just work and sell my soul to the man.
HAPPY: Your journey into music began towards the end of college. What was the turning point that made you realize you wanted to pursue singing as a career?
MELLOWBOP: The end of college was one big quarter life crisis for me. I really had no idea what my life was going to become.
I spent so much time in school consumed with chasing after this imagined perfect social life that I put off truthfully and honestly envisioning my future until the last possible second.
Waking up to the sobering reality that 90% of my social life would be completely irrelevant as soon as I graduated was a wake-up call.
I’d known since I was a teenager that if I lived a life free of economic constraints or fear, than I would want to be an artist, but it took going through this quarter life crisis to realize:
Yeah, I have to actually chase after this dangerous, risky goal where there’s no assurance of success if I truly want to be happy, regardless of the possibility of failure.
HAPPY: Can you recall the first song or artist that truly resonated with you and made you fall in love with some memorable experiences or connections you made during that time?
MELLOWBOP: I got super into psychedelics and prog rock in my late teens. They go together famously well. Get into one and you’ll probably get into the other.
My favorite was an Italian band named Premiata Forneria Marconi. Oh they had the sauce. Those mfers had the sauce. They had a song off their most successful album called ‘Appena Un Po’.
This one song became like the Fox NFL theme song of tripping for me. Whenever I had mushrooms or LSD or whatever, I’d call up all my little pothead friends, we’d get high, trip and listen to music.
‘Appena Un Po’ was gonna be on that playlist somewhere, guaranteed. Even now no other song hits quite the same.
HAPPY: You mentioned working with a producer who taught you the ropes of recording R&B. How did that experience shape your approach to music-making?
MELLOWBOP: Working with him got me out of the frame of mind of thinking “all I need to do to make a fire track is sing over the beat”. Man, if only it were that easy. Music production is deceptively complicated.
Making a good song isn’t just good vocals, it’s good song writing, recording, composition. Who are you writing the song for? What kind of messages do you think would resonate with the type of person you’re imagining?
What type of “scene” do you think would resonate with your messaging? These aren’t questions about the quality of the song per se, but about demographics and message structuring.
Often those types of things end up being more important, in my opinion, than “raw talent”. Knowing who your audience is and communicating effectively with them to form an emotional connection.
Being able to hit runs and do all the melisma vocal riffs is cool, but if the message of the music is so uninspired it’s essentially meaningless, who cares?
HAPPY: Transitioning from collaborative work to writing and performing songs on your own is a significant step. What inspired this shift in your creative process?
MELLOWBOP: I think it happens naturally as you get more skilled at something, especially if its creative. It’s good to learn from people who can teach you the ropes at the start, but eventually you’ll want to strike out on your own and do your own thing.
Plus, COVID went down around the same time, and that was a perfectly convenient reason to spend all day in your room experimenting with Ableton.
HAPPY: Can you share a bit about your songwriting process? How do you translate personal experiences into music and lyrics?
MELLOWBOP I stare directly into the sun for 30 minutes. If I don’t pass out, I will be struck with the powers of ten men, and the writing flows from me like the rivers of Nazareth.
Nah, but really though it’s a pretty straightforward process. A good song has a lot in common with a well written essay. It usually starts with finding some satisfying chords.
Just trying stuff out until something sounds good over the chorus. Once I have the chords, I try to find words that would fit well with the melody and provide something substantial as a topic. It could be about my own life or society or whatever sounds good honestly.
Once I know what I want to talk about, all that’s left to do is go back to the verses and use them to prop up supporting points that build up towards whatever message is described in the chorus.
The final step is then going over the finished lyrics and making sure they all flow smoothly from one section to the next.
HAPPY: “Mellow Theme” emerged from a time of personal turmoil. How does your emotional state influence your songwriting process?
MELLOWBOP: Adversity is crack for song-writing. Some of my best songs have been written when I was feeling like absolute garbage.
When you’re really emotional and you need to get a feeling out, a great song is just the by-product of naturally seeking catharsis in your own life.
You’re not making a song to make a song – you’re making a song to excise something from your soul that needs to get the f out. There’s no difficulty with those kinds of songs, they write themselves.
HAPPY: Lastly, what makes you happy?