“[There’s] a specific wave of emotion that only music can bring,” Tim Fontaine says when we sit down for an interview.
We here at the Happy office haven’t been able to get Tim Fontaine’s latest single Cherry Lips out of our heads (or off our playlists).
We aren’t mad about it though, since the sultry R&b number is about as intoxicating as a track can get; a feat all the more impressive given that it marks the Brisbane musician’s second-ever single.
With such a stellar track to his name, we simply had to catch up with Fontaine for a deep-dive into Cherry Lips’ genesis, the influence of J. Cole, and the “specific wave of emotion and a natural high that only music can bring.”
Catch our full interview with Tim Fontaine below, and scroll down to listen to his new single, Cherry Lips.
HAPPY: What are you up to today?
TIM: Today I made a new song with my friend from high school for the first time in years. I’m really excited about it.
HAPPY: Tell us about where you are from? What’s the scene like in your neck of the woods?
TIM: I’ve grown up in 6 different houses all over the Southside of Brisbane. I was born here and love it here. I’m pretty new to the music scene in Brisbane and am always meeting more people, but from what I can see I think it’s definitely growing.
HAPPY: Describe an average day?
TIM: I don’t think I have an average day, they’re all pretty different. It’s either a day where I’m at work, at uni or at home making music. But wherever I am or whatever I’m doing there’s usually a new idea just lingering in my mind waiting to be created.
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HAPPY: What were some of the earliest musical influences that sparked your interest in pursuing a career in music? Are there specific artists or genres that played a significant role in shaping your musical taste?
TIM: I’ve always listened to music and been exposed to music. Mum would always put on her ELO [Electric Light Orchestra] live concert DVD when she was cleaning the house on a weekend.
But I think it was only really in high school when I started to be heavily influenced by Drake that I thought about making music of my own.
The final piece of the puzzle was my friend from high school who was already putting out his own music and had a studio setup in his room which helped me discover my passion and begin creating.
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HAPPY: “Cherry Lips” is your second single. Can you share the inspiration behind the song and how it came to be? Did it draw from personal experiences or specific influences?
TIM: Yes, Cherry Lips definitely draws from personal experience. I’m not sure how much I want to reveal in terms of where/who the story comes from in my own life.
But I think I tell the story quite well in the song, so have a closer listen to the lyrics if you’re interested in the storyline [laughing]. But I was really trying to deliver something that encapsulated the feelings of puppy love and innocence.
I think with the majority of today’s popular music being very over-sexualised, I wanted to bring attention back to the smaller, yet crucial interactions within romantic relationships through an innocent love story.
And that’s really the driving theme and emotion I hope to evoke within an audience throughout the remainder of my discography.
HAPPY: How has your sound evolved from your debut to “Cherry Lips”? Are there specific elements or lessons learned from your first release that influenced the creative direction of this new single?
TIM: I think Cherry [Lips] is definitely more true to the sound I am trying to create and the sound I want to be known for, for sure.
My first single, ‘Temporary Love’, was very structurally free and had a lot less thought put behind it, whereas I made ‘Cherry Lips’ over the course of two years.
The song just kept evolving – I rewrote the verses to make sure the storyline was there, added the phone call, I think I only came up with the outro and added the guitar solo a few days before I sent it in for distribution.
I wouldn’t say there were any lessons, apart from just allowing my imagination to run as long as it needs to in order to arrive at something I am happy with.
HAPPY: Can you describe your typical creative routine when working on new music? Do you have any rituals or habits that help you get into the right mindset for songwriting?
TIM: For me, creation is very much routine-less and is extremely random and sporadic. When the idea hits, it hits.
There was a conversation between Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld once which I love, where they perfectly describe the dynamic between ‘you’ and ‘the idea’. The idea drives the car.
The idea pulls up in front of your house, honking, “Let’s go! Get in the car.” And I’m like, “Where are we going? I’m still in my pyjamas, I’m not ready.” And ‘the idea’ just says “I don’t know, don’t worry, I’m driving.” And then, you just get there.
The idea takes you where it wants to go. The only time I approach music with any sort of procedure-like attitude is when the honeymoon period is over with the idea, and it’s time to lock in and finalise the recordings and the mix so I can send it off for mastering.
HAPPY: How do you make decisions about the production elements, and what role if any does simplicity play in your overall approach?
TIM: Sometimes I produce from scratch, but both of my singles so far have utilised production I’ve found on YouTube – shoutout TQ Beats!
I usually end up making changes to the existing production to be more tailored to the vision I have for the song, by cutting sections out and moving things around.
For example I added a guitar solo to the end of Cherry Lips with the help of my friend George Swan. But most of the time I do prefer simplistic production, I think it provides the best canvas for me to paint a picture with my vocals.
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HAPPY: Can you describe the studio process during the recording of “Cherry Lips”?
TIM: Cherry Lips was not recorded in a studio. I have a very simple setup at home where I recorded the entire track. You don’t need to be in expensive spaces to be able to bring your idea to life!
But in terms of the process, I first found the beat and recorded the initial demo in October 2021. I always believed in it but knew it needed something.
After I released my first single, ‘Temporary Love’, I was unsure what I wanted to follow up with, but once I decided I wanted it to be Cherry [Lips], I just let my imagination run.
I kept the original hook but changed everything else around it, and eventually arrived at the final product you can hear today.
HAPPY: Did you work with any collaborators or producers on “Cherry Lips”? How do these collaborations influence the final product, and what qualities do you value in a collaborative partner?
TIM: I’ve already mentioned TQ and George who helped me with production, but I have to shoutout BIANCA. for helping me with the phone call section on the track.
She sounds amazing and was a breeze to work with. The collaborative lessons I learned on this track through the mixing/mastering period, however, were very interesting.
Usually if you are a solo artist, and you record your vocals yourself, you need to get your track mixed and mastered by an audio engineer in order to arrive at a professional, finished product.
I tried working with a couple of mixing engineers for this song, however, this process made me realise that, through all of the time I had already spent tweaking the track to get it to sound how I wanted, I had, without realising, already done a great job mixing it.
I was then able to get my mix professionally mastered with the help of Chris McCormack from Blacklisted Mastering to give my mix that final, professional polish.
So I guess I learnt to back what I like through this track, and if I have already arrived at the sound I am chasing, with professional mastering, I don’t necessarily need to outsource for mixing!
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HAPPY: The lyrics of “Cherry Lips” paint a vivid picture of teenage romance and nostalgia. Can you elaborate on your approach to storytelling and the specific images you aimed to evoke with this song?
TIM: That’s really cool, I’m glad the song could reach its intended purpose. To be honest I took a lot of inspiration from ‘Wet Dreams’ by J. Cole with regard to the storytelling aspect of this song.
I really tried to hone in on the idea of not spending too much time on a particular part of the story and always trying to keep it moving and advancing, whilst still providing enough detail so that the intended imagery and emotions could be felt.
So I think this came down to only touching on the important parts of the story and staying precise with my word selection.
In terms of specific images I aimed to evoke within the song, I feel we did a really great job with the music video in terms of recreating the imagery I tried to paint with my voice.
I want to say a massive thank you to my friend Sparky (Caleb Spark, co-director and editor of the ‘Cherry Lips’ music video) for putting in so much work, trusting my ideas and helping me visually bring the song to life.
He puts in so many hours behind the scenes, and I think you’re going to see his name pop up on a lot of projects very soon!
HAPPY: Are there any emerging artists or hidden gems that you’ve recently come across that you want to give a shout out?
TIM: Of course. My brother, Nebzy, is one to watch for sure. I’m lucky enough to hear 99% of his music before it comes out, and watching him establish himself as an artist over the last few years has been incredible.
He’s played an enormous role in motivating me to get to where I want to be as an artist myself, and continuously provides me with unfiltered and honest insight, for which I am forever grateful.
As for some other artists in my local scene, there’s my brother Ambrosio who is yet to drop but it’s game over when he does, King Ivy is so dope and a massive inspiration, Thursday Maybe sound like angels, I don’t know how Julian Munyard isn’t worldwide yet, the list could go on but that’s a few off the top of my head.
HAPPY: Lastly, what makes you happy?
TIM: That’s deep. I guess there’s different levels of happiness. My family and friends make me laugh. Watching the Brissy Broncos puts adrenaline through me.
I love finding look-alike’s for people, and picking up on little behaviours and nuances in people brings me joy. But I think for me, there’s a specific wave of emotion and a natural high that only music can bring.
Listening, as well as creating. And I guess that feeling is what I am trying to evoke in other people, and if I can do that, that would make me pretty happy.