L.A.-based band ArtPeace On Songwriting, The State Of The Music Industry

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L.A.-based band ArtPeace is a collaboration between Taura Stinson and Chrissy Depauw. The two songwriters came together out of a mutual admiration for each other’s craft and a shared sense of artistic mission. Stinson, an Alabama native, has written for a who’s who of pop music stalwarts (Beyonce, Kanye West) and even landed a Grammy nomination in her time. Depauw, a San Diego native, is a veteran DIY singer-songwriter whose self-titled, self-released album has sold more than 30,000 copies to date. ArtPeace’s debut album, Free Music, drops October 23 via Wild Serape Records. The two artists interviewed each other for American Songwriter about the state of the music industry and what inspires them as artists and songwriters.

Taura interviews Chrissy

I know when you first fell in love with singing, but when did you first fall in love with songwriting?

I was 8 years old and I got ahold of my baby brother’s xylophone. I started writing a song about butterflies and rainbows and it brought tears to my eyes. I was hooked ever since. I used to take Mariah Carey songs jumble up the words and rewrite em. I would also write on top of my mom’s smooth jazz songs. Haha. Oh and I would buy cassette singles just for the instrumentals since I didn’t know any producers back then. I needed tracks to write to.

I am most excited about touring, seeing the world and hearing the audience sing along to our songs.

What about you? What possibilities excite you most when you think of the future with ArtPeace?

Travel is also huge for me. The world seems so small when you meet people who love your music on the other side of the world. It’s a warm fuzzy feeling. I also love nice hotels.

Who in your opinion, dead or alive is the most prolific songwriter of all time?

Hmmmm. The most prolific songwriter of all time … I know it’s against the rules but I have to choose two. Sade and Amel Larrieux. Both of their lyrics have made a huge impact on me.

I love telling everyone how you sold over 30,000 copies of your CD from one hand to another at the Santa Monica Promenade. Can you share more about that? How did you calculate sells? How did you celebrate?

Man, that was an intense time. Okay, so my day started at about 11 a.m. I would wake up and start burning CDs, signing them, stuffing the covers and CDs in the cases. Took several hours. Then I would get dressed and head out around 4 p.m. Sit in traffic and get to the promenade around 5 p.m. and wait for a 6 p.m. spot to perform. I’d set up shop and sing from 6-8, then move my entire set up and perform from 8-10. If I still had CDs left, (goal was 20) I would sing from 10-11 p.m. Then I would eat dinner, go home and sit on MySpace and answer messages and promote ’til like 4 a.m. That’s all Monday through Friday. Weekends I would get to the promenade between 10-noon and stay till I sold 100 CDs. Sometimes it took until 10 p.m. or midnight. My rent was high. I had no choice. But it really helped me to stay motivated. I calculated sales by how long I did it full time and how much I had to sell to survive. It was like a regular job to me so it was consistent sales and numbers.

What do you think about the current state of the music industry and the quality of music that is available to consumers in comparison to your favorite era of music, which I happen to know is the 1990s?

I think the industry is great right now. It allows two people such as you and I to get together and make it happen all on our own. Because of that, there is so much great creative music out there. You do have to sift through a lot of Bologna also, because anyone with a computer can release music, but when you find those gems it’s like, “Whoa!” I love ’90s music with all my heart and nothing can ever replace it but this generation has brought us tons of ear candy too.

You had some idea of how much of a challenge releasing an album independently can be before I even thought about it. What advice would you offer artists that are planning on releasing their music independently?

Do it because you love it and definitely have goals, but not expectations. Do your homework and build a team. My first time around I didn’t do half of what we are doing with ArtPeace because I didn’t know any better. And while I had a team, none of the players had worked at labels or knew the logistics of releasing independently so we only got so far.

Okay, a couple of fun questions now. If you were to write a song about your adorable dog, Daisy, what would the chorus be?

I actually wrote a song about Daisy May. I changed some of the lyrics to Lauryn Hill’s “Sweetest Thing.” Goes a little somethin like this. Hit it!

“Sweetest thing I’ve ever known, it tickles when you kiss my toes… softest thing I’ve ever felt, you calm me when I’m goin thru hell…you are the sweet, sweetest thing I’ve ever known…you are the queen, Queen upon your blanket throne…I get mad when you steal my socks, makes you mean and growl a lot…” You get the idea! She’s a sweet spoiled brat!

If you had to choose a solo artist to fill in for me on a few tour dates because I was held up in my purple mansion with Prince following our “Raspberry Beret” themed wedding in Paris, who would you choose?

Brandayyyy! Not only is she one of my favs but she seems like loads of silly fun. Have you seen that video of her singing in the subway trying to get discovered? She is my kindred spirit.

Okay, so you were very successful as an indie artist and DIY designer. Why did you decide to brave these unchartered waters with me?

Two is so much better than one. And what do we really have to lose? We have different strengths so we are able to accomplish twice as much. I was confident in your skills and talent and it just made sense.But my oh my how I am so glad we didn’t have to stay holed up in my makeshift studio trying to do everything ourselves like we first intended. Darien truly saved us there. Probably just because he knew we would keep having to call him 10 times a night having him walk us through everything. Not sure we would be where we are without him.

Other than the facts that our album is called “Free Music” and is available at most digital retailers, what do you want “American Songwriter’s” readers to know about ArtPeace?

We love to write, sing and make music, but we’ve got some other skills up our sleeve. Taura is officially the best chef in this hemisphere and is also an amazing event planner, and I can make tiny upholstered dog beds and am a part-time raw food enthusiast.

Chrissy interviews Taura

Can you believe I used to rock out to Gangsta Lean? That was my jam. I know that was your first major placement. How did that come about and what did you do to celebrate?

It wasn’t one of my favorite moments. The first time I actually heard it on the radio, I had this sinking feeling like, “I am sure that I should have been giving some paper work or something, right?” Soon after, I went to the record store (when we actually had lots of them) and read the credits and my name wasn’t there. I had to hire a lawyer at such a young age. My friends were in college and I was in my first and only legal battle. So even though it worked out in the end, I still swear by split sheets.

Who have you not worked with yet that’s on your bucket list other than Purple Rain himself? Producer? Singer? Co-writer?

My top pick for a producer would have to be Rick Rubin … he is so diverse and magical. I can see us sitting with our legs folded in a hot sauna after an insanely dope session. There are so many singers that I would love to write a song for and since one of my goals in life is to get an Oscar for the best original song in a film and because she is the bar above the bar, I would have to say Celine Dion. My mom would literally do the Nay-Nay if that were to happen. Co-writer, hands down, Kendrick Lamar. He speaks to me as a writer in a way that no one has in many years. Maybe this finally proves that Oakland (where I’m from) is just like Compton (where he’s from) … because just about his every utterance resonates with me, deeply.

If you could hide away and write in any corner of the globe, where would it be?

Hmmm, I will do that one day. Some where in Alaska in an Igloo with heated gloves and my iPhone charged and ready to take ample voice notes while I am captivated by the aurora borealis.

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