Anna Vaus and Curtiss King Reflect on Experiences Using AI

Like many creatives, singer-songwriters Curtiss King and Anna Vaus greeted artificial intelligence (AI) with a mix of curiosity and suspicion. They shared their perspectives on the fast-rising technology during Melody, Lyrics & Algorithm: Music Creators in the Age of AI, one of two panels of the “AI Symposium” presented by ASCAP. It was moderated by hit songwriter Chris DeStefano in Nashville.

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Vaus, an indie artist who’s scored cuts by Carly Pearce (“Lightning in a Bottle”) and was the first recipient of Miranda Lambert’s Women’s Creator Fund, cites AI as an idea-generator. “I personally use AI very curiously,” she told the crowd of music industry professionals. “I decided to experiment with it and started to use ChatGPT specifically to throw out lines for a song or titles of a song and try and figure out how to tweak it and prompt it to get the best song possible, just out of curiosity.” 

Meanwhile, King—an indie hip-hop artist and producer whose YouTube channel, Curtiss King TV, has more than 250,000 subscribers—says that he approached AI with “skepticism” at first. But then he decided to use it to his advantage. King thought outside the box and viewed AI as a support system, noting how independent artists are often told that they need a team around them to execute tasks. “It’s not always easiest to come across reliable people for that team, so I started to use these platforms as almost independent contractors for specific tasks,” he explained of how he used Canva as a graphic designer and ChatGPT as the “assistant I didn’t know I always needed.” “I love these tools because they’re able to give me a framework and a foundation, which sometimes can take you out of your creative space if you spend too much time with structure.” 

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DeStefano, who’s penned such hits as Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl,” Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kinda Night,” and Dan + Shay’s “From the Ground Up,” had a similar experience when he was introduced to iZotope, a mastering software wherein artificial intelligence identifies the mix engineer’s tendencies and techniques and is able to replicate them and help perfect the music mastering process. “All of a sudden things start to sound a little better and you go, ‘This is legit,’” DeStefano described. “It’s really taken my tracks up to another level.” 

Vaus, who recently wrote a song recorded by Keith Urban, has also found a way to use AI to her benefit. Similar to King’s method, she’s used AI to help do administrative tasks. For example, she asked ChatGPT to build a 30-day social media campaign to promote her latest single “Halloween on Christmas Eve,” the system going so far as to generate video ideas and daily social media posts. Vaus said that as an indie artist, this helps save her time and money that she can devote to songwriting. “To be able to have an assistant, for lack of a better word, is what I think is amazing about it,” she expressed, adding that she’ll ask ChatGPT to make adjustments to her bio or a press release. “Things like that that [don’t] set my soul on fire that I as an independent artist don’t have the budget to hire out at the moment, is incredible.” 

King proclaims himself a representative of a “tribe of independent artists” who refer to themselves as “DIY-ers.” He proved this by being his own video editor, graphic designer, and publicist when he was first starting out. Rather than hindering the creative process, King expanded on Vaus’ point that utilizing AI has allowed him to spend more time on his art. “The beautiful thing that I’m noticing with AI is that it’s helping me to spend more time with the parts of the creative process that I love the most,” he observed. “Now we’re in a place where people are doing multiple things at a high clip because some of these parts of the process are being automated. So in that sense, I feel like we have an opportunity as creatives, if utilizing it and not just leaning all the way into it, we can evolve at a rate quicker than we’ve ever seen before.” 

Both King and Vaus agree that when it comes to the art of songwriting, they leave AI out of it. Though Vaus may ask ChatGPT to pitch her a few lyrics or a song title, the heart and soul of the song still come from her own human experiences. “Figuring out what that puzzle of a song is and then putting my own experiences and feelings and emotions into it is one of the best feelings in the world,” she proclaimed. “I don’t think that I would be fulfilled in the same way by taking that phrase, giving it to a computer, and seeing what comes out of it.” 

“I love the writing process, so the idea of having my life be told by a computer didn’t sit well with me,” adds King. “I had to figure out a way that worked for my style and creativity, and that’s what I noticed is for every creative, that’s your responsibility…I love what [AI] brings. The pros outweigh the cons.” 

Photo Credit: Ed Rode / Courtesy of ASCAP

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