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Decibel Festival Video: Joe Kay of Soulection Talks Running a Record Label and Strength in Numbers

by Nate Mars
music & audio

joe kay soulection

This year, CreativeLive was proud to host the Decibel Conference at Seattle’s annual Decibel Festival. The Decibel Conference featured three days of workshops and panel discussions from a variety of artist, educators and music hardware or software manufacturers from around the world. Topics ranged from Sound Design, Music Production with Ableton Live to Modular Synthesis and Getting Your Music Heard.

Just ahead of their showcase, we spoke with Soulection label boss Joe Kay about his creative process as an A&R and where the label is headed. You can also watch the full video from his panel at the Decibel Conference where he is joined by Decibel’s Robin Park below:

This is the first time Soulection has had a showcase at Decibel Festival. Tell us a bit about that, and what else you are excited about for Decibel Festival this year.

I’ve always heard a lot of good things about Decibel, so for us to be a part of it this year is important. We are always about taking the sound to places that are always innovative. Coming here for the first time, I thought it was going to be chaotic like SXSW. I feel good, and it’s more calm. I’m looking forward to tonight, because we have a strong support group out here in Seattle. It’s going to be strong, with Sango and Esta. I’m excited for the people to hear them tonight.

Can you tell us a little about your own background? You mentioned your godfather worked in music and was talking you around to radio stations when you were young. Can you tell us more?

I’m a strong believer that,, if you’re exposed to things at a younger age or just growing up, as long as you like it, you’re going to naturally gravitate towards that as you become an adult. You’re probably going to keep doing it. I think having music in my life early on, kind of unlocked some things in my brain or put me in a good position to catch on and observe some things. Now, it’s kind of about taking those experiences and progressed with it as I got older.

What is your main focus and role in Soulection? Do you ever produce music?

I’m actually not producing music. I consider myself more of executive producer. I don’t actually produce, or play anything, or program. I hear people do things with production and I’ll give feedback. I’ll find samples and I’ll pass them to the team, or I’ll loop them, and I’ll get the Soulection team to give ideas. You’ll hear even Kanye do that, on The Weekend album. The song that he produced, it’s essentially just a loop. It’s all it is, it’s just a loop, but it’s still amazing. He found it. Essentially, it’s similar in a way. I honestly want to produce, I just don’t have the time. I’m too busy trying to run the label, and do the radio show, and travel, and DJ, and spend time with family.

You were talking about the label as being really an open thing. How do you feel the label and Soulection artists are learning from each other.

We have to communicate. There’s times that we get so busy that we don’t talk to each other for a period of time. We’ve learned from that, and we have to text, even just simple phone call, FaceTime, Skype, anything. Just check up on each other. That alone is so important. Otherwise, people start to assume we’re too busy for each other, and then it almost defeats the purpose of why we’re even a part of this. It’s hard, it’s really hard.

A lot of different people on the team have creative input on things?

Yeah, we’re always open to people, and in fact, people always refer other people and other artists. It’s not like we find every artist ourselves. It’s a referral, it’s like a job. You trust someone, they bring them in. Everyone, all across the board, whether an artist, intern, we listen to everyone. If we bring you in, you pretty much have strong input. It’s not the final say, I know what goes on, but we listen.

If someone is really looking to get signed by your label, and wants to get music over to you what is the best way? Do you check out demos?

We prefer when we find them. Don’t get me wrong, we do go through demos, sometimes, but we get so overwhelmed, and we’re doing so much, that we’re on SoundCloud, or on the Internet so much anyway. if you are consistent, we’re going to eventually see you.

As the head of your label, it sounds like almost a kind of digital crate digging style of A&R. I heard you saying, in high school, you were constantly listening to music, constantly seeking out new music. What about new projects? What are some new projects on the horizon for the Soulection label?

We have a GoldLink album coming out, which is important because we’re primarily producer-based and DJ-collective. We put out collaborative projects with vocalists, but this is going to be our first official vocalist project where it’s a rapper, and it’s somebody embodying the sound of ours, but doing his own thing. That will be coming out in the next few months.

CreativeLive: Any words of wisdom to share?

Connect and collaborate with other artists, because you could learn a lot from collaborating with other people. Seeing different work ethics, what works for them and kind of use that, and use it into your own work.

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Nate Mars

@natemars