Electronic music artist Morgan Page talks creativityby KC Orcutt | |
Creatives in Conversation: DJ and Producer Morgan Page is dedicating his career to the realm of possibility creative living can yield.
Over time, countless have asserted the notion that creativity is a muscle, one that requires consistent attention and care just like other facets of our physical health and overall well-being. If you think of your creativity in such a light, the work that you do, regardless of medium, can be looked at as an intentional exercise that helps strengthen the muscle and keep it active, flexible and ready to deliver. For GRAMMY-nominated DJ and producer Morgan Page, strengthening his creative muscle has helped closely inform his daily routine, as well as has sparked a lifelong curiosity into the subject of creativity at large.
Throughout his multifaceted career, Morgan Page has built a respected name for himself in the global electronic music community, consistently finding new ways to express himself creatively and connect with others through his art. As a DJ and producer, Morgan has not only thrived in collaboration, but credits working closely with others as an integral part of what it takes to create an impact, remain inspired and continue evolving as an artist.
Now based in Los Angeles, the Burlington, Vermont native has dedicated over two decades to exploring different dimensions of electronic music, with his experiences and expertise leading him to amass a variety of hard-earned accolades. On top of maintaining a vigorous touring schedule, performing at major festival staples across the world and upholding various club residencies in Las Vegas, Morgan has also dropped dozens of original releases and remixes, including his most recent project, December 2019's Footprints (Remixes) alongside HALIENE. In addition to creating and playing music of his own, Morgan also curates and hosts a weekly radio mix show, ‘In The Air,’ which has now been broadcasted weekly for over eight years without interruption. The show airs on Sirius XM and is syndicated online and on radio internationally to dozens of countries.
Outside of music, Morgan is also deeply interested in the environment and technology, and is particularly intrigued by how and where the two intersect. From installing solar panels to power his recording studio to being an early adapter of new tech, Morgan has collaborated with a variety of companies to execute immersive experiences ranging from creating the first-ever virtual reality lyric video to producing music for Tesla and SpaceX. Whether he is exploring his talents in music or finding exciting new ways to continue innovating, Morgan is also happy to share what he's learned along the way with other creatives. This passion has taken the form of his ever-evolving Quick Tips project, which has since amassed a series of 800+ short-form tips and 50+ blog post deep dives available online.
A tried and true creative in every sense of the word, Morgan took some time out to chat with the DropLabs team about his interest in tactile sound, how he remains inspired and what helps him to get in a creative space.
What do you do for a living and what helped you get started?
I'm a DJ and music producer so I got started basically through radio first and then I got into doing live performances and touring. So, my job is basically making music and playing music loud around the world. [Laughs] I felt it in my blood really early on as a kid. I remember the first time I touched a synthesizer and saw the realm of possibility there. Seeing MIDI for the first time and seeing how a computer could talk to a music instrument; that changed everything. That happened in grade school and I knew that's what I had to do with the rest of my life.
What do you do to get into your creative zone?
I think, after doing this for so long and making music for the past 20 years, the biggest thing is time of day and your schedule. Owning your day early, getting up a little earlier than you want to and trying to get something done before noon is really important. I basically follow a Circadian rhythm so I'll try to get into a flow state early in the day and then there's kind of a blackhole period, which is good for doing interviews and administrative stuff. Then, the creative clicks back on around 5 o'clock.
It took me a while to learn this but there's these really special work hours in the day where your creativity flourishes. You have to be able to be an effective songwriter or musician the whole day, but it's like fighting gravity trying to force it. It's really like three hours in the morning and three hours at night. It should be taught because everyone says, ‘Oh I'm a morning person,’ or’ I'm a night owl,’ and it's like, not really. Maybe you are, sure, but you can be creative in either way. I think it's also how your brain works too. If you're perfectly awake, that clarity isn't always good for creativity. Sometimes you need to look at things before your logic brain turns on. I think a lot about this stuff.
What type of environment or setting do you feel the most creative in?
I have a dedicated space that I converted. I think it's really important to have a creative space that is just for that specific task. It's not the family room, it's not where you watch movies or do gaming. It's strictly for music.
My studio has a lot of acoustic panels and is a hybrid of a digital and an analog set-up. I use Ableton Live and I use a lot of plug-ins but I also have some old vintage hardware synths. I have a lot of different microphones that I love. I keep the set-up pretty pared down so I'm not bogged down with a lot of choices that could get in the way. I record vocalists without a vocal booth and I have one mic that I typically use. Keeping it simple helps the process move faster. I also have hue lights that are set on a routine where they're these different color palates I use to keep it looking fresh and interesting. It's also pretty dim because I feel like if the lights are on too bright, that changes creativity somehow. I have it set so that the lights start dimming when it's time to go to bed and that helps you wind down naturally.
At this stage in your career, what are some ways you remain inspired?
I think one of the most important things is to keep falling back in love with your craft. If you do it for so long, you get bored with it at some point; that's part of the natural cycle. Sometimes I'll go to the studio and be inspired by this one instrument or this one plug-in or this one piece of software, or even just a technique that I want to get better at. There might be something that serves as a spark for the creative process to keep it interesting.
The biggest thing is collaboration. Either I'll have people working with me in the studio or we'll work remotely and send audio stems or project sessions back and forth. I like that because I can see how other people work. Everyone works a little differently and sometimes you need to shake things up and change how you work. That's one of the best parts, especially in electronic music. You can't do everything yourself. If you do, what you come up with is usually pretty mediocre. It's really good to bring other ears or other minds on board.
What is your favorite accomplishment or a project that you're really proud of?
It was definitely a thrill getting a Grammy nomination. I got a nomination for Best Remix a few years ago and that was definitely a big moment. It's also always fun to get a big remix. I remember doing a remix for Madonna and she's very hands on with everything. She personally approves things and so you're kind of waiting nervously to hear if she likes it or hates it. It's always fun when those jobs come through.
How would you explain the DropLabs experience to your friends?
It's a very surreal feeling. Maybe you've felt an earthquake or something like that, but it's a pretty rare event to be feeling sound through your feet. I think surreal is the word. The thing I really like about DropLabs is that it's literally a small footprint, as opposed to other tactile sound products that you wear and that have more cables and things like that. The shoes are well-constructed and you can bring them with you without having to wear them as a piece of clothing or as a backpack. It's really cool, especially if you're on an airplane or something, to get that extra sound and experience without hauling a ton of gear. Even though I spend so much of my life on airplanes, I also sometimes have trouble with motion sickness so I'm curious to experiment more with that as well and see how it could help.
My favorite thing with all forms of tactile sound is that it makes you carve out some blank space in your day, whether you're using it for guided meditation or you're using it to passively listen to music. It sort of puts you in a trance, so I like that aspect of it. I think it's cool because it does something to your brain and takes you somewhere else.
What is an important mantra that you live by or words of wisdom you like to keep in mind?
I actually have these quick tips that I do. I share them on Twitter at @MPQuickTips and online at MPQuickTips.com. I've been compiling all these little bits and nuggets over the last 10 years. Most of these are creative or music focused. I also made a limited card deck that feature actionable titles, illustrations and tactile ways to go about the creative process.
The mantra I always have is to not choose the default path. For me, that means embracing resistance a little bit, being gritty and not just going with the flow. I think if you want to get anything fulfilling done, it's going to take some discomfort and you gotta just get used to embracing that. I do that by challenging the default state.
As innovators by design, the team behind DropLabs Technology™ is dedicated to supporting and elevating members of the creative community. Together, we aim to serve as a platform highlighting different creators as they work towards achieving visionary excellence and inspiring others along their path. To nominate a creative leader you’d like to see highlighted on our website, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.