Signal Path Podcast: FINNEAS
Hear the stories behind the music with the Signal Path podcast. Tapping a global network of musicians, producers, engineers and other sonic innovators, Shure brings you exclusive interviews with the people shaping the world of audio.
Episode 53 – FINNEAS
For the latest episode of Signal Path, we spoke with the multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter FINNEAS. In the podcast, we discuss the difference between producing his own songs and those of his superstar little sister, Billie Eilish, why he likes to incorporate random audio samples into many tracks and the Grammy nomination for his first solo album, ‘Optimist’. This episode was recorded remotely with the SM7B and MV7 microphones.
Marc Young: Hi Finneas, thanks so much for speaking with me today. First off, congratulations on the Grammy nominations.
FINNEAS: Thank you, man. I appreciate it. It's the third year in a row, but that doesn't mean that it's any less of an honor and any less meaningful to me. So yes, I want that to be known. It doesn't get less cool.
I was just going to say, because I know winning a Grammy is nothing new to you, but you are nominated for the first time as Best New Artist for your debut solo album, Optimist. So does that mean your little sister gets to bust your chops?
She won Best New Artists two years ago, but she can do whatever she wants. Our love language is making fun of each other, so I'm sure I'll hear about it. But, you know, all of the nominees for Best New Artist this year are awesome. And I've always maintained, I said this even the first year, that being nominated is the coolest part. Winning and losing, both of them are, however, you feel about them. But being nominated, being recognized in the category with the other songs, albums, artists that you're a fan of.
I'm in this category with artists I love, like Baby Keem and Arlo Parks and Olivia (Rodrigo) and The Kid Laroi had this incredible year, and I love Saweetie and Arooj Aftab, so that all makes it such an honor. And there's nobody that could win this award that I wouldn't jump to my feet and applaud for. You know what I mean? I don't have any feeling of like, ‘Oh, come on, they won it?!’ They're all awesome and deserving.
Good to hear you're not going to be jumping up there Kanye-style grabbing the mic and stuff.
Oh yeah, I would never!
But you did actually win Producer of the Year before, and that's, of course, what sparked this interview. The idea that we would speak to you for the Producers edition of LOUDER magazine. And you've used your production talents to great effect on the Billie Eilish albums and for other artists like Selena Gomez and Tove Lo and now your own solo material. So I wanted to ask, how different was it self-producing ‘Optimist’ compared to working, say, with your sister and with other artists? Is it three degrees of Finneas there, like, three degrees of separation?
Yeah, well I think the way that I think of me as a songwriter, I guess that's where I'm the most inseparable from myself. If that makes any sense. Like, I'm writing a song with my brain and my vocabulary and whatever. So I guess when I write with other people, how do I put this? When I write with other people, I'm integrating their vocabulary, their language, their life story. So that's sort of what makes it different when I write with people. When I produce, whether I'm producing for Billie or another artist or myself, it's like I'm kind of always being objective.
You know what I mean? Once I've written a song, even if it's just me sitting there singing it's like as a producer, I'm still listening to my own song and going, ‘Oh, he could give a better vocal performance.’ I'm almost thinking about myself in second or third person, right? I'm like, ‘Oh, you can do that better. I don't know if you're really hitting the nail on the head there.’ So I feel like with production, I really am able to be objective about even when it's myself. So it's not as different as I maybe thought it would be.
So can you say that you approached the new album holistically, that is, going for a specific sound or concept or vibe, or was it more getting to do all the stuff that you can't do when you're producing other people? Whether that's musically or subject matter wise.
I think I just definitely wanted it to be. I'm not a believer that everything has to sound the same, but I want it to feel cohesive, you know what I mean. And I also really wanted it to feel like me. And I think that would be my worst fear as an artist: that you hear me singing a line or you hear me singing over a style of production and you think this doesn't make any sense, you know what I mean? And that is what makes it the most fun for me to get to produce music for other artists. Like, I get to do stuff for Tove Lo or Billie or Ben Platt, or who else makes the most sense to mention here Selena Gomez, Camilla Cabello, JP Saxe.
I get to live in worlds of theirs that would not make sense for me to be in. And that's so fun. Like that's the job of a producer is getting to, sort of tackle these other genres, these other styles. And so I do have to be kind of careful when I put out my own music. Is this really me? And when I listen back to my older music, if I go a couple of years back in time, like, there's a couple of songs that I feel like don't do as good a job of being truly authentic to myself.
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