When it comes to making music, you’re never too young to start. For the past year, Christian Neale has been putting together a mix of dance and ambient-inspired tunes and publishing them on his own YouTube channel and web site. Now 13, Christian is currently working on an EP and album based on stories he has developed about space and peace. We talk to Christian to find out more about his music and why night-time is often the best time for his new ideas!
Tell us a bit about your musical influences
I like a range of different music, from Coldplay through to movie scores by people like Hans Zimmer and classical stuff, especially Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata Third Movement. My influences for my music come from lots of different acts such as Rudimental, Martin Garricks, Oliver Heldens and Chainsmokers through to ambient musicians like Ulrich Schnauss, Jon Hopkins, Brian Eno and William Orbit. I’ve also been influenced a lot by my brother’s taste in music – I used to hear a lot of tracks he was playing and then put them on my own Spotify list.
Do you play any instruments?
I’ve played drums since I was eight years old. I’ve had two good teachers but have also taught myself a lot and learned from my older brother who has played drums since he was three. I also watch plenty of YouTube videos with people drumming and have watched the movie Whiplash at least four times – my favourite scene is the end where the character, Andrew Neimen, played by Miles Teller, plays ‘Caravan’. I’ve also spent lockdown teaching myself to play piano and have managed to progress quite quickly so far. I find that being able to play the drums and the piano helps me to put music together and come up with new ideas for new chords.
Each of your tracks has a story – where do you get your ideas from?
My ideas for tracks usually come a mixture of books, games and movies. My new EP, which is about an astronaut lost in space trying to find his way home, was influenced by the movies Interstellar and The Martian and also the PC game ‘Elite Dangerous’. I’m also reading the book of The Martian by Andy Weir for the second time – it’s a really good book!
I’m also a big believer in creating and learning by ear – sometimes I’ll be hearing a song and I will be thinking of a story to go with it – if the mood goes with the story then it helps me to create the tune.
How do you create a track?
Usually I will go to a bunch of inspiration web sites and I’ll look at all the different pages and read different articles about new tips and tricks I can try to experiment with. I also read about how musicians like Ulrich Schnauss create their tracks so I can learn from them. I find that the first stage of any song is the chords, although sometimes it can be the beat of drums. I generally prefer to start with chords though – in the sort of music I create, if you use chords then you can build up around it and add the drums and other stuff over the top.
How long does it normally take you to create a track?
It depends really – it’s a bit like writer’s block! Sometimes an idea can come really easily and sometimes it can take longer. Generally I’ll work on a track for four to five days, coming up with an idea and then playing around with it until I get something I’m happy with. My newest track took a week or two of hard work – I’m still learning and experimenting so I’ll be applying new things that I’ve picked up as I go along.
What do you use to create your tracks?
I use mainly plug-ins or DAWs such as Logic Pro X and Abelton Live Studio 10. I use both a Windows PC and a Mac to create my tracks. I got the Mac at Christmas and am still learning how to create tracks on it. When I first got it, I remember going with my dad to his work and sitting there with a MacBook trying to experiment with different sounds.
I started like most people by using GarageBand on my mum’s iPad. I did use loops but realised that it wasn’t really production as the work wasn’t really my own. I called my first song ‘Feeling alive in the summer’. I wanted it to be a sort of soundtrack for a film that I had made up in my head. This is how a lot of my ideas often start, normally at night-time when I go to bed and start dreaming!
What’s your favourite track so far and why?
My favourite track is my most recent one. It’s called ‘Propulsion’ – I like how it changes from a slow chilled out beat to a more upbeat rhythm before slowing down and chilling out again.
LISTEN TO CHRISTIAN’S MUSIC ON HIS YOUTUBE CHANNEL.