Can you recall the first time you were interested in making a beat? In the beginning it was banging hands, spoons and forks on the table while simultaneously beatboxing. That was all the tools we had at our disposal.
We then took those basics into Garageband, or whatever DAW that was accessible for you at the time, and progression was a matter of repetition. Kicks become stronger, snares become more catchy, and fresh hi-hats make the beat more jumpy. It’s a process that not many can master, and for some it takes more than simply messing around on a keyboard.
Connor Barkhouse is a producer from Texas, who began his musical career with the beat of a drumstick, which evidently evolved into producing beats on Ableton in his basement in 2011. Like any novice, yet voracious producer, Connor found a group of friends that encouraged his creativity.
“I met this dope group of kids who also made music, and production felt like the next step from just simply drumming,” Barkhouse said. “I was so inspired by what these kids were doing I decided to try my hand at producing.”
Those kids were known as AliveSinceForever (ASF), the early stages of what would eventually become the All-American Boyband known as Brockhampton. According to Connor, Kevin Abstract was responsible for hyping up his role as music producer.
“Kevin Abstract and my hairdresser at the time convinced me to start producing, which was the first time I can really say I connected to something in life. He introduced me to Merlyn Wood before I joined ASF, and we were really close friends during and after my time in the group.”
He references producers like King Krule, Kanye West, and Timbaland who indirectly assisted in crafting his sound. Inspired by some of hip hop’s greatest producers, he integrates guitar solos and drums, which meshed well with ASF members like Merlyn Wood, Romil, Sage Williams, and Dom McLennon.
Their friendship went beyond the scope of music, especially since the group periodically travelled to meet one another across the country.
“ASF was ran through a Facebook group. We would make entire albums just by sending songs back and forth through group chats, never meeting each other in person until much later.”
But group chats, lack of personal engagement, and conflicting goals were the muse for their inevitable separation from ASF. Merlyn Wood and Kevin Abstract obviously took off with the All-American Boyband, and Connor created a producer collective called Virtual Ghosts and enrolled into the Philadelphia Drexel University.
Initially Connor applied to the university with an interest to study genetics, however, he was undeniably drawn to the hungry producer dormant within.
All that was required was an upward chin, Ableton, and a mindset to learn music professionally from the university he was attending. With those tools at his disposal, Connor immediately took on Drexel’s Music Production and Business major.
“My pre-university experience taught me how to work well with others in person. Drexel taught me music theory, how to produce, mix, master, and play guitar.”
Learning inside a university was a complete 180 degree turn for him. The chance to work face-to-face with his mentor Ryan Schwabe for four years allowed him to harness his creative juices for his debut solo project. His new skill set generated income strictly from music, and more specifically mixing and mastering other people’s work.
Still Connor is a producer at heart and wants his music to flourish. A proliferation in his ability to produce was topped with the ins and outs of the music industry; something you couldn’t learn simply by playing drums.
“Artists and labels stiff producers all the time. Credit is so important, and it’s so hard to get even though its deserved. There’s been times where I’ve spent months on a record only for it to come out without any accreditation for me,” Connor says. “When money isn’t being exchanged for the music, credit is what allows the producer to find more opportunities for themselves. Not only do you have to fight for your worth, but as a producer, you’ve got to hit the mark every time, just like an artist.”
Connor is currently working on his self-produced EP that has 5 songs and six features that was originally his senior capstone project. Beyond that it doesn’t seem like he’s stopping either. He fears becoming a one-hit wonder, knowing that even getting one hit is a difficult task in itself, and his newfound confidence is only going to catapult him farther than he originally anticipated as the guy from Texas with a drumstick.
“Now I can say I’m professionally trained and educated in my craft. You don’t need school to succeed in the music industry, but if you can go you should. It’s been worth it though. When you get the time to finally use what you’ve learned in the ways you want, it’s incredibly gratifying.”
To see more about what Connor is cooking in the studio check out his latest work on his website.