INsiders Guide: Cmagic5, Race Banyon, Sleepwoka, The Strumbellas, evrYwhr, HECTOR GANNET, Palmaria, BAELY, Tommy Newport, Jesse McCartney, Claudillea, The Keymakers….

Photo // Dennis Duong

Rising teen talent, Cmagic5, is a soulful Canadian singer/songwriter and musician from Toronto. At age 4, she began performing in musical theatre and from then on she fell in love with music, immersing every ounce of her body into her art. As an actress, model and classically trained vocalist, her bold, confident and vivacious style has made her a force to be reckoned with. Cmagic5 truly believes that music is magic and offers an enchanting medium to connect with the world through its universal language. Her passion for making others smile and feel good is the motivation behind her music. Her much-anticipated recent debut album explores themes of self-empowerment and love.

Cmagic5’s latest track “Dancing On My Heart” is the ultimate pick-me-up. Touching on the widely relatable theme of moving on from a past lover, the track focuses on the idea that her ex is stealing the spotlight and dancing on the stage of her heart. With inspiration from Ava Max, Dua Lipa and Miley Cyrus, the single explodes with feel-good vibes, clever lyricism, sassy undertones and sugar-coated gooeyness. “Dancing On My Heart” is the ultimate pop track oozing in soulful vocals, powerful beats and catchy melodies, accompanied by her energetic and charismatic delivery. 

Written alongside Jim McGorman (Avril Lavigne, Cher, Gwen Stefani, Shakira, Goo Goo Dolls) and Will Champlin (2x Grammy-winning songwriter), Cmagic5 worked remotely with vocal engineer Trevor Anderson (Grammy-nominated, Juno winning, Gold + Platinum), vocal director Kibwe Thomas (2021 collaboration with JP Saxe at CityTV’s GRAMMYs pre-show) and Dan Braunstein (Dua Lipa). “Dancing On My Heart” was completed despite all the lockdown and pandemic challenges that were endured throughout the process, as the artist shares, “the uniqueness of the whole process is what makes this song special. It demonstrates how music can connect people in the most difficult of times and transcends all kinds of boundaries.”

With every new single, Cmagic5’s delivery is accompanied by a unique story, spicy colors, enhanced visualizations and memorable graphics, which she creates herself. Her vivid creation and portrayal are truly reflective of her youthful and vibrant personality and brand. In a turbulent world that is so uncertain, so dark, and troubled, while exploring different cultures and genres, Cmagic5 wants to create music that is positive, inspiring and relatable through fashion and art.

Cmagic5 is an advocate and ambassador for mental health awareness, hoping to use her platform to shine a light on topics close to her heart. She is also a keen philanthropist and actively supports charity organizations with a mission to help teens with insecurities, build their self-confidence and boost their self-esteem. With over 10 million streams for her music and an ever-growing fanbase, Cmagic5 is quite literally taking the industry by storm.

Race Banyon returns with fast-paced club oriented new single ‘Attention’, released via EMK – the new electronic music platform launched by Kartel Music Group – Stream ‘Attention’ here.

 The producer crafts an uplifting Chicago House-influenced cut fuelled by a busy summer festival season in his native New Zealand and “the joy of being out hearing dance music live again”. On the flip side, ‘Ride This Out’, sees Race Banyon exploring cathartic euphoria and ‘crying on the dance floor’ emotional and soothing textures, representing his “longing for the club and human connection.”

 Diving deeper into the production process Race Banyon explains: “Attention’ is in the pocket of energy that I really enjoy – faster than traditional House but not too far up there. It feels really exciting. I wrote it over the summer, I’d been out dancing quite a bit when I stumbled into this Chicago House, Paul Johnson-esque place. The song features my own singing which was really born out of the desire to not just sample another early 2000s R&B acapella. The lyrics are somewhat meaningless though, they do sound like I’m talking about the particular brand of people I would meet in LA.”

London based, Ukrainian, producer and songwriter, Sleepwoka, releases Nothing left to Say the first track from his upcoming EP “The Lockdown Ghosts”.  Like many during the COVID pandemic, Sleepwoka found the second lockdown the hardest with the lowest mental point for him in November 2020. His response, like many creatives, was to turn to music:

 “I felt the urge to snapshot my experiences with music. Nothing left to say was written quite fast and it felt like the lyrics were always in my head and I just needed to write them down. Afterwards I realised I actually still have a lot to say about 2020/2021 and I decided that the next EP will be fully dedicated to the Pandemic and how it affected me as a human being.”

Many of us feel like our lives are divided by pre-Covid and Post-covid and Sleepwoka says the track was very much born out of that feeling:

“It felt to me that COVID opened a can of worms in my head and my deepest fears and anxieties took control of me. A lot of different thoughts were rushing through my head and I was trying to capture them on paper. When all the emotions are overwhelming I find that words can only deprive the meaning and I felt that there was nothing left to say that would change anything.” 

Sonically, Nothing Left To Say is a slight departure from Sleepwoka’s previous synthesizer led songs with the electric guitar taking centre stage. However, his signature sound is still evident with the vocals playing the same role as the other instruments in the track hence the chorus containing no lyrics at all.

Everyone’s experience of 2020/21 was unique and yet people from all over the globe will be able to relate to the sentiment of the song.

Simon Ward’s musical monogram is marked by his knack for camouflaging a downhearted song within a cleverly constructed poppy tune. Oftentimes, listeners will be singing at the top of their lungs and dancing along, when they suddenly realize the rawness that courses through the lyrics, making the music all that more relatable. In his day job as principal songwriter and frontman of The Strumbellas, Simon, along with the five other members on stage, engulf sad songs with big, glorious sounds. 

Ward’s cut deep to-the-bone realism is evident in every song he pens. He openly, and with great abandon, espouses what so many of us aren’t able to say out loud. In particular, the song, “Spirits”, that plucked his band, The Strumbellas, from the middle of nowhere obscurity and placed them on the world stage, clearly struck a chord. It’s honest ambling through an unsettled mind that led and continues to lead, thousands of people to confess to Ward how he spoke directly to their pain and comforted them. Exercising the demons through song is evident in so many of his songs over the four full-length albums the band has created, including crowd favourites “We Don’t Know”, “Salvation”, and their latest, “Greatest Enemy”. It’s earned him Juno Awards, gold and platinum records, number one radio hits, festival plays and late-night TV appearances. 

Unchartered waters are something familiar to any fan of Ward’s music, and that continues with Simon and the Island, his solo voyage. Unlike his work with The Strumbellas, with Simon and the Island, he purposefully chooses to air his songs in their raw, undressed state. The self-titled body of music simultaneously draws tears, inspires hope and illuminates a journey. A sliver of solace in dark times, emboldened in blind faith and brazen determination, the album is relatable, relevant, and resonant, strong and structured, honest, humble and full of heart. Delicate strings, cavernous piano, and sparingly appointed instrumentation allow doubt, reflection and resolve to flourish in this suitcase that carries nine songs waiting to be unpacked.

The lead track, “Muse”, is a glorious entry to the album, with its proclamation of unconditional love and the foundation one firmly finds in another. Ward promises “Oh my god, I know you’re struggling and oh my god, I know you’ll love again. I’ll take your side. No matter what you do. You’ll be my muse”.

One may feel they are ‘an Island’, and often, that they are there alone. Simon Ward reminds us that no matter the distance, the size of land, or measure of experience, there is always a space for retreat, reflection and renewal and reassurance that someone out there understands what you’ve been through.

Credit: Juan Veloz)

GRAMMY-winning singer-songwriter evrYwhr returns with his new video for his single “Tie Dye” released last month. Since its release, the soulful, self-love-inspired track has already found its way onto a plethora of tastemaker playlists including Apple’s New in R&B, NPR’s “New Music Friday”, Tidal’s “Rhythm and Groove”, and “Chill Pop. Watch the video for “Tie Dye” on YouTube HERE

The Blair Taylor (2 Chainz, G-Eazy) produced track brings evrYwhr’s eclectic blend of neo-soul, R&B, and pop to the forefront with richly textured melodies and airy flute accents that weaves colorful sounds – free-flowing, like the colors of a “Tie Dye” pattern. The song invites listeners on a journey of self-love, acceptance, and positivity – an especially timely sentiment after a period of unrest globally. 

Filmed against the stunning backdrop of Los Angeles, the video for “Tie Dye ” video serves as a love letter to the city and community that welcomed him with open arms as a transplant. We watch as evYwhr ventures through a warm and inviting LA streetscape, enjoying good times with friends and family – from backyard BBQs to picturesque scenes on the beach. Of the video, evrYwhr shares: “Though I’m originally from Michigan, the community I uncovered on the West coast has been a garden bed for my growth over the last 10-years. I’ve discovered deeper layers of my truth on the coastline where the ocean waves molded my being like the shore”.

Genteel of atmosphere and rolling in its acoustic arrangements, “Silent Spring” is a lush, languid ballad for the Earth. Adorned with birdsong samples and lyrics that pay homage to the wonders of nature, from the valleys to seas and the honey bees, it’s a passive protest song that ultimately urges humanity to cherish and protect the world around us.

Taking its title from the 1962 book by conservationist Rachel Louise Carson of the same name, “Silent Spring”s profound lyrics were inspired by a heightened sense of awareness and kinship with nature that Aaron Duff experienced in a series of early morning walks during the lockdown of 2020. Capturing that evocative stillness and deep feeling of connection he felt, Duff also uses the song as a vehicle to deliver a starker environmentalist statement. As the Hector Gannet frontman elaborates:

“Man’s relationship with nature is fickle. The theory of conservation is basic and, to me at least, incredibly important. Perhaps the practice, for many people, is less so. I, like so many, rely so heavily on regular contact with nature for all sorts of reasons, not least for my own mental wellbeing. It seems almost subconscious but there’s an affirmation in it, that we’re all alive at the same time and I can make a bit more sense of it all when I’m exposed to the natural world. I’d say that to see, hear and appreciate nature in all of its glory is to understand life at its purest. I just can’t imagine a silent spring, it’s a terrifying image for which we would be responsible. It’s a subject which I have touched on in the past, but this is absolutely my song for the extinction rebellion. ”

Palmaria are an Alt-Pop duo from a small town in Italy, currently residing in London. Members Giulia and Francesco have been making a name for their distinctive sound, poetically transporting listeners on a journey of dreamy landscapes and uplifting experiences. Think The xx meets Sylvan Esso, meets Little Dragon on a field trip to the Italian coast. Their long-awaited EP Crystallize was co-written and produced by B-CROMA (Yendry, Fia Moon) and Todd Speakman (Speakman Sound). The five-track release is a fluid ocean of soundscapes touching on everything from ocean pollution to self-empowerment and trusting your destiny. Sonically the EP is an immersive alt-pop experience with delicately placed production, waves of surprises and an all-around smooth, comforting tone contoured in a shadow of magic and hope. “Saudade” is the kick-starter for Crystallize showing us the beauty in Giulia’s ethereal voice. With touches of jazz in the movement of the chords, the single certainly feels calm and washed with a feeling of subtle melancholy with tropical drums complementing the soundscape. “Saudade” relates to nostalgia, linking to a mystical life-changing encounter, this single is déjà vu wrapped up in a superlunary, summery collection of sounds.

“Lluvia” touches on the beauty of vulnerability, being kind to ourselves and focusing on what’s important so we can move forward with a renewed sense of being. The single flutters in and out of a muted guitar pluck, alongside floating guitars which induce a sense of peace and sonic permission to slow down. The soft female vocals complement the intricate production effortlessly in a feather-light angelic aura. “Ocean” takes you to a surreal, idyllic, safe place, where you can feel free and you can be yourself, inspiring creativity and kindness. In this particular case, kindness towards nature, in a time where it’s pivotal that we stop ignoring the dangers we are already facing and start taking action. The title track “Crystallize” was inspired by the Netflix series ‘Unorthodox’ resulting in an ode to freedom and self-empowerment. The duo share, “It’s an invitation to step out of your comfort zone and get rid of negative influences in your life”. The track displays a sense of tension through tenderness, with rushing ripples of electro riffs, the single is centred around haunting backing vocals and stunning guitar riffs in true Palmaria style.

Perhaps the most quietly upbeat track is the exotic “Lanes”. Filled with tropical bird songs, a meticulous beat and a wave of resolving guitar motifs, the single ends the EP with a jungle of Palmaria goodness leaving you feeling refreshed and whole. Aiming to create a safe space and inspire creativity, the duo share that wherever people listen to the EP, “we want to transport the listeners to some place where they can feel free, where they can be themselves, a safe space”. Palmaria have garnered acclaim from publications such as Complex, NOTION, Wonderland, The Line of Best Fit and CLASH and have been playlisted by numerous official Spotify and Apple playlists including New Music Friday, Fresh Finds and many more, amassing over 3 million streams across DSPs to date.

Rising South London singer-songwriter BAELY drops his highly-anticipated new single ‘Float’ – a sleek, experimental gem from one of the most exciting R&B talents in the city right now.

Following on from previous releases ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Talking to the Walls’ in 2019, the newest offering from the artist of Caribbean and Irish heritage emerges as a polished, soulful syncopated jam mixing deeper R&B tropes with BAELY’s customary ease at crafting an expressive top line. The track’s blend of otherworldly, swaying textures and basslines creates an ebbing, swaying bed for the kind of assured vocal performance that will be sure to continue the growing attention around the young star.

Speaking on the track, BAELY states: “It’s about the yearning for love without unnecessary confrontation and the preference of being alone, instead of caught up in contention. I really wanted to capture the essence of my ideal relationship – essentially that when it’s right, it can feel close to the idea of floating away from the heaviness of the world.”

Born in Manchester, England, Tommy Newport relocated to the United States with his family at six years old where he bounced around from Dallas to Seattle before settling down in Wichita, Kansas. After picking up the guitar as a teenager to ease the boredom that comes with the idyllic, but monotonous life in the Midwest, Newport submerged himself into music and hasn’t looked back since. 

 His new EP Liquid is a fluid and vibey release produced by Newport and frequent collaborator, 4th Pyramid. The project bends genres highlighting the singer’s incredible vocal dexterity and following a simple notion as Newport shares, “Liquid in my eyes is my take on the sign of the times.” With classic funky bass lines, slow restrained production and quirky melodies, Liquid takes a route of unexpected turns, serving up the signature Newport sound, mixing funky-indie vibes with a world of pop-rock. Entering with “American Scam” the pulsing, sharp electro keys and whistling tones kickstarts the EP. The track narrates the story of someone with a monotonous corporate job, battling the strains of working just to get by. 

 “Martians” talks about a story of conflict and finding no means of actually getting through to a person. Like an alien or a martian, it’s impossible to communicate with languages that make no sense to the other, much like attempting to relay your view to someone. With the repeating cycle of melodies, cleverly made through Newports vocals, the single feels witty and somewhat tired, reflecting the drain of wasting your energy on an intergalactic acquaintance.

 “Bubblegum” is a rosy pink love song using the metaphor of candy to get the sweet message across. Featuring an undeniably catchy hook, with a hypnotic array of impressive falsettos and an addictive gooey melody, Newport satisfies all cravings. 

 “Stargazer” saw Newport teaming up with Grammy-nominated hip-hop duo and Atlanta natives EARTHGANG, to create a vibrant and infectious track, dripping with charisma and allure. 

 “Vanilla & Light” brings a woozy feel to the EP, with a slowed down, calm and present aura, the single narrates the role of music in the artist’s life, as he shares, “This song is about pessimists with optimism. Where the metronome keeps my time ticking and music helps me find the light. It’s a track that touches on self-worth and mental battles.”

 Bringing the EP to a close, “Playback” feels the most psychedelic of them all. Combining a sultry melody, with a moody bassline, the result is a seductive atmosphere, as Newport’s angelic vocals send shivers down your spine. 

 Newport has amassed millions of streams for his music, as well as recognition from the likes of Zane Lowe, Complex, PAPER Mag, Pigeons & Planes and many more, all touting him as the next big thing. He has been featured in a variety of television shows, including HBO’s hit TV show Ballers, Netflix’s original series What/If, TBS’ popular TV show Search Party, Amy Schumer’s documentary Expecting Amy, as well as the hit TV show The Sinner. He has also scored a recent ad campaign for Apple’s iPad. There is evidently no end to Tommy Newport’s talent, with Liquid marking just one of his many exciting chapters.

“New Stage is the most intimate album I’ve ever done. I’m leaving it all out there. I want listeners to know what it was like for me to grow up – all the negative and the positive. I want to share how I feel about my relationships with my friends and my soon-to-be wife. I want to share a sense of hopefulness. I’m still the same guy, but I’m a little wiser and bursting at the seams creatively. At the same time, I still make pop music…and it should make you feel good!” – Jesse McCartney• New Stage is Jesse McCartney’s long awaited fifth full-length studio album (and first in seven years!) featuring previously released singles “Party For Two,” “Kiss The World Goodbye,” “Friends,” and “Yours.”• Maintaining a career marked by Platinum success, performances for two US presidents, sold out concerts worldwide, a quarter-of-a-billion streams, and dozens of film and television appearances, McCartney opens up more than ever on New Stage, deconstructing his signature style with no-fills instrumentation, eloquent songcraft, and heightened lyrical vulnerability.

“‘Don’t You Know?’ revolves around mental health. I wrote it for my sister who was going through a tough time. This song is a message to anyone who may be in that place, to understand that we all fall down in life, but ‘don’t you know’ you will make it through?” – Claudillea• “Don’t You Know” is the second song from Claudillea’s forthcoming debut EP, out Q1 2022. Blending elegant ethereal atmospherics with a trip-hop edge, the track marries chic opera and left-field pop into an all-encompassing sound with a compelling global potential. The song was written fully by Claudillea and produced by Leo Clayton in the UK.• In support of this song, Claudillea will be running a fundraiser with Samaritans, an organization designed to prevent suicide and provide hope through their resources.

“Learn To Fall” is about two people on the verge of either leaning into their relationship completely or going through the cycle again and letting another one go. It’s not about fear of commitment, but it’s about the inability to acknowledge that something perfect isn’t just sitting out there waiting to be found.• “Learn To Fall” is a part of The Keymakers’ high frequency release strategy with a series of singles throughout 2021.• For fans of Rufus Du Sol, SG Lewis, Black Coffee, and Bob Moses.

What do you think?

Written by Neill Frazer

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