Interview: Shivan Luca
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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I got into music like I think a lot of people do – as a teenager looking for a way to process a lot of intense feelings and falling hopelessly in love with songs, bands, and albums – at that time it was my iPod Mini, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, radio pop music, and classic rock.
If I hadn’t gotten into music, I guess I’d probably be a scientist because I actually currently work full time as a researcher in neurobiology.
I’ve worked in science for 10 years and counting, and I love it for the crucial role it plays in human life and health.
Music was my first love, though, and I’m excited to give it more attention at this time in my life. Balancing the two is, I think, a puzzle I’ll be working on forever.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Well, I mostly work in the lab – right now I work on brain microcircuits (specifically, the involvement of serotonin) and behavioral outputs in fruit flies – and that means a lot of molecular biology, genetics, microscopy, sequencing, and other technologies. It definitely keeps me busy – and scientific research requires a lot of creativity. It’s hard for me to see how my music and science are really affected by each other, but I know they are.
I can definitely say that my training in science has been really hard – and humbling – and I’ve had to put a lot of work into patience and revision – and those things are really powerful in creating art (especially, in my opinion, music production and mixing). Scientific progress also takes a long time, but it really does happen – and I think that gives me a lot of hope for things like music too. And music provides the opportunity to express with such freedom, I sometimes wonder if it’s dissolved some of the boundaries of my thinking as a scientist.
How long has music been your career?
Well…I almost want to say 17 years, since I was 15 – because that was when I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. I remember listening to albums from my favorite artists and being overwhelmed by the infinity of the creation – that albums really were like infinite playgrounds of love – you can put however many songs you want, each song is its own adventure, but they all fit together into a greater theme with album art and tours to go with them – it just sounded so coo, it was overwhelming. I did not realize how much work goes into things like this! But who does, at 15?
Anyway, I went to college and found neuroscience interesting – and then went to grad school – and now I’m still doing science, but that whole time I was making music all night long and I hoped it would fall into place when it was supposed to.
I’ve been performing and releasing music in LA for about 8 years, and that might be a more accurate way to answer “how long has this been my career”!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I live in LA (for 10 years now). It’s impossible to live in LA and not be affected by the opportunity, excitement, and beauty. It’s also very competitive and requires a lot of patience and willingness to be creative. I play at venues around LA and the rest of SoCal year-round, and being in those venues that feel so steeped in history is always a marvel – that it’s possible for me to be in those venues at all is a dream.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
A great show is a credit to the audience, and the sound person. And the performer. But the audience brings the energy and it’s their choice to love the music and participate – and we live for that exchange. The sound engineer at the venue is a not-often-enough-sung hero. Mixing live sound is an art, and requires knowledge of the venue’s acoustics and system – and the sound person really controls how good a performance sounds.
I played at the Dance Marathon at UCLA a few times, and each experience has been one to treasure. The audience (the dancers) and the sound people were amazing, and everything really aligned for a very special event.
The worst “show” I’ve ever played was probably a very early busking experience in Santa Monica, where my allergies kept getting worse through my set until I was so stuffed up I could barely sing and I couldn’t hear out of one ear – that wasn’t great. But honestly, I’m always so excited to have the opportunity to play, I don’t know if I really regret a single show.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?Honestly, one of my favorite venues to play is my living room – where I live stream every week. It allows me to be my own sound person, it’s convenient so I can do it after a day at work – and I get to do it all the time! But in terms of actual venues in LA, I’d love to play at the Whisky-A-Go-Go again. I’d also really like to play at a lot of the other famous venues in LA, maybe starting with The Roxy.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Wow, definitely Ed Sheeran, Charlie Puth, and Lauv. If I could choose anyone today. And lots of other artists, but they’ve been kinda at the top of my list for years now – the pop music songwriting, production…how tangible it is how much love was poured into those works. It blows me away.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Don’t try to be anything but yourself. From top to bottom, side to side – be yourself! If you love music, and you love making your music, that’s enough. Be patient, and just choose to spend time engaging in music when you can.
Opportunities in music are developing at such a rapid pace that barriers are disintegrating left and right. Play the long game of being yourself and let your music career be part of a journey of self-discovery and a full human life.
For me, the real gift of working in music is to try and develop, cherish, work at, and struggle through growth – there’s just so much you can learn and create and do now with music. If you can look at your music primarily as an endless chance to grow, and an indelible part of your being, I think you’re more than halfway there.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Probably everything I wrote above, because it is not how I felt or what I believed for most of the last 17 years! I was always trying to find the thing(s) I might need to change or do or what the secret formula was to be successful! But I don’t think that’s even what I really wanted deep down – I just wanted to be loved for my music the way I loved the music I listened to growing up (and listen to currently). I’d just tell myself to have faith and love my life for what it is – through all of it – the ups and the downs. And work on what I loved with love – and that’s enough – just enjoy the ride, beyond that.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Well, this summer (at the end of July) I released an EP called The Eleventh Quarry. I’m really proud of taking a step up with the production for that record, and I think “Back Down” is probably its best song all-around. I’m particularly proud of the end of the song, where the guitar solo comes in, and how it finishes out – that was a lot of effort in the box, and I’m really excited to keep growing in those skills.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I think my favorite songs to play are my newest songs (whichever those are, at the time), because they’re freshest and I’m itching to see how people respond. My newest song is called “Buy My Freedom” and I’m really enjoying previewing that one (it won’t be out for about a month) in shows recently. If people request songs, it’s often one of my old ones “Jeannie”, that’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek depiction of unrequited young love set in the 80’s.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
Songs are feelings, to me. So inspiration is always a feeling – whether it’s some emotionally-charged thing in my life, or just another song I heard on the radio. I usually like to pick up my acoustic guitar and sketch something that’s like 60% guitar riff, and 40% amorphous vocal melody/lyrics. That’s a great foothold. Then I try to figure out something around it, and revise the lyrics as the rhythm of the song develops and try to get the song into a place where everything feels like it's working together.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I want my songs to be interesting, unique, and varied, but I think at the end of the day most of my songs are about love. I know love is complex, and I hope I capture some of our relationship with that complexity, especially the power of choosing to “love anyway”.
Sometimes my songs are just supposed to be exciting and fun to sing along to. Other times they’re a way of processing something difficult, and coming out the other side. Sometimes the feelings are hard and the expression is intense, but music is the alchemy that melts everything back into love.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Sigh. Unfortunately, yes. Collaborating can be hard because both (all) parties have to be on the same page about what they’re doing and how they’re going to approach it. Usually people are just a little impatient, I think, because every collaboration is a relationship of some sort to me. The really good collabs are when people take the time to work with each other and make room in their workflow for each other – it’s really hard and I don’t have a lot of practice with that! But I hope I’ll get a lot more in the future.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I am so excited about the future. I’m releasing a new song called “Buy My Freedom” in early October that I can’t wait to share – I’m really excited about the production on this one, and the way the song evolves.
I’ve also got a project of acoustic songs co-written with one of my best friends, that I’ll move onto after fleshing out a few follow ups to “Buy My Freedom”, and so many other songs and projects in the works. I can’t stop! I hope people will resonate with this music, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes.
Social Media Links:
Social Media and other Links
Instagram: shivan_music http://instagram.com/shivan_music
Twitter: @shivan_music http://twitter.com/shivan_music
TikTok: @shivan_music https://tiktok.com/shivan_music
Facebook artist page: https://www.facebook.com/shivanmusicpage/
Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbX_K8vTszKh-c23cQ0KR-A
Sessions Live: https://sessionslive.com/ShivanLuca
Apple Music artist link: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/shivan-luca/1522114639