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The first time I heard of Aaron Camper was at the end of 2012, when I discovered Jaiden The Cure (now known as Gene Noble – check out our interview here) a few weeks before interviewing him. Both of them were then enrolled as background singers for Chris Brown‘s Carpe Diem Tour.
In 2013, I remember watching one of Justin Timberlake‘s first TV performances while promoting his new album The 20/20 Experience and recognizing Aaron’s face behind him. I thought ‘Wow, alright, things are working out for him’. And when I heard JT was coming in Belgium on tour, I kinda felt that I would hear again from him… I was right indeed ’cause I’ve got offered the opportunity to meet him for an interview during his stay in Antwerp. So on May 1st, after some misfortune with the public transports, I finally reached the Blu Radisson hotel with my partner in crime of the day who had never heard of this singer before.
It’s a tired Aaron Camper fresh out of his little nap that we saw appearing downstairs and after witnessing his performance on stage in the evening, we could definitely not blame him for that. But that’s a story I already told you about while reviewing my 20/20 Experience.
So, back to our nice discussion: once we wrapped it up and got back in the street, the first thing my friend told me was how impressed she was by everything Aaron had already accomplished in his life. And that’s exactly the feeling that will strike you too after getting to know this talented and hard-working lad, always reaching for perfection and craving for more self improvement, putting all his energy into creating beautiful Hertz which will eventually turn into mega hits. E=MHz (Yeah, I know this formula doesn’t exist but let me add a bit of poetry to science). He’s part of this rare breed that inspires you to do better, to dream bigger. Learn more about his journey through music and his upcoming EP Madness & Megahurtz, set to release later this summer, in two parts. And stay tuned to discover his musical crushes next week !
You started music with gospel and even joined a band after high school. What convinced you to take the leap to work on a solo career and to go from behind the scenes (songwriting) to the stage?
Music has always been important to me. No matter the format, the genre… I grew up at church so gospel was first, you know what I mean? Church was first. As I matured and grew into a man, my appreciation and love for music was still there so I wanted to branch out and explore what I could do on the scene, how much potential I did have. At the same time, it was a situation where I had to kind of branch out and move forward on my own. And I was blessed enough to be at a point where I could go my own way. I just wanted to explore what I could do and, thank God, it’s been working so far.
In 2008 you earned a Grammy nomination for Marvin Sapp’s Thirsty. How did it feel?
It was weird. I didn’t know how to feel. I had never experienced anything like that before. But at the same time, it wasn’t MY Grammy. So I was truly happy about it but at the same time, I wanted more. So that just opened me up to want to do more, to be more hungry, excited, to reach out and do more to see what I could get done.
Afterwards, the producer Adam Blackstone crossed your path. How did you guys meet?
Actually I met Adam during a show. He was working with the group Mary Mary. I was with my squad and we met a show: he had heard about me and I had heard about him. So we exchanged our information and from there we just started working and tried to get songs done, write songs for people… We just tried to get songs out and to do music. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.
You’re now travelling with Justin Timberlake and part of his 20/20 Tour Experience with 20/20 standing for ‘perfect vision’. What’s been your most perfect vision so far on this tour?
We just did Paris, in a stadium. It was… a lot of people. I can’t even remember how many they were: I think 66 000? It was a sea of people. You would look back and people kept going. It was amazing. It started raining and people stayed! It was just incredible, I have never seen anything like that in my life. (It was your biggest crowd?) Yeah, by far. It was the biggest I had ever done in my life. So this was incredible to see and be a part of.
I have to tell you I’ve always been interested in background singers in general and…
Really?! Why? That’s funny, no one says that!
I don’t know, whenever I’m attending a show, I’m always looking at the drummer and the background singers. I guess it’s because of all the harmonizing. So I was wondering how do you prepare for such a tour? How did the arrangements come together etc.?
It only took one to two months as far as rehearsing. But we didn’t have a lot of time ‘cause we were still on tour but we had enough time to get it done. So we locked everything down in Memphis in about a month and a half. We were all in a flow with things anyway so it didn’t take that long. We just had to get the staging, lights and mechanics right and we kept going. For the vocals, we have a guy, Rob Stevenson, who’s one of the best vocal coaches on the planet. He comes in, helps out and we’re pitching ideas here and there and see if they work out.
You apparently got the chance to work with an impressive list of artists like Stevie Wonder, David Guetta, Jill Scott, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake… Which encounter has been the most striking and memorable for you?
I learned something from everybody. I made sure to. Just being on the road with Chris… He’s like a brother to me. That was a movie in itself, everyday was a movie. That’s the most fun I’ve ever had. I just try to learn something from every individual situation, I try to make sure I’m growing.
So would you say it influenced your writing too?
Absolutely! Everything does. Us sitting down talking will inspire me to write something. Running around outside in a different country inspires me to write something. So I try to take an arrow shot at my creative side down, to stay open, stay loose and just take everything I’m dealing with to write about it. That’s the only way the songs are real. You gotta be honest about what you’re going through on a day to day basis.
You released your first mixtape Welcome To My World in 2011 and now you have an EP coming up, Madness x Megahurtz. Three years went by in between but I can find some interviews where you’re already talking about this EP back in 2012! What happened? How come it took you so long?
Man… Because, once I put out something in music, I’m very critical with myself. You’re doing interviews and they’re asking ‘Can we hear it? Is it finished? Is it done?’. And you’re just like ‘No, it’s not done’ or ‘Yeah it’s done but let me just do it again’. You know, I’m very critical with myself ‘cause I wanna make the right impression. I wanna make the best impression. And since 2011, I’ve been on tour. I haven’t been able to be home and really create. Creating here on the road is a whole new thing for me so when I’m being out here, on the road, and not being at home with the producer is tough but I make no excuses. So if I gotta push it back, I’ma push it back. ‘Cause when I come up, I’m gonna have to answer for it: if it’s bad, y’all gonna telling me, if it’s dope, y’all gonna telling me. So I gotta make sure I’m happy with it first.
So did you rework and/or drop some songs in the meantime?
Oh yeah, I reworked them, dropped some, picked up some new ones, got new features, dropped old features… I’ve just been trying to make it stick. ‘Cause in 2011, I had a mixtape. And that’s all I have, that’s all people gonna define me with right now. And I got 40 000 downloads. So I’m trying to stay with that. I’m trying to make sure I’m doing something right and solid. And like I said, if it takes me another three years to present something, I wanna make sure that this one counts. So I’m taking my time but this EP is wrapped!
It’s going to be a double EP. Why did you choose this concept, this format?
For a lot of different reasons. The first one is more urban, and the second one is kind of alternative. I put that out because, at my shows, I’m probably totally different than what you’re gonna hear on these songs. And that’s how a lot of people in the States know me but a lot of people in Europe don’t know me from doing live shows yet ‘cause I’ve always been here to work with other people. So as they hear the other side, maybe that will push some of the PROMOTERS [he insists on the word] to book some shows and I could really bring my music in Europe over here and show you all what’s up!
Can you tell us more about how many songs there will be and the features?
I think both of them will have 6 songs each. JoJo is on the second one. On the first one, I got a song with Q Parker from 112 and I also got a song with PJ Morton. And that’s really it… for now!
Which song are you the most proud of on this EP?
I’m trying to be proud of all of them. I’m listening to all of them everyday, saying ‘Take this out, do this over’. Doing this for so long for the past 2-3 years, you get tired of hearing the same songs. You’re recording the same song you recorded two years ago and you’re like ‘I don’t even wanna put this on there no more’. So I’m just trying to recreate songs, make them pop! There are a few that I like more than the others but it’s those others that I’m worried about now that I’m trying it to make sure that they’re gonna reach the same level than the ones that I do like. So I’m working some more on the ones that I don’t like as much right now.
You have a music video coming up…
I have A COUPLE of them coming up! I made sure before I left home to shoot a lot of videos because we’re out here for a long time in Europe. So I shot a couple of videos, I started that vlog with me creating the album, Chapters. I was just looking at the second one upstairs: shout out to Ebony Lavone who’s putting that together! So I’m working on a lot of different angles right now.
Will Hypnotizing be the first music video we’ll see?
Hypnotizing is a video from the first EP. I’m doing another video too called Letters on the EP with a rapper from Philly named Chill Moody – we’ll be going on tour as soon as I get home! I’m shooting a video for all of them. I might shoot a video for every song, it’s just 6 songs so… […] But I just wanna put the EP out. Period. No more singles. My last two singles were great – Breaking My Heart with Mack Maine and Madness did really good. But I don’t wanna do any more singles with this: y’all pick what songs y’all like. It’s a lot of political stuff within. We’re tying it up within the last few weeks or the last month, you have to have stuff registered, all that kind of stuff that people don’t really care about but I have to get it done. And once it will be done, I can’t wait to get it out on iTunes to get it over with and start working on the next one! By now I have at least like 5 albums made. I have a lot of songs. So it’s just about finding the ones now that are gonna work and just getting them out. Just getting them done right and getting them out.
On Twitter I got a question from @lisanewton90 who was wondering which producer (dead or alive) you would love to work with…
David Foster. (I was so sure you would say that!) Babyface. L.A. Reid… Man, there are so many! I worked with one of my favorite producers, Warryn Campbell on this EP, on the song with PJ Morton. So… I knocked that out! I finally got the chance to do something with him! Timbaland… Mannie Fresh… Devante Swing from Jodeci… Daniel Jones, who’s upstairs. He plays the keys and just worked with Timbaland as a producer. We’re working together to create a whole new sound which is kind of exciting for me. So I’m just working on it. I’m just growing, I don’t stop. If I get to work with one of these guys that would be great! If not, I’ll still be a fan!
Did David Foster somehow inspire you to jump into music (ed. The man produced for Diana Ross, Céline Dion, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Toni Braxton, Brandy and so on…) ?
Absolutely! His longevity alone is just remarkable. He’s one of the most resilient producers of our time. As well as Quincy Jones but David recreated himself many, many, many, many times over. He worked with so many different people, in so many different genres. In a day now where you have to be classified like hip-hop, R&B… Coming from that same point when you didn’t have to classify like anything – if you could do work, you could do it – that’s what I’m most inspired with. He took those chances, he did TV scores, he was a session player, he started out just doing jingles and stuff like that… Whatever the session required, he did it and killed it. Now, as a singer, my competition is like Drake, Future. And they probably can’t sing a Luther Vandross’ song at all but that’s my competition, ‘cause they sing and rap. So you just gotta do it well. Learning from him, I’m just trying to adapt and make it work. So I love David Foster for that.
What’s the next step for you? I read this article on Billboard that you retweeted about the current music industry and its new tools, how the majors are not developing artists anymore… What are your views on that?
They’re really not. If major labels were developing artists we’d have a lot more artists instead of a lot of hits. We have a lot of radio songs, singles, good songs but the two dope songs we liked two years ago, we don’t know who those artists are! Labels want who’s got the most hits on YouTube, who’s got the most traction on and they probably can perform at their own birthday party singing there live but they’ve never performed at all. So you get a lot of artists that are like that… I don’t know, where is LMFAO? Where is Roscoe Dash? Where are these same people that we loved two years ago? So I still want major labels to support but I just know what I’m gonna do if I get a deal. If you wanna put singles out, I know how to do that but I will be on tour as well because I love performing and to be on stage. And we shot it down everytime we stepped on a stage! And that’s what makes hardcore fans. A lot of these people get in a situation where they don’t have that hardcore fanbase and therefore, when their single fails, they don’t have a hardcore fanbase to fall back on. So while we’re working to getting to these majors and all that stuff, I’m developing a hardcore fanbase and Antwerp might be a part of that too! So that’s why I’m here, I’m just developing with those people who love the music, no matter what. So if we get signed, we’re strong.