We saw a performance by Trini Soca Artist Asten Isaac & immediately decided we had get his interview, we weren't dissappointed as Singer and Song Writer Asten Isaac spent time with Zoe Reeve & gave us one of our most interesting Interviews so far.
Zoe: So, tell me about yourself... What are the first things we should know about you and how you started singing etc?
Asten: Hi folks, it's Asten Isaac, the singer, songwriter and musician. I started singing at a very young age and music has always been part of my life. I started singing during pre-school times and I'd sing at the graduation ceremonies during primary school and high school. As a singer, I started to take the profession very seriously this year, 2016. I really enjoyed the song-writing over the years and it paid dividends to me, having worked with artists such as Kes, Blax, Olatunji, Farmer Nappy and Biggie Irie. It's been very successful and I was urged by the Roy Cape All Stars family (one of my mentors) to start singing my own songs... so with their encouragement, here I am!
Zoe: Wow, you wrote songs for all those artists?! That's a big deal.
Asten: Yeah, I did. You probably know some of the ones I wrote, like Kes - Make A Move. In 2015 I won an award for the best written song for the carnival in Barbados with a song I wrote for Biggie Irie called My Island. It was fantastic for me to win that award in Barbadods as a Trinidadian. I also wrote the Olatunji song called Seasonally which did exceptionally well this year.
Zoe: That's pretty cool. So what made you get into song-writing?
Asten: I started writing the songs because I'm interested in the business - There's financial value in collaborating with entertainers who have a large audience. I then learnt that as a business, I could offer even more services with Asten Isaac #ItzABrand to provide a visual presentation of my content. That will come into the format of how I put across a song and the emotion involved in it. As you know, music is a very emotional thing, so I guess I tap into people's emotions in a different way and make a sense of their mood. I guess that's why I can write for so many different people. Even a song I wrote for Denise Belfon, back in 2013, it was her first power soca and she came to me for it. It was great for me to be able to understand how to work with people to help them actualise what their brand is who the individual is, through a song. It's a very powerful thing.
Zoe: So how does it work? Do people come to you and say "I want a song that talks about this specific thing and makes people feel this specific way" or do you just write a song and then find someone who wants to sing it?
Asten: Well it works in a few different ways. I was initially introduced to professional studio recording, by the 3 Suns family. Menace (M1) brought me into the studio at the age of 16 years old and I contributed to some of their projects until I reached the stage where I would do an entire song, and other people would find out that those songs came from Asten Isaac and they'd then seek out my services. Sometimes I'd push certain songs towards certain people because it would suit their brand better than mine.
Zoe: Ok, so do you plan on developing yourself as a singer now as opposed to a song-writer or are you going to carry on with both equally?
Asten: I had this debate about three years ago and I realised that I can't do one without the other. It's important to be multi-disciplined in a very competitive entertainment industry. I've opened a company called Isaac & Isaac Development Corporation Ltd. which is registered here in Trinidad. I'm coaching younger writers who appear to have the right skills set so that they can produce strong, solid and relevant material that has longevity. So I'm now pursuing that, and writing songs myself, and my life as a performer. The performing side actually started off on a really good foot with the song this year.
A lot of people don't know that I sung calypso in the calypso tents here in Trinidad - one of the most prestigious tents actually. I won awards in it before I started singing soca... for example I placed 3rd at the Young Kings competition. I'll continue to do that along with soca and any other Caribbean music such as dancehall or CDM (Caribbean dance music). I'm positioning myself as the most versatile singer/songwriter in the Caribbean, so I have to keep my creativity open and try and expand my knowledge.
Zoe: So you've written dancehall before?
Asten: Yeah I actually released a dancehall track last month. I wrote a song for myself on the Fire Starter Riddim (the riddim with the popular song Alkaline - Champion Boy). My song is available on YouTube and the name is Nah Lend. It's been getting pretty good reviews here in Trinidad and I've been called for interviews by some of the main urban radio stations. Yesterday morning I was on 96.7 Red FM which has the biggest morning show in the country, so that was good.
Zoe: Yeah, it seems like a good idea to write dancehall because it's popular throughout the whole Caribbean, so I guess you can reach more people like that.
Asten: Exactly. It's very popular, but some of the content requires some editing. I'm on a mission to ensure that the content of our music is not lost in the simplicity of topics of guns, girls and drugs.
Zoe: Yeah, soca tends to have more positive messages than dancehall, so maybe you could take the potisive elements of soca and put them into some dancehall songs?
Asten: That is actually the mission. We achieved it with Nah Lend. We still have a lot of marketing to do with it, but I think the people are liking it so far.
Zoe: Nice. It sounds like you're very commited to your music.
Asten: I am. Music is a lifestyle. It's what I do. I left some very prominent jobs in the corporate world, working in transnational banking and in the Hyatt Regency where I was an auditor. I've also put some of my education on the backseat for a bit while I concentrate on music. Music is like a jealous housewife - she doesn't really like competition at all! You really have to be commited every day. I do it every single day. Even right now, I just finished writing a song. It's about when you see someone and interact with them, maybe at a festival or an event, and you don't want that moment to be lost. You just wish for the simplicity of waking up next to them the next morning and saying "good morning" to them! That song should be recorded pretty soon. You'll get music from me every 8-10 weeks.
Zoe: So you're not going to follow the seasonal carnival schedule and only release music when Trinidad Carnival is coming up?
Asten: I'm absolutely not going to follow it. I told you, Asten Isaac #ItzABrand. A brand can never stop showing its products to its fans. It's all about consistency and availability of new content and products. Soca has a particular mood... dancehall has a particular mood... reggae has a particular mood etc. There are fans who may be looking for each of those different types at any point throughout the year. It's not limited to carnival time. I shouldn't deprive the fans of the opportunity to hear all those different moods. It's pretty costly though - You're looking at about £2000 to record a song, and then after that you have to think about the marketing. It's definitely worth it though.
Zoe: Oh ok cool. Do you have one main studio now where you go all the time?
Asten: Oh no no no! I work with a range of producers here in Trinidad and throughout the Caribbean. I just came from Grenada working with some studios there. I love it there actually. I've also worked with guys in Barbados and of course some in Trinidad and Tobago such as First Class Productions. Sometimes producers send me music and I send them a vocal recording. With the writing, I don't like doing it in studios any more. I find it too restricting. I like going to different places to write songs... sometimes I do it on the beach, or sometimes I wake up from sleeping and start writing a song right there.
Zoe: Fair enough. Do you have any plans to come to Europe or America to promote your music?
Asten: Absolutely. North America is the place to start. I've actually been booked for a major festival in Las Vegas for October. I'm a headline act there and this will be my first international headline, so I'm very excited about that. It's the Latin Caribbean Music Festival and it's held over three days held in the Main Strip in Las Vegas. That's main stage! Forget New York... that's Las Vegas! I have some other people throughout the US and Canada who are interested in developing my brand too.
I'd like to work with producers in Europe. I'd happily fly across as long as the content was worthy and there were artists to collaborate with. I'd like to go to places like Rotterdam Carnival. I'm actually looking for an agent in Europe, so if anyone is interested to work with #ItzABrand, feel free to contact me via my website (see below). I'm interested in someone who can deal with bookings as well as promotion. My sponsors here are very serious, so I just need to find some commited people who share the same goal as me.
Zoe: Awesome. Good luck with everything!
Instagram - @astenisaac
Twitter - @astenisaac
The offical management company of Asten Isaac #itzabrand contact: 1868 395 4259 / 1868 356 0005
At the time of the interview the Interviewer, traveller and writer Zoe Reeve was on the Island of Dominica on a tour of the Caribbean, read about her adventures on her Blog: https://travelwithzoe.org/