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In Real Life talks holiday single, digital age, and dream duets (Includes interview)

On their new Christmas single, “California Christmas,” Perez said, “This last July we sat down in the studio, ready to write a Christmas song and this is what came out. I think we just wanted to show what Christmas would be like in California because for a lot of us, our families aren’t here and even so you never get snow falling from the sky and you don’t really get that white Christmas with lights everywhere. It’s different than your traditional Christmas, so we kind of wanted to talk about what it’s like from our point of view, spending Christmas in California.”

“The Christmas single was written in July,” Conor Michael Smith said. “This was around the time we became an independent band and we were talking with management and discussing as a group what the first move would be as an independent group. Since the Christmas season was coming up in the next six months, we figured we might as well prepare something fun for the holidays and just do something our way. This is the first song that we’ve put out that we’ve fully written ourselves and with the help of the Mirrorball Entertainment production team we were able to put together a really cool song. I got to write two verses for it and also play the violin. Each of us has a hand in the writing and I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

“California Christmas was written by us five and these three other guys from Mirrorball entertainment,” Sergio Calderon said. “They worked on a song with us that was on our album called Loveless and they’re a great team and a great group of guys to work with, so we decided to do this one with them as well. It was supernatural. Originally it was supposed to be this Christmas breakup song and the next day we completely changed it because we weren’t feeling that vibe and just naturally came up with this song.”

Regarding their songwriting inspirations, Perez said, “I think what inspires our music and songwriting is writing from real-life experiences that we’ve been through and different things that we’ve felt. The most real songwriting that you’re going to get is pulling from things that you’ve actually been through yourself and what mean the most to you.”

“For me, music and songwriting all stem from personal experiences of mine,” Smith said. “I like to take the things that I’m going through that may be subconscious thoughts or conscious thoughts and write about them. If it’s an insecurity of mine, writing a song about it can make it become a superpower in a sense. I think that’s the only way I can really write, is through personal experiences.”

Sergio Calderon added, “I think that the reaction that we see and hear from the fans and anyone else that listens to our music is what inspires us to keep on writing new music because the more original stuff we put out, the more they like it and seem to connect with it, which at the end of the day is what we want to do. We want to make sure that anything we do, whether it’s a social media post, a music video, or a song or really anything, we want it to connect and relate with people. So, hearing everybody giving us great feedback all the time about our music, especially the original stuff, it inspires us and motivates us to keep on doing that.”

On being an artist in the digital age, Perez said, “I think there are definitely two different ways you can look at being an artist in the digital age. You can look at it as being hard because there are so many people that are releasing different music and it might be hard to stand out in that way. But it’s also great because you really have the opportunity to put your stuff out there and get it to different audiences by, for example, using different hashtags and whatnot. It’s really important to consistently put out music and to consistently put out content for your band and for yourself, so it has a lot of benefits in that way.”

Smith continued, “It kind of trips me out a little bit, sometimes I complain a lot and I wish that things were the way they used to be where you had to just put out music and it wasn’t so much about getting on this playlist or that playlist. The music I would listen to growing up was a lot of mixtapes, so you’d have to go to a website, for me it was datpiff.com and you would type in the artist and you would have to download it, put it in your iTunes library, sync it to your phone and then you’d have the album.”

“You spend all that time working to download the album, so I think you’re even more excited to listen to it,” Smith said. “In this digital age. I can download an album for free basically with Spotify or Apple Music. I may not even listen to it for a week or two weeks because everything is so saturated and because it’s so easily accessible these days. Before I had to really think about what song I wanted to listen to and wanted to have in my library because I had to purchase those songs and if I wasn’t purchasing it, I was on the internet downloading it. So I always had to work for my music and these days it seems like it’s so accessible that it takes away a lot of the specialness from getting that album. You know like spending $12 on your favorite artist’s album, that’s been lost.”

“Being an artist in the digital age is both hard and easy,” Calderon said. “It’s easy because you can record something on your phone and upload it to social media and that’s it! But it’s also hard because that being said, anybody can do that. At the end of the day, it challenges us to be unique as possible and as different and original as we can be so that we can stand out from everybody else. But it’s also fun because then it’s something that you can look back on, like the old videos we put out and you can see our growth. It’s cool because you can also directly connect with fans which is something that people weren’t really able to do before social media.”

On the impact of streaming services on the music business, Calderon said, “I think that streaming services have definitely helped music grow a lot more and become easier to access. I think it’s a cool way of putting stuff out because it allows people to release music without having to be signed to a record label or having to go through this long process. It helps people establish their own career.”

Perez listed John Bellion and LAUV as his dream collaboration choices. “I say John Bellion because of his intricate songwriting technique and the way that he produces his tracks is kind of unlike any other artist I’ve heard before. He’s got songs like ‘Hand of God’ and ‘Guillotine.’ He just has a really unique take on songwriting in general and I think LAUV kind of has the same thing going on. He’s got those huge songs like ‘Chasing Fire’ and Sims and I’d be really interested to see what kind of song him and IRL can come up with together because I know that he is incredibly talented, and we’d love to work with him in the future, Perez said.

Smith shared that Jay-Z would be his dream duet choice. “I would like to have a song with Jay-Z one day. That would be a dream come true. Jay Z is the epitome of a boss and I’ve learned so much from him. Not just from his music but from his interviews and his knowledge of the game, as well as his knowledge of life and what you have to do to get through it. He taught me that all the trials and tribulations add up to the equation of success and at the end of the day you play your cards right, you do things the right way and be persistent,” Smith explained.

“I would love to work with a Spanish artist whose name is Alejandro Sanz,” Calderon said. “The reason I want to collaborate with him is because his musical ability to me is one of the best. I think he is one of the most talented guys musically and he definitely knows what he’s doing, and he uses a bunch of cool chords in his music that nobody else does. He’s really popular for one reason, and that’s because he is really good at what he does. So, I would like to expand into that and it’s also Spanish so that’s something I want to do more of in the future.”

For young and aspiring musicians, Perez said, “You really have to enjoy it and love what you’re doing because there’s going to be points when you want to give up and you’re going to want to stop and you’ll think why am I doing this or just start making excuses for yourself, and you can’t do that! You have to love what you’re doing and keep working hard and the more you believe in yourself; the more other people will believe in you too. So keep working.”

Smith continued, “Do it for the right reasons. What I mean by that is, a lot of times I’ve caught myself making music for my ego and not for the world. I’ll make music to feed my ego and it ends up leaving me dissatisfied because I’m not creating great art. I’m creating great art when I’m making it for the world. When I’m making it consciously of what’s going to resonate with people and what needs to be heard because sometimes, especially in this day and age of saturated streaming music, there’s a lot of candy and there’s not a lot of substance, there’s not a lot of vegetables that are actually going to make you better and healthier.”

“If I had any advice for young aspiring artists, I would say to just put out as much content as possible, be consistent with it and also explore different types of things,” Calderon added. “Don’t stick to one lane. I would say show as much as you can, that means if you play three instruments, try to put out videos of you playing all three different instruments. Or if you sing in a different language, do that. Or if you have original music then put it out and just be consistent with it because at the end of the day that’s what people want. That’s what’s going to keep people interested in you.”

Perez said about “California Christmas,” “I think is really cool, is that it talks about all the things that really mean something to you. Not the materialistic things that you buy for Christmas but the things like family and wanting to get home to them for the holidays and be with your loved ones and I think that’s something we talk about in California Christmas that would mean a lot to a lot of different people. So if you haven’t listened to it yet, go check out California Christmas on all streaming platforms and enjoy the holidays with your family.”

“This is just step one of our independent journey as a band,” Smith said. “Our new label, Broke Hero Records, is going to produce a lot of great music that’s going to be written and produced by us, with the help of whoever we work with. Us five as a collective are all incredible musicians and I think it’s time the world sees that.”

“I would like to tell the fans that I hope they like the song because we worked really hard on it. It was a really fun process to make and we enjoyed making that and the video as well. I hope it puts them in a great Christmas spirit with the rest of their friends and family,” Calderon concluded.

“California Christmas” is available on Apple Music and on Spotify.

Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 16,000 original articles over the past 15 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a five-time consecutive "Best of Long Island" winner, and in the past two years, he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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