nz music month 2020

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December/January 2020

by Sam Dunlay

Edy: Counting On The Beat

by Sam Dunlay

Edy: Counting On The Beat

When talent and hard work unify the result can be something special, a proposition well illustrated by Auckland producer-artist EDY. At the centre of an energised local urban music scene, the talented young producer who goes by the handle EDY On The Beat has credits with a number of the country’s biggest hip hop artists, including Donell Lewis, Razé, Mikey Mayz and Lion Rezz. Sam Dunlay talked with him to get a picture of this prodigious new talent.

Originally trained in classical piano, Edy (Edward Liu) first began experimenting with music production as a teen.

“I started producing back when I was in high school and I was just using the music software on the computers there,” he explains. “I started playing keys and found the whole process really intriguing. Over the years I’ve just been refining that… and now I’m here.”

As one indication of just where this now 20-year old’s ‘here’ is right now, Edy has over 5000 followers to his Facebook page, has production credits on tracks by established and upcoming urban artists on both sides of the Tasman, and is in demand for collaborations by international labels.

“It was definitely just a hobby in high school. I was classically trained in piano, so I was doing a lot of concerts playing classical music. Then there was a point where I was recording more and more people, and I just found the whole process of that a lot more fun than playing piano.”

Describing himself then as an overweight kid who fit every stereotype for an Asian, he moved around during his childhood/teen years due to bullying. Two years at St Peter’s College in Auckland were followed by years 10-13 at Western Springs College.

“Both schools actually gave me experiences that have shaped who I am today, and I wouldn’t change a single thing even if I had the option to,” he insists. “In my last couple of years at high school, I decided to change my direction and did more production and mixing. I stopped taking piano lessons to focus on my own music, and that kind of progressed into something more than a hobby!”

Indeed this shift in focus quickly led to something special. Edy has lately been working with major labels including Warner Australia, meaning a series of Aussie artist production credits. Pushed to reveal more about the artists and identify other labels, he is reluctant to elaborate.

“I have some really cool things in the works, but sorry, I’d prefer to keep them secret until they come into fruition!”

Transitioning from music as a hobby to making a career in music is almost always a challenge, often involving years of hard work and dedication that go largely unnoticed or rewarded. He recently graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Music, majoring in Popular Music, but Edy recalls a much earlier moment that highlighted his own apparently seamless transition.

“It first started getting serious when one of my friends introduced me to Donell Lewis, who was up and coming at the time. (This was back in my senior high school years.) I was a big fan so was super excited to meet him.

“Then from there I kind of was introduced to all the artists that I work with today. Donell is one of the realest guys that I know and I’m proud to be his homie. He saw something in me that nobody else did and he invested his time and effort into this chubby, nerdy Asian kid who wanted to be a music producer! A lot of my connections are thanks to him, and I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for him. He’s killing the music scene over in Australia and America at the moment, and what I love is that he is still the same guy that I met back in 2013.”

With artists he’s worked with recommending him to their friends, he’s remarkably quickly built both a reputation and sizeable catalogue of work across Aotearoa, his website also revealing credits with the diverse likes of Poetik, Israel Starr, Villette, Lil Sick, Sesh, Krisy Erin and others from all around the country.

“It really is a word of mouth thing. I’ll work with someone and they’ll think, ‘I kind of like this guy’. Then they’ll introduce me to their circles and it really just expanded from there.

“My first radio airplay was a song called Geena with Donell Lewis. I was so stoked to hear it air on Mai FM, it was like a tick on my bucket list! But as we all know, once we achieve one thing, we always want more – and that has led me to work endlessly so that I can stand where I am today. The exciting thing is, I feel like this is still just the beginning, and I can’t wait to learn more and work with more talented musicians in the generations to come.”

He sees it as important to be a part of as much music as he can (“…all politics aside”) and has associations with a variety of collectives, including Juvenile Music Group and Y$O (Young & $lept On), along with running his own production company, Edyonthebeat Ltd.

“Working with the more established artists is a lot more serious. You know that it’s their livelihood, so there’s always a lot more professionalism about it when you’re looking after what they do for a living.”
His first Australian writing trip came about because he was working with Filipino-Australian Lara Andallo, before the musician/dancer/actor teen signed with Warner Australia.

“I guess you could say that the catalogue that we built prior to her signing put her on a platform to be recognised and appreciated by people in the industry. I’m super proud of how far she’s come and I’m thankful she still chooses to work with me.

“My other writing trip was established after a few meetings with a manager from Warner. He was interested to see what I could come up with, working with one of his artists – Maribelle – and we totally made some of the best songs I have ever been a part of! She’s the first writer I’ve worked with that finished writing the song before I finished the beat, I was shooketh!”

Asked what he thinks it might be that’s bringing him so much work, he characteristically mixes confidence with humility.

“My point of difference is my willingness to learn, my eagerness to be a part of as many projects as I can juggle, and my versatility in musical styles and genres. Musical theory definitely also helps – I love geeking out with other musicians!”

The process, he says, changes literally every single time depending on the person, and he draws inspiration from those he work with.

“Sometimes I’ve spent half an hour listening to music with them and figuring out what they like listening to, or what their style is.”

It’s not always such smooth sailing for the producer, Edy mentioning problems working with artists who aren’t in session, meaning he can’t control the quality of the audio files received. With a growing reputation and expectations, he does feel more pressure to consistently create something high quality and unique.

“I’ve definitely received audio before where I think, ‘I wonder if he recorded that in a bathroom or on a Singstar mic?’ But then I have to treat it as if it was done in a studio. One thing that I’ve learned this year is that I can’t make excuses, because what really matters is what comes out of the speakers. Because the listener doesn’t care if it was recorded on a Singstar mic, they just want to hear good music. So, you have to make it sound how they want it, without making excuses!”

Edy is looking to improve and develop with every track he works on.

“Being a part of this NZ environment has been really special because I’m always learning new things. I’ll listen to something from the previous year and won’t be happy with it. Which is kind of frustrating, but it really lets me know how much I’ve grown. I think life really is all about growth and bettering yourself. So being able to reflect and look back on that is super rewarding, and it really makes me look to the future.”

Being ‘invisible’ is something you have to get used to as a producer or an audio engineer, the recording artist inevitably being the person who receives the accolades and recognition. Edy has made his peace with this, but enjoys taking on projects himself as it means more freedom in what he wants to do with the track.

“I’ve always been behind the scenes. The only reason I step out is because I get too impatient waiting for artists to drop! I get to the point where I say, ‘If you don’t want it to be under your name that’s fine! I’ll drop it myself.’”

Looking to take the foreground Edy released Broke (feat. Sire) mid-2019, including a more R&B re-mix that also included Donell Lewis and Hiiata. Broke, lyrically about being just that, was significant, the culmination of his growth and development over many years as he explains.

“My single Broke, I prepped so hard for that! I did photo shoots, PR and did the rounds, sending it through everybody that I had connected to. That song was actually recorded in Melbourne when I was doing a writing trip on behalf of Warner Music Australia. We did some writing sessions over a couple of the days and Broke was one of the songs that came out of that.

“I wasn’t quite happy with it when I first made it, but I just needed some time to mature and refine my mixing,” he explains. “So, this year I re-did the mix and put it out and it did really well. It’s currently sitting above 100k streams on Spotify!

“It’s quite a cool feeling because it wasn’t a fluke – I knew that the song had potential and it delivered. Especially because I’m a producer and not really a singer, the fact that it did receive recognition was really special.”

Judging from the released output 2019 was a year of highs for the Morningside-based producer/artist, and it’s no surprise that Edy has no thoughts of slowing down, though he is planning to focus on taking on more of an orchestrator role. Working with a select group of artists, he wants to make a splash in the NZ, and global, music scene.

“I’m going to turn the page away from dropping things as a producer and try to focus on the artist. There are a couple of really talented people that I’ve linked up with this year that I’ve kind of taken under my wing.”

As young as he still is himself and clearly only at the start of his career, there’s a sense of giving back implicit in that thinking, and an awareness of how things work.

“I’ve had the honour of being mentored by some incredible producers and engineers including Willstah (Ariana Grande, Ella Mai), Andrew Scheps (Beyoncé, JayZ, Green Day) and Mark Rankin (Florence & The Machine, Adele). I would not be where I am today without their extensive knowledge in all-round areas.

“I really think the best approach to the market is just flooding it with as much stuff as you can. Every two weeks you can submit a new song for playlisting on Spotify, so I’m trying to get them to do something every two weeks for the whole year!”

Alongside the local music scene, Edy has plans to expand more into the U.S. territory, where one track with a major artist can set you up for life.

“I really want to focus on going deeper into the American industry. I’ve been doing a lot of placement work for major labels, so I’m trying to really focus on making the most of that.”