BEHIND THE BLOG WITH BRENESSA ROACH
BY BRENESSA ROACH | AUGUST 7, 2023
It has officially been 8 months since I created Behind The Beat and I realize, I never introduced myself or explained how I got here. My friend gave me the idea to ask artists and my followers to ask me questions and interview me. So, that’s exactly what I did and in today’s blog, I will be discussing my musical journey, the start of Behind The Beat and my future goals.
WHO WERE YOUR MUSICAL INSPIRATIONS GROWING UP?
Growing up I was always surrounded by music, primarily music from the 60s-80s that my parents grew up listening to. I ended up really loving The Beatles the most. I wrote about them for every single music project I had, I collected merch and I would sing all of their songs all the time. Even till this day, my go to karaoke song is “Come Together”.
My older sister also played a big part in my love for music as she was always playing Backstreet Boys, Hilary Duff and Spice Girls when I was really young. As well, when I was 9 years old she got me into My Chemical Romance and Green Day.
Around 2006, I started developing my own musical taste – which was mainly pop music by Disney channel stars such as; Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. I remember Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus was my biggest inspiration. She was the reason I started practicing how to sing and my first live performance ever was in 2008 at my 3rd Grade talent show when I sang “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus.
Later around 2011, One Direction became a huge inspiration for me until around 2017 when I was heavily inspired by Shawn Mendes, Russ, Halsey, Khalid and BTS.
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO PURSUE MUSIC? AND WAS IT ALWAYS MUSIC BUSINESS OR DID YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST?
My whole life, I knew I wanted to pursue something creative whether it was music, art or something media related, but I constantly changed my decision of what I wanted to do exactly. I wanted to be a singer around the age of 6 years old. Around 9 years old, I decided that I wanted to become a film director. I knew at 9 years old that I wanted to go to Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) for their RTA (Radio, Television and Arts) Media Production program. I found out about this program because I was watching New Girl at the time and found out that Hannah Simone graduated from RTA.
I started vocal lessons in 2013 and created a YouTube channel called BrenSings where I posted covers. This was my way of trying to get noticed as a singer, but music at this point was a hobby. At 16, I started making my own original music and posting to SoundCloud and even released one song on Spotify (which has been taken down since, but you can listen to it on my SoundCloud still). Around 17, I got my first iPhone and started learning about GarageBand and producing my own beats for covers – my first produced cover was “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. Around this age, I decided that I wanted to become a producer and work in a music label as well as be an artist and a film director.
In contrast, I also wanted to be a surgeon at this time and almost applied to medical school. I went through a phase where I was really worried about pursing media because I was unsure if I would be able to even get a job in the future. However, my family was really supportive of me pursing the creative field and I stuck with my heart and applied to RTA Media Production, which I got into and my dream had come true. Despite being in the pandemic for basically 2.5 years of university, I loved this program because it really helped me decide what I wanted to actually do. In first year, we got to take all the media classes; film (multi and single cam), graphic design, music theory, media history, marketing, social media and audio/radio classes. By second year, I knew I wanted to complete the audio/radio concentration – so that’s what I did.
In my second year is when I took a few music business courses and learned about A&R (Artist & Repertoire). Prior to these classes, I didn’t really know what A&R was and didn’t know much about the business side of the industry. After learning about A&R, I decided that I wanted to go that route because it was the best of both worlds – I’d get to make creative decisions, discover new music/artists and still help artists grow.
However, I still had a dream of becoming a producer and again, I wanted to be an artist. During the pandemic, for fun, I started producing and making music and covers a lot more. Around April 2021, I had to produce a song for a final project in my music production class. I ended up getting a 97% on that assignment and I decided to release that song to Spotify. I definitely have improved my songwriting and production skills since, but still I keep that song on Spotify as a reminder of my progress. The song is titled “Bloom” and it’s about being trapped inside a glass bottle (quarantine) where the flowers are blooming outside and you can’t go out and see the flowers.
WHEN DID YOU START WORKING IN THE INDUSTRY?
As I mentioned earlier, I took a few music business courses in my second year of university. The first part of the course in first semester was learning about contracts, royalties and the different roles in the industry. As well, our final project for that class was to choose an independent/small artist and create a marketing plan for them. The second part of the course which I took in second semester was the more hands on experience. The class was split into two sections and each section got to choose 2 artists (for a total of 4 artists) to work with throughout the semester with the final project being a concert that we would sell tickets for, organize and have the artists perform at.
My class chose to work with The High Loves (who are the winners of the 2019 John Lennon songwriting contest) and Bleu Valentine (who is a fellow RTA student). I was on the audio team so, we spent some weekends recording two live off the floor songs with Bleu Valentine and with The High Loves and it was amazing to be in the studio with them. I also was in charge of coordinating with The High Loves what instruments to bring to the sessions and what time to show up, etc. This is when I really started to realize that I loved working with artists. We went into lockdown shortly after so, my class never got to put on the concert and all of my music industry experience came to a halt until my 4th year thesis “The Airtime Project”.
“The Airtime Project” was mine and 6 other classmates way of helping artists during COVID to achieve their dreams. We chose 4 different artists from Toronto who had never been in a studio or had a music video filmed to help them. The artists we worked with were; cutsleeve, Malaika Khadijaa, george & the handsomes and Del. Together, we created a single and an accompanying music video for them (not all the music videos are released yet, only cutsleeve’s “stew” is out). We also filmed the whole process to put into a documentary (since then, we decided to drop the documentary).
Our project was the biggest one in my year as we had to record 4 songs, film 4 music videos and film a documentary about it. Our campaign goal was also 10K (which we raised about $7K I believe). Our music videos were filmed by Ten Four Pictures as the creative director Josh Willick, was also part of “The Airtime Project” thesis project.
For this project, I was the marketing director. I helped design our production packages (which were for our grades), I designed our social media graphics and reels. I also was in charge of the crowdfunding campaigns and keeping track of our perks. I had a marketing and graphic team for assistance to help me create posters for each artist’s song so we could give these posters away as a perk for donating. I was on set for every music video and helped with behind the scenes footage and photography and even helped with some set designs. Throughout this time, I only developed a stronger passion for working with artists and helping them bring their visions to life.
WHO WAS YOUR INSPIRATION WHEN ENTERING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
So, summer of 2021 came around and as I was juggling The Airtime Project, I also was starting to look into internships in the music industry, as I needed one in my 4th year, second semester to graduate. I had always dreamed of working at Sony so, I was looking up artists on the Canadian roster and I came across (consisting of , and ). At this time of my life, I was really starting to embrace my Asian ethnicity more and I realized that growing up, I never really had any Asian musician to look up to or act as a representation for the Asian community, especially in North America. So, when I started listening to UPTOWN BOYBAND and realized that their goal was to bridge the gap between the Asian and Western music industry and act as a representation for the Asian community, I knew that they were people that I wanted to work for and help grow, even at my young age of 21 with barely any experience. So, when I got an interview for the A&R department at Sony, I remember mentioning UPTOWN BOYBAND.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE INTERNING AT SONY MUSIC CANADA? AND WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF APPLYING LIKE?
In October 2021, I applied to 7 music internships (3 at Warner Music and 4 at Sony). I ended up being interviewed for 2 Sony internships (A&R and Artist Marketing) and 2 at Warner Music (A&R + Radio Promo and Streaming Services). The A&R internship at Sony was the first internship I applied to because it was my dream one and it was the only internship that I didn’t get rejected to post interview. I was so excited to intern at Sony and even more excited that a POC woman was the one who would be mentoring me. She later became a friend and a role model to me in this industry.
I started my internship at the end of January 2022 and it was completely online and it wasn’t exactly what I expected, but nonetheless I loved it. I was supposed to finish in March once my hours for school credit were up, but I felt that there was so much more to learn so I asked to stay until the end of the internship semester (April). I spent my shifts scouting different unsigned and independently signed artists. Most of these artists had listeners way over 500K and were growing fast. The first half of my internship was fun, but it felt like I wasn’t learning much. I didn’t get to attend as many meetings as I wished for, didn’t get to meet anybody and didn’t get to work with artists or learn how to work with an artist.
My last day of the internship in April came around and the director of A&R asked me if I wanted to come back for the summer for an extended internship. Him and the rest of the team saw potential in me and felt that being online limited my skills, so by accepting an extended internship, I got to go in office. I felt super happy and proud of myself because I was the first person on the A&R team to have an extended internship and that only made me more determined to learn.
I started my second internship in June and I was working full time hours (10am-5pm, Monday to Friday) and I was in office about 2-3 days a week. Being in the office definitely made my internship a lot more memorable because I got to actually meet people and sit in on artist meetings and listen to demos. During that summer, I got to attend North By Northeast and Canadian Music Week where the A&R team all went out to scout artists and see how they perform live and interact with the audience – it was super cool to be with the team and listen to their thoughts about the performances. I also got on the guest list for G Soul’s Toronto show at the Hard Luck Bar because I wanted to see the opener Nilo Blues, who is now a friend of mine. That experience was so wholesome and I made a lot of industry connections through Nilo and I was able to report back to my team with notes on his performance. That summer, I also got to go to my first listening party and it was for Beyoncé’s Renaissance album, since Beyoncé is a Sony artist.
The second half of my internship was definitely a lot better and more hands on. I definitely took on a lot of different projects whenever I could just because I was so determined to learn. I got to choose four artists on the roster that I wanted to actually work with and you best believe, my first answer was UPTOWN BOYBAND. Unfortunately, they were leaving Sony, which was really upsetting at the time for me, but keep reading until the end for my full circle moment. In the end, I got to work with/for Tim & The Glory Boys, TEDY, Tyler Shaw and Aqyila – all of them were so nice to work with/for and I got to do some exciting stuff like set up recording sessions, work on EP press release presentations, transcribe lyrics and even reaching out to different songwriters and graphic designers, etc.
My last day at Sony was very sad and till this day I do miss the office and my team, but I am grateful for the time I spent there and for the many skills I learned and the people I met. Sony opened many doors for my career and I will never forget that.
WHAT DID YOU DO POST-SONY?
After my internship ended at Sony, this is when I started to become very scared for the future. I was struggling to find a paying job in the music industry and I was starting to become hopeless. Despite feeling lost, scared and hopeless, I was still determined to expand my skills in the industry. To my luck, an acquaintance reached out to me and asked if I wanted to volunteer at JUNNY’s BLANC concert in Toronto and I of course said yes. It was really fun to work at that concert and learn how to assist at meet and greet and expand my industry connections as well. After JUNNY, I also worked General Fan Engagement for the K-Pop group, WEi.
After working at those two concerts, I got offered an unpaid internship in A&R which I accepted, but then ended up leaving. At this time, I started to realize that I didn’t like working for free. Since I am someone who goes above and beyond, I was getting tired of wasting my time and energy doing free work. I also felt that instead of me benefiting and learning new skills, I was teaching my peers skills that I learned from Sony and other jobs, so I really was just not learning anything.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START BEHIND THE BEAT?
It was around end of October and I was leaving to go to Portugal for 2.5 months and I had been thinking for days about how I can stay active in the music industry while being abroad. This is when I decided that I was going to combine my love for writing and sharing music and create Behind The Beat. The name “Behind The Beat” came from a project I did in 2018 in my first year of university. We had to create a podcast for our audio class and I came up with “Behind The Beat”. The concept of it was just me breaking down artists songs through their instrumentation, production and lyricism. I knew since 2018 that I wanted to create a music label or business with that name so, with the launch of my blog I decided to reuse that name.
I officially created the blog in November 2022 and I even reached out to a few artists asking if I could use their album art for the websites homepage. Some of these artists I reached out to were; Koven Wei, Ethan Low, Nilo Blues and Kuiper. They were the first people to know about my blog and they were and still are my biggest supporters. They really inspired me to create this blog and keep going.
I essentially created Behind The Beat because I just wanted to help artists grow and I also wanted to grow my experience and expand my skills. While I was at Sony, I realized that a lot of the artists that my team liked always had crazy amount of streams, listeners and followers. However, I personally love finding artists with small listeners and streams and listening to them and watching them improve as the years go on. With Behind The Beat, I really wanted to help those smaller artists and give them a platform where people could discover them.
Despite focusing on smaller artists, I do have a few K-Pop blog series as I wanted to stay active in the K-Pop industry and also bring in those K-Pop fans to my blog. As well, as my blog grows, I am constantly figuring out what types of blogs and artists are more exciting to my readers. Which leads me to say, my blogs highlighting Asian Artists and my 100K AND BELOW series seem to be the most popular amongst my followers.
With Behind The Beat, my biggest goal is to be the most inclusive media outlet out there. There are a lot of blogs that focus on Western Music and there are blogs focusing on Asian Artists (specifically East Asian artists), but there are not a lot of blogs that focus on those smaller artists, especially ones internationally. I am super proud of myself for being able to feature artists like wigglye, who are a band in Indonesia with 38 monthly listeners, but their music is incredible. As well, I have blogs featuring small artists from Norway and Ireland so, it’s been super fun to deep dive into different parts of the world and find small artists there.
WHAT ARE SOME EXCITING MOMENTS THAT HAPPENED FOR YOU AFTER CREATING BEHIND THE BEAT?
There have been a lot of exciting moments for me since I launched my blog. As a self-improvement exciting moment, I have gained more confidence and learned to step out of my comfort zone. If you asked me last year to do an interview on stage, I probably would have said no. With the launch of this blog, I told myself that this year was going to be the year I take risks. It’s only been 8 months, but I have learned to reach out to artists that I want to work with and also learned to go to concerts alone and network. When I first launched the blog, I felt that maybe artists would get annoyed by me tagging them in posts and featuring them, but since then I have gotten over that negative thought and realized that at the end of the day I am only helping them.
Another exciting moment for me happened in February when I got invited to Universal Music Toronto by Disney+ Canada to attend a private screening of j-hope from BTS’s documentary. This was such a surreal moment for me because it was my first press coverage ever and it was for my bias in BTS.
In March, I did my first concert press coverage which was for ¿Téo?’s “Sol & Luna” Tour in Toronto. I got invited by Edwin Raphael and it was a fun concert, I had never really listened to ¿Téo?, Edwin or (the other opener) prior to the concert, so it was fun to hear them live.
Then in April, I did my first interview (that wasn’t for a school project) and it was for Liam Benayon. It was even more exciting (and nerve-racking) that the interview was in person and I got to go on stage and interview Liam in front of 60+ people. I went to the event alone, but ended up meeting people and 3 people recognized who I was and I felt so cool.
Also in April, I accomplished my goal of doing concert photography when I did photography for the Korean Indie-Rock band SURL – who I absolutely love. It was such an amazing concert and although I was stressed taking pictures of a rock band who were jumping around a lot, I got some amazing pictures.
Now for one of my most exciting moments this year which was being able to connect with Justin Trash and Roc Lee, who are now in the duo CLUB BOYBND. Being able to talk to them through social media and help and support them by writing blogs about them has been really amazing and it’s truly my full circle moment from when I wanted to work with UPTOWN BOYBAND. It’s crazy to think that 2 years ago I was entering the industry in hopes to work with UPTOWN BOYBAND and now, I just released an interview a few days ago with Roc Lee where he talked about CLUB BOYBND’s new song “hmu”. So, if you haven’t read that article yet, check it out here. Also to add on, knowing CLUB BOYBND has opened many friendships for me not only outside of the industry, but within the industry. Because of CLUB BOYBND, I have been blessed to get to know Semmi, Townewest and Russell Groovy.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE NICEST THING SOMEONE IN THE INDUSTRY HAS SAID TO YOU SO FAR?
I have had a lot of support within and outside the industry, but there are 4 musicians that have told me some words of encouragement that really stuck with me.
Firstly, around February, an artist named Ashavari reached out to me and told me that she loves the community I was building through my blog and “thank you for acknowledging South Asian artists as Asian. A lot of people still don’t so it’s really appreciated”. Hearing that really made me realize that I was slowly accomplishing my goal of becoming the most inclusive outlet. I had never realized prior to that moment that most “Asian” artist features are solely East Asian focused and knowing that I was one of the few to really include ALL of Asia made me so happy and only encouraged me to continue doing so.
Secondly, my friend Russell Groovy. He recently said to me “Finding an outlet for genuine support as an artist is not always easy! You are really doing dope things with btb”. He also said, “I def noticed you focused on a lot of international crowds/artists and hella love that. It’s dope to hear what everyone else got going in the world sonically other than us silly Americans”. Hearing him as an artist to tell me that it’s hard to find an outlet for genuine support just made me feel really happy with what I have been doing. Russell also in general has just been so supportive of my blog and gives me ideas of ways to expand my blog.
The third person that said something so nice to me was Mr. Justin Trash. I don’t think Justin and Roc know that I worked at Sony or that they were one of the reasons I am in this industry (maybe they will now after this interview though). But, I am in the CLUB BOYBND Discord server and I told Justin once that he inspires me everyday and he responded with “I appreciate that I can confidently say the same”. Hearing that from someone who I have looked up to the last 2 years just made me so happy that words can’t even explain that kind of happiness.
The last person is JUNNY. I have been a big fan of JUNNY since 2019 so, when I worked at his concert, I was mustering up the courage during Meet and Greet to ask the touring manager if I could meet JUNNY. Thankfully, he said yes and I got to meet JUNNY backstage. Meeting JUNNY was definitely one of the most nerve-racking moments in my life, but he was the absolute sweetest person ever. What he told me has stuck with me ever since and what he said was “you were the sweetest person working meet and greet, I noticed you were interacting a lot with the fans, so thank you for working tonight”. Although I was only interacting primarily with the fans, it made me really happy to know that JUNNY could tell that I was someone who is sweet and wants to help people and make sure they are in a comfortable environment. Even though I am writing blogs and online mainly, I try to foster a nurturing and caring environment for artists – even in my Discord server, I make sure it’s a safe and happy place for artists and industry people to talk in and connect with other people.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE OF BEHIND THE BEAT AND YOUR MUSICAL CAREER?
I have many goals for Behind The Beat, but the main one is to just continue to be the most inclusive outlet out there and give a platform for artists to share their music, no matter the number of listeners they have. As for my musical career, I just want to continue networking and I also really want to eventually do video content like interviews. I have a lot of plans and changes for 2024 so, I hope you stick around for that and look forward to it!
All in all, my music journey has been a crazy experience for me so far. There has been a lot of encouragement and positive moments, but there have been a lot of struggles as well. To be completely honest, I even experienced my first discouraging moment prior to starting my blog in December when I had done my first full time job interview. Instead of being interviewed about my skills, I had to listen to a man tell me that “A&R is not a real job” and that “your blog won’t take you anywhere and you will just end up working in a McDonalds”. To say the least, I left that interview crying, BUT also encouraged to prove that man wrong…and I totally did prove him wrong. So as a lesson to the readers, don’t let anyone discourage you from doing what you want to do.
This blog was a lengthy one and if you stuck around to the end, thank you! I was very vulnerable and it’s scary putting all this out into the world, but I hope I can encourage and inspire people with my journey. All of these moments in my life have shaped me to be who I am and I am super proud of myself and can’t wait to continue my journey through the music industry.
To all my Behind The Beat supporters, thank you so much for supporting me, encouraging me and sharing my content. I couldn’t have grown Behind The Beat without each and every one of y’all.
I LOVE YOU ALL 🖤
Connect with me: https://brenessaroach.carrd.co/