Take a trip to Waterloo Records near downtown Austin with the rising artist known as Demo Taped, and the actual vinyls might be the last section you peruse. A producer, singer and songwriter with experience in animation and other fields, he is simply a lover of all things art, especially when it comes with a positive message.
“Oh, man, Mister Rogers is like a role model for me, in a sense,” he said, holding up a pack of sticky notes branded with the host of the long running children’s television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. “I was looking at YouTube videos of the man, and I tear up a little. If you go back and watch the episodes again, just what he says and how he delivers it. He’d say ‘I like you just the way you are,’ at the end of every episode; it’s such a simple saying, but to hear that, it’s something.”
Demo Taped is a huge proponent of self-love, and has made such messages a major part of his philosophy toward music. He recently released the 5-track EP Momentary, themed behind the concept of life’s brevity and why it’s important to make every attempt to embrace the highlights rather than get stuck on the lows.
“I suffer from depression and anxiety, so I’m not saying you can just make yourself happy and experience life every day as a happy person,” he said. “But still, try not to dwell so much. I don’t want look back on my life and realize that I spent too much time thinking about things that worried and hurt me, ultimately.”
His personal struggles with depression have influenced his songwriting and what he looks to accomplish in his career, as he not only embraces its cathartic qualities, but also aims to use his platform to encourage others who may experience similar struggles with mental health.
“Music for me, it’s definitely a release, but I also want to use whatever voice I have to talk about this,” he said. “It’s a matter of life and death for a lot of people, and if I can just say a few words on it, at the very least, it’s the least I can do.”
Reaching that level of acceptance wasn’t the easiest process for the 20-year-old artist. Once he realized how many of these issues were out of his own control, though, he began to actively seek out how he could improve his situation, and has seen the results in his life.
“It was me thinking, ‘who am I if I need medicine to be happy?’ he said. “That was the most destructive thought I ever had, it’s just so false. If you were diabetic, you wouldn’t neglect taking insulin, you wouldn’t neglect pricking your finger everyday. This is the exact same thing, except it’s all up here, which can affect everything in your life. Motivation, relationships, it’s why your mental state is so important.”
Music was there for Demo Taped when he needed it the most, and it’s taking him to new heights as he builds his catalogue. The Atlanta native is now signed to 300 Entertainment, and considers the label somewhat of a second family to him. Prior to that, however, he had actually dropped out of art school to pursue music full-time, after the school saw the success of his EP Heart and encouraged him to fully dive into his career.
“Even the principal said I should leave,” he laughed. “After the release of Heart, I was getting a lot of attention, and was flooded with emails, and they were like ‘hey, you might want to go.’ I had already been thinking about it and talking with my parents, but when the school said that, it really changed.”
Both Heart and Momentary involve a futuristic, modern sound, incorporating a range of influences and styles into his left-field production. Always seeking to subvert expectations, Demo Taped trusts his own ear above all else, creating music that he wants to listen to while trying not to lose too many listeners along the way.
“On my song ‘Chemical,’ there are some weird transitions that I got from just messing around with synths,” he said. “I never wanted it to take anyone out of the track, but I also wanted it in there. You can’t always just make everything you want to make, because you’ll get some really weird stuff, but I think it’s important to follow your heart and soul, all that cliche stuff that still rings true.”
Going forward, though, he hopes to do more with samples in his music influencing the type of vinyls that typically draw his attention.
“I have a massive collection at home,” he said. “I still haven’t sampled anything that’s out yet, but I always try to find jittery, underground soul cuts where the label and the publishing is dead, so it’s all open.”
Waterloo Records didn’t have too many of that nature, but Demo Taped was able to secure several tapes that harkened back to his childhood. Finding Funkadelic’s One Nation Under a Groove, one of several vinyls he decided to take home with him, on the shelves put a bright smile on his face.
“This is what I grew up on, my dad had this kind of stuff playing in the house,” he said. “I’ve been trying to chase this other album my whole time going to record stores, though; it has the song ‘Not Just Knee Deep’ on it. That stuff is fire.”