Super Duper discusses the making of debut LP ‘HALLELUJAH!’ [Q&A]
Those who have followed his rollout know that Super Duper has come through with two new tracks each month since March to brighten the gloomy days of lockdown. For those who haven’t, the Nashville-based producer’s debut album HALLELUJAH! will catch listeners up on what they’ve missed in recent months.
Super Duper, real name Josh Hawkins, has built his following via originals and remixes alike, such as edits of Billie Eilish, Corona‘s classic “Rhythm of the Night,” and Kasbo‘s “Over You.” He’s not only toured with the latter, but has also provided direct support for The Chainsmokers, The Glitch Mob, Big Wild, and more.
In 2020 alone, Super Duper has also had two of his original outputs, “Do It For Myself” and “Feel My Way,” nab features in A-list brand campaigns for Fruit of the Loom, Peloton, ESPN Monday Night Football, and Bose Headphones. Super Duper also provided a wavy remix of Bob Marley‘s “Sun Is Shining” for Netflix’s original film, Trial of the Chicago 7.
HALLELUJAH! builds on Super Duper’s unceasing activity to date, materializing as a testament to his production prowess and innate ability to project pure joy and optimism with his music. The 20-track epic is a euphoric journey for indie and electronic lovers alike, with pop-leaning elements displaying the culmination of the years that Super Duper has spent crafting his unique sound. This is especially evident on songs like “Purple Roses,” which features vibrant leads and even brighter piano riffs under catchy lyrics from frequent collaborators Daniella Mason and Lonas, and “Imagine Us” with Island Police, a composition that’ll instantaneously catch ears with its ’90s era keys and melodically pitched vocals.
HALLELUJAH! arrives in tandem with with an official video for one of its inclusions, “We Had Everything.” The visual follows Super Duper and his fellow collaborators as they run and dance through the streets of Nashville.
In a recent interview with Dancing Astronaut, Super Duper discussed his early influences, navigating Nashville (the country music capital of the world) as an electronic producer, his skills as a sync wizard, and more. Stream HALLELUJAH! and read the full interview below.
What were some of your earliest musical influences growing up and when did you decide to start making indie-electronic music?
Hawkins: “Growing up, I listened to a lot of Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx, and Air. Around college, I became pretty obsessed with Tears For Fears and M83. Shortly after that, I came up with the Super Duper project and have been trying to combine all those influences ever since. I also have to give big props to the early electronic scene on SoundCloud as well. Without artists like TNGHT and Flume, I probably wouldn’t be doing the Super Duper thing.”
You’ve released two songs a month since March, a release schedule most fans only dream about from their favorite artists. Can you say a bit about your decision to follow this rollout plan?
Hawkins: “I honestly wish I could keep releasing singles for a few more months. It’s really just the climate of new music now. So much amazing music is coming out every week, so I wanted to make sure none of my songs were lost in the crowd. I also have trouble picking my favorite songs…I’m too close sometimes to know what will have the most impact so this was an easy solution to not only make me happy but also give people plenty of new music consistently.”
Can you tell us about some of the recurring collaborators on this album and how you all got connected?
Hawkins: “Most of the album was created during a writing trip back in March of 2019. I invited a handful of really talented artists, songwriters, and producers I had met in Nashville from sessions or through friends. We started off doing smaller sessions, but by the end of the week, we were only doing big, eight person sessions which we now jokingly call ‘Allskates.’ It’s really uncommon to have that many people in one room all writing at the same time, but somehow it worked. Some of the best songs on the record were made this way and I’ll probably try to use that same formula in the future.
This really opened the door for collaboration more than any other Super Duper project before. I let friends help me produce, write, and mix. It was scary to let so many people in. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing lots of artists in the electronic space feel the need to ‘do it all.’ Once I let that pride go and leaned into others contributing and enhancing my music, there was no turning back. When other people add melodies or ideas that I would never come up with, it gives the music a different lasting quality for the creator. I listen to it like a fan more than ever now because technically, I didn’t do every single thing. I get to enjoy my music as a consumer and not a critic, which is a way better position to be in.”
It’s no secret that Nashville is recognized as the country music capital of the world. Is there anything you can tell us about the music scene there that has influenced your sound and how you’ve been able to infiltrate it as an electronic artist?
Hawkins: “I think the big shadow that country music casts is actually a good thing. I still feel connected to a music hub. There are lots of managers, booking agents, publishers, and more here, so I’ve learned a lot about the music business just being in close proximity to music row. But, since I’m not pursuing country I can keep blinders on and not get caught up in the rat race and just live my life at my pace. “
I also think Nashville being the country capital helps the few people outside of country connect. We’re all championing each other and it’s not as competitive as other music cities because there aren’t very many of us, so we stick together. It has also given me the chance to find collaborators and artists in the indie, folk, or Americana scene that live here. I’ve definitely benefited in so many ways being a weird fish in this big country pond.”
You’re clearly some kind of sync wizard, with your music being used by ESPN, Fruit of the Loom, Peloton, Bose, and more in 2020 alone. Is that something you think about in the early stages of making a song?
Hawkins: “My first job in music was writing music for commercials. I would have to write new music almost every single day, and I learned a lot about the sync world that way. I can’t say it didn’t have an effect on my creative process because after years of writing like that, it probably influenced me more than I’ll ever know, but it’s definitely not my goal now.
I never sit and think about how I can make my music better fit a brief or possible commercial. When you start to put products before the art, you will always chase something that isn’t genuine and I think people can tell. Rules can be great sometimes, but when too many restrictions enter the creation process, the music will probably become mediocre. But here’s the thing: I’ve always been drawn to big, epic, emotional artists and songs.
I also really love hip-hop so you put those things together and you quickly have a recipe for sync music; I’m just really lucky that the music I like to write also serves a good purpose in the sync world. If anyone wants to do sync-focused music, I say great, but also do something for yourself, music that you really care about. As artists, you have to have that balance, or the work you’re doing will just feel like work.”