Canadian singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist BAD CHILD’s new album ‘Free Trial’ comes out this Friday, February 26th, coming off the heels of his first single released in 2021 “$1,000,000”. We sat down with the artist before ‘Free Trial’ drops to talk about his artistic process, the inspiration for the record, and more!
How are you doing? Your debut album comes out Friday, how are you feeling about it?
Exuberant, I’m so happy.
So I know the album is 19 songs long, which could be qualified two records by today’s standards. What was the thought process in making a longer record and including some of those older songs?
All of the songs that I put out were with the intention of being on ‘Free Trial’. It was mostly just a roll out thing. When I did the EP it was just to give a little bit more life and moment to some of the parts of the record that I saw were special.
I mean I like long format records. I like putting something out start to finish and feeling it and breathing with it and having it tell me a story. I just wanted to do that with ‘Free Trial’
What was the inspiration for the songs on this record? Were you thinking about anything specific when crafting it?
I mean most of the album revolves around the idea of how people use each other like commodities. It’s called free trial because there was a time and place where I felt like a free trial. I felt like I was being used in love and in business.
But you know a lot of the ideas came from stuff like Tinder. Something that I found really remarkable and bizarre about Tinder is that you’re presented with an image of somebody and you just say yes or no. Their entire life is compressed to a photo.
That extends out into everyday life. Like when you meet someone, you don’t know anything about them. But you’re just like ‘this is probably what they’re like because they look like this today’.
It’s about that, about how people use each other, and I want to talk about that and hopefully get away from that because I miss the real interaction.
I know you mention Tinder, do you think the image-driven media landscape we live in inspired you on a lot of these songs?
Yeah I mean I’ve always had a difficult time with it because I’m a visual person, I’m a visual artist. But when it comes to putting images of myself out there it feels like I’m creating an avatar of myself for fans and people to interact with that’s not necessarily an indication of who I am.
That’s the sort of thing that scares me. Like how do you break that wall? Or is perception a think veil that is never going to drop? I’m not trying to make peoples see me in a certain way but no matter what I do there will be an attached idea of who I am.
Yea you can’t really control how your audience, or the general public, will see you when you put an image of yourself, or even a record, out there.
I also wanted to dive into your songwriting process, and whether those questions about ideas like others’ perceptions or the music comes first. Your recent single ‘$1,000,000’ is pretty uplifting and I’m wondering: are you writing after feeling an emotion or thinking of an idea, or are you trying to create those emotions for yourself through the music?
It’s a little bit of everything. Every time I write a song the process is different, and I think it should never be boring. If you do it the same way over and over again just because it works why would you want to keep doing that?
With “$1,000,000”, that whole song was inspired by going to corner stores with my grandmother when I was a kid and buying scratch tickets. She would say “oh this is the big one, we’re going to win a million bucks, and everything is going to be fine in our lives” as if money is the precipice of a life. That idea stuck with me and I was like, wow I love the hell out of this woman but money pales in comparison to love and human connection.
Even the sounds of corner stores, like when you punch out and win, or sounds of a miniature casino in a gas station, are so bizarre to me. I thought that was a cool place to start at least for sonic fidelity, so I was really inspired by those crappy sounds.
Do you tend to find a lot of inspiration from seemingly everyday sounds or objects?
It bugs me sometimes because I’ll hear a door close and the squeak will sound like a melody. I’ll be like ‘oh that’s stuck in my head now’. I’ll have to open up voice memos on my phone and try to imitate it.
It always starts from a different place. One day I’ll hear somebody say something and I’ll think about it for a while. That split second of conversation I heard on the street will turn into a song.
Is that a skill you’ve had to work on or did that always come naturally to you? It seems like such an inherent thing that some people have to take those everyday moments and hear the music in them.
I mean even as a visual artist, I love sitting in cafes and drawing people. I think that sort of observational tendency just like lends itself to music. I’ll notice things that people do and hyper fixate on it and see a lot of a lot of ideas come from that.
It’s a lot of seeing things and then contextualizing it in my own life, because most of my music is about the trauma and things that I’ve been through.
And obviously it can be difficult writing about those painful things and getting out exactly what you want to say. Were there any songs on the record that were particularly difficult for you to write?
Well, “Rouge” was a really tough one. Tough isn’t the right word because I don’t really get writer’s block. It wasn’t difficult to write but felt more like picking a scab. The song is about 50 different things; it’s about having to leave my family to go on tour, losing my mom, being in love, and seeing the world colored by a partnership that’s no longer there.
And were there any songs on the record that just flowed out of you?
Well, I was working with one of my best friends, Ryan Chambers, who has a lot of credits on this record. We write a lot together and when we were staying at this rehearsal factory place in Toronto, sleeping on the floor, eating oatmeal, and just chain smoking. It wasn’t very good, well, I guess it was good in terms of making music. But we made “Candy” in 3 hours. It only took 3 hours to lay everything down, lyrics and everything. We just looked at each other like, ‘oh. That’s done!’
It’s funny, some songs on the record like “Royalty” took seven or eight months to complete but “Candy” took 3 hours. You can never guess how long it will take and there’s no metric for what makes it good or not.
Wow, and can you put your finger on what makes it so much easier with certain songs?
Ultimately an artist is the conduit to a separate reality in my opinion. You’re accessing something different when you make art. It’s like seeing sports player at their peak performance. I hate sports but seeing someone when they’re just in it and there’s nothing else, blinders on. That’s the dream feeling, when you’re in a whole separate reality and energy’s just flowing through you, and you’re not judging yourself.
I think that’s the important part. Leave the judgment for other people. Like why do you have to be so hard on your art? Let other people judge it, and if they don’t like it, cool. But it came out of you, and that’s the end of the story in my opinion.
I really like how you said that, “conduit to a separate reality”. That’s beautiful.
You’re from Canada and got started in the Toronto music scene. Did that community impact your music?
It’s funny, when I moved to Toronto, I didn’t know a single person there and I slowly started meeting friends and proving my worth in a new place. I was just offering to produce or saying ‘we should be friends’ and hanging out with new people. As I’ve grown there, I’ve made a lot of really good friends, but I’ve never considered myself as tied down or owned by a place.
Something that I’m really careful about is that no matter what city you’re in there’s a degree of homogeny in that music scene. Music scenes always scare me because I worry if I get too involved in it, I’ll start to sound just like them. It doesn’t mean they sound bad, it’s just that I’m always scared that if I spend too much time somewhere, I’ll just subconsciously recycle stuff. I’m a bit of a hermit and I need time to myself to try weird stuff until I find something new.
So, the pandemic must’ve been pretty good for your songwriting process then!
Ha-ha yea I mean, free trial isn’t even out yet and I have almost two albums done
On that note, you talk about trying to push yourself as an artist to not get too complacent with a certain sound. Are there any deliberate things you did to experiment with your sound?
Well one thing I did was order a saxophone, and I’ve never played the saxophone before.
How has that been going?
Yeah I have no idea what the heck I’m doing! This saxophone gets here, I learn it, and I put it on a ton of songs. It’s like a new way of thinking because I’m not thinking in lyrics, I’m including in the feeling of whatever the heck that thing is! At first it sounded just absolutely belligerent and disgusting, like it was really bad, but it worked its way onto a ton of music, and I think it sounds really good.
Trying things that surprise you ultimately is the most important thing. In any artistic medium I like to explore and try new stuff and hurt myself in the creative process. It’s like, this is so hard that my soul is crushed, but you come back with something beautiful.
That’s a great way to look at it. Now, this is going to be my quintessential American to Canadian question: do you speak French?
I do! But it’s funny because Canadian French is very different than Parisian French. My mother was born in Paris, so I grew up listening to Parisian French, so I was really bad at Canadian French ’cause it’s so different. But I’d still say I’m pretty confident speaking
Have you ever considered writing in French and how do you think that would change your writing?
I’ve considered it a little bit. Fun Fact: my cousins a francophone Canadian singer and he actually went up for a Juno award against Celine Dion. His name is Damien Robitaille. So yeah, it’s a small, weird world! But all of his songs are in French and I listen to them and I’m like jeez, English is a nice language, but singing in French is just like…
I know your song “Candy” was featured in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. What was that exposure like?
I didn’t really expect any of that to happen! I’m excited to be a part of a project like that, especially one that’s pushing boundaries and I think it’s an important story to tell. When I got the call, I was just like ‘oh wow, OK sure you can use my song! why not?’ Overall the exposure was really cool and hearing my music in a film is so bizarre ’cause I love film scores, soundtracks, and all of that.
When I get old I want to score films, well, hopefully before I get old. But I definitely want to work more in the film industry with music.
So if there was a film you could go back in time and score yourself, what would it be?
That’s a crazy question! Oh hell you know what, I would do Star Wars but I make it the most most experimental psych rock sound trip. Can you imagine that? Almost like the Flaming Lips but more ambient?
I see it! I’ll be the first one petitioning for the BAD CHILD re-release of the Star Wars soundtrack!
Did you see the To All the Boys movie?
Yea I saw it, because I was in the second one, but admittedly I haven’t seen the first one. I wish I had more time to watch movies!
Not a big Rom-Com guy?
Not really, I mean there are some that I like. I love film so much I’m a bit of a snob. I got a Criterion Collection subscription, so I’ve just been watching a ton of brilliant older films. I’ve been watching a lot of Russian cinema recently.
Any films that have been particularly jumping out at you?
Well, anything Tarkovsky does is insane, obviously. There’s this one I just saw called Come and See which is a war film that changed my perspective a lot. It’s a great movie. Just trying to learn more!
I guess the biggest question is what’s next for BAD CHILD in 2021? I mean I know the debut hasn’t come out yet, so it’s a bit early to start thinking about.
Ha-ha, that’s true, but I’ve never been good at thinking in the moment. I’m always thinking about the next eight things to come. So the most immediate is like, hey, album’s coming February 26th, ‘Free Trial’, buy it, and all that. But after that I’m really excited to explore new sonic palettes.
My next album’s not going to sound anything like this one, and I don’t want it to. I want it to be a completely new universe. I don’t want to repeat myself ever.
All the music I’ve been writing lately has been very personal. If you think there’s personal music on ‘Free Trial’, it’s nothing compared to how personal the new stuff is. It’s really difficult to write but really worth it.
Do you get nervous about being so vulnerable with your listeners?
No, and I’ve thought a lot about this. I remember when I when I first put out BAD CHILD, I had a lot of people message me saying they lost their mom when they were young, and they didn’t know what to do.
When they say my music really helped them, that’s what I wish I had when I was young. I didn’t know any music that identified with my trauma, so for me, when I make music that’s an exploration of that traumas, it’s to hopefully create a safe place for people who’ve been through things like me. So when I get those messages, it’s like, ok this is why I’m doing this, it’s our feeling.
Yeah, it definitely seems like one of the things you sign up for when you become an artist is to put all that vulnerability on display, in the hopes that it helps someone or relates to someone who needs it.
Again, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I can’t wait to hear the new record and what’s yet to come from BAD CHILD!
‘Free Trial is available’ on all platforms February 26th