· Artist Features

Dynamic artist Grant went from Newgrounds novice to Monstercat mainstay

To say that Grant Boutin began his career early would be a major understatement. Before he had even hit his teens, the young EDM artist was already well on his way to becoming the fun-loving and creative musician he is today. Thanks to a little help from his friends, he discovered electronic music when he was 8 and started producing when he was 11. Songwriting under the alias of Grant Bowtie, he was just 16 years old when he made his Monstercat debut with “Reach.”monstercat-may-feature-Grant-BFlash forward five years and Grant’s collegiate music studies have come to a close. Transitioning into new and unexplored territory, this is an exciting time in his life that will see all of his hard work over the last few years coming to fruition. Both of Grant’s latest tracks, “Wishes (feat. McCall)” and “Color (feat. Juneau)”, have received praise and support from the Monstercat fanbase; both also have quite the origin story. If it weren’t for Grant meeting the right people at the right time through college, neither of these songs would ever have been possible.

Grant took a trip down memory lane with Monstercat Blog writer, Curtis Joe for an exclusive interview. Check it out!

Congratulations on finishing up your last day of college! How does it feel?

It just feels amazing and also a little scary at the same time because I’ve just been a student my entire life and, now, I’m somehow just going off into the world and having to support myself and also keep pursuing music. I think it’s pretty empowering at the same time because there’s no plan B. I guess my plan B, if nothing worked out, would be like go to grad school or something—but I do not want to do that. I think it’s a little scary and I think it is for everybody. Everybody I talk to that I live with—I live with all musicians, everybody who’s trying to be in the music industry or be an artist—literally everyone’s just like talking every single day about how they don’t know how they’re going to survive, and we all have little plans and things but it’s a crazy transition. I think it’s something you don’t experience ‘til you’ve finished college.

You began releasing music with us when you were 16 and had already been producing for a few years prior. Tell us a bit about the area where you grew up and what life was like before you started making music!

I started producing when I was 11, and that was because, basically, when I was really young—like maybe eight or something—I had this next-door neighbor, who’s now killin’ it, and I would always go over to his house and he would be making cool stuff on FL Studio, and I would be like so interested and sometimes I’d try to get him to teach me how it works. I was honestly too young to figure it out, but this person made an album of music for me with a bunch of electronic music like Pendulum and Junkie XL. It helped me develop a taste for electronic music. I think when I was 11, I just wanted to try it out for fun and I really had no idea what I was doing. I honestly feel like, for the first five years of living at home, working on music and middle school and whatnot, I had no idea what I was doing at all. I was posting music on this website called Newgrounds trying to get feedback from people. I didn’t really care to learn too much about production. To me, it was just a super fun extracurricular hobby. I mean, my parents were always super supportive of it, which I think is really important for anybody trying to be creative. I played piano for like eight years, also. That really helps with my compositions now, even though I’m much worse than I used to be.

monstercat-may-feature-Grant-AWhat factors attributed to your development as an artist—especially early on?

Early on, I think I was trying to make some weird clash between hip-hop beats and really fruity melodic stuff. I think that when I first ever heard—I guess it depends on how early on you’re asking—but, if we’re talking right before I ever signed a song on Monstercat when I was 16-ish, I first heard Wave Racer, which was probably the first ever Future Bass-y thing. I was like ‘wow, somebody combined hip-hoppy, not four out of four rhythms with something melodic and catchy and sparkly and happy.’ So that was a reference point for what I’ve been trying to do for so long. I also think that other inspirations were whatever was being posted on the internet at that time, like going on Newgrounds. In retrospect, a lot of the music on there is pretty bad, pretty beginner-level, but I still think that trying to keep up with everybody on that website as a young kid… that was very important to me. It was really funny. On that website, you get ranked on a scale of one to five, like you can rate a song five stars to zero. People would zero bomb your music, and so my mom would be on there every single day five-starring my music just to get it to the top of the lists. That was honestly an era of my life. Pretty crazy. Those were my truly formative years before I ever started on Monstercat.

Do you think some of your success has stemmed from starting out super early, or do you think you could have found your way if you picked up music further down the road?

I think that I definitely would have found my way further down the road, ‘cause, like I said, the first couple years of producing, it was just for fun and I really, really loved it, but I didn’t care to learn how to make everything fine-tuned. I think that, even if I started later, I’ve always been doing music and I’ve literally never had any other huge interests. I’ve gone through phases where I like to do random other things, but I literally cannot imagine myself doing anything else. Honestly, if I had started four years later and I had the intelligence and the drive to figure it out, I know that I could’ve.

monstercat-may-feature-Grant-CWhat was the first show you ever played and what do you remember about that experience?

First show I ever played… real show… I’ve never DJed until I came to college. I was DJing frat parties ‘cause my friends were like “oh you’re an artist.” First show I ever played, though, was EDC 2017, which was frightening but I played on the Monstercat Art Car and pretty much nobody was there for my set except some of my friends from the label and maybe a couple diehard fans and my friends from school. There were probably only, like, 20 people there. It was daylight out, it was over 100 degrees—but, still, it was like so scary because I’d played on CDJs, which is like what every DJ uses to perform. I’d played on them for maybe two weeks. I had been up at the Monstercat office for a couple weeks prior and had to learn pretty much on the spot how to do it, and so I was really scared how it was gonna work out. I think there was some weird button that wasn’t working that really stressed me out and maybe messed me up once, but it’s honestly crazy how far I’ve come in terms of being comfortable on-stage and not afraid to jump around and be crazy or say things on the mic.

Would you say your friends are a big reason why you are where you are today?

Oh my gosh, yes. I think that the most prolific year of my music making was freshman year of college. I came to college and my roommate was a huge fan of electronic music, and he became my best friend for the rest of the next four years. Everybody in my dorm was so excited about whatever I was doing. I’d be in my room, in a vacuum, making music all day and I’d be feeling really shitty because that’s how you feel after ten hours, and then all my friends would mob into my room and they’d be like “hey what are you working on today?” and I’d play it for them, and they would really inspire me to feel like whatever I was doing was worth it. I think that that is something I honestly wish I had now. I still have lots of friends I can show my music to, but it’s never like somebody down the hall, can come into my room and check out what I’m doing. So, yeah. I think my friends have played such a huge role, encouraging me, and a lot of them are also musicians so they can give me their form of feedback even if they’re not like huge fans of electronic music or they don’t really listen it all that much. It’s always helpful to get feedback, like even my mom has been critiquing my music for 100 years and that’s always been very sensitive because, with your parents it’s like are you critiquing me or are you critiquing my music? I have been so lucky to be surrounded by so many people that are believing in me and willing to help me with what I’m doing.

monstercat-may-feature-Grant-DWhat’s the biggest difference between day one Grant and Grant today?

I’m a lot older… I think that, when I started college, I thought I was the shit, I was really cool and I knew everything, and now I’m leaving college thinking that I know literally nothing and there’s so much more to learn and I have so much more progress to make. I think I’ve finally realized now what it takes to be successful in music, and I’ve also had to grapple a lot with why I even want to do this. It’s like a weird combination of selfish reasons and also wanting to just make people’s’ lives better, because I think I do it for myself initially because I like the process of making music and I think that’s always the best reason to do it. It’s just ‘cause you enjoy the activity, the journey of doing it and not just wanting to be famous. But yeah, I’m just a little intimidated now by how much I don’t know. I’ve been doing it for so long now, to me it feels like I’ve been going at it piece by piece and yet I’m still so early on in my career but I think that just kind of has shown me what it really takes. I think I’ve built up my work ethic a lot since I was young, ‘cause when I started, I was just like “Oh, music’s a hobby. I don’t really need to do it that much. I’ll just do it whenever I feel like it.” Pretty quickly, I started making like one song a year and I just think that now I take it a lot more seriously, and I really see it as one of the only things that will give me real fulfillment.

What is it about music, and more specifically your genre of choice, Future Bass, that enables you to express yourself more fully than other artistic forms?

Future bass has been around a while now. It’s been around a couple years and I think a lot of people see it as LFO, Supersaws, wubbing, chords… and it kind of got burnt up pretty quick, but the way I see it is like one of the genres with the most potential for diversity because literally, to me, any song that isn’t for the floor and has a cool melody to it could be a future bass song. When I sit down and make music I don’t think I’m going to make a future bass song, I just think that I’m gonna write an emotional or catchy tune that also combines well with electronic music. I think that those factors have always kind of influenced me in a way that kind of pushed me into future bass.

monstercat-may-feature-Grant-EHow do you get yourself rolling on a track? Do you have any unique habits or things you do differently in the studio to help you channel your creativity?

In the past, I was really inspired by sound design. If I could create a really weird, perfect sound that could also form chords or melody, then that would always be my starting point: what is the sound that I have never used in a different song that also doesn’t sound like anything else other people have used? I would take that sound and I would then try to start building a song around it. Now? I try to do that still, but I’m also a little lazier… I don’t know. Now I start with a vocal, which is so helpful because there are so many different ways... I like to sit in the studio with somebody and write a song, ideally. Then, once I have that track, I can start kind of interacting with it through the instrumental, like when the vocal stops singing you can bring in new, creative elements, but you always have to make sure that that vocal is like the forefront of what’s going on. I like the vocal approach, too, especially with electronic music because once you’ve got the whole verse and build and all that stuff, once that’s all built out, you have something that acts as like kind of a reference point you need to beat when you get to the drop. It’s weird. I feel like I always make the most intense parts of my songs last, because I always just want to beat whatever I had made before. I don’t know anybody else that does that, really, but I’m sure people do.

For music artists, a lot of initial ideas get scrapped. Can you speak to this and some of the considerations that must be taken when turning a song concept into reality?

I think that, also, when you’re starting with vocalists or writing a song with somebody and it’s not a very pretty sound at that point, you can kind of do quality control right there and decide if it’s a good song or not by its catchiness and its different qualities. I don’t almost ever end up pouring dozens of hours into a song that I don’t think will ever be used because I already waste so much time on the songs that I will release, I think it’s a good way to prevent myself from having more issues and a waste of time down the line. That being said, I think that only finishing things that you think are going to release is kind of a poisonous mindset because, once you get stuck there, you might throw out ideas that could be cool and you just have no idea. So, I think that that’s something that every artistic person struggles with. It’s just like is this idea good, or like having writer’s block halfway through. You know just all those mental internal struggles.

monstercat-may-feature-Grant-FWho is Grant in the studio and who is Grant outside the studio?

Grant in the studio is the most boring person you’ve ever met. Grant after ten hours in the studio doesn’t know how to talk to people anymore… but I don’t feel like I really share my personality at all on social media. I really suck at that and I really want to get better at it. I’m just too insecure about everything I’m going to say, so I don’t say anything at all. It’s bad. Outside of the studio, I love to party, I love to hang out with people, I love to have like deep conversations with everybody. I just like to have fun. I’m pretty normal. I’m pretty extroverted, honestly. If I stay in my room too long I literally go crazy. I have to go outside and get some sunlight. I have to go talk to people and see how they’re doing. I mean, other than that, I love anime, I love video games, I play Super Smash Bros... for me it’s literally like all day long—and yeah, that’s me!

From school to work, scheduling time for yourself and friends—and then, for you, shows and getting stuff done in the studio. How do you balance all of that once things start to pile up?

I arguably don’t succeed sometimes, but I am more responsible now than I was in the past. Like, if I had songs due—which I do right now—I don’t go out and spend hours hanging out with people just because this is now my job and this is also my dream, so I can’t compromise that in any way. I’m just like I’ve gotten too old and too far along… I’ve just come too far now and I’ve spent too much time doing what I’m doing to just… socialize. I don’t know. That sounds so salty and crusty, but like whatever. I do think you have to still schedule time for yourself, though, and, if you don’t, it makes life much harder, so I still try to work in little breaks here and there.

monstercat-may-feature-Grant-GWhat do you think are some of the misconceptions around DJs and electronic music that non-listeners seem to fall into thinking? What don’t they know that you wish they knew?

I think that DJs get a bad rap. People think that they don’t do that much, and from a purely performance perspective, that can be either true or not true depending on how much work the person has to put in. I think DJing is one of those skills that is easy to learn and very hard to master. I’m not the best DJ, like I love performing but I’m never going to come in and be the best DJ because it’s just not what I spend all my time doing. I write music, mostly. I think that there’s a lot that could be respected about a great DJ set, because it’s really about the overall arc of the whole experience and the creativity and the mashups that they use and the song selections… I think that when you go see a DJ, you’re not just there to watch some guy up there with headphones, you’re there for the entire production. I think that electronic music has some of the coolest production of just like any other genre of music. It’s just really cool to see certain DJ’s visions come to life both in their visuals and in their music. I don’t know, I guess some people are mad about what a DJ is… but I think that when a DJ set goes so well it’s the coolest thing ever. The crowd doesn’t care if the person isn’t playing every single note in the song, they just want to have a real experience and good arc to the entire hour, two hours that they’re there. DJs have such a creative performance means, in the sense that they can like take songs from other people—that gets a bad rap. Some people get critiqued sometimes for not playing all their own stuff, or for playing their own stuff too much. It’s this double standard… but I think that it’s really cool that DJs can grab from literally anywhere and create this weird puzzle of amazing songs that take listeners on a journey.

“Wishes (feat. McCall)” was a massive release for you back in March!

What led to you working with McCall on this track and why was she a perfect fit?

The reason that McCall’s on the song is because I started it off with this girl, Sabrina, who goes by Baum. She was on my song “Weapon,” and she’s really talented. We wrote it in my freshman dorm room, but she stopped going to school after my sophomore year, and she went off to do her whole artist project—she’s killin’ it, you should go check her out—but then she decided that she just didn’t want to be a part of the project. She’s like off doing her own stuff now, I totally respect that. I was just in a tough position because the project files corrupted and I didn’t know how I was gonna ever get in there and get the vocals to switch out… but I’ve been working with McCall for a very long time. She has an amazing voice, she’s very talented, she’s very charismatic and I love working with her, and so she just gave it a shot. I actually tried a couple singers try to sing the song, but McCall just was able to sing it almost exactly like the original singer, which helped me with having listened to it a certain way for literally three years. It was almost super weird to me to hear it any other way, but McCall hit that perfect middle ground where it kind of sounded like the old one but it also sounded new and improved. I think it turned out really well.

What is it like working on a song for that long, compared to quicker and more short-term projects? (For example, some artists say they’ll bang out songs in anywhere from a day to six weeks.)

That’s crazy, I wish I could work that quickly. Maybe six weeks I can see, but like… oh man. A song in a day. That’s so crazy. Did that once. Yeah, so, I didn’t really work on “Wishes” non-stop for three years. I worked on it a lot for the first six months, and it was pretty much done and it’s like submitting tweaks and then the project file corrupted, but I thought it was done. I was like ‘ah, it’s okay…’ and it corrupted because like some plugin was incompatible with my version of FL Studio, for anybody wondering, but then FL Studio 20 came out and it was open all of a sudden. I was so happy. Then I really, really, really put in a lot of work at once. McCall was on the song because I had to switch out the entire mix. I mean I had to redo the entire mix, I had to switch out the vocals, and it was interesting too because, listening back to it again after all this time, I realized like how many problems there were with it, just like sonically. It’s been a long journey, but I’m really glad it’s out!


“Wishes (feat. McCall)” isn’t your first rodeo when it comes to music videos. You also had “Constellations (feat. Jessi Mason)” last year!

Does the track typically come first and then the music video?

Yeah, so the track came first and I didn’t think it was going to have a music video for a long time, but the guy, Justin Kroma, who’s based out of Seattle and he did the Constellations music video and we’ve been friends for a super long time, he knew about my music back when I was Grant Bowtie. He reached out to me super randomly and said “Hey, I want to do another video, I want like an artistic outlet. Any video content we put together, I won’t profit off of that. I’ll just do it all for free just because I believe in the music and I love the songs!” So we put together a budget and we made the best video that we could and I think it turned out really well. It’s pretty unreal that people like Justin out there exist. Shout-out to you Justin Kroma. Check him out on Instagram. He’s cool.

What’s the process like from your perspective? Do you get to enact your vision for it, picking the locations and the actors featured in the music videos, or is that more Justin’s thing?

I’d say 90% of the video was filmed in Seattle, so he kind of had to take control of which actors and which locations are available to him most readily in Seattle. He did come down to L.A. and film a little bit with McCall and I, so we have a little snippet in the video, a little cameo… but the way that video did come to fruition, initially, was I dug through all my old tiny files and I found some like weird notes that I’d taken when I was a freshman and I had first made the song about how I imagined this interstellar-y space voyage that correlated with the song. The ship is taking off in the build, and then the drop is just… I don’t know. I don’t even know what I said, but I found something like that, and my problem was that it was hard for me to get into my headspace that I had when I was a freshman and when I first wrote the song. I really wanted to stay true to that. And so I just dug through all my old files, I pulled up a bunch of moodboard stuff I had found on Tumblr and referenced that and wrote up this like two-page document saying kind of like a little story idea that Justin could kind of rip off of, and he did a really good job of adapting that into the story I think.

monstercat-may-feature-Grant-IDo you think that you will be doing this more consistently, having music videos for all of your music releases further on?

I think that if a song could benefit from more visual elements to understand it—like I think “Wish” is definitely a song like that—it would definitely help, but I think sometimes it’s confusing as to whether music videos help or not. I really like doing them, it really feels like I’m being part of like a greater whole… but I also really like lyric videos. I think I want to do some more lyric videos in the future just ‘cause they’re easier to do and I think they really help indoctrinate new listeners into understanding the lyrics and just the general aesthetic behind the song. Sometimes, at least for me, I find when I go on YouTube, music videos seem a little intense for an artist that I haven’t really heard… but yeah! Probably more lyric videos, and then, if I have another single that is like super, super important to me and I want a good video, it’ll happen, but we’ll see. I’m sure there will be another!

Fans everywhere are thrilled with your latest release, “Color (feat. Juneau)”!

Talk a bit about the track and how it has been working on it!

“Color” is another song that started as a school project. I wrote it with Jessi Mason, who is a singer who’s been on a lot of my music. Our assignment was to, basically, write a song in a day, and then we went to the studio and we got all these insane session musicians playing on it. The guy who played bass is just absolutely killin’ it on the song, and we had some drum tracks in there as well… and I left that song alone for a really long time. I never that I would ever do anything with it, even though it was catchy. My professors kept telling me “it’s a cool song, you should do something with it.” And then I was just thinking “Ah, I need more material” a year later, “I need more songs and stuff”, and “Color” was one of the best ones I had just lying around, and I was like “Wow, I should really do something with this.” I also decided that I’ve been in music school for four years and I’ve never really worked hard to get a bunch of the cool instrumentalists to play on a song, so there’s like a really sick sax solo that I went to the studio and recorded and there’s like some really cool guitar parts. So now it’s just like, to me, this really cool combination of like as many real instruments as I could figure out how to incorporate with a lot of electronic EDM elements. I’m really proud of how that song turned out. I think it’s less of this weird emotional journey that “Wishes” is and it’s just way more of just like a fun song that I just had so much joy producing and I think incorporated some cool new things as well.


What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

I think, for aspiring artists, I would say that you need to learn tools but also you don’t want to get too bogged down with tools. If you don’t want to get caught watching YouTube videos too much, unless you are learning something that you absolutely need to use in the near future. If you’re getting lost in the swamp of information on the internet and you’re not immediately applying it, you’re going to feel like you’re making progress but you’re going to actually be wasting time and falling behind when you should’ve just been focusing on making music. That’s something that I also need to work on, not so much watching tutorials anymore but doing things that make me feel productive when I’m not focusing the right way. I think that how you orient yourself, especially when you’re starting, and how you use your time is very important. I also think that not following trends is important, which also sounds kind of stereotypical, but I guess what I mean by that is... it’s about who you look up to. If you’re a new producer, you’re producing because you like electronic music, and there’s probably an artist who you really look up to and you really want to be like. I’ve had plenty in the past as well and they always change… but you need to make sure that whatever your standard for excellence is, in terms of who you’re looking up to, you have to make sure that that person is somebody who is actually pushing the boundaries and isn’t just doing what everyone else is doing, because I think it’s like whoever you aspire to be, you become a little bit like that in the process… and then, eventually, you break away from that. You’ll never become exactly like them because you will always have your perspective on things. But I just think that, yeah, pick somebody to look up to. Find somebody that you really enjoy listening to their music and make sure that, if you’re going to try to borrow from them, that it’s something that’s really cool and unique!

Grant may be graduating from college, but he’s just getting warmed up!

This coming of age story could be reaching its conclusion quite soon, but new chapters are being written concurrently with Grant transitioning into his post-academic career. As one of the brilliant young influencers in today’s electronic music industry, Grant has the opportunity to truly live out his dream and embrace who he is as an artist, inside and outside of the studio! The future is taking form in front of our eyes, and Grant is right there at the forefront!