Atherlace Records' The China Blue Talks to us about his mentality, vision & Single "Afford It"
The China Blue is making his presence well known in the alternative & pop music scene. Drawing elements & inspiration from artists such as Tame Impala, The 1975 & The Neighbourhood, he is quickly turning heads with a consistent thread of electronic sound effects, heartbreak themes, and catchy melodies that are angsty yet upbeat which runs through his music. 8 After opening for international music acts such as Fickle Friends & Dagny Music, as well as being featured on blogs like Sound of Boston & Gas Mask Magazine; The China Blue is quickly turning heads in the alternative music scene. His latest single, "Afford It" is an 80's inspired Synth-pop record that is sure to get you moving. We caught up with his Management and The China Blue himself for a quick update.
Boston Culture: Where did you from?
Tyler Donovan: Also being from MA, I spent my early years in Lynn, MA. Up until I was 12, when my family & I moved to Nahant, MA.
Boston Culture: When did you decide to start a label?
Tyler Donovan: May 5th 2020. It started I always have been super passionate about music & I have been a freelance designer since I was a sophomore in high school. I started to dive into the music industry as a designer before ever thinking about diving into the business of music through management or owning a label, working with local musicians & recently nationally known brands/people such as 808Mafia & Michael Christmas. I’ve always been super entrepreneurial & interested in business so one night I was at Seth (The China Blue) apartment discussing some things I believe he & his team should work on to elevate his marketing & his overall brand appearance. It was strictly just to help his brand as I see the talent & felt he deserved way more recognition. That same night out of the blue he asked me to be his manager & from there It was set.
Boston Culture: What do you scout for in talent?
Tyler Donovan: This is always a tricky question to answer. I think the biggest thing for me is being able to connect with the artist on a personal level. If I can’t even have a deep or inn depth conversation with you it’s tough for me to enter business with you. As for work qualities I look for people who want to work, people who wake up everyday wanting to better themselves without me telling them to go write or work on production or track vocals. I look for people willing to work.
Boston Culture: What's the vision for the label?
Tyler Donovan: I get this question a lot. My vision for the label is to prove to people that a group of friends & creative’s can do anything they set their minds to & remain a FAMILY through all of it. Every single person involved in this label has a personal relationship with one another. It’s about family, fairness, & freedom to create.
Boston Culture: How did you get your name?
The China Blue:As weird as this sounds, I’ve loved the words “Blue” and “China” together since I was quite little. I’ve wanted to use those abstract words for a creative project pretty much my whole life. I’ve attempted using it as song titles in the past but when I started this project it felt right; The ChinaBlue is the delivery of my emotional ideas in an abstract way.
Boston Culture: Where did you grow up?
The China Blue: I’ve grown up in New England my whole life, mainly in rural south coast Massachusetts. In some ways I love the quietness of that area and all of the memories spent. I’ve not traveled a lot, and around the same time of starting The ChinaBlue as well as my adulthood I moved to Providence, RI which was a big change of lifestyle that took some adjusting but I enjoy it.
Boston Culture: What are you currently working on?
The China Blue: My latest single is titled Afford It, and the lyrics are quite literally a description of my failure in becoming an adult. I attempted to be as honest as I possibly could of by tying in the theme of how I couldn’t provide financially for the girlfriend I had at the time time of writing.My last EP/album was my first time diving into my head and writing songs in the sense of my diary. I plan on putting 6 song EPs as my release style for the time being, and my upcoming EP (planned for Dec 2020) will follow that. The first EP was very youthful, lyrically and compositionally and I think this one will deliver itself as a reaction to being slapped in the face with adulthood. I’ve learned a few things but also feel like I know less than I’ve ever know
Boston Culture: How did you get the idea?
The China Blue: We’re currently in the process of finishing up the video for Afford It which I’m super excited about. We’re planning on packaging it as kind of a fever dream, with me struggling to make the adulthood thing happen, while being tempted by literal floating advertisements and distractions that me and many others fall victim to.
Boston Culture: Was there ever a studio session when you thought. "Yo this is crazy" ?
The China Blue: I self produce at the moment and try to write almost every day. I hit writers block as often as I feel like I’m striking gold. In the same way we have highs & lows I think comes across in the writing process. I’m working on my speed of developing things, and hopefully I’ll have some more help in the future, but I think this EP is a collection of the best parts of my time writing since I put out the last EP. I have around 20-30 unfinished demos since the last EP drop that didn’t make the cut. I wouldn’t even say like writing for 12 hours during a day is that unheard of for me.
Boston Culture : What made you want to create your first song and how old were you?
The China Blue: My dad was a musician so having some equipment and instruments around me all the time was always normal, but I think my discovery of GarageBand at the age of 12 really aided my individual yearning to create. I wouldn’t consider myself a musician as much as I would a writer, and the accessibility of DAWs like Logic and Ableton made me feel more secure in knowing I can actually craft songs myself and get results without having to need a band. I’ve produced music for another project I did with my cousin for most of my teenage years, but at around the age of 18 I took up singing as kind of a necessity to pursue my own individual ideas and style. I’m hugely inspired by Michael Jackson’s vocals and I like to mix elements of pop with alternative/bedroom sounds of today like Toro Y Moi, Joji, The 1975.
Boston Culture : What was the best advice you got early in your career?
The China Blue: Stay humble. I feel accomplished in some of the little achievements I’ve had but I care way more about learning how to channel my actual life experiences in something other people can at least relate to.
Boston Culture : What do you dislike about the art world/music industry?
The China Blue: I think music is at the best point it’s ever been, but there is still a huge lack of honesty in lyrics especially. In any hierarchy there will always be corruption and that’s a disservice to consumers. I just wish that more people at the top were talking about actual relatable issues. Don’t get me wrong I love pop music but at the same time pop can often feel un-useful in helping people. There’s a lot we can take from the lyrical stylings of emo/punk music, and I often try to take from that and put it in a more widely digestible musical medium with rhythms.
Boston Culture : Did the pandemic affect any plans you had?
The China Blue: Yes and no. I wanted to get the ball rolling on live shows/experiences sooner than I can now. I’m currently working on some more adaptive ways to do it. Right now I’m wrapping up this EP and plan to slow down the tiniest bit on writing and work on my live sets.
Boston Culture : Who are your biggest influences?
The China Blue: As I kind of mentioned previously, Michael Jackson. I know he’s not exactly in popular opinion right now due to allegations, but you can not deny he was one of/if not the truest artists in his craft. I love all sorts of music but really look up to artistry over genre.
Boston Culture : What do you think of the music scene in the city?
The China Blue: The music scene is Boston is definitely thriving, and I strongly believe people are going to be craving the New England perspective. We have harsh winters and blunt ideas but I think we’re some of the most honest people across the country. I’m convinced people are getting sick of the fake sunshine.I’d be really interested in singing more hooks on some songs in the predominately rap scene in Boston, theres so much talent here. To name one, CRONIN is an amazing kid in my circles who I plan on pursuing a track with. I would also like to see more artists follow the route of Clairo, I think the current lack of alternative and bedroom pop locally allows more of those artists to stand out among the saturation.
Boston Culture : Tell us about your goals for the rest of the year and 2021.
The China Blue: I have this EP coming out to close this year, and I plan to keep writing my songs through 2021 and the years after that. I think next year’s big focus is growth and (hopefully) inclusion of the live show.
Boston Culture : What inspires you to wake up everyday and stay hungry?
The China Blue: Useful friendships/relationships. You need people who are like minded around you and are not just here for a good time. It gets tough to rely on yourself and having a real support system, one that will keep you honest is the greatest thing that has helped me.Some days I don’t feel inspired or creative and I’ll admit that. For me I just feel like forcing myself to write when I don’t want to, and always trying to do things that scare me keeps me at least busy whether I like it or not. I think objectively it’s better to move than to do nothing if you have the capacity in you.
Boston Culture : How do you seek out opportunities?
The China Blue: Me and Tyler have been working together daily to figure out new opportunities and outlets to get me and my brother artist Dev Soter’s music in more people’s hands. The biggest strategy I have is to just network and send emails! Who cares what people think, just keep plugging away. Some of the biggest opportunities I’ve gotten are just from sending emails and being available when they arise.
Boston Culture : When was the last time you were in the studio?
The China Blue: My studio is currently my bedroom so today! At the time of this interview I’m finishing vocals for the second single from my upcoming EP.
Boston Culture : Who's your favorite producer and artist?
The China Blue: I don’t have a favorite of all time. The artist I’ve consistently followed and I feel has delivered on every release is The 1975, and I’m also always attracted to the “love em or hate em” artists like Kanye.My favorite local artist is probably Layzi out of Salem, MA. She’s brilliant and is so underrated.
Boston Culture : What brands should sponsor your?
The China Blue: iZotope makes great music plugins and I use many of them.
I love fashion so I’d love to step my foot into that industry in the collaboration sense. I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to a Guess x The China Blue clothing wear drop.
Also Poland Springs for making the best bottled water.
Boston Culture :Anything else we missed you want to tell your fans?
The China Blue: As well as this single & EP, I feature on Dev Soter’s “Shaking Bodies”. I also have (potentially a few) collaborations with Layzi that I’m super excited about. My Instagram is my main content hub at the moment, @thechinablue, and will be announcing more updates for my future content on there. If you resonate with anything in my music the biggest thing I can ask is to share it with your friends.
Follow The China Blue on Spotify!