For 19-year-old Marcus Saint, “everything’s always been music”. Ever since he began engineering music for his local church, Saint’s talent for modifying and creating music became evident. By the time Saint was 13, he was engineering sound for concerts, and throughout high school he was producing music for a variety of different up-and-coming artists. He was even recognized by celebrities like Azaelia Banks and Dev.
As a kid growing up in the D.C. area, Saint preferred music to sports, playing every instrument he could get his hands on. He taught himself how to play the piano at an early age, and soon after that he became a skilled guitarist, violinist and saxophone player.
His song “Levitate“, which can be found on Spotify, is a collaboration with artist Godismikey, and is Saint’s most popular original song to date. Originally written as a hook for his former mentor Dev, the piece speaks to fame and new beginnings.
Now Saint works and attends college in Ohio, while still keeping up with his passion for music.
How do you manage being a student and an artist?
I don’t. (Laughs) I let it manage me.
Was there anything you tried in high school that helped further your music career?
Yeah! I do a lot of poetry. I was in creative writing for two years and the teacher was mad dope. She helped me get more secure in my own writing. She also helped with my anxiety, and performing in front of people, because I always did poetry slams.
I got second place in the state of Virginia for spoken word, and my creative writing teacher definitely pushed me to get there.
Are you working on any new projects right now?
StreetQueer and I have a song coming out soon. I’m working on my EP, that’s gonna be three songs, so hopefully that comes out in like April or May.
— take me off the map. (@godismikey) January 31, 2019
With so many requests, how do you choose who you want to collaborate with?
I just look at what they’re doing. If their music is negative, I don’t want them jumping onto something that’s attached to me, and speaking all that into existence. If I don’t agree with something that they’re doing personally, I don’t like how their music is, or if it doesn’t make sense for us to collab, then I won’t work with them. Of course I’m getting paid at the end of the day, but I could really care less about the money. It’s just about how I make art.
What are the steps you take to produce new content?
I do everything on the piano first. If I have something in my head, I’ll play it on the piano, then worry about the cool sounds later. A lot of times I’ll listen to music that I like, music that I grew up to, or I’m discovering, then trying to incorporate it into my own work. If I like how they change the bass line 20 different times in their song, then I’ll change the bass up 30 times in my song.
I just let everything happen. I try not to think about it too much. I don’t like anything to be repetitive. I once read a study that says you have seven seconds to decide if the song you’re listening to is good, or if you don’t want to listen to it at all. So I take that approach with my music. If I’m not getting your attention or even my own within those seven seconds, I start all over or add something completely different.
How did you go from writing, producing and engineering, to actually rapping and singing your own lyrics?
It’s different. It’s definitely a weird process. A lot of times when I sing and rap songs, I don’t feel like they’re all my own. Usually I’m working for another artist, and then I’m like, “okay let me do this demo real quick”, and hopefully they like it.
When I recorded “Levitate”, I created the hook for Dev, so I wasn’t really spending much time on how it sounded. I just wanted to get the idea across. Yet here we are a year later, and I’m like, “Well [Dev] still didn’t take it and nobody else knows how to approach the record, so I’m just going to go ahead and use it myself.”
Starting a song, knowing it’s going to be for me from the start is way different from songs magically ending up as mine.
What was the inspiration behind the lyrics in the song “Levitate”?
I wrote it for another artist. It’s about how they came from a small town, and became an overnight sensation. I thought about how it was as if they were flying away from the old person that they were to the new person they are now.
Are there any artists who have influenced your style?
Dev, for sure. Ester Dean, Sia, Diplo and a lot of producers and engineers. Not always artists that you see in mainstream music.
Do you consider topics like representation, social justice or feminism to be an important part of creating music?
Yeah, I’m all for them. Yung Baby Tate just released an album. She’s going on tour so we were talking about doing some music for that. She’s really big on feminism, as well as shining a light on us engineers, producers and writers. I would love to be a part of that; taking her ideas and helping to push them further.
What are your goals for your career and your music?
That’s a good one, I don’t think I ever thought that far. (Laughs). Eventually I want my own label. To work with other people, and take other’s dreams and help them come true. I just wanna make dope music and create an atmosphere of positivity.
Does your family support the work you do?
I don’t know, honestly. I don’t think it ever really comes up too much. Everyone knows I do music, but I kind of keep it to myself. Just because it’s so intimate. It’s almost like sex. I don’t want everybody in the studio while I’m working on my stuff, just like you wouldn’t want everyone in the bedroom while you’re doing your thing. I like to keep everything private, and protected, until it’s 100 percent perfect. And then I’m ready to have everyone else know about it.
What’s something you want your audience to know about your music?
Everything I write about is 100 percent true. Like the lyrics in “Emma Frost”–when I’m talking about partying out in France– I was really out there, that wasn’t made up. That’s the biggest thing: everything I talk about is true.
What’s something not many people know about you?
I have three kids. (Laughs) Nah, I’m just playing. Probably how much I travel? I’ve been to 13 different countries.
You know what people never expect when they see me in person? How short I actually am. They expect me to be like six feet tall and I’m only five four. And I don’t know why. I look like I’m literally 12, like, it makes sense that I’m small.
Who do you consider to be your biggest role model?
It’s difficult speaking out about anxiety and depression, but I’ve realized that so many people who follow me hit me up because I talk about it. They ask me, “How do I deal with certain things?” So they inspire me to know I’m not alone.
If I say I’m sad or depressed, my DMs are flooded with “are you okay” and “can we help you”.
What advice would you give artists struggling to cope with mental illness?
Just put it in the music. Write it all out. Doesn’t matter if no one’s gonna listen to it. Get it all out there.
Photo credit: Zavia George (@thebeholder_photography)