Artist/Band: Louis Apollon
Hometown: Long Island, NY
Latest Album/Release: New Album Due September 30, 2017
TrunkSpace: You were raised in New York City by parents of Haitian decent. How much of your upbringing has influenced your current musical path?
Apollon: I was actually born and raised on Long Island, home of the best bagels you’ll ever find anywhere, in my very strong opinion. With both of my parents being from Haiti, I was always hearing their favorite kompas songs and artists, whether it be at home, in the car, or family gatherings, but I was super fortunate that my parents had a huge respect for different types of art and cultures. I remember listening to a lot of classical, world, as well as pop music growing up and going to many musical events. Alongside kompas superstars like Sweet Mickey and T-Vice, the musical collection at home was very rich and diverse with artists like Michael Jackson (my favorite growing up), Pavoratti, Bobby McFerrin, among many other artists. I feel that growing up in a household with such a high appreciation for all kinds of art is definitely the source of my immense love for music and in learning how to play it.
TrunkSpace: Outside of New York City, you’ve also lived in other cities known for their rich music scenes, including Chicago and Boston. How much does a setting play into an artist’s development?
Apollon: I feel like I picked up different things from all the cities I have lived in. New York was the place where my love for music began. It is where I started to play music as well as explore different types of music. As for Chicago, I moved there after college and was primarily working in the advertising world. Living in the middle of the city was super beneficial when it came to going to different venues around town, but I was encouraged by friends of mine who were both musical and non-musical, and found myself singing in choirs and playing out at open mics and gigs on the side. It was the place where I realized that I should be making music my primary gig, as it is where I really felt at home.
I moved to Cleveland in my quest to learn more about music. Knowing that I wanted to make music my career was one thing, but I felt like I needed to learn more than what I already knew to make that happen. So I went and studied at Cuyahoga Community College’s Jazz Studies program, and I realized how much I DIDN’T know. I’ve had supportive teachers in the past, but this is where I learned the most and expanded my musical vocabulary drastically under the wings of some incredibly gifted musicians. I transferred to Berklee in Boston after a couple of years, which is where I started to really hone in on my songwriting. Being surrounded by so many incredible artists from all over the world was just so inspiring for me and pushed me to continue to improve on my own skills. After Berklee I discovered the amazing and super supportive songwriting community that Boston has to offer and all the incredible places to hear and play music.
Being around and living in places where the music scene is popping does wonders for inspiration. In my experience, going out and being able to hear an absolutely killing artist makes me want to go home and play my instrument, write new songs, and continue to grow as an artist. But by far, finding supportive folks within the community, whether it be a teacher or a peer, to push and inspire you is were development is really noticeable and fulfilling.
TrunkSpace: We read that your first instrument was the clarinet. What did your musical journey look like from the time that you picked up that first instrument to where you ultimately are today?
Apollon: Ahhh, the mighty clarinet! I absolutely love that instrument. I started playing it around 7 years old and played all through my high school years where I played mainly bass clarinet. I practiced quite a bit, to my folks’ dismay at the beginning, and played in a number of ensembles throughout those years. Towards the end of my high school years some of my close friends started bands of their own which inspired me to buy my first guitar, a used and beat up Ibanez acoustic guitar. I do remember always wanting to sing, but because of my incredibly introverted nature, that didn’t happen until I was in college where I joined the school’s gospel choir upon arriving. After that I went on to actually minoring in music as a vocal principle and singing in two of the music program’s opera productions as well as taking part in a student run musical. I was also playing some more guitar during that time and was the back up bass player for a friend’s band who had some gigs on and off campus. As I mentioned before, I moved to Chicago afterwards, which is where I started to play much more guitar (well enough to accompany myself) as well as got some more singing gigs under my belt.
Tri-C in Cleveland is where I learned an incredible amount in two short years. As part of the jazz studies program I got the chance to take piano and guitar lessons for the first time as well as continue on with voice lessons. I had always liked jazz, but it wasn’t until I was there that I really sought to learn it. Visiting artists would come by on a regular basis for workshops and shows in the area, and students were not only encouraged in the classroom, but were also encouraged and expected to be performing outside the classroom. And with teachers playing out in the music scene regularly there was a community within the music scene that was already looking out for you which is huge for students trying to find their place in the musical world. Upon my arrival at Berklee, I focused on vocal performance and songwriting while singing in a lot of vocal jazz choirs and dabbling in classes like percussion workshops and African music. Last year I started building cajons, as I’m a HUGE fan of percussion, so I have been working on those skills playing in bands and church groups. Right now I’m on a mini New England/New York tour with my trio as we’re building up awareness for my debut record that will come out in September!
TrunkSpace: Throughout that journey, at what point did you discover your own voice as a songwriter/performer?
Apollon: Man, this is a tough question to answer! I feel like it started to happen while I was living in Cleveland. I was learning so much from my teachers and friends that I became more equipped to articulate my musical ideas. Also, around that same time, I was listening to different styles of music and artists I admired who I wanted to sound like that made a huge impact in how I hear and feel music. It took me quite some time to get to where I am at today, but I feel like my voice is still evolving and will continue to evolve as I keep learning.
TrunkSpace: Does a musician ever stop learning?
Apollon: Never. There are so many different types of music, so many ways to feel music, so many different ways to express it, and I can go on an on! As long as you’re willing to learn, there really is no end to how much you can learn. But I guess that could really work for anything, not only music. For me, I don’t ever want to stop learning. There are so many musicians that I admire and want to “catch up to” or be able to play along with, and I want to always be on top of my game for my band mates (who are KILLER musicians), so I don’t think I’ll ever be done learning. It would be quite boring if we ran out of things to learn!
TrunkSpace: With that being said, where do you think you’re strongest as an artist? What are you most proud of?
Apollon: I have to say it is my work ethic. Being the son of immigrants, especially those of a minority, I was always taught to work super hard. My parents set a really good example of hard work for my sister and me. My father worked his butt off through college to get himself an engineering degree, while my mother has worked two jobs as a nurse to make sure that my sister and I had opportunities they did not have growing up. I always bring that mindset when it comes to learning, performance, and presenting myself professionally as a musician.
TrunkSpace: And on the flip side of that, where are you the hardest on yourself as a musician?
Apollon: As for many other musicians, I can be a bit nit-picky when it comes to performance. I tend to beat myself up over mistakes that happen on stage, especially because I know I can do better. I’m still learning to be kinder to myself when that happens.
TrunkSpace: What approach do you take to marketing your music? Is it important to be flexible as the world of social media continues to change the way people connect to other people?
Apollon: This is something that I’m learning a load about now. I’m definitely on the newer side to this, but learning to market yourself as a musician is super important, and social media can be used as a really neat tool to make that happen. Though it does take me away from my instrument and increases my “screen time”, I wouldn’t be able to reach as many people as I do without social media. If you do it well, it is a neat way to be available at your fans’ fingertips or gain fans who aren’t able to make it to your show, which is a pretty cool thing.
TrunkSpace: Is there a particular artist/songwriter that you’d like to have your career mirror, at least in terms of success/notoriety?
Apollon: This is a super long list for me! Emily Elbert, Raul Midón, and Cyrille Aimée are the first three that come to my mind. I’m a HUGE fan of all three of these artists and love seeing what they are doing in the world.
TrunkSpace: What is more important… that you build a small base of loyal fans who admire the art you’re creating or a large scale fanbase who admires you, and in doing so, hone in on your music?
Apollon: I’m not sure one is more important than the other. I think that you kind of need both, especially when it comes to making a living a musician. But I do believe that building your fanbase is directly related to the quality of your work (tunes/craft/musicianship), your persistence, and the willingness to share your talents and when people start to see that in you, they will want to see where you go.
TrunkSpace: In your opinion, what is the most universal subject matter to write about… the thing that all listeners can relate to? Is it love? Is it something else?
Apollon: For sure it’s love. Not matter how different we all are from each other, love is the one thing we can look at all relate to each other… whether it is being in love romantically, the love of a parent or child, the heartbreak of love that is lost, the excitement of love that is new, the warmth of old love that continues to grow, the happiness of seeing love grow inside of other people, the need for more love, and so on… there are so many sides to love that we can relate to which turns in to ways that we can understand each other.
TrunkSpace: What else can fans of Louis Apollon look forward to for the rest of 2017?
Apollon: A whole lot!!! If you haven’t seen my music video that was released in May, you can check it out here. I’ll be releasing another single from the record next week of a tune called “Butterfly”, which is all about encouragement and being there for people who are going through rough times. I will also be playing a string of shows with my trio across New England and in New York leading up to my album release show on September 30th at The Burren in Somerville, MA. I’m super pumped to share these things with everyone!