Interview: Q on Pressure and Embracing Vulnerability

Monday, December 21, 2020
Photo by Khufu Najee

There’s an energy of self-confidence that you can hear in Q Marsden’s voice when he talks about his music. Don’t mistake this for over-confidence, instead, the 21-year-old up-and-comer has a clear direction of the place where he wants to take his music — and he wants to take listeners with him on the reflective and self-examining journey he’s currently on. 

Music is something that runs through his veins. His parents are both accomplished musicians — his father had his own studio where he worked with artists such as Wayne Wonder and Sean Paul, and his mother played keyboard for Beenie Man and Bounty Killer. Q notes that his mother’s love for Earth, Wind & Fire and Michael Jackson also has had a profound impact on his musical underpinnings. Along with being deeply immersed in music as a result of his parents’ vast industry experience, there’s also the self-taught exploration that he has also embarked on, including learning the craft of self-producing and playing instruments himself. 

Having parents who have been successful within the industry might make some people feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, but this isn’t something that has affected Q. He acknowledges that though his parents have guided him in various ways — his father also assisted in the creation of his hit single ‘Take Me Where Your Heart Is’ — he’s paving his own way too. 

“Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes I don’t care,” Q says on pressure and times when people attempt to compare his direction with the success of his family. “I’m doing my thing. They had their careers, and I’m having mine right now. The pressure can sometimes come from guiding me where to go. But other than that, it’s all support.” If anything, Q admits that if he has ever felt moments of pressure, it’s because of the pressure he places upon himself. 

Before his recently released EP The Shave Experiment, it was his album Forest Green and before that, Thoughts. Though there’s a clear evolution of his craft between releases, they’re not entirely distinct to one another. Q has previously admitted that both Forest Green and The Shave Experiment features tracks built around similar chords and instruments. The Shave Experiment however showcases Q’s growth as a songwriter, lyricist and producer. 

2020 has been a difficult year for many artists. Some have decided to pause making music whilst some others have spent the year working on their craft. For Q, music is an organic process that can’t be forced. He lets his feelings guide whether he works on his music and not forcing anything if he doesn’t feel like he’s in the right headspace to create. 

“I just flowed with it. When I felt like making music, I did it, when I didn’t, I just didn’t do it. I never pressure myself to make music, I don’t force it because it’s something you can’t force. If you force it, it doesn’t sound good. Pressure makes you feel like you have to make something, especially when you’re home all day. You might start feeling like you’re not doing enough and feel like you have to make music. I think people put too much pressure on themselves.”

When it came to releasing The Shave Experiment, he didn’t feel any apprehension or nerves about it being released — he had worked hard on the EP and felt ready to share it with the world. “I knew it was different,” Q said, “But I also believed it was good. It was good music that I was releasing so I had a lot of confidence in that aspect.”

The Shave Experiment is much succinct than his previous offerings — though, Q notes that he probably would have liked to make the release much lengthier after having a pool of approximately thirty tracks to choose from. The EP ultimately is his reintroduction, or perhaps for a number of listeners first meeting Q thanks to his viral single ‘Take Me Where Your Heart Is’, it’s his introduction. 

He began working on The Shave Experiment shortly after releasing Forest Green last year. If there’s one thing he learnt from his previous experiences with Forest Green it was that it’s okay to be ambitious with where you want to take your music. On his previous release, he said, “It showed me that you can really just create what you want to create.”

Enter The Shave Experiment, though it’s his shortest release to date, it’s a monumental release. For Q, It wasn’t just about experimenting sonically, the experimenting he did was in regards to the EP’s raw and intimate subject matter and his lyrical reflections. 

On his thoughts on experimentation, he said, “Experimentation in music is like mixing audio chemicals. You’re mixing the red potion with the green one, or you’re mixing certain topics with certain sounds that might not usually be associated with each other.”

“I think the experimentation for the EP related more to the topics that I was talking about rather than the sounds. The experimenting part for me was the topics I touch on, such as vulnerability and the mindset I was in at the time. I was shaving off things, shaving off parts of my life and my mind.”

The EP contemplates an array of emotional and poignant topics. On the EP’s opener ‘Garage Rooftop’, Q sings about being in the middle of a state of chaos and disarray, yet having someone who he deeply cares about by his side. He sings, “I'ma cry, I'ma fall / I’ma feel anxiety / Inside of me / Until I found / You on the garage rooftop.” There’s also the stirring ‘Alone’, which reflects on solitude and collective feelings of aloneness. Appearing like intimate and private words out of a journal, the track features lyrics such as, “I shedded tears beside you / And I made sure that I put them in / A place where we can find it / To remember all the times we were / Alone in all our problems.”

The impassioned and romantic ‘Take Me Where Your Heart Is’, which Q says was recorded on his iPhone, is an outpouring of love and adoration. Though you can’t deny the catchiness of the track or its funk-driven groove, it’s Q’s words that take centre-stage. There’s no holding back and it’s what makes the song so special. ‘My Dear Electra’ is also home to tender lyrics such as “I'm standing here inside my heart / And life has been a proper storm / But now I'm here, a broken soul / I need to find my home with you.”

Vulnerability doesn’t scare Q, he isn’t afraid of singing about feeling alone, in love or overwhelmed by the world — which is inspiring for many young people who are often dismissed by society for expressing their vulnerability in a public space. Expressing himself wholeheartedly is a major part of who he is, and that’s something that will continue to drive the music he makes.

“Don’t try and hide it, don’t pretend. There’s no point of pretending in life, you’re wasting time pretending,” says Q. “Have fun and just be vulnerable, even when people might tell you that being vulnerable isn’t the coolest thing to be.”

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)

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