Following the success of his musical directorial debut, East Quogue musician-composer John Tocco is embarking on an interesting new project—releasing one new song on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud and the like every month for a year. With two summer releases—”Smile” and “Here 4 U”—out now, there’s plenty of music to look forward to as he works toward completing the 12-song album at the finish line.
Tocco discusses his inspirations, process, end goal and more.
What inspired you to start this one-new-song-a-month challenge, and have you attempted anything similar in the past?
I’m a relatively new artist, so most people don’t care if I release a big album all at once. I believe it to be more effective to write and record an album of new material but release it in increments, this way I can make each new song an event every month! The album is a concept album, so I’m releasing it out of order with the idea that the songs will have new meaning when listened to in order next year. I’ve never done anything like this before, though I’ve read of other artists doing similar things!
What does your songwriting process look like, and how long does it usually take you to compose a song with lyrics?
People often ask, “What comes first, the lyrics or the music?” and it’s not really a great question, because every song is different. Generally, I start with some kind of “hook” or title. Then, I usually write the lyrics with some kind of rhythmic scheme in mind. I ask myself, “What words are most important to the lyrics? And where are the accents within those words?” I then write melodies and instrumental parts with all of that in mind.
Where are you drawing lyric inspiration from during these trying times?
The album is a concept album telling the story of a relationship from beginning to end. I wanted to avoid referencing certain things directly, but there are subtle hints to my feelings about them. I couldn’t work during the lockdown, so one of the songs, “Joyride,” is specifically about the long drives I would go on just to get out of the house.
What instruments do you plan to incorporate, and will you be playing them all solo?
The music is dense. There are a lot of acoustic and electric guitar, bass, keys, drums, percussion and vocal tracks. I played all of the instruments myself, and it was a tiresome but very rewarding process!
How do you plan to evolve your compositions and overall sound from your last album, Almost on the Bright Side?
Most of the songs on Almost on the Bright Side had a more stripped-down sound. They were inspired by classic and modern folk, depending largely on acoustic guitar and auxiliary percussion. The new collection of songs has thicker instrumentation and is more so inspired by classic funk.
Will you be professionally recording these songs, and how long does that process typically take?
Yes, all of the songs have actually been recorded already and are in various parts of the mixing and mastering stages. I generally do all tracking—the actual “recording” of the audio—at my house with my home studio setup. Then, it is mixed and mastered by David Manke, my brilliant mixing/mastering engineer.
What do you find most rewarding about writing and releasing new music?
The joy is in the process. As exciting as it is for me to Shazam my own music and see it on Spotify next to some of my idols, I find most of the joy in recording the songs and being creative in the studio. There’s a reason that the work that comes out of a recording studio is often called “Studio Magic!”