Dutch Producer Sebastian Kamae Shares Love For The City With Upcoming “Chicago Sessions”
Written by Vocalo Radio on April 25, 2023
After falling in love with Chicago during his three-month internship at Soundscape Studios in 2017, Dutch producer Sebastian Kamae prepares to shine a spotlight on Chicago artists with his upcoming collaborative project.
Sebastian Kamae is a Dutch artist and producer based in Amsterdam — with an unlikely connection to Chicago.
Kamae has been making music for essentially his entire life; he remembers learning to read sheet music in classes as early as 5 years old, later making beats in high school while playing keys for a few bands. His music education continued over the years as he pursued a degree in production in the Netherlands, which ultimately brought him to Chicago’s iconic Soundscape Studios for three months of the program’s final year.
Already a fan of Chicago artists like Saba, Noname, Chance the Rapper and G Herbo, Kamae became immersed in the city’s music scene as an intern at Soundscape, learning under producer Michael Kolar. He feels his time working with Kolar changed the trajectory of his career.
“The decision to go to the USA on my own for an extended period of time and my experiences there are really the blueprint of what my career looks like now,” Kamae said. “You also definitely learn to be a fly on the wall when sitting in on sessions and just observing how all these artists, engineers and producers move.”
Ever since then, Kamae has tried to come back to Chicago a few times a year, noting his strong connections and friendships still in the city. His 2019 album Enjoy the Ride even follows his first time in Chicago, with features from local artists including femdot., Ajani Jones, Qari and Jack Red.
This year Kamae has released the first three singles of his upcoming project “Chicago Sessions,” an idea born out of his hard drive filling up with music every time he returned to the city. He notes the singles — “Woosah,” featuring Galaxy Francis and Daylight Tone; “Great Escape,” featuring Frsh Waters of Pivot Gang; and “Falling out of Love,” featuring femdot. — don’t relate in content or sound, but just in their connection to Chicago.
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“Most of the tracks just came out of sessions at Soundscape,” he explained. “The artists featured pulled up to the studio and we just connected and most of the time made multiple ideas or tracks together. It was a very collaborative process in general.”
While he hasn’t made public the exact release date for this project, Kamae noted it will be seven tracks long — and that listeners can expect “real hip-hop.”
After “Falling Out of Love” was featured on Vocalo’s “Poised To Break Through” playlist for April, we reached out to Kamae to virtually discuss his connection to the city, his upcoming project, time spent at Soundscape and more.
First things first: you’re based in the Netherlands, but it looks like you lived in Chicago at one point. When did you live in Chicago, and what motivated you to move to the city?
Right! I live in Amsterdam and have always lived in the Netherlands. I came to Chicago for the first time in the fall of 2017 for three months. After that I fell in love with the city and its music and made many great friends and connections, so I kept coming back as much as I could, usually a few times a year.
How’d you initially get tapped into the Chicago music scene and Soundscape Studios?
Initially I was really just a fan of the music that is coming out of Chicago — like Saba/Pivot Gang, Chance, Kanye, Mick Jenkins, Noname, G Herbo, etc. — and some of its studios. I did a bachelor in music production in the Netherlands, and in the last year I came to Chicago for three months to learn from Michael Kolar at Soundscape Studios.
Tell us a little bit about your role with Soundscape. What was your biggest takeaway from your time there?
I learned so much and met so many people that I still work with and see as great friends. The decision to go to the USA on my own for an extended period of time and my experiences there are really the blueprint of what my career looks like now. It’s also completely different from the music industry and internships or apprenticeships back home. You also definitely learn to be a fly on the wall when sitting in on sessions and just observing how all these artists, engineers and producers move.
What Chicago neighborhood did you enjoy spending time in the most?
I personally spent most of my time in Ukrainian Village, Humboldt Park and Wicker Park.
Favorite thing about Chicago?
The food, the music, the people
How did you start making music?
I started at a very young age. I was like 5 years old when I went to my first music lessons and started to learn how to read sheet music, etc. I started playing keyboard and piano around 8 years old. Quickly, I discovered my love for the instrument and also started making beats in high school. While developing my skills I played keys in several bands, where I came in to touch with audio engineering and music production, which I later on decided to go study.
What inspired you to start making the “Chicago Sessions” project?
My second album Enjoy the Ride was the story of me going to Chicago for the first time and my journey there. After more trips to the city, I had so many great tracks on my hard drive that didn’t necessarily fit my next album conceptually or related to each other lyrically. As a producer, I’m inspired by other producers, like the Alchemist and Knxwledge, that are taking things into their own hands and putting out a bunch of great music with artists themselves. My brother (who is also my graphic designer) and I came up with the idea to start a series of EPs related to cities I went to, without it necessarily having to be very conceptual.
What did your creative process look like for this project and how is it different from how you typically make music, if at all?
Most of the tracks just came out of sessions at Soundscape. The artists featured pulled up to the studio and we just connected and most of the time made multiple ideas or tracks together. It was a very collaborative process in general.
You’ve worked with a lot of Chicago artists so far. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet but you would like to?
For sure. To name a few: Saba, Noname, Jean Deaux, Chance …
If you can choose, which collaboration with a Chicago artist has been your favorite? Why?
That’s a hard question, but the songs I made with Jack Red, Ajani Jones, femdot. and Roosevelt The Titan always hit. And the track I did with Qari on my last project was very fun, too.
We see that you have a vast range when it comes to producing music, but what is your favorite genre to work on?
Thanks! I’d say hip-hop, R&B and jazz are my favorite, but I’ve also enjoyed working on some pop, house, lo-fi and other projects with different sounds.
What’s one thing they have in the Netherlands you wish was here?
Love this question, haha! I always miss the dutch bread and cheese. I have a hate-love relationship with food when I’m in the U.S. in general. Oh, and there’s a Dutch snack called “frikandel” that I start craving after a while, but please don’t listen to a Dutch man for food advice.
With you being from the Netherlands, what type of impact does the traditional music out there have on your sound, if at all?
It doesn’t really, tbh. At least not the traditional Dutch music, which is just not my thing at all. I do feel like I’m inspired by different genres, sounds and environments than the people I work with in Chicago, so there’s always something new to learn and combine for both collaborators!
What was it like working with femdot. on your new single “Falling out of Love”? How did the two of you get connected?
Very fun! I produced it together with my good friend Eddy (artist name “King Khamen”), who’s also on the project. I’ve worked with femdot. many times and we’ve become friends over the years. I produced “Red Marlboros” on Delacreme 2 back in 2017 or 2018, when I met him while he was working with Closed Sessions.
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With “Chicago Sessions” coming out soon, can you give us any hint of what listeners can expect?
Real hip-hop! I’m basically taking the listener with me on my trips to Chicago. Seven tracks with a bunch of amazing and very talented features, all rising legends from Chicago, if you ask me. Expect a mix of dusty sounds and samples, mellow bars, rap, jazzy chords, lo-fi drums and an overall chill listening experience with some good stories.
Interview by Omi Salisbury
Introduction by Omi Salisbury and Morgan Ciocca
Answers edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca
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