Here’s Your New Hip Hop EP of the Summer

Ta’ Sean Du Bois is a San Diego based rapper who’s been lighting up the SD and college scene. His last project, Tea Time, received a great response from fans and now he’s dropping a new EP, Summer San Diego. Ta’ Sean is all about creating lively, upbeat music that represents his favorite city, San Diego. Read on to find out more about his upcoming EP.

When is your new EP coming out?

We’re aiming on dropping the project on July 14th. 

What makes this project different from the last one you dropped?

I feel like since Tea Time I’ve grown and matured as an artist. I’ve found and gotten comfortable with my own style and don’t mind expressing my experiences with everyone. 

What can listeners expect?

They can expect a different, but still West Coast, sound. They can expect to play it or hear it at the next frat or sorority party.

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Instagram: @noteashirt

What were some of the inspirations you drew upon when you were creating this album?

When I was creating Summer San Diego I was really just doing a lot of city watching. I would go on walks in the morning and really just breathe and take in my city’s beauty. Also Jack Daniels, mary jane, and listening to early 2000s music were great influences, too. 

You said some of the EP is influenced by the college party scene, can you elaborate on this?

Yeah, so I live not too far from San Diego State and Friday and Saturday is when Montezuma Road be poppin’ with people walking from party to party. I’ve been to a few parties there myself and they are always lit. The guys be smokin’ backwoods, the females be drowning vodka. Everybody is dancing and everybody is having a good time. It’s all about having a good time and that’s what I wanted my tape to be about. Having a good time. State students know how to turn up and I’m proud to say that I’m from a city with a dope college party scene! 

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Twitter: @noteashirt

What else have you recently been working on? Any shows?

Recently I’ve been working on a lot of visuals. We’ve been shooting videos for the project and so far everything is looking clean. We’ve dropped the “Pi$tol Tony” video already so make sure y’all check that out! I have a couple shows coming up with Eklektic fam but I gotta keep that on the DL [laughing]. Besides that I have one with my homie Lil Mttn on the 28th in LA. Also I have a mansion party coming up on the 8th so that’s going to be dope. Anyone’s invited by the way! Other than that I’m just working on my health and as myself as an artist. 

How many songs will be on the EP?

There’s going to be six songs plus a bonus track so yeah!

Will you be performing anywhere in the near future?

Mansion party on the 8th come turn up.

What do you have to say to your fans and what’s one reason everyone should listen to this EP?

I wanna tell all my fans that all you guys are cool and I love you guys and thank you guys for rocking with me. Also anyone who hasn’t caught on the wave yet, make sure you start paddling now. Summer San Diego is going to be that new sound that puts the city on the map like it’s supposed to be! 

Final thoughts?

Yo, shoutout my Mom and Dad, shout out Alton and Aiden, shoutout Eklectik, and shout out to my city San Diego. Let’s get it!

Eclectik – Linking Up Artists Around the World

Thursday, December 1, SDSU hosted the HeadSTRONG Toy Drive in the Student Union in collaboration with Polinsky Children’s Center in efforts to raise toy donations for children. The drive was a huge success, and so was DJ Josh Giggin’s performance.

Josh is the founder of ECLECTIK, his music corporation based in San Diego that’s linking up with artists, producers, and music professionals around the world.

Since July, when Josh launched ECLECTIK, the organization has been growing fast. When I asked him how often he makes music he laughed and replied, “I don’t make music, I’m too busy watching over everyone else.” From a close knit group of friends who share a passion for making music, it’s grown into 20 founding members and 34 members overall in several different countries.

But that’s not important to DJ and founder Josh, he’s simply here to “set a culture.”

“Music these days is really hard to listen to. Just in general, listening, you don’t even know what they’re saying.”

“When I find artists through SoundCloud to bring onto ECLECTIK, they have to have a certain sound. Something you can listen to—easy listening—it inspires you to get up and go through your day. I’m really versatile with my song selection, that’s why a lot of people in our group are really versatile. They can sing, they can rap, then they can trap.”

“I have to be inspired to inspire. If I’m not inspired when I DJ, it’s hard for me to spread that. My main inspiration is to be an inspiration.”

As for who inspires him, it’s mainly underground, “low-key” producers. His favorite genres are trap, new soul, hip hop, and R&B.

ECLECTIK rapper Ta’ Sean Du Bois began writing when he was 6 years old, and his talents have since escalated into what he calls “feel good music” that you can wake up and go to the beach to.

“I always loved reading and writing, it was like my best subject in school and I also really loved music. I liked the aspect of beat, the lyrics, and how the lyrics matched with the beat pattern. I started rapping early, like in high school. We would freestyle everyday afterschool by the ice cream truck, and then I got more confident and I started rapping over like Kendrick or Dr. Dre and then I started writing my own music. I officially started rapping like senior year.”

Ta’ Sean says his main musical inspiration is Kanye West.

“My parents are from the Caribbean’s, so I grew up listening to reggae. I didn’t think there was any other kind of music. My older brother showed me “Champion” by Kanye West and I was just like, ‘What is this!’ That’s when I started listening to like Nelly and not really people who were like ‘in in’ at the time ’cause they were different, but I liked that.”

 

He’s inspired by artists like these because of their “swag.”

“They’re so confident in themselves, that they’re gonna take something from like 17 yeas ago, mix it with something new, and put it out there. Being confident is hard, being able to do all that is hard, and so they really helped me improve that.”

Since forming ECLECTIK, Ta’ Sean can see his improvement in his music and performing, as can all of the founding members.

“Performing is scary, that’s what’s hard,” he said. Each of the members I spoke to said they still get nervous when they’re about to perform, “but that excitement and joy also drowns that [nervousness], and then you’re hyped.”

ECLECTIK is constantly expanding. Josh told me about their Link Up show in Orange County, which showcased local talent, and their #LinkUp efforts in San Diego as well. With a worldwide organization, communication can be a problem.

Josh: “We’re everywhere, it’s hard for us to all talk and gather our ideas, but everyone believes in the mission. There is a sound that needs to be spread. Money’s not a big thing to us. It’s easy to make good music when you’re not worried about money.”

“We have a DJ in Australia. We have a DJ and producer in the UK, she’s actually planning a music festival and she’s already asked us to go there. One of our artists is going to be going on tour early in 2017. It’s gonna be 17 cities over two months.”

 

Those are just a few of ECLECTIK’s exciting future prospects. But through all the success, they’ve kept it real. To all the budding artists out there, the founders of ECLECTIK have this to say:

“There’s always gonna be haters. You can’t please everyone, but you just gotta keep going. In a group of 10 people you might get one person that’s gonna like your song, and that one person is gonna make it worthwhile. And that one person is gonna turn into a whole fan base and next thing you know, you’re playing at a music festival in front of thousands of people.”

And if that doesn’t happen, “we’ll find you,” they added, laughing. Josh did a great job DJing the Toy Drive at SDSU. And I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from ECLECTIK in the near future.

Original AMG Content

Stanaj: How a Karaoke Bar Led to Stardom

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Watch shortened interview here

Watch full interview here 

When I first saw Stanaj he was on stage doing sound check, laughing and joking with swooning female fans, getting ready for the Less Stress More Love show with SoMo in San Diego. The 22-year-old R&B singer is fresh to the music scene but harbors the skills of a seasoned professional. Just releasing his EP, The Preview, this past August, he’s already on his first nation-wide tour and upcoming worldwide debut. He’s been endorsed through social media by stars such as Kim Kardashian West, Russell Simmons, Chris Brown, and NBA player Brandon Jennings just to name a few. He sang his way to Coachella prior to releasing any original music, sang “Let Her Go” on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and got signed a year ago with LAVA/REPUBLIC. How has this kid done this? When I heard him sing, that question was answered.

I met with him backstage about an hour before he was to perform. Between the exclamatory “Baby girl’s!” and his signature serenades, Stanaj was a hoot to interview. He wants to be an all-around artist, like Justin Timberlake, dipping his talents into movies, TV, and music. He’s got the personality to do it—his charisma filled the room. He was gracious and thankful to be there, and told me the fantastic story of his journey.

“It’s been pretty freakin’ crazy, you know, starting about a year and a half ago. I mean, I was doing music in New York right out of high school, but I had no luck and it was kind of just go, sing at a karaoke bar, kind of thing. What happened when I came out to California, I was basically doing the same thing in L.A., I was just singing at a random place—karaoke bar—and just from social media, there was a basketball player there, he put me on his Instagram, his girlfriend put me on her Instagram, and then this person found me, and this person found me, and next thing I know I’m signing in Drake’s house.”

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Stanaj’s life is a modern-day male version Cinderella story, or, as his family nicknames him, Forrest Gump, and goes to show what can manifest when hard work, pure jaw-dropping talent, and a little luck come together.

Stanaj got his start in singing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in a children’s choir. He says that experience definitely shows up in some of his songs, especially his upcoming releases.

“I always loved it, and there are some songs that I actually haven’t released yet that have kind of like a super choir-driven base to it, it’s pretty cool.”

Hailing from Albania, he also sang Albanian music and, being the youngest in a big family, was exposed to multiple genres and decades of music growing up. From all the different types of music he grew up loving, it was ‘90s R&B that stuck with him.

“I just always had a thing for it. I love the soul that they were, you know, projecting. I love the emotions in the songs. It just, I don’t know, struck a cord with me.”

We talked about his almost-magical transition from making music on social media to making music with the likes of writers who work with Rihanna and Chris Brown.

“I was writing songs in my bedroom, to writing songs with Grammy Award winners.”

Through his crazy journey, he’s learned a lot.

“It’s an art to write a song. In itself, just the structure of a song and how many measures and when to go to the pre-, how long the chorus should be, like I had no idea what the hell any of that meant. So going from writing in my room to writing with Justin Tranter, who wrote “Sorry” for Bieber, to Haze Banga who’s done songs with Beyoncé, you know, these people who are just like mind-blowing musicians and songwriters, you learn a lot. Like a year ago, I think I’d written like 200 songs, and it’s funny—you can see the progression from the beginning to where I am now.”

Stanaj’s career is moving forward pretty fast. With all his celebrity endorsements and incredible raw talent, it’s a speeding train going in the right direction. Not long from now he’ll be hooking up with the best in the business—we talked about who he hopes to collaborate with in the future.

“I would love to collaborate with Justin Timberlake, if I could make a song with him that’d be pretty amazing. I love Ariana [Grande], she’s great—super good vocalist. And Drizzy Drake.”

Drizzy Drake—the mysterious Instagram picture that made Stanaj famous over night. He told me how a random friendship turned into him playing piano at the YOLO mansion.

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“So, recently I was seen at the karaoke bar, basketball player put me on his Instagram, and this guy, Jas Prince, hits me up and we ended up becoming friends. I never like Googled this guy or anything, but he’s the guy who found Drake. So one day, I’m playing basketball at his house and Drake FaceTimes him and we ended up going there and that’s how I met him.”

Sure. Casual.

“We didn’t end up working on any music, not yet—hopefully—but they would keep inviting me over. It was just a super, super cool experience to see. You know, I got to go into his home studio and listen to some songs, I got to play the piano in his living room, it was super cool. Awesome guy, and hopefully one day I’ll get to work with him.”

As for who inspires him, Stanaj has got a long list. He hopes to grow into a career like Justin Timberlake’s, and after his enthusiastic chat with me, I don’t doubt he’ll one day be on movie screens. As for musicians, he loves Boys II Men, Brian McKnight, and other stars who ruled the ‘90s R&B scene. He calls his style a new twist of R&B and pop, and said his recently dropped EP The Preview embodies that type of “cinematic soul” he wants to be known for.

The Preview was Stanaj’s chance to showcase his original sound, and, thankfully, there’s so much more of it to come.

“I’m releasing another project soon, I don’t have a date yet, but I’m releasing another project soon and then I go straight to Europe. I’m going to London to work on an album, London and then Sweden, and then I have another tour come spring.”

His Albanian family doesn’t know what to make of him.

“I don’t think they really understand what’s happening. Like they do, but then at the same time they’re like, ‘Oh, how’s it going?’ Like I was just on Jimmy Fallon and they’re like, ‘Oh that’s nice.’ Meanwhile everybody here is like flipping out.”

Right, and there’s a funny story about Stanaj singing “Ain’t Love Strange” on The Tonight Show.

“It’s funny, I met Jimmy in 2013. I walked up to him on the sidewalk and I sang like a quick snippet of something, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna be on your show one day.’ And then, literally three years later, I’m on his show.”

Stanaj and Jimmy Fallon ended up re-creating the same video Stanaj had taken of that experience backstage.

Before wrapping things up, Stanaj had a message for all his fans that have supported him from the beginning: deep down, he’s still that kid singing karaoke and is super grateful to be where he is.

“I’m beyond grateful to do this every single day. I know it’s been said, ‘It’s because of you,’ but it really is. It really is true, that it’s like the most grateful feeling having people appreciate what you love most in life. Just thank you, on a different level of thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Stanaj thanked his fans at the show by singing his heart out on stage. He opened with “Goddess,” followed by “Ain’t Love Strange,” “Sleep Alone,” “Romantic,” and even sang his famous rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. Fans went crazy, screaming every word of his album. His stage presence was so energetic and genuine, it was hard to believe this was his first tour.

I look forward to seeing more of Stanaj in the future, as I’m positive he’s going far. He has almost an unbelievable story; karaoke-bar singer pulls himself up to the level of A-list celebrities all because of sheer talent. But hey, stranger things have happened.

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Photos by Brittany Harper

Original AMG Content

 

 

 

 

Jay James on Authenticity, Concept Albums, and Gospel

Jay James is a Producer creating free-flowing Electronic / R&B music. He’s also a Music Major at SDSU.

“I will produce the song, I’ll mix, it, I’ll master it. I’ll do the artwork, stuff like that.”

You’re producing your music, have you ever produced anyone else’s?

Yeah I’ve produced for a ton of different people, friends, other artists. I don’t want to name drop [laughs] but yeah I’ve produced for other people in the industry.

Where did you start?

I’ve been playing piano since I was three. I just taught myself how to play, and then I picked up guitar, started picking up some brass instruments, and it got to a point where I was like I wanna be in a band but I always sucked at working with people, because like people are unreliable. So I was like I’m just gonna record these different instruments on top of each other.

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@mikeyabshear

So what you’re doing right now, what you’ve put forth in your more professional recent setting, what are you mostly focusing on and how are you making it?

My workflow is kinda weird. I use a few different kinds of software to get the sound that I have. I usually start with the keys, I’ll just be sitting playing something, like ‘Oh I like that’ and I’ll take whatever melody or chords I came up with and then I’ll use other instruments and start layering and adding other counter melodies until I have something.

 Are you ever inspired by other artist’s sounds?

Yeah, all the time. I guess like my biggest inspiration that you can like hear is probably like Kanye, Dilla, Flying Motives, people like that. And I also like to incorporate live instruments because I pay live instruments and I go to college where there’s music programs with amazing musicians, so I try to like get all that in there and just make it work to where its like you don’t hear something and its like ‘Whoa where’d that come from,’ you’re just like ‘That works perfectly.’

What inspired you from the beginning?

I watched a documentary on Timberland in like 7th grade, and I was like ‘Why don’t I do that?’ Music’s always been a huge part of my life. I kinda grew up in a church with a lot of music there and I was always involved in that. I’ve always been the kid tapping on things, banging on pots and pans, so it always made sense that I was gonna make music.

What about your cover art, what was the inspiration there?

My album artwork was based off a picture that was taken of me. I went home for summer break and I found a bunch of old pictures and I took pictures of them with my iPhone, and like uploaded it onto Photoshop and f****d with it and sent it to him [friend] and then he messed with it and that was it.

Wow, cool. How much of your music has vocals?

About like 50 percent of my music has vocals. It’s rarely me; I think I’ve put out one song where I was kind of singing on it

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@jayjamesbeats

And you don’t want to do that? You like making it more?

I’m not ready yet. I’m not happy with where my voice is yet; I’m working on it. Until I’m ready to put out music where my voice is very prepared, I’m not going to.

Yeah, that makes sense. Ok I want to talk about your success on iTunes, like your album Beautiful. When did that come out?

Yeah, my album [Beautiful] dropped in May, and the first week or week and-a-half, it was on the iTunes charts and that was cool.

Damn! That’s exciting to see.

That was wild. I didn’t have a body of music before that.

I don’t put out a lot of music compared to how much music I make. Like there was a time when I was making three or four songs a day.

Are you very picky in what you put out?

Very, very pick. Like people have to push me to put out music. Recently it’s been better; I think I’ve been putting out as good as it’s gonna get. That’s like my philosophy. I try to make it as perfect as possible and I try not to rush, but sometimes you just gotta put it out.

What’s your favorite work?

I definitely have a favorite song, my song “Polaroids.” The biggest reason, is like so when I was working on the EP I had six songs that I had in mind but I had about ten songs that I had done, and I was like alright I’m gonna put out like 6 songs. But some sh*t happened between me and the artist and their label where I couldn’t put out the music and it was very frustrating. So I wrote a new song and then I sent it over to Crystal, who’s the singer on there, and so I got her part and then I was like this needs something else so I extended the song and worked with another producer and had someone play guitar over it and I added that rap verse in the beginning.

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So kind of because it came from something that didn’t work out.

Yeah, it was kind of rushed but I was really happy with it.

Did you have a vision for the whole album?

I like to do concept albums; my first album [Beautiful] is based off a story. So everything is based around the same general ideas. But for the EP I didn’t want to do too much of that. The EP was more of leftover things from the album. After the album I was like ok I’m not going to make music for three months, but I started making music again after two weeks.

You can’t not make music.

Yeah [laughing].

So it’s kind of the pieces that didn’t follow the script of your album

Yeah, but then the concept came into it. Like I said, I came across those pictures, and so a lot of the music has kind of a nostalgic feel to it. All the songs have reference to something that’s happened. I wanted to make it personal, and I want to turn it into a series KOFI 1, KOFI 2, in the future.

“I just want to make music. I just want to be an artist; I want to have my foot in every avenue of art that I appreciate. I’m really into fashion; I’m really into photography. I want to have the opportunity to make music the rest of my life.”

Have you ever done any shows?

I’ve performed before but I’ve never performed my own music, not yet. I’ve had the opportunity, like a lot of venues have contacted me asking me to play, but same with the singing thing, I’m just not ready. I took a different approach to things than most artists I feel like and I want that to resonate with my performance

A lot of the music I have, I don’t think it would be very entertaining live.

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So that would change the music you make a little bit.

Definitely it will; when you go to a show you usually want music that’s a little more upbeat. I have sitting-down, thinking-about-life music.

You do; you really have to listen to it. As an artist does that bother you at all, that you might have to change it up?

I mean, I don’t want to be a boring artist and only make a certain type of music, so I’m branching out to other genres still in my own way. I eventually knew I was gonna have to do something where I could perform.

Gospel was a big part of your childhood; do you ever see and impact of that in your music?

Oh all the time especially vocally, like how I like people to sing things is very like… have you ever been to church? You know, being in a room, and the church choir is singing, it doesn’t even matter what they’re singing, it’s that environment.

Yeah, that feeling. Like if you can make music that gives that feeling to your listener, then you’ve succeeded.

I think that’s what I’m trying to do. I want people to put in their headphones or turn on their car or whatever, to listen to my music, I want that to evoke some sort of emotion. More than just expressing my own feelings, emotions, or whatever, if I can get something out of someone else, I won.

This is original AMG content.

 

Interview with Aniel

I interviewed AMG artist of the month Aniel, who manages and produces his own music at Sempra Sol.

Hi Aniel how are you?

Good.

Tell me a little a bit about your group.

I started this project after I left my previous band back in February of this year. And it’s kind of just me, like I write and kind of mange myself but I do have friends that have been interested in playing with me, and we have played together in a couple shows so that’s been fun. But mostly it’s just kind of like a “me” thing. Eventually I do want to bring in other members, but it’s sometimes hard finding people who are interested in the same kind of music you are, which in my case is electronic-indie-pop.

How do you create and produce that?

Sometimes I hear ideas in my head, and I’ve become pretty good at creating music using FL studio, for the PC, and I kind of just do everything through there for the most part. I also mix and mash up stuff myself, which isn’t too good of a quality because I don’t have professional equipment, but I have been trying to do that more professionally lately, and to do that you have to pay someone to do that who’s a professional.

Well that’s awesome that you’ve been able to create all this on the equipment that you have, how long have you been doing this?

I think I’ve been doing this for maybe four years now.

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semprasol.com

Now you mentioned something about doing a show, so have you performed for people?

Oh yeah, in my previous band we performed in many places, including in the Del Mar Fair, that was thanks to my friend AJ who’s also in a band, and he kind of helped me get there. We’ve played at the House of Blues, Soda Bar; there aren’t a lot of all-ages venues, most of them are bars.

 Have you had any issue with that? Are you under 21?

I’m 23, but sometimes the band members are under 21 and they can only perform and then they can’t be there after.

Right they’d have to basically perform and then leave after. 

So you said your previous band; when were you in a band before this?

I think we started early 2014, and my friend and I were in another band with my other friend and that was called Small Talk and that was more punk-grunge, and that’s great like I love punk and grunge but I kind of wasn’t feeling it so we started an indie-rock band, and that was in 2014, and that was called Hand Drawn Tree. And then I kind of wanted to do something different, you know, use more electronic instruments and music, but they wanted to stick with that so I kind of departed and started this thing on my own.

So have you every sold any of your music or performed what you’re doing now for anybody?

Yeah I’ve played… I wanna say maybe in three shows since I started Sempra Sole.

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semprasol.com

And you’re just doing that on your own? That’s impressive.

Yeah you see a lot of bands doing that nowadays, doing stuff on their own. I can tell you about the equipment I use; it’s a sampler. You know a sampler makes it easy to record your sounds and play it live, plus keyboards and a guitar, and I sing. As for drums and a bass guitar I use the computer for that and then if you have the sampler it plays when I want it to play.

Who would you say is your music idol? Kind of a hard question.

Yeah it is a hard question. I fee like I have a lot, but if I had to narrow it down I would say John Lennon. When I first started playing I think I just kinda wanted to be similar to him. He inspired a lot, and reached a lot of people with his music. Also Beethoven, and for more recent maybe like Julian Casablancas from The Strokes.

Nice. If it’s different from what you’re playing now, what’s your favorite genre of music to listen to?

Definitely indie rock, classic rock too.

Alright cool. Why do create music? You do you put time into this and energy and effort?

I create music because I think music is very powerful. It’s one of the few things that can like bring people together from around the world, no matter your race or religion or whatever. Music is music; it’s a language that everybody speaks. If I’m able to create music and be able to do that, that’s just amazing. It’s also an outlet for my creativity. Expressing myself, it’s just an enjoyable experience for me, I honestly can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.

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@anielrod

Awesome. And with the few shows you’ve done on your own now, how does that feel when you’re able to show someone your music, perform for somebody; how does it feel having someone else share in what you’ve been creating?

It’s amazing. It’s obviously, like, sometimes when you play some shows you have some really crazy audiences that are really into it, and others are pretty chill, just a little harder to tell. And I think it’s a feeling that you can’t really get anywhere else. Especially when it’s your own music, and someone comes up after the show to tell you, ‘Oh hey I really like how you did that,’ or they give you feedback, that’s really the best that you could ask for. It’s an amazing feeling.

If someone wants to listen to your music, where can they go online to check it out?

So right now I have pretty much everything on my SoundCloud. I did have a website before that looked a little more band-y but I’m kind of working on that again.

I’m actually in the process of getting my first official single, “Breakdown,” released.

Oh really? Wow that’s exciting

It’s an exciting process, definitely. It’s something that I had already created before and now I’m just trying to get it on Spotify and iTunes.

The name is actually Latin; it stands for Always Sunny

How did you come up with that?

I guess I really like what “Sempra” stands for, like “always faithful,” and then I like the sun. I think the sun is very important, especially here in San Diego [laughing].

Right now, you can check out Aniel’s music at semprasol.com

This is original AMG content.

 

What I learned from Backpacking in Europe

This summer I went on a backpacking adventure through Europe. I had never traveled without my parents before, and all I had was a backpack, limited Spanish, and my friend. The two of us took on multiple means of transportation, major cities, tiny towns, and proved to our families and ourselves that two, 20-year-old female college students with zero traveling experience can navigate, finance, and travel through Europe.

How to Pack

I took my brother’s camping backpack with me, which had about seven pockets, 13 zippers, and towered above my head. I sifted through numerous travel blogs before leaving on my trip, trying to find out what I needed for six weeks abroad and how I could carry it all with me. One of the best pieces of advice I found out there is to make sure every article of clothing you bring goes with everything else in your bag. In other words, if you have a shirt that is so cute but only looks good with one specific pair of jeans, don’t bring it. You’re going to be so short on luggage room, only bring items you wear often, are comfortable in, and go with each other. Also, bring little travel bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and whatever shower necessities you like. We stayed in hostels, (even tents) and discount places won’t provide essentials like these. Finally, invest in a super comfortable, durable pair of hiking sandals! I used a cheaper version of Birk’s and they worked perfectly for me. The last thing you want is to be crawling through Rome because your feet are blistered.

How to Budget

Financing your own travels as a broke college student is hard, but not impossible! We primarily used hostels.com to book our lodgings, which turned out really well. However, if you’re going to travel on the cheap, you have to truly commit yourself to it. Both my friend and I were ready to be uncomfortable, do anything to save money, and were focused on using our money to see more places rather than stay in luxurious hotels. To some people, staying over night in Paris in a tiny tent on the ground with an outdoor bathroom sounds terrible! And that’s ok. Be honest with yourself about what you want, because otherwise being less comfortable than you had intended will ruin your trip. You can also save on museums and tours by researching before you get there, to find out student discounts. In Europe, many places give discounts to under-26-year-olds. For food, we splurged on a big, authentic meal once a day. We’d eat cheap breakfasts, like fruit and bread (typical European breakfast) and then go all out for lunch or dinner. That way, we’d get a taste of every country without spending $20 three times a day on meals. You will spend the most money on transportation and lodging. Research hostel prices and determine how many nights you can afford to stay in a city, and plan accordingly with travel expenses. Flying between European countries is often cheaper (and faster) than trains, and staying in hostels outside of the city is cheaper than staying in the heart of it.

You Can’t Plan Everything

You can’t, we tried. Do plan out as much as you can control, but be ok with the fact that some of your plans are going to fall through and you will be met with obstacles. Backpacking or traveling on your own is different than a vacation; it takes some effort, planning, and you will learn as much about traveling as you do about yourself. We had some transportation issues. In Italy especially, buses and trains are usually late, and this caused as a few schedule complications. But as you go, you’ll learn to adapt to challenges and fix problems quickly. Traveling with the mindset of, “I will do the research and do my best to prevent problems for myself, but understand they will arise anyway” is the best way to go.

You Can Do It

You really can! Don’t be afraid! Our parent and friends thought we were crazy. I promise, we had absolutely ZERO traveling experience, but we were able to travel by ferry, car, bus, train, and plane. We visited seven countries. We saw historical marvels of the world, tasted authentic cuisine, played tourist and immersed ourselves with locals. I’m also someone who, before this trip, couldn’t read a map. Now, I’m confident in my abilities to get myself anywhere. It will be scary, stressful, and hard at times, but those are the times you will learn and grow the most. Our ongoing joke was that we were forced to learn “hello,” “excuse me,” and “exit,” in every language we encountered, mostly taught to us by navigating our way through the underground metros. Traveling transformed my worldview, confidence, and capabilities. It can change yours too 🙂