Sound Source: Producer Ray Tsao talks making music in a small Elder dorm

Liz Han, Reporter

LIZ HAN: Howdy everyone. From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Liz Han. You’re listening to Sound Source, a podcast about artists on campus. Today’s episode features Weinberg freshman music producer Ray Tsao.

RAY TSAO: Yeah, I’m Ray Tsao. I make hip-hop music and I also produce for other people, for R&B and for EDM music.

LIZ HAN: In his freshman year of high school, Ray started producing to make his friends laugh, by making off-beat songs with joke lyrics. He still carries that lighthearted spirit five years later.

RAY TSAO: I try to put my own, most honest form out in my music. I think it’s just who I am. It’s sort of funny, sort of braggy and sort of sincere at the same time. I don’t take myself too seriously in my music.

LIZ HAN: After the first few songs he made, Ray stuck with it and learned more about digital music production and audio engineering.

RAY TSAO: Back when I was in Shanghai, I had people sponsor me to create a studio of my own, so I actually got to personalize my studio for my own tastes and what I like to do, so it’s chock full of instruments. You got guitars, basses, pianos, whatever — you name it. When I came to college I had to depend more on sampling stuff that I’ve already made in the past or songs I recorded for other people, and I feel like being cornered into a little box like that has helped me to adapt to different situations.

LIZ HAN: Even though he faces some limitations to making music at Northwestern, Ray stays motivated by thinking of his biggest influence, Kanye West.

RAY TSAO: He’s able to combine so many different genres together and utilize the human vocal as a synthesizer in a way that no one has ever done before. I like following in his footsteps in a way, and he constantly inspires me on a daily basis. It’s fun grabbing different ideas and putting them all together, and it’s just impulsive moments that make me go for it. And then once I go for it, I don’t want to stop until I finish the project itself, so it’s a passion for me that I don’t want to stop.

LIZ HAN: Ray even plans on declaring a minor in sound design. He wants to pursue music production as a career.

RAY TSAO: In terms of what I want to do in the future, I think that I want to go into the entertainment industry either as someone who creates a startup in it or someone who consults for artists. And I feel like by knowing the nitty gritty details of what it’s like — what you do producing music — that’s going to help a lot.

LIZ HAN: After transitioning from his private studio in Shanghai to his room in Elder, Ray has some advice for aspiring music producers.

RAY TSAO: Don’t let your facilities limit you. You can do tons of stuff with what you have right now, even if you’re in a little room with maybe just a small MIDI keyboard and you have GarageBand or something, rather than a fancy audio workstation. You could still make good music on it as long as you have the determination to overcome all the difficulties.

RAY TSAO: Follow me on Spotify and Instagram. My Spotify is @raytsao. Instagram, @theofficialraypage. Sick.

LIZ HAN: This episode was reported and produced by me, Liz Han. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Kalen Luciano, the digital managing editor is Heena Srivastava and the editor in chief is Troy Closson. Thanks for tuning in.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @lizziexhan

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