How do you carve out a successful career in music? For Chester Krupa, a 25-year-old songwriter/producer whose work has been streamed more than a billion times on various platforms, the path to success required flexibility and ingenuity. As soon as he began making beats in his first year of University, he began sending them out to potential collaborators. “I was reaching out to people [cold calling], hustling, and trying to start relationships,” he recalls.
This penchant for seeking out and wholeheartedly embracing opportunity eventually led to him collaborating with grandson, the critically acclaimed and commercially successful activist rap/rock/dance singer-songwriter. That partnership opened once unimaginable doors: working with an icon like Travis Barker; producing the song “Rain,” featured in Suicide Squad 2; getting his work into the Fast and Furious movie, Netflix’s original Riverdale, and in corporate placements for Marvel, Mercedes Benz, UFC, Taco Bell, Microsoft, and Air Canada; winning the $10,000 SOCAN Songwriting Prize in 2019; and more.
Early on, unsure about what career path he wanted to pursue after finishing high school, Krupa enrolled in a General Media Arts program at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). He would regularly have to record people and mix audio tracks for class assignments, which sparked his interest in audio engineering – and by extension, music production. He started routinely producing beats outside of class and sending them out to local artists and YouTubers. Within a few months, he was making music for one of the most popular YouTubers in the world, Casey Neistat.
“It was crazy,” says Krupa. “I’ve always been a huge fan of his stuff, and this was right when he was about to do his daily vlogs. I found his e-mail [address] on his website and offered to make him beats. He said yes, and asked me to send him some stuff. I started sending 10, 15 songs a week to him, and he would use them in every one of his videos.”
Meanwhile, Krupa was connecting with local Toronto artists and collaborating with them. His big break came when a local singer-songwriter he was working with, Blaise Moore, was signed by Interscope. “I was trying to leverage that while reaching out to people,” says Krupa, “which was how I met my manager.”
“I jump around a lot. I don’t like [staying] with one thing”
His new manager, Prim8 Music, also represented grandson, and brought the pair together. “He told me they had one song that they couldn’t quite figure out the production for, and asked if I wanted to take a stab at it,” Krupa explains. The song that he helped out on was “Blood // Water,” Grandson’s second-highest charting song to date; For his work on the track, Krupa was a co-winner of the aforementioned 2019 SOCAN Songwriting Prize, alongside grandson and his longtime producer Kevin Hissink. Since then, Krupa has regularly worked with the rock/rap singer, most recently on his 2022 JUNO-nominated album Death of an Optimist.
Most of Krupa’s work is done remotely, sending stems back and forth with Hissink, and sharing ideas via e-mails and voice messages. He feels he’s grown significantly as a producer while working with grandson. “I wasn’t ever producing rock music until I started working with him,” he says. “It was diving in head-first and figuring it all out… People were bringing so many genres into his project – rock, hip-hop, electronic – and trying to meld it together. It’s been a cool process to experiment; throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.”
While working with grandson, Krupa has done production on tracks featuring stars like Jessie Reyez, Ke$ha, and one of his favorite artists growing up, Travis Barker. “I grew up listening to Blink 182, and getting stems for Travis Barker drums is a crazy experience,” he says. “I’ve gotten to work with a lot of cool people on a record, [with] so many new perspectives, and learning new tricks.”
The remainder of 2022 will have lots in store: more grandson work is coming out, as well as projects with high-profile artists like Quavo, Jason Derulo, and Swae Lee. Meanwhile, he’s also been working tirelessly on an upcoming solo project.
Recently Krupa has found himself experimenting with pop and dance production, while also making songs specifically for TV shows and commercials. For him, taking risks is still the most important thing. “I jump around a lot,” he says. “I don’t like [staying] with one thing. Constantly doing different genres keeps your production skills fresh.”