“I try not to think,” xSDTRK says of songwriting. But the Montreal songwriter-producer-artist, whose credits include Jennifer Lopez, Jessie J, Karl Wolf, Ricky J and Jessie Labelle, puts a lot of thought into making progress.
“A few years ago, I stopped producing to song-write, to understand the concept of the song and really sit in the songwriter’s chair,” he says, “and then I slowly found myself [going] into producing again.”
“If I sit down to do something that doesn’t push forward then I may as well not do it.”
His production and writing credits continue to grow – including recent tracks for Jennifer Lopez – but he’s also just dropped his own EP, Canvas. He sings on a few of the songs. One cut, “PowDer,” a sultry atmospheric track featuring Thes on vocals, came out last June.
xSDTRK – whose given name is Yonatan Ayal – is not expecting radio play or an Anglophone Song of the Year Award like the one he received at the Francophone edition of the 2011 SOCAN Awards for Ricky J’s “Whatta Night.”
“It’s not so song-based. It’s more production-heavy,” he says of his own material. “It’s kind of free-form. It comes back to the same thing of not thinking about it too much. Me locked in my basement, just trying to create a linear immersive experience. Some people will define it as trippy; I think it’s just audio cinema.”
Ayal’s parents gave him until he was 25 to make a go of a music career. He made it. He’s 25. He had studied piano with the Royal Conservatory since the age of three, and could get around playing most instruments. Then in his teens he started making beats “by necessity,” for some high school friends who were rapping.
“I picked up the DAW [digital audio workstation] and just started going at it,” he says. “It slowly evolved into what it is today.” Using Abelton and ProTools, Ayal focuses on making quirky beats that push boundaries, “because if I sit down to do something that doesn’t push forward then I may as well not do it,” he says.
His work on Karl Wolf’s “Yala Habibi” was the song that opened doors. “That really introduced me to the Canadian industry and then I moved on to the United States a few years later,” he says. A major leg up was an invitation from Leon “Roccstar” Youngblood to participate in his songwriting camp for JLo, which yielded “Acting Like That” (feat. Iggy Azalea) and “So Good,” on her recent A.K.A. album.
“I don’t believe in luck,” Ayal says. “I just calculate what it takes to get to a certain point. The only thing I can control is my education and making sure that I keep getting better.”
- Earned 2011 JUNO Award nomination for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year, for his co-write with Karl Wolf, “Nightlife”
- xSDTRK co-writes, Karl Wolf’s “Yalla Habibi” and Ricky J’s “Whatta Night,” were both certified gold
- xSDTRK’s website says he has “dreams of creating a symphony of noise that evokes influences such as Björk and dizzying tribal 808s.”
Publisher: BMG Rights Management Canada, Primary Wave
Selected Discography: “Boss Bitch,” Yung Berg (2009); “Numb,” Karl Wolf (2010); “Illusions,” Millimillz feat. Avery Storm (2012); “Le Poise,” Luu Breeze (2013)
SOCAN member since 2010