Music In the DNA
Welcome to the first installment of Roland Cloud's Artist Spotlight series, an episodic journey that will showcase inspiring artists from across the musical spectrum—from masters of their craft to up and comers. We're pleased to bring you one of our favorite contemporary artists: Sherry St. Germain. She's a stellar producer, captivating musician and performer, master-class educator, and one-half of the powerhouse duo AKYLLA.
You may know her from her work with EDM sensation AKYLLA, her collaboration with legend Steve Aoki, work with Snails and NGHTMRE, her master-classes for popular DAW software, or her 15+ years of musical work in television and movies. We recently caught up with St. Germain to take a deeper look at her primary motivators: combining learning, music, and ultimately sharing both.
First, a bit of DNA analysis. St. Germain comes from a family with strong ties to both music and education. Her mother was a teacher and her father played music six nights a week. He also had a television show that aired every Sunday for 14 years in Canada and holds a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame. "My brother and I would be sitting on the knees of our uncle, who'd be showing us a jazz lick on guitar at 7 years old," St. Germain laughs. "We grew up in the scene that I find myself in now, pretty much."
As a result of her childhood environment, a common and consistent thread in St. Germain's career has been recognizing the interplay between music, learning, and education. She discovered the electronic music scene when she was 18 and was consumed by soaking in as much as she could.
"Back when the rave scene was still underground, I would go to raves and use what my mom taught me," she recalls. "She taught me to listen to a song and understand numerically what was happening. I could listen to a song and go 'that's A 1 to A minor 6 to A flat 3 to A 4.' I'd go to these raves and I would find napkins at the raves and write down the changes that I could hear in the music."
This passion continued to focus St. Germain. "I would obsess over the changes in the music," she explains. "They would do something to me, so I'd be writing down theory notes like a crazy person on whatever I could find. Then I would go back home and try to figure them out."
Back when the rave scene was still underground, I would go to raves and use what my mom taught me: she taught me to listen to a song and understand numerically what was happening.
Now that she's carved a name for herself on the modern stage, St. Germain has some interesting observations around sharing her insights and knowledge. "I'm all about sharing secrets, you know what I mean?" she explains. "A lot of the time production people hold their secrets dearly to them. And I get it sometimes because that's like 'your sound,' but at the same time, no one can replicate what you do. They can try. You can give them the secrets, But people are still going to know that person ripped off another person's sound.
To St. Germain, there is no price on such information. "I am all about giving away information for free, for the soul growth and the brain growth of like-minded individuals. I feel like when I trade secrets, I get it back."
I am all about giving away information for free, for the soul growth and the brain growth of like-minded individuals. I feel like when I trade secrets, I get it back
"I learn so much when I teach" she adds, emphatically. "It goes hand-in-hand, learning and teaching. And it's in me because my mom is a teacher, it's in my DNA. When AKYLLA isn't touring, I'm going to be going to schools, doing masterclasses, working with kids, trying to develop their confidence and teach them through electronic music, the music they want to learn."
Fast-forward a few years to St. Germain's latest musical endeavor with partner Sara Saratonin: the powerhouse duo AKYLLA. St. Germain informs us that AKYLLA started initially as a teaching exchange, when fate stepped in.
"Sara was walking out of the studio and I was walking in," she recalls. "We looked at each other and kind of tilted our heads and went 'huh,' almost like we felt we knew each other."
Check out AKYLLA on SoundCloud.
Photos Courtesy of the Artist