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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Tito Ramsey

Seattle-based Tito Ramsey has been making music for over 25 years. His parents, both musicians, encouraged him to play whatever instruments he wanted. Ramsey started with piano, added guitar and vocals by age 12, then drums by 16. “It began with having fun, which I recognize as an important part of my background,” Ramsey says.

Ramsey’s third release, the Hi Lo EP, will drop January 2012 and is currently available on Bandcamp. The album features groovy, electronic tunes that are easy to jam to.

The Spec recently interviewed Ramsey, read below to see what he has to say about TV on the Radio, dance and inspiration…

Who or what are your influences?
My influences are extremely varied. Bach and Chopin were played by my parents and I loved the lyrical melodies. It drew me to the piano. Bill Evans and Miles Davis we listened to and played at home, which drew me to improvisation. I got into the hip-hop that drew from funk and jazz like The Roots, Digable Planets, Jurassic 5. I was drawn to anything rhythmically based. Then groups like Built to Spill, Unwound, Sonic Youth grabbed me with the power of their group sound and live performance. Then the energy of soul artists like Otis Redding, James Brown, and Prince inspired me to make music people can move to. Later I got into groups that blend styles like Radiohead, Jamie Lidell, TV on the Radio.

Can you describe your creative process when making music?
I often start with piano progression and sing nonsensical vowel sounds to get a melodic sense. I’ll often go back and forth between guitar and piano to see what each instrument suggests. Lyrics usually come secondary. When I’m beat sequencing, I will use a particularly good groove to build on. An impulse will grab me on a certain instrument and I’ll go from there. I’ll often dance to what I’m doing. Through fleshing out structures and harmonies and lyrics, the trick is to not lose that initial impulse because that’s where the raw energy is.

Upcoming projects, where do you want to go from here?
The next step is to flesh out the sound with a live band– keys, bass, drums, guitar, and perhaps some horns, freeing me up to sing and dance. And I recently met a fabulous dancer with the zoe|juniper dance company. He’s asked me to compose some music for his upcoming show in New York, which I’m excited about. As I’ve already mentioned, I love movement. And I’m contemplating joining a few groups who have expressed interest in having me play with them. I’m not sure if I’ll have time for that right now, but I think I’d enjoy playing someone else’s stuff for a change.

What inspires your music?
I’m inspired by artists trying new things, pushing creative boundaries, people who can honestly access raw emotions and masterfully perform with them. The natural world. Momentum. Stasis. Cities. The human body. Eco systems. Emotions. Light/Dark.

What musicians or bands do you look up to?
TV on the Radio, Battles, Johnny Greenwood, Jamie Lidell, Beirut, Department of Eagles, Bang on a Can.

Why do you make music?
Music is my gift. I’m lucky that I have been given it. I’ll try to develop it in the most honest and creative way possible. And I’m getting better at sharing it, that’s the tricky part. But when it’s shared and people get it, there’s no other feeling like it.

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