In Conversation With Tim Atlas

Catching his breath after two busy weeks in London, Tim Atlas chats to Noctis before heading back to New York for the release of his new album ‘Enchanté.’ The Brooklyn-based multi-hyphenate singer/songwriter created off his cross-country move after feeling a new sense of freedom and inspiration.

“Now, I’m just reliving those moments, 10/10,” he gushes, talking about his recent Dot To Dot Festival performance. “It was great! A little chaotic, as most festivals are. It was really beautiful to see Bristol and Nottingham for the first time. Everyone was so receptive and welcoming. It’s still a strange and humbling feeling to go to a different country and see people sing along to your songs,” he adds.

Known for unearthing the best new talent, Dot To Dot’s previous line-ups include names like Ed Sheeran, Florence and The Machine, and Lewis Capaldi. Tim Atlas compares the festival to the iconic SXSW: “It was a similar format to what I’ve seen at SXSW as far as music venues and popups spread across the city, but it felt very different as far as the types of bands performing and the places they chose to have shows. Like, Thekla in Bristol is a SICK venue inside a German cargo ship. You just never see anything like that in the US. Really cool.”

About three years ago, Tim Atlas consciously decided to change his environment and embark on a cross-country move from LA to New York. The city jump-started Atlas’ fresh approach to music and songwriting that laid the foundations for his new album, ‘Enchanté,’ he explains: “It really excited me. I was renting a recording studio in Brooklyn for a few hours a week, and this place had every instrument ready for me to play and record. So, I felt like a kid in a candy store with this sense of freedom to make whatever I wanted. I think I held onto that feeling throughout the making of this record”.

The album title arose as a symbolic canvas for unfolding the rest of the record: “Enchanté came after I took a trip to Paris to witness one of my childhood friends get married. When I got back to NY, “Enchanté” was fresh on my brain, and it felt like an inspiring canvas to paint on, so I ran with it during my first writing session. I love how full circle this moment is because the friend I saw got married (@andrewagutos) is a very talented artist and designer, and he ended up painting and designing the artwork for this album,’ he shares.

Abiding by the golden rule of artistic direction to narrate personal experiences, Atlas continues to mirror his life, signifying his move to New York with a brand new sound: “This album represented a new chapter in my life, and it was directly affected by my environment. As artists, we’re always trying to tell more of our story, and I think this set of songs just sheds more light on who I am as a person. Some songs may sound different or unlike a lot of things I’ve released, but at the end of the day, it’s just an extension of different sides of myself that people have yet to hear.”

A new perspective shines through ‘Enchanté’ on top of his signature blend of genres. He elaborates, leading with an unfiltered flow of creativity: “There’s also a lot of juxtaposition and switch-ups genre-wise. Sometimes, I lean into the RnB/Soul/Funk realm, and sometimes, I like a little distortion on my guitars. We’re so focused on being digestible and one thing to an audience, but I felt like that hindered the creative. So I think this perspective was just free falling into creativity and doing away with any idea of who I’m expected to be”.

‘Enchanté’ also taps into more inward-looking themes as a real-time response to his surroundings: “Lyrically, I tried to be vulnerable and personal in songs like ‘Mom,’ or ‘Lighthouse.’ I was writing about experiences that were happening in real-time, so all of this pushed me to dig a little deeper and find the things that stuck for me”. 

Before the album release, Tim Atlas previewed the end project with a dual EP drop, portraying the polarity of night and day with ‘Le Soir’ and ‘Matinee.’ He details the creative process, which naturally resulted in contrasting themes: “There’s a lot of significance in the meaning behind this, and it’s also very representative of the creative process in place for each EP. Le Soir, we spent many late nights into the early morning just carving out mixes and sound designing. And there’s sort of a delirium associated with that type of grind. Listening back to that EP, it feels nostalgic because it was unlike any creative moment for me. And Matinee is a self-care type EP. It’s the morning after, and you’re nursing yourself back to life. So those songs are a bit easier to relax to. I love the contrast between the two”.

He felt it lacked a cohesive flow, and that is when the decision to split the songs presented itself: “At the time, it took me around two years to finish this. And over the course of those two years, you change as a person, your influences change, and it affects the songs you want to write. So after a while, I had all these songs that felt like they weren’t meshing? When we decided to split it up, it was only then that I saw how cool those differences actually were.”

When talking to different artists, there is always a level of self-confidence necessary to pursue a music career. Atlas recalls this exact moment he decided to go full steam ahead: “I remember this very specific conversation I had with my mom. I said, if I get this degree, will you be OK with me really pursuing music? She said 100%, I support that. But I fell into a full-time job as a product photographer right after college, and not many people get lucky like that. It wasn’t until a few years later, feeling unfulfilled, that I decided to quit and do whatever it took to make music full-time. Then things started to finally fall into place”.

Then he remembers the not-so-glamorous hustle and bustle of being an aspiring musician: “It is scary. Things can go south very quick! But I also knew that I had to be ready for that, and it was a necessary risk I was willing to take. I got my start producing songs for other artists for $100/song, airbnb’ing my room, taking odd jobs, literally just doing everything I could to make ends meet so I can have a career in music”.

The music industry is a place where everyone is out for themselves. Tim Atlas names one of the people who guided him towards his debut in 2018: “It was one of my best friends and artist-producer, Jesse Barrera, who guided me through a lot of those initial woes. He had the business model and the drive, and it took me seeing him pursue it to feel like I could do it, too. So much love and thanks to him.”

For one of the missions for Atlas’ debut project, ‘All Talk,’ he aspired for timelessness and is proud to have achieved it: “It was one of those really special moments that came so naturally & never overthought. We spent a few weeks in San Diego recording it. I knew I wanted to make something I’d like in 10 years, and it’s proving to be true. The record had a lot of different themes, but I think we just wanted to be about it, and not just talk the talk. Came from such a pure place”.

For listeners, there is an invisible line between the admired artist and the human having to show up, perform, and surpass constant pressure. Tim Atlas breaks down the silent obstacle hoping, fans don’t get to see nor understand: “You get a lot of No’s and disapprovals in music, and it’s important to remember why you’re doing it in the first place. I think touring really tests you. Because outside of that 1 hour of performance time on stage, it’s 8-hour drives from city to city, occasional accommodations that are less than ideal, anxiety around ticket sales, and just feeling accepted in general. That just scratches the surface, but then you get on stage, and it all goes away, and it’s very much worth it. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be great, and personally, I have this tendency to think I can do it all. But it truly takes a village, and I’m so thankful to everyone who supports me along the way”.

Grateful and humble, Tim Atlas finishes by sharing a list of proud moments: “Some small moments I’m very proud of currently: I sold out three shows (first time ever) on my last headline tour, I surpassed 1 million listeners on Spotify, then 2 million, and last, I’m proud to have a wonderful support system and team that has been by my side the whole time.”

For now, you are highly encouraged to listen to ‘Enchanté.’ Before he dives back into writing sessions, Tim Atlas plans to take woodworking or Improv classes.

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Words: Karolina Kramplova