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Sharrol Kelby Takes Us To Driving School On New EP

Alec, Congratulations on the release of the Driving School EP! How much time did it take for you to complete the EP and what did you learn along the way?

Thank you! It took about a year to complete this so the fact that it’s finally happening is a phenomenal feeling, especially considering releasing an EP on the Dojo label has been a goal of mine since I started producing 4 years ago.

I learned SO much. Since each tune on the EP is a different genre of bass music, I had to learn different writing, sound design and mix techniques for each one of them while retaining a signature style to make sure that they flowed together. One major piece was to make sure my studio template was exactly the way I wanted it so I could spend more time putting down ideas and less time re-organizing and loading up tracks. Making sure I had the sounds I wanted loaded into my 128s (specifically my drums) were a huge help as well.

What were the most groundbreaking concepts that you learned while making your EP? 

One of the biggest challenges was getting “So Far Away” right. This is for a couple of reasons; One, it was the first time I’ve ever included original vocals and two, it’s the first drum & bass tune I’ve ever completed. 

Approaching the vocals was challenging but I had a ton of fun with it. The vocalist (LITTLE LiON) recorded a few sessions of herself singing over the instrumental which I ended up chopping up and rearranging throughout the song. She is also a producer, so she was able to do some processing on her vocals and send me over the recordings plus the processing that was tweaked to fit into the song. It took some time playing with both the arrangement of the vocals and the processing, but the approach I enjoy taking (that typically works) is just experimenting with different ideas and if I hear something that works, I roll with it and move to the next section. Rinse and repeat until I have a draft of what I want the arrangement to be, then further arrange that to make the best fit. For instance, I put together several sections of her vocal recordings that may have been combined from different sections of the original recording, then tried to figure out what the chorus or hook was going to be and further finalized that.

Making sure this song was mixed properly as a melodic DnB roller tune was probably the most challenging part, especially considering that Dylan has been working on a lot of awesome DnB lately, so he wanted to make sure this song was up to par with the competition. The timing of him being in a DnB phase couldn’t be any more perfect though, I learned many mix and processing concepts that are necessary to keep the rolling feeling of a DnB tune and to make sure that the drums do not suck, including “3D Mixing” which is a Weekly Download that everyone should watch. Every diehard DnB fan knows that drums are the most important piece, or else your tune will be a target for criticism. 

What are some of your favorite approaches for quickly getting a great idea down in the DAW? 

I love to create when I wake up early in the morning so my brain is fresh and don’t have any distractions. Having a prepared/organized project template with some drum racks/128s helps me get going right away as well. Having a prepared studio template is something I wish I did when I first started producing, but better late than never! I can also never write music that actually ends up sounding good if I’m under the influence of anything, so having my mind right is number one for me.

How do you approach Collabs? Do you have any best practices to share?

I always try to work with the person I’m collaborating with to integrate our sounds and organically come up with ideas for the whole piece together. I prefer true collaboration versus when “Artist A” does a drop of a song and “Artist B” does another, it’s just not as fun or interesting for me personally.

Another recommended approach is to share music that influences and inspires you with the other artist so they can get an idea of what you’re thinking (and vice versa).

Sharrol Kelby

Tell us about your new Product available in the Producer DJ marketplace.

For the first time, I’ve made a pack of extremely useful racks available to the public, most of which I use in every single project. Naturally, I named it the “Sharrol Kelby Tuning Kit Vol. 1.” It includes 5 effect racks that I use on my return tracks, 3 other simple-but-effective effect racks for several uses, and 2 synth racks that consist of a bass patch and also a melodic patch. 

To dive a little deeper — the bass patch gives you that over-saturated, destroyed sound that you hear a lot of artists such as EPROM, G Jones, Zeke Beats, etc. use in their tracks. The beauty of this actual patch is you’ll be able to see for yourself how simple sound design can be and how you can get awesome sounds by just not giving a damn, which is something I wish I knew when I was first learning. The melodic patch is something unique I came up with from experimenting with several effects and VSTs. At the core of it is just a simple operator patch, but by toggling the effects on the chain, you’re able to get an infinite amount of unique results, displaying how big of a difference playing with processing can make  in sound design.

Also included in the PDJ marketplace is my new line of “Driving School” merch. The “Driving School” line is of course a reflection of the EP and includes men’s/unisex & women’s tees as well as crewnecks in several colors.

Who are you listening to for inspiration these days?

This is a tough one considering I listen to new music every day. Absolutely no doubt that Kursa is my number one source for inspiration right now, the man just keeps things fresh with constant releases that have so many different styles. It really helps open my mind up to what I could be doing creatively with sound design and songwriting.

Other notable artists are Deadcrow, Camo & Krooked, Of The Trees, and Zeke Beats for electronic music. I’ve been finding inspiration from progressive rock, jazz fusion, and old school hip hop my entire life but nothing seriously new at the moment. I suppose if I were to pick one rock band that’s been inspiring me lately, it would be Tool.

What are your top 5 favorite VST’s at the moment?

Thermal (Output), Portal (Output), UAD Moog Filter, Fabfilter Pro L2, and Soothe 2. Soothe 2 is a must have and the Output stuff is just so damn good, I get so many great sounds out of them and the workflow is really nice as well.

What can we expect from you in 2022?

Look out for a collaboration EP with my good friend Bemah and also many bookings. Already locked in my first festival which will be announced very soon, so follow me on social media if you’re interested in seeing a live set!

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us? 

Check out the “Driving School” merch line that’s out now for your fashionable needs and be sure to catch the master iLL.Gates dropping some of those tunes on his tour! 2022 is going to be a great year for this project.

More importantly, big ups to the entire Producer Dojo team for helping me learn so much over these past 3 years. Dylan (iLL.Gates), Sean (Spiderhound), Dustin (Hexis), Jack (Moonsplatta), Chris (Cryptochronica), Evan (RIP Kenny), and Nikola (Tesko) have been AMAZING mentors and I seriously could not imagine getting to this point without them. Much love to the whole crew and I apologize if I missed anyone but everyone’s guidance and knowledge has been invaluable.

Shout out to Jeremy at Wildgoose Audio and Saif at Fixed Mastering for helping get these tracks sounding right!

Last but certainly not least, shout out to my wife Ellie for being extremely supportive and an amazing visual artist for this project who ALSO made the cover for the EP! She convinced me to join the Dojo 3 years ago and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my love of music. I’m not sure why I needed to be convinced but I’m glad it happened!

Stream/Download the Sharrol Kelby Driving School EP here

Purchase the Sharrol Kelby Tuning Kit Vol.1 here

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