Growing up in the Bay Area, Tim Atlas had two passions—music and photography. Eventually music won out and, now based in Los Angeles, the producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist recently signed to Nettwerk Records, which will release his new EP in June.
Atlas kept his options open through college, pursuing both potential career paths while shooting sports and weddings and working at a mall photo studio. Music’s pull was too great, however, and before long, he was writing and producing for other artists while working toward becoming an artist in his own right.
Working at the intersection of bedroom pop, neo soul and dreamy R&B, Atlas has released two EPs, 2018’s All Talk! and 2019’s Together Lonely, and a string of singles, often leveraging his visual skills to make the accompanying videos. His songs have racked up tens of millions of streams.
On the phone from his L.A. studio space, Atlas brought PSN up to date with his career so far, including that time he was a contestant on The Voice.
On juggling music and photography:
I didn’t want to lose my love for music in the midst of learning the technical aspects of photography at college, so it was a balance between the two. I took two classes—a music tech class and a basic photography class. I ended up failing the music tech class. It’s hilarious, because everything they taught in that class I now use every day.
After I graduated college, I was fortunate to get a photography job, but I found myself in a state of depression; I didn’t have any time for music. When you get home, as much as you want to make music, you kinda just want to make dinner and go to sleep. Eventually I decided that I needed to do music to be happy. I ended up losing that job and there was a serendipitous moment; I had two different artists approach me to produce for them.
On jumping into music fulltime:
I was doing songs for $100 to pay the rent. That evolved and I started doing less producing for local artists, and more writing and production for myself. No Vacation was one of the first artists to approach me. I had an iMac, Ableton, a [Focusrite] Scarlett 2i2, a MIDI keyboard and a guitar. We used a lot of the stock drums. And it’s one of the most-streamed projects I’ve ever worked on. Fast forward and I’m a fulltime musician. I love to write and produce for other people; my artist project is what keeps me afloat and helps pay the bills.
On The Voice experience:
I had some takeaways. You don’t get to perform in front of celebrities every day. To be in a room with Pharrell and Rihanna and being coached to be an entertainer as opposed to a studio rat was really valuable. All my life, I’ve been the guitarist or the drummer in bands, and never really owned that centerstage spotlight, so it helped me grow into that role. At the end of the day, I became a better singer.
On writing and producing:
My studio is in a building with a bunch of rehearsal studios. Most of the bands practice at nighttime, so I’m here during the daytime, making songs. I’m just trying to learn more every day. I use a lot of Universal Audio stuff and I’ve added Splice to my arsenal recently; that’s been useful for building ideas. You can do a lot with so little. Getting a new synth or a new guitar is so inspiring, especially when you’re taking on a new project.
At this point, I’m trying to find a balance between writing songs so that they stand alone as good songs and then diving into production, as opposed to writing and producing at the same time. I think there’s beauty in both.
On future release plans:
The dream is to come out with a full-length at some point. As an artist, you want to create a world for your listeners and have them immerse themselves. Right now, we’re in the middle of an EP campaign—but I’m always writing.
Tim Atlas • www.timatlasmusic.com