Canadian progressive house duo, Project 46 [Ryan Henderson and Thomas Shaw] are riding high right now with their current single, “Motionless” and collaboration on Kaskade’s new album, “Last Chance” making the rounds on the charts.
The band has built a strong following by giving away most of their music for free mostly through what they refer to as Friday Pancake day, which now includes a weekly free radio show.
Currently, Project 46 is out on Morgan Page’s Morgan Page Presents Tour 2013 along with Walden.
The tour is the first EDM tour to tour in 3D.
The 3D interactive experience featured on the tour was originally created for Michael Jackson’s This Is It Tour and features an array of light and color.
Yesterday, the tour joined with a number of other electronic artists to present the Forever Festival at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights, which was headlined by Calvin Harris.
The day before Project 46 was in Atlanta playing the TomorrowWorld festival, which is where I caught up with the duo as they arrived at their hotel.
Q: How are you guys today?
Thomas: We just got coffee.
Q: That’s a good thing I take it?
Thomas: Oh yeah!
Q: And where are you tonight?
Ryan: We just got to TomorrowWorld. We got to Atlanta like twenty minutes ago. We just got into our hotel room.
Thomas: And grabbed some food.
Thomas: And we’re getting the lay of the land.
Q: What time do you play?
Thomas: Is it 10:30? I thought it was 8:30.
Ryan: Pretty sure it’s 10:30.
Q: Either way you’ve got awhile to wait.
Q: You are out in Michigan tomorrow at Freedom Hill. That is another all day deal right?
Ryan: Yeah it should be fun. I forgot what it’s called. Electric something or other. I forget.
Thomas: Electronic Music Festival.
Ryan: It’s not called that is it?
Thomas: No, I don’t know!
Ryan: I can look it up if you want.
Q: I’m pretty sure it’s Forever Festival.
Ryan: Okay. Anyways, we’re playing one of the stages. Actually we’re headlining the second stage. Not the main one; we’re not there yet!
Thomas: We didn’t make the cut!
Q: With a show like this isn’t it better to be out in the open than in the amphitheater with all the seats?
Thomas: I’ll take the amphitheater!
Ryan: No, we’re just happy to play it. Anytime we can go out there and play our music is pretty awesome. You probably think that’s a horrible answer but we spent the last year not playing any festivals so I’m not going to complain about slot times.
Q: How is your current tour with Morgan Page and Walden going?
Thomas: Really well actually.
Ryan: Yeah it’s awesome.
Thomas: It’s really fun but I’ve never slept so much in my entire life. It’s ridiculous. It’s go to bed and wake up twelve hours later in a whole new city.
Q: Are you enjoying the big production values?
Thomas: Yeah it’s nice to know that you’re consistently going to have a proper set every night. The crew’s really good too; a lot of good guys.
Ryan: Yeah everybody gets along. There’s twelve guys on the bus and we all get along well. You always worry about that with so many people. The first day was rough because we had no food on the bus so we went to the grocery store and stocked up and so we’re not so cranky now.
Thomas: Now there’s too much sh*t! There’s too much food! [Ryan laughs]
Q: What can people expect from your sets on this tour?
Ryan: Well we play mostly original music that is either released or unreleased.
Thomas: Yeah we are playing some unreleased stuff. Some new tunes.
Ryan: Yeah we’re playing what we think is going to be our next single and we just finished a remix for Krewella and we’re playing that. We finished a remix for Kaskade so we’re playing that. We’re playing a lot of stuff that people haven’t heard before. We play our edits and our mash-ups. We don’t have any song in our set that, if it’s not original, is straight-played. We don’t straight-play anything. Everything we play is an edit or an original production. We try to make our set a little bit different from everybody else.
Q: Helps you stand out on festivals like these.
Ryan: You try to show future music. That’s kind of how you build a fan base. You want people to hear it and say whose track is that and then they find out it’s yours. For example, we play our “Save The World” (Swedish House Mafia) edit and what you hear is is an acapella from the actual vocals over one of our original productions so it’s actually our song underneath. I mean that’s how we do it. If we use a vocal from another song we make it original. That’s kind of how we do things.
Q: Is there a song getting the biggest reaction in your set right now?
Thomas: Probably “Last Chance”.
Ryan: Yeah our track with Kaskade is going really well. People are very familiar with that track. A lot of our older fans like “No One”. That always plays very well. We just released “Motionless” and it’s starting to pick up a little steam. Most of the tracks right now seem to be playing very well.
Q: Can you talk a bit about making the “Motionless” single?
Ryan: Well we did a collaboration with a producer named Soundwell on a track called “Waiting”.
Thomas: Soundwell’s the man.
Ryan: Yeah Soundwell’s really talented and he taught us a few things and we kind of got the inspiration for “Motionless” from Soundwell. We’ve had that track done for quite awhile and we were looking for the right vocal for it and we were debating whether to release an instrumental after going through about a dozen different vocals. Then we got the final one that we actually really liked.
Thomas: Yeah Seri did a really good job.
Ryan: That’s it. I mean the thing is we’ve been sitting around not releasing music not because we don’t have it but because we were waiting for Kaskade to tell us when “Last Chance” was coming out. We never knew so we decided to go ahead and decided to release something and it just happened that when we released “Motionless” it happened to be out a week after the Kaskade track. [laughter] Man, that was what we were trying to avoid! Moving forward you’re going to see an original production from us every two months and hopefully an album next year. We’re not going to let much time go between releases anymore.
Q: What do you have coming up for the rest of this year?
Thomas: Well we’re playing India and Brazil. We’re doing the Morgan Page tour up until then and then after that we’re doing a couple more weekend shows and then we’re going to take two weeks off in December and hit the ski slopes and just relax and hit some studio time and then we’ll be back at in January for touring and stuff. We have to work on our album and we’re going to work on an EP too. We’re just trying to balance between touring and music and playing with my new laptop.
Ryan: We’re amping up the on-the-road producing.
Q: I was just going to ask if you are finding it easier to work on stuff now that you are together most of the time?
Thomas: Yeah you just knock on the hotel room door.
Ryan: Actually it helps having like Morgan and Walden around as well because you can kind of balance an idea off of them. You can kind of be like, hey listen to this!
Thomas: Yeah you’re definitely going to hear some Walden in the guitars. Touring with Morgan Page we’re kind of just all working stuff together right now. It’s really cool. Really good vibes. It’s just a crock pot of music.
Ryan: Big time! I think it’s just cool to learn how other people work. We’re working on a track with Walden now. Not sure if anything will come of it but I think it’s going really well.
Q: You’ve gotten a chance to do a lot of high profile collaborations but is there someone you are dying to work with right now?
Ryan: We’re actually taking a little bit of a different approach for collaborations. We have this big collaboration coming out in January that is already done but we can’t really say who it is with right now. After that we really want to start working with some indie bands and just kind of take a different spin on the whole sound. We kind of want to take our sound to a whole unique direction. Everybody right now is kind of doing the same similar sound and we kind of just want to do something a little outside of the box. You’re going to see us collaborating with some people you might not expect normally.
Thomas: I know like personally I feel really strong about kind of like acoustics. I have a musical background in that sense so we’re going to try to bring out more of like the indie rock side of us.
Ryan: Organic sounding. Is that the right word?
Thomas: I don’t know, just like a jam band. A around the campfire kind of thing but we’ll keep it very danceable and very club-friendly.
Q: Obviously you have a lot of different influences but is there someone you are listening to right now that people would be shocked by?
Ryan: Miley Cyrus. [burst of laughter from Thomas]
Thomas: All day!
Ryan: Hey! I love that track “Wrecking Ball”. I think it’s very well written. I mean I like good vocals right so you know I think it’s a really well written song. I love Capital Cities’ “Safe and Sound”.
Thomas: That Jason Mraz track too.
Ryan: Yeah that Jason Mraz track.
Thomas: Jason Mraz is the bomb!
Ryan: Yeah I mean we’re not like musical snobs in the sense that. oh that’s commercial we don’t like it! We like all kinds of music.
Thomas: Beethoven. Mozart.
Ryan: Yeah, anything. So when I tell people that I like the Miley Cyrus track they’re like what the hell are you talking about but I actually do. I think it’s a good, awesome track.
Thomas: Ryan gets his twerk on!
Ryan: Yeah I get my twerk on I guess.
Q: When you are doing a show what is your biggest goal while out on stage?
Thomas: Just getting everybody on the same page as we are with the music. Just get people to have a good time and be on the same level musically and just kind of convey like, well we try to put a lot of emotions into our tracks and we kind of just want the crowds to do that too, you know?
Ryan: Yeah I think our sets do connect with the crowd pretty well. The cool thing about playing with Morgan is that we’re playing for a lot of people who wouldn’t normally come to see us. It’s nice to play for new people and make new fans because up till now we’ve been playing all these headlining shows where it’s just our fans coming out. We normally don’t get to reach that new type of crowd. I mean we played in Milwaukee and Kansas City and Scottsdale; places we wouldn’t normally play so to be able to do that is pretty cool.
Q: Ryan, you have a stake in a club in Canada [Club Beta in Waterloo], do you find that experience helps now as you navigate setting up your own shows and traveling to these new places and venues?
Ryan: Well I’m more of a promoter at the club. I do a lot of the talent buying rather than own the club and the thing is I was very engaged in that up until about a year and a half ago and then just got really busy on the Project 46 side but I do think that helps. I mean it lets me stay active on both ends and understand both sides of the business but sometimes it’s a little bit of a distraction too. Like while on tour I had to take care of a show that was happening. I spent a whole day just working on the show in Waterloo and not focusing on the music stuff that Thomas was focusing on but my experience has also helped us get where we are so it has helped.
Q: You have formed a strong fan base through your social media interaction but what do you feel has been your strongest asset to get your music out there?
Thomas: Just people hearing the music. Our goal has been to get our music out to as many people as possible and I mean giving our music out for free was a no-brainer. We’re not naive to the fact that people are going to download music so we thought what better way than to just give it out for free so everyone has the proper high quality version. That way there’s no restrictions if you can’t afford to buy the song then you should still be able to listen to our music because that’s why we do this. I think people like that. It’s so much more shareable and accessible.
Q: There are many artists who wouldn’t feel that way.
Ryan: I don’t think the artists really do but I think they are working with labels who feel that way. I think very few artists get really upset about music being downloaded for free but I think at the end of the day it’s just that the labels are like they need to make their money too. One of the things with our success too is that obviously with social media we are very active with our fans and we talk to them and the one thing that I heard someone say like a year ago was that it doesn’t matter whether you have one fan or ten fans or ten thousand or a hundred thousand or a million you got to treat them like a little cult or like a little following. You have to be engaging and reach them on a personal level because they have to feel a part of something bigger. That’s what we try to do I think. We try to reach out to everyone. I try to comment on Facebook as much as possible and it’s harder now because there are so many people on there but you know we Tweet as many people back as possible. If someone emails us we email them back. That’s kind of been our method for success: keeping it personal.
Q: Do you see a lot of the same fans coming out to the shows?
Ryan: Well we haven’t had too many return visits in many markets but I mean we’ve played shows like in San Francisco quite a few times and you do see a lot of the same fans come out to the different shows and you see the shows get bigger. I mean when we first played San Francisco it was at a smaller club and then we played another small club again and now we played Ruby Skye and it was packed on a Saturday which is great and then all of a sudden we played it on Thursday which is supposed to be an off day and it was packed too. Now we’re going back in December so I mean you start seeing these cities kind of build and it’s really, really cool.
Q: What’s the biggest goal you have for the band moving forward?
Thomas: I mean we’re just kind of going with the flow right now. We’re in the raft rolling down the river.
Ryan: I hope we consistently grow more next year than this year. I mean that’s kind of the goal but other than that there’s no timeline for we want to do that or this. I mean sitting here with a TomorrowWorld bracelet to play I mean if you had told us that a year ago we would be like no we won’t be playing that kind of festival. I think we’re just going to focus on the music and make sure it’s being well received and hopefully the rest will just take care of itself.
Thomas: The music has gotten us where we are today so we’re just going to keep focusing on that.
Ryan: Yeah we worked really hard to get where we are now so we’re just working on enjoying it too instead of just focusing on what’s next. I’m pretty happy with where we are now. Like the Kaskade collaboration is just unbelievable.
Thomas: We’ve done a good job so far so we’ve got to just keep doing what we’re doing.
Ryan: Let the chips fall where they fall or whatever.
Q: So how are you guys filling up your free time while out on tour?
Ryan: When we’re not on stage we’re usually just working on music or Thomas is golfing.
Ryan: Thomas golfs a lot! I’m just normally working away or at the gym. Pretty basic stuff.
Thomas: Yeah Starbucks, go for a run and play some golf.
Ryan: That’s it. Nothing exciting!
Thomas: Actually, I’m a huge fan of Skittles! [burst of laughter]
Ryan: And sushi.
Thomas: Oh yeah, don’t even get me started on sushi! Well actually just food in general. I eat a lot.
Q: I have to ask: Did you guys do anything for National Pancake Day today?
Ryan: Well I sent a tweet out and pretty much said that today is National Pancake Day but I don’t know what this ruckus is all about because every Friday is a worldwide pancake day. I got a lot of tweets about it. We didn’t do anything.
Thomas: Well actually we’re playing TomorrowWorld for Pancake Day.
Ryan: Yeah, so there you go.
Q: Well I think that wraps this up. Do you have anything you want to add for the fans?
Thomas: Happy pancake day!
Ryan: Obviously thanks for all the support. We’ll just keep on working hard on music for them and hopefully they’ll like it.