I'm feeling very lucky to be able to chat with Panama, who I've been following since early 2013. Even though he started mostly as a solo artist, he has grown over the years into a highly collaborative artist, especially in the last 12 months. We have seen him work with the likes of KRANE, Ta-Ku, TWO LANES, and many more amazing producers out there.
Panama has quite a distinct style of music that combines emotive songwriting and lush production, and he always brings it to his collaborations quite seamlessly. I hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about him!
Where are you based these days?
I’m based in the Blue Mountains, just outside of Sydney. It’s beautiful and green at the moment with a lot of protected national park. Great for going on a hike or just gazing out.
How was Panama born?
Basically it just started with me writing some music on my own. From there it sort of grew into what it has become now. These days I work a lot more collaboratively with other producers, where back at the start it was more of a solo thing.
What first got you into music?
Ummm - big question! I was really drawn to the piano from a young age (like 7 or so), so that got me really interested in improvisation. I would sit at the piano for hours and just come up with whatever came into my head at the time. Eventually I started writing music on a computer around the age of 18 or so. As for discovering different styles of music - I discovered dance music in the early 2010’s, New Wave e.g Talking Heads around 2005, I could go on but we would be writing a book instead of an interview.
Who are the people who inspire you in music and people you’d love to work with?
I’m extremely lucky to work with people who inspire me everyday. It’s just so easy at the moment where people can reach out to you directly and link up. I think it’s changed the creative landscape immensely. In the last 12 months I’ve worked with so many incredibly talented producers, Ben Bohmer, Poolside, Shallou, Satin Jackets - I could go on!
What’s your creative process like?
It’s a little unique I suppose. I tend to create melodies that don’t have proper english words to start with. From there I’ll develop the raw melody into proper English words. I’ll also use the piano to write chord cycles if they are needed (a more traditionalist approach), and also for a vocal melody that may need to ‘jump’ a bit outside of the normal vocal range.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
I wish the industry would pay songwriters a better portion of the music pie. At the moment unfortunately it just isn’t the case and I really hope that we will see a shift valuing songwriters and their contributions in the future.
How was your first live performance? Where was it?
I think my first ‘live’ performance was at high-school? From memory I think it was a lunchtime concert and I remember thinking ‘yeah, I think I can do this as a career’. At the time my friends thought I was crazy, they were like ‘you’ll never make any money’. But I’m glad I stuck with it!
How do you deal with writer’s block?
It sounds strange to say, but I don’t really get writer’s block. I do burn out though - If I spend too many hours in the studio I can usually tell, because I start second guessing myself about the song. Because of the whole burn out thing I tend to work about 6 hours or so in the studio a day. I know a lot of others that work much longer hours, but for me that’s the most productive window of time when it comes to being creative.
Do you sing in the shower? Which songs?
No - I don’t sing in the shower! But I have a computer ( in my brain) that plays songs to me 24/7. Sometimes it drives me crazy! Especially when it’s time to sleep. Sometimes I catch myself dreaming of a song that I am working on at that time. Yeah it’s hard to switch off!
Do you think your music/creative process has changed ever since the pandemic hit?
Ahhh - not so much my creative process, but my attitude has shifted in regards to the world in general. I think I’ve come to understand the profound need for social connection in a time of crises. Seeing the people come together over the last 14 months has really changed the way I think about relationships, friends and family. I value them more so than ever before.
Who is the first person you’re going to see live once the gigs are allowed again?
To be honest I spend a lot of my time writing music in the isolation of the Blue Mountains. So I don’t see many shows, although if I do it’s usually when I’m performing myself at a festival or something. If I were to go and see something in Sydney, it'd probably be at the Opera House. That place is so iconic!
Some last words of wisdom for the next musical generation?
Believe in yourself.