“I try to tell a story with the sounds and musical elements I choose. But like, a story with lots of colorful emotion and enough weird stuff to keep you interested. I always say I make ‘adventure pop’. It’s rhythmic and beat driven pop that sounds a little bit like the beach, a little bit like the jungle and a little bit like a video game.”
Wether he’s producing/cowriting a track with another artist, composing for video, or creating his own music, t.Hartz brings high-energy creativity into any project he works on. His unique approach to music stems from an abstract introduction into music.
“Music has always been really for me. When I was about 8 I had an artist named Bart Webster sort of take me under his wing. He invented this crazy technique of airbrushing and pencil drawing that trained me to break things down into basic shapes and colors. It gave me a language that seemed translatable into music. Soon all I wanted to do was find a way to arrange musical shapes and colors into new things. I started using my family’s Singalodeon karaoke machine to record songs overdubbing simple guitar lines I played on my dad’s guitar and hitting anything I could find for percussion. It had a double cassette deck so I could overdub as many sounds as I wanted back and forth between the two tapes. It’s kind of ridiculous because even though this is what I do for a living I feel like I’m still doing a different version of that. I still talk about music shapes way too much.”
- Hartz music starts from the beat up, which has become signature to his up-beat production.
“I like to start with a beat. I’ve been recording and making my own samples for years so I usually just pick a few interesting sounds and build out from there. I often don’t even end up using that original beat, but it’s an easy way for me to quickly create a vibe to build on. I used to look for inspiration but I realized its more fun, and way more productive, to just jump in and see where you go.“
Like most musicians, music is part of t. Hartz’s identity. But music has also provided a way for him to help others express their identity. He works with many artists in his local LGBTQ community .
“I produced Sonnei’s debut. Sonnei was known in Salt Lake for performing drag as ‘Cartel’ but this album was Sonnei stepping away from that while still being unapologetically non-binary. That led to me producing for a rapper named ‘London Skies’ who happens to identify as trans. They opened my eyes to a lot of issues and questions facing artists who are not simply gay. And as I mentioned before, I’m producing an album for an artist named Justin Utley. The first single ‘Survivors’, is being used by Equality Utah to raise awareness of the dangers of conversion therapy, of which he is a survivor.
As someone who spent years trying to express myself while hiding parts of myself, I’m glad I’ve been able to help these artists display who they truly are. And in the process I’ve certainly become even more comfortable with who I am as an artist.”
One large part of t. Hartz’s contribution to the Darwin library is “GUSTO”.
“GUSTO is a duo that Stephanie Mabey and I formed about 6 years ago. Funny enough, she and I first met years earlier when we both worked at a foundry that made bronze sculptures. I immediately recognized what a genius songwriter she was and I think she was really into the energy and inventiveness of the music I made… or maybe just the fact that, at that time, I used a Playstation to make beats.
We’ve made a lot of music together and the process is always different. For the Darwin library albums, I usually create a track sketch, sometimes with a verse or hook, and send it to her and if it sparks something she’ll add some melody or lyrics. Then we just play music ping pong until it’s just right.
We called our partnership GUSTO because we want the music we make to give people permission to go all in, full of gusto. I feel like the two of us always end up making special things together. And even though life inevitably takes us in different directions, GUSTO is open ended and we’ll be making music together for a long time.”