“Everybody always looks at me weird, like ‘Why is he making music’ or ‘He should be studying’,” Thomas Martin said when he explained how often he is found making music—that which includes on his laptop during his chemistry class. Residing in Detroit, Michigan, Martin engineers music: an interest that stemmed at the young age of 6. Because his father was a DJ, he was actively surrounded by music growing up, a passion which naturally carried over into Martin’s life.
How long have you been making beats for?
For 2 years.
Who taught you? Where did you learn? Why did you want to start?
My dad began teaching me when I was 6 years old. He used to DJ. He has a beat pad at home, and everything else you could want at a studio. I used to sit there and just watch him all day. When I turned 10 years old, I actually wanted to start making beats but he would never let me until I became more mature. So then, when I was about 16 years old, he downloaded this program called Logic Pro X on my laptop and he showed me how to start making beats, how to add music to SoundCloud; stuff like that. That’s when I started taking things serious. At first, most of my beats weren’t getting views or anything. I was about to quit like 3 weeks ago, until my friend told me I should make a beat tape, and ever since I released that beat tape, I’ve actually been getting a lot more views. In the last 5 days, I’ve received about 1,000 views and people have been supporting me. Also, I used to make beats for my friends, 2 of which go to school here. We went to high school together and we have our own SoundCloud music page called BlankMusicGroup.
You formed that together? Was it just this year?
Last year, actually.
What was it like learning how to make beats? What was the easiest, and most difficult, and when did you finally start getting better at it?
The most I learned was from my dad when he kept trying to teach me over and over, but he didn’t know how to do it correctly either. So he and I would sit down together and watch YouTube videos together, taking hours every day to try and learn something new: how to add auto tune, how to add vocals, how to add more bass; things like that,
How often do you make beats?
Usually every day. I try to, anyway.
What does your creative process look like? The beats of yours that I’ve heard are really clean, and sound systematic; very organized. When you’re making beats, do you already have in mind what you want them to sound like?
Not at all. I go with the flow. When I make beats, I start out with the regular drums, snares, and all that. Then I usually loop it all the way through and start cutting it, depending on the chords of the piano or the samples I choose to throw in. It just depends.
Who are some of your most prominent musical influences?
Metro Boomin’. I also want to make R&B type beats because I want to be different, and not be limited to Detroit beats or trap music. I want to do everything. That’s what my beat tape consists of. There’s a variety of sounds.
Your major is mechanical engineering. As far as music, what do you want to do with it? Do you do it more for a hobby or would you like to do it for a living?
Right now I’m doing it for a hobby, but I’m thinking about doing a minor in music in the summer. It depends on how well I do in my other classes that I’m taking in the summer.
How do you feel about being able to have access to making music nearly all the time? You told me you sit in your chemistry class making beats.
I actually wouldn’t know what I would do without music, because I usually get bored sitting in my dorm room. And anyway, for some reason I already know all the chemistry material in my class, so I can’t go without bringing my laptop with me to make music. I just feel weird without it, but everybody looks at me like I’m weird.
How do you feel about being in a desolate Mount Pleasant, making music?
I’m just trying to get everyone from CMU (Central Michigan University) hip hop to listen. I had their twitter page to shout me out and everything. At home in Detroit, I also try to get my music out there. I make music with a group called ABX sounds. I try to get my music out to them, and get feedback from them. I’ll ask them if my beats sound good and clear.
What does making music mean to you? How impactful has it been to your life?
I really don’t know what I would be doing without it. It is my life, actually.