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  • Dan Caddigan

Life as an Independent Artist in Los Angeles


The music industry is an unforgiving hellscape for artists to have to traverse on their own and, for this reason, I’ve always held immense respect for the plight of those indie songbirds out there pursuing their dreams despite the bevy of obstacles standing in their way. If you’re signed with a label, obviously you get access to their resources (studio time, featuring artists, marketing team, etc.) and their financial backing – benefits that, no doubt, make it a whole hell of a lot easier to dedicate yourself to your music and hopefully gain traction with a broader audience. Unsigned artists, however, are far less fortunate than their signed counterparts and simply must work that much harder to break through. Independent artists, barring some elephantine influx of luck, are forced to grind away in relative solitude, all the while polishing their craft as they continue their trek. The serious indie artists out there who are steadily balancing the yin yang of their everyday lives and their music aren’t doing it for potential fame or fortune, they are doing for the pure love of the game (so to speak). Knowing all of this, I decided I needed to sit down with a few of Los Angeles’ most promising, and astonishingly unsigned, rising stars in hopes of breaking down their individual stories and gaining a better grasp of how they are able to survive the rigors of making music in the media capital of the world.


Caddy LeDouche




Welcome to France!


There is no artist in the Los Angeles music scene shrouded in more mystique than the enigmatic international man of mystery, Caddy LeDouche. If you’re unfamiliar with his work than you clearly aren’t tapped into French Radio because his song Rebound (linked above) has already taken over their airwaves. A multi-instrumentalist, singer, producer, engineer, and key member of LA’s hottest up-and-coming band, Easy Sleeper, many of us in Southern California have Caddy tabbed as the next indie artist to take the leap into superstardom. I’m not going to lie, LeDouche was a hard man to get a hold of given how many projects he has on his plate right now – I mean actively recording solo projects, finishing a new album and touring with Easy Sleeper, completing a residency at Harvard and Stone with the band Brother Swan and producing for a plethora of up and coming artists here in Los Angeles – it’s a miracle I even got an hour of the guy’s time to complete an interview. Alas, I was eventually able to bag my unsigned white whale when Mr. LeDouche and I sat down a few weeks ago to finally get down to the bottom of his story and dissect just how this independent legend came to be.


DC: Mr. LeDouche, thank you for taking the time to sit down and speak with me. I’ve been looking forward to this interview for some time now.

 

CL: *stoically nods in acknowledgement*

 

DC: First off, I know you’ve been able to remain an independent artist – how has being unsigned by a major label affected you pursuing your musical aspirations?


CL: As an indie artist, I have a ton more freedom to make the music I want to make – I don’t have to answer to anyone, I control/retain the rights to all my own music, and I have leverage to wait for the right opportunity to present itself. I feel like being independent has forced me to evolve and become more and more capable as an artist.

 

DC: Say you signed with a label today and you suddenly find yourself with a bigger bankroll, what’s your first move?

 

CL: I’m buying a bunch of [music] gear. I definitely want to use any money coming my way to further outfit myself in order to continue growing as an artist. A serious financial backing would allow me to operate as an artist on a much larger scale.

 

DC: What moves have you made to further your dreams as an artist in the music industry? What hurdles or hardships have you encountered on your journey?

 

CL: Making the move to Los Angeles full time and totally dedicating myself to making music was huge in terms of my growth. People don’t realize how much time, effort, and nights out of fun are sacrificed when making music is your passion and you take it seriously. It’s sad, but I’ve spent countless hours sitting in my studio chair just grinding away on the music I’m truly passionate about. It gets difficult at times, especially when I have such a little following, but all that time and effort spent has given me a refined skillset that I am very proud of. My biggest hurdle to this point has simply been getting my music in front of more people. There is no shortage of unsigned talent putting good music out into the abyss and the internet is constantly saturated with new music every day. Being willing to put yourself out there and be honest with your music is tough to do. For me, making the jump from strictly production to writing and singing lyrics was scary but once I made that jump, I realized it provided me with a new outlet to express myself.

 

DC: What inspires you as an artist? Who were your favorite artists growing up?

 

CL: Honestly, just hearing really great music – it’s like how seeing a really great movie makes you want to make a really great film. I have a deep appreciation for being heard and receiving feedback, especially if its positive; it’s like performing live and getting a good reaction from the crowd. Music allows you to be heard in a way you can’t express otherwise, and I think a lot of artists could relate to that sentiment – there’s no better way for us to express ourselves but through our art. You go through phases with music so fast when you’re a kid, you kind of try a bit of everything until you settle on what you really like. When you’re young and trying to figure out what you like you tend to dip your toes in everything – it’s kind of like eating, you try a little bit of everything. For me, as a suburban kid growing up, Linkin Park really hit me in a profound way. After listening to them for a few years I grew to know every word of every one of their songs, it was truly the first-time music made me FEEL something and it had a huge impact on me. I got to meet Mike Shinoda in the studio once and it was surreal, like everything came full circle. Artists like Basshunter, MSTRKRFT, Boys Noize, Chromeo, Mat Zo, Siriusmo and Avicii (RIP) – I got into that whole subsection of Underground music before any of my friends and it greatly influenced the instrumentation of my songs.

 

DC: Who do you enjoy listening to or find inspiration from? Also, who would be your dream collab/feature?

 

CL: I love Primus. I’m lucky enough to work a day job that exposes me to hundreds of albums a week. It has a huge impact on me creatively because it introduces me to a bunch of new artists and styles I’ve never heard before.  My dream artist to collab with would have to be either Les Claypool or Jesus Christ, although some say they’re one in the same.

 

DC: What would best advance your career in the music industry right now?

 

CL: A better workflow going into 2024 where I have more time to work and focus on my music, that would allow me to have more output.

 

DC: Ideally, where do you want to see your career progressing to?

 

CL: My dream would be to live comfortably as an artist, totally self-sufficient musically without having to work a day job to support myself. For right now, though, I just want to release a fat catalogue filled with a lot of good, high-quality music.

 

DC: So, what artists have you been working with recently?

 

CL: I’ve been working on an album with Easy Sleeper over the past year that we’re excited to finish up and get out there. I’ve also been playing a residency at Harvard and Stone with Brother Swan and collaborating on a few side ventures with some talented artists I’ve met here in LA: namely, Evan Hayes and David Poznansky.

 

DC: What is on the agenda for Caddy LeDouche in 2024? What can fans get excited for? Who do you hope to reach with your music?

 

CL: Well, I just released a club mix of one of my songs from EP1 earlier this month and later this year I’ll be releasing EP2. There is for sure a sound shift, sonically, in my latest stuff – definitely a little heavier. I would love for my stuff to reach people and impact them in the same way the artists/songs I listened to growing up inspired me to pursue music as a lifestyle.

 

DC: What do you hope comes from being featured in Pop Passion? What message do you want to share with our readers? I’m sure your fans have been clamoring for more new music, what do you want them to know?

 

CL: I’ve actually had music featured on Pop Passion’s playlist in the past and it feels great to know you guys appreciate the vision and support it. I feel like Pop Passion being connected with indie artists like me provides us with a platform to showcase our music and be heard by listeners around the world. That level of exposure is huge for our growth in this industry. I have a ton of music I’ve been waiting to release when the time is right, and I can’t wait to drop it.



Jack Rudman




Jack Rudman is a relative newcomer to the Los Angeles pop music scene, having just launched his solo career in 2023; however, any questions over his perceived lack of experience or his somewhat limited discography is quickly discounted the minute you hear the level of music this man is putting out. During his brief time in the LA spotlight, Rudman has already begun to emerge as one of the industry’s major dark horses – coming on the scene with the sound of bigger and more seasoned industry vet and somehow defying the prototypical multi-year evolution most up-and-coming artists must go through in the early goings of their careers. His music, to me and many of his other fans, is refreshingly authentic and clearly stands out above the endless minutia of regurgitative harmonies many of his indie pop contemporaries are putting out these days. Needless to say, I was beyond stoked when Jack agreed to sit down with me for this interview and shed a little insight on his journey.


DC: So where did you grow up? Are you originally from California or did you relocate to Los Angeles?


JR: I grew up in the suburbs of Maryland just outside of DC and moved to LA in 2020. To be honest, everything kind of happened all at once in terms of moving out here.


DC: What instruments did you play growing up? Where and when did you learn/start to sing? Any chance you were in the school choir as a kid?


JR: I didn’t play any instruments when I was young, my background is in audio engineering. I did teach myself to play guitar when I was 18, but I never took any formal music classes or singing lessons during my upbringing…. Outside of elementary school choir, if you count that.


DC: When did you start making music? What artists/musicians influenced you growing up? Who influences your sound these days?


JR: I started writing acoustic music at 18, right around the same time I learned to play guitar and use GarageBand. These days, though, I use Ableton. I didn’t record my first single, Body of You, until coming to LA – it was the first time I fully tracked and produced a song. Singing while playing guitar and recording were simultaneous firsts for me. I grew up with a mixture of different music playing in our household. My parents listened to a lot of folk rock, like Doobie Brothers and Neil Young, and I got started with Top 40 and the Pop Punk early 2000s scene. I was pretty much into whatever was playing on local radio like 99.5 and 104.3 (author’s note: shoutout the DMV!) Recently, I’ve been listening to more RnB because it has the smoothest melodies and I want my music to be similarly melodic; there’s a reason why everything pulls from RnB. An artist I’ve been listening to a lot lately is Daniel Caesar, I love his vocal melodies. I’m a big fan of the music Daniel Caesar and The Internet (the group) have been putting out [separately] these days. I really want to add more nuances to my music, my last project was fun to listen to but having more melodies is always better. Nuance within music is where I’m at now.


DC: Where do you envision taking your musical career? What is your main goal or dream?


JR: Generating enough income to do music full time is my ultimate dream; whether I do that as an independent artist or with the backing of a label all just depends on if the situation is right. I would prefer partnership over ownership because, when it comes to the music industry, I have morals and the last thing I want to do is jeopardize the integrity of the music I make and level of control I have over it. On a realistic level, the only thing I’m focused on right now is making more music and getting people to listen to it. I just want people to feel something and have an opinion when they listen to my stuff. If your music doesn’t make people feel something when they hear it, it’s not art – it’s just content.


DC: What else do you do besides make music? Both professionally and as a hobby/passion?


JR: I currently work at a commercial production company as a production coordinator, but in my free time I enjoy cinema (dude is big time cinephile, much respect), bouldering, and playing video games.


DC: What is your biggest obstacle today as an unsigned artist?


JR: The biggest thing for me right now is marketing myself better in order to get my music heard by more people. I’ll be the first to admit, I definitely need to get better with my socials. I know social media is the most important form of marketing these days but I just have a serious aversion to TikTok. I make music for fun first and foremost, I’m not super focused on the nitty gritty that comes with the pursuit of promoting it. Right now I’m in the headspace of: make music, go through the whole process of refining it as much as possible, doing more live shows, and then hoping it all shines through at the end. I’m not at all hung up on whoring myself out on social media and turning into a total sell out.


DC: Say you get signed today, how does your life change? What’s the first thing you do?


JR: Honestly? First thing I do is quit my job (lol), but that would have more to do with the amount of time dedicated to working my current day job and not so much the financial aspect of it all. My goal is to eventually be able to solely divert all my time and attention to making music, so long as the situation fits with where I want to be as an artist. I want to surround myself with the right people and make sure I have the right team by my side. Having the financial backing of a major label would give me the freedom to dedicate more money to furthering my music career, which I look at as a future investment in myself as an artist.


DC: Who would be your dream artist or producer to work with?


JR: Kid Harpoon, Jack Antinoff, and Ryan Tedder are all artists I admire and would jump at the chance to work with. They are all super hot/trendy right now and I would love to have their insight on what goes into making a hit song, I think they would add immense value to the music I want to make and the sound I’m going for.


DC: So, what’s next for Jack Rudman?


JR: I’m currently locked in on refining my sound and being more nuanced with my music, both lyrically and sonically. The next step for me in my process is adding more intricacies to my music. I’ve decided I want to create where my sound is going before booking anymore live shows. I want to sharpen my sword before going in to battle, you know? When I perform I want every show to be different, I want to be able to debut a new song at every show because that’s what I feel I owe to the listener.


DC: Do you have any music or projects you want or readers to go check out? How do you hope being covered by Pop Passion might affect your career trajectory?


JR: Go check out my six-song EP, Tales From the Dead – it’s my debut EP I dropped back in May and a project I’m really proud of. Tales From the Dead is something I think embodies my sound and who I am as an artist. Hopefully this opportunity can expose my music to new listeners and different demographics who might enjoy what I put out, ultimately broadening my audience.


DC: Do you have any message you want to your fans, both old and new? Anything else you want to share with our audience?


JR: I hope people can resonate with my music and get something out of it. Instrumentation and musicality are certainly very important to the creative process of making original music, but what I enjoy most is writing my own lyrics. I try and write every line like it’s a punchline because I want my lyrics to be nuanced while still getting my point across. I just hope listeners understand and feel that when they hear my lyrics.



Cole, Right Now!




Although he is widely known across the internet for his substantive TikTok presence and undeniably hilarious standup comedy, Cole Magnacca – aka Cole, Right Now! – is another uber-talented indie pop artist making his way up the ranks of LA artists next to blow. Cole has actually had one of his singles, LMTYWYW, previously featured on Pop Passion’s highly coveted Spotify playlist prior to me meeting him and sitting down for this interview – a true testament that his infectious pop sound has garnered the attention of serious musicheads who are far more versed than myself in what is to be considered “good” pop music. With an abundance of charisma, never-ending cerebral stream of creativity, and some damn good music to his name, Cole’s aura gives off big future superstar vibes. Realistically, the next biggest hurdle he may be set to face is choosing which one of his many talents he wants to take on fully dedicate himself to given the fact that he has found success in seemingly every creative venture he’s taken on to this point (not at all a bad problem to have). Personally, I’d love to see him dive head first into his music and pump out more of the timeless heaters us fans love him for and desperately want to hear playing through our speakers and air pods. I must give credit where credit is due, I was aware of Cole’s reputation as “everybody’s best friend” when he sat down with me last month and, throughout this interview, I can say that I was able to witness his infectiously positive personality firsthand and now understand why he is so beloved from coast to coast.


DC: Can you tell us a little about where you’re from and what led to you making pop music?


CRN: I’m originally from Hopkinton, Massachusetts which is just outside of Boston. I lived there basically my whole life until I made the move to Los Angeles in 2021. Post-Covid was really a good time for me to move out here because everyone was back outside again, making it easy to meet new people and collab on music together. I started making music after learning to play the piano as a kid, which eventually led to me taking piano classes in college while studying abroad in at Berkley’s Valencia, Spain campus. I was always noodling around in GarageBand when I was younger and progressed to torrenting FL Studio in college, but it really wasn’t until around 2020 that I began to take music seriously and start to make original songs.


DC: Is anyone else in your family musical? Can any of your family members sing? I’d love to learn more about how you grew to be the vocalist you are today. Who did you guys listen to in your household growing up? Who or what inspired you personally as an artist?


CRN: My dad also plays the piano and both my mom and sister are great singers ….. If we’re being totally honest, my sister might actually have a better voice than me. Growing up, my parents would listen to typical white people, coffee shop music like ABBA, Disco, John Mayer etcetera. Typically, your parents play a big role in what music you like but in my case mine didn’t. I differed from them in the sense that hip hop was the biggest influence on my musical palette, not so much the more mainstream stuff they preferred. When Drake’s album Views came out it really hit hard for me and is a huge reason why I am such a “Drake Whore”. When I began torrenting FL Studio as an undergrad it was kind my late adoption to hip hop but also my first introduction to beat making.


DC: What do you have going on outside of your music? I know you’ve got a big presence on TikTok and there’s word around town you have somewhat of a burgeoning stand up career.


CRN: Most people are actually more familiar with my TikTok account (@colerightnow) more than anything else I have going on, which is ironic because I was originally a TikTok heretic before growing to love the platform. My standup has been forcing me to live this bicoastal lifestyle where I’m constantly back and forth between New York City, where most of my standup sets take place, and Los Angeles, where I focus on my music and (more importantly) where my girlfriend lives. Outside of all that, I love hanging out with my friends and working with new people in hopes of making art that will truly resonate with people. Really, for me, it’s all about the social element – I love working with people and the internal satisfaction that comes with a successful collaboration, but what I crave most is the feedback I get on anything I create.


DC: What has it been like pursuing music in a more formal/professional fashion, as opposed to just having fun with it? What hurdles/hardships have you encountered on your journey as an artist?


CRN: It’s been interesting so far. Putting time and money into a major project and then not getting back a ton of love can be really hard to deal with, especially when something you do with little to no effort blows up (author’s note: I speculate he is referencing his recent TikTok on “gooning” that quickly surpassed 1 million views). We live and operate in a data-driven society where you can craft a masterpiece and if it doesn’t fit within the Spotify/TikTok algorithm it never takes off and you are left feeling deflated. It can be a tough dichotomy to deal with it, but I am still very grateful for everything.


DC: How do you come up with the concept for a new song? How do your other abilities as a creative factor into your process?


CRN: Pharrel once said to use “creativity as a conduit” and that’s an ideology I try and live by as an artist. When coming up with the idea for a new song, I always start from the bassline and then begin developing melodies. When you get in the zone the ideas just start to hit you and it goes from there. I also always make it a point to try and work with people more talented than myself, as I’ve found that makes everything else a whole lot easier. I consider myself a “Big Picture” person and I frequently find myself starting with what I want the end product to be and then working backwards. For example, I’ve been doing photoshop for over a decade now which often leads to me envisioning the cover art for my next album before making any music at all. I would certainly say graphic design and creative strategy are two of the biggest factors in my process as an artist.


DC: I know you also produce, how does that apply to crafting your songs?


CRN: Production is like dating – partners come and go. A good collaborator is like a good partner, meaning working well together is like having good sexual chemistry with a partner. As a producer, I’m always looking to work with cohesive artists.


DC: Do you have any music or projects you want to plug to our readers? What main message do you want to get across to our audience?

 

CRN: Please go check out my single U Problem, it’s a song I’m super proud of and I think is a good representation of the type of music I plan on putting out in the future. Also, make sure to check me out in the film Faces of Death alongside Paris Peterson and Barbie Ferreira. My main message? PLEASE SEND MONEY!! Just kidding. I want to tell anyone out there making music, or even thinking about making music, to keep grinding and to just put your stuff out there without overthinking it.



First and foremost, I want to give a huge thanks to Caddy LeDouche, Jack Rudman, and Cole, Right Now! for taking time out of their busy lives to sit down with a simple blogger like me and discuss the intricacies of being an independent artist in LA. I truly appreciate all three of these men, not just for their willingness to open to me on their lives and careers, but also for the steady stream of sonic heat they have been delivering to pop music fans over the years. As much as we all love to Stan the Drakes and Taylor Swifts of the world, they are but an extreme outlier when it comes to the embodiment of today’s pop music ecosystem. The true backbone of pop, and any other genre of music for that matter, will always remain the independent artists out there striving to create tomorrow’s next commercial hit; not just in Los Angeles, but across the entire globe. My goal in doing this piece was to take a peek behind the veil of today’s music industry and educate both myself and our readers on the that comes with being an unsigned talent, and the relentless they must put forth simply give themselves a chance at breaking through. I am now an even bigger fan of the three artists featured above thanks to the grace and patience they have shown me throughout this process and I wish them nothing but the absolute best moving forward in their careers – I have no doubt each one of them will go on to do huge things in this industry given the infinite amount of talent they’ve demonstrated through their music. Please make sure you support all three by giving their music a listen and maybe checking out one of their live shows if you’re on the west coast. I am of the firm belief indie artists everywhere are some of the most hardworking and gifted members of our society and that they truly deserve all of the support we have to offer them; hopefully after reading this article you have feel the same way too.


Written By Dan Caddigan



*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.

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