Justin Esmer is sharing his music with the world. Esmer, a freshman sociology major, writes and produces songs and uploads them onto the music streaming platform, Spotify. He now has more than 500 monthly listeners.
Esmer began playing guitar when he was in elementary school and became interested in writing and creating his own music in high school.
“I was playing in a guitar club in school in fourth grade, and they gave me a guitar. I was terrible at first and then I stopped listening to my teacher and started playing songs by Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran and Rex Orange County,” says Esmer. “[Rex Orange County] inspired me to start making the kind of music I do today.”
Rex Orange County’s music is a mix of alternative and indie. Esmer, following its lead, considers the genre of his own music to be alternative pop. He says he incorporates “alternative rapping” into his music.
Esmer has uploaded to Spotify five singles: “Peace of Mind,” “Alone on a Tuesday,” “I knew You Once,” “Good Girl” and including his latest single, “Expired Cigarettes.”
Esmer’s most popular song on the platform is “Peace of Mind,” which was released on Dec. 1, 2020. He has more than 22,700 streams for it.
His personal favorite song is “Alone on a Tuesday” which has more than 5,000 streams.
“I like [‘Alone on a Tuesday”] a lot because I just like the change of tone of it towards the ending. I always like ending that song with me on the ground on my knees.”
When he’s preforming his music live, he says, “It’s a good one to finish on.”
He decided to upload his music on Spotify because most of his friends, also musicians, were utilizing the platform to share their music with the world.
“I kind of just asked around because a lot of my other friends are on Spotify too” says Esmer.
“So, I was like ‘how do I get on it,’ and eventually found out. I started on SoundCloud just to get my songs out there and I moved on to Spotify. I’ve always wanted to put [music] on Spotify since I was a freshman [in high school] though, I just didn’t have the confidence,” he says.
When he’s not in class, Esmer plays his music live at New Haven area venues including cafés and college campuses.
Esmer began performing during his sophomore year of high school, according to his Spotify biography. Recently, he’s performed on a Yale broadcast and even at a thrift store.
He says that he used to play basement parties and backyard shows. After he started to become popular, more people would ask him to perform in other places. Esmer says he would always agree to play anywhere because of his passion for performing. Playing at different venues allows him to connect with other bands and performers.
Performing live has helped make Esmer well-known around New Haven, but using Spotify has made his music accessible to fans beyond. Esmer’s Spotify followers extend to New York, Texas and California.
While he’s skilled at playing the guitar, Esmer’s learned to play other instruments as well.
“I play the bass guitar, too. I did a year in a jazz band and then piano, a little bit of drums,” he says. “I’m teaching myself, and [learning] ukulele. I guess I just kind of picked them up as an interest or like toys when I was young. Most of the stuff I do is by ear, because I’ve always just been playing with them,” Esmer says.
Although Esmer’s passion is music and would love to make it his career, he says right now, school is his most important endeavor.
“I just hope [music] becomes something I’m content with in life. I obviously want to take off, but gradually, like it’s a marathon, not a sprint and the more I think about it, I would like to do it as a career, if the opportunity ever came, when I’m stable enough to go for it,” says Esmer. “But right now, it’s a hobby. School’s first, graduating, family and then music,” he says.
“I’m still making music,” Esmer says. “To focus on art not the content. It’s kind of just like no expectations, no disappointments.”
His goal of breaking into the music business and making it his career may change in the future, but Esmer encourages anyone who’s interested in pursuing music to keep working at it. He advises anyone who is interested in becoming an independent artist to learn more about marketing in music.
Southern’s music department offers opportunities in a diversity of areas. Chairperson Josh Groffman says the department also offers minors in music and music technology, and this fall will begin its new music therapy concentration. There are over 100 students in the program.
The department hosts an initiative called the “Careers in Music” series which brings music professionals to campus to showcase different career options. The faculty in the music department are also “active performers and professionals in the field and can give students advice on their goals,” says Groffman. “Music majors and minors take coursework in producing, recording, editing, and mixing music, taught by industry professionals who are themselves active as professional recording engineers and producers.”
Uploading music to internet streaming services like Spotify can take an artist’s music to a whole new level and can reach a substantial amount of people. The music department offers music technology courses that teach the correct steps to creating an online presence. The music department also uploads students’ music to its media channels.
The department is equipped with a space to record music, known as The Stutzman Family Foundation Music Technology Lab. The lab is equipped with everything students need for a studio session.
“Music majors and minors take coursework in producing, recording, editing, and mixing music, taught by industry professionals who are themselves active as professional recording engineers and producers,” Groffman said. “We teach music in a way that is very relevant to how students approach music, with an emphasis on personal creativity and building skills in areas students are interested in.”
“When making your own music, make it something you’ve never heard before. But something that can be improved,” Esmer says.
By Sofia Rositani and Hailey Roy