Turn up the music: 5C singer-songwriters on creating a distinct sound

A girl plays an acoustic guitar in on a grassy field.
Keaton Schiller SC ’22 is hoping to pursue music full-time after graduation. (Courtesy: Nina Rogatz)

Bored of your Spotify “Discover Weekly”? 5C singer-songwriters have even more music for you to check out. In this week’s installment of a student singer-songwriter spotlight, 5C musicians continue to engage with other musicians on campus and create new tunes. 

While the musical experiences and styles of Keaton Schiller SC ’22 and Denson Camp PO ’24 differ in many ways, they share a commitment to the songwriting journey and showcasing their creativity through their music.

Keaton Schiller SC ’22

Latest release: Single “Lady” by Keats, available on all platforms

Schiller first started writing songs when she learned to play the guitar during her senior year of high school. Four years later, as a senior in college, her love of songwriting is still going strong. This year, she released her first single, “Lady,” in collaboration with her older sister, who produces music. 

“She always said, ‘If you ever want to make a song, tell me, and I’ll work on one with you,’” Schiller said. “And then I finally took her up on it, and we recorded a full song, and it’s on Spotify now!”

Schiller recommends that people listen to “Lady” three times. 

“Pay attention each time,” she said. “And if you don’t like it after the third, that’s okay, but I always need to listen to a song a few times to get into it. Usually, if you don’t like a song during the first listen, you can notice things that you do like by the third listen. But I think there’s something in the music for everyone.”

Despite her busy schedule as a college senior, she tries to improvise on her guitar every day.

“Whenever I have something on my mind, I listen to a lot of music, and I’ll sing along,” she said. “Then I’ll have this moment where I’m like, ‘I wish that I had my own lyrics ready, about my own experience, that I could be singing right now. If I have something on my mind, I need to sit down, and I need to just write it all out and try to capture it.”

In particular, she prefers writing ideas down by hand rather than typing them. 

“There’s something about having the pencil in my hand that feels a little less academic and a little more artistic,” she said. “There’s more room to be creative or different or nonlinear.”

Recently, Schiller has realized that she wants to pursue music full-time after she graduates. 

“I’ve only just started saying that out loud,” she said, “and now I need to figure out what that actually means.” 

For now, she’s working on taking herself more seriously and advocating for herself. As daunting as that can be, the support she receives from her friends and family helps her feel excited about the path ahead.

A smiling young man plays a guitar amidst shelves of books on which oil paintings hang.
The musical style of Denson Camp PO ’24 prioritizes texture over structure. (Courtesy: Denson Camp)

Denson Camp PO ’24

Latest release: Album “Good Morning, My Love! Tomorrow It’s All Over” by denson camp, available on all platforms

Camp hesitates to label his own music, though he reckons indie pop and indie rock might be fitting descriptors. Instead, he is inspired by bands that don’t conform to structure or form and instead focus on unique textures. Some of his songs start out with acoustic guitar but build, melt and dissolve until they become a vivid soundscape.

“Once, someone described my music as ‘dream folk,’” he said. “I love that! That’s a fun tag.”

​​Despite playing music for most of his life, Camp didn’t discover his style until midway through his first year of college. Up until January 2020, he “detested” every line he had ever written. Then, before and during the pandemic, when he was taking a break from school, he dedicated himself to music and began working on his album.

Camp finds inspiration from all around him, but only a few of his voice memos ever turn into something more. From fully-formed ideas, he transforms them into melodies and then songs in the final album. Since coming back to campus, he has been unable to find as much time for his music, but he doesn’t see this as a disadvantage.

“To have stuff to write about, you have to be living life, and I feel like I’m living life to the fullest right now,” he said. “So maybe the fact that I’m not spending that much time alone in my dorm working on music means that when I eventually do, it’ll be better.”

Currently, he feels very content with where he is in his songwriting journey.

“People have been really kind and reached out to me about how my first album has connected with them, and that’s the most important thing for me,” he said. “My goals are really just to hone my craft and be the most honest musician I can be, and then share that with the world in a way that can hopefully positively affect people.”

As a starting point, Camp recommends that people listen to “Hello Time!,” his most popular song. Complete with a fun music video on YouTube, he describes the song as one that captures the joy of life and the fleeting nature of special moments. He is also working on two albums that will be hopefully released in 2022.

“I’m taking the Frank Ocean strategy of just not releasing anything until it’s perfect,” he said. “So there’s some stuff I’m working on right now that I can’t wait for people to hear.”

And of course, he is always looking for collaborators, or simply new friends to jam with. “If you’re a musician,” he added, “hit me up!”

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