How to describe a pop songwriter that craves anonymity, openly accepts the moniker of a “pop artist” and whose aspirations of success include sitting on a beach, free from cares and woes? Contemporary street attitudes would dictate we label him a sell-out (“What does that even mean?” he asks) and that we toss him on the pile of modern musical detritus bent on filling our airwaves with memorable but short-lived bubble-gum pop. So who is Frazer, a musician who simultaneously exemplifies and rejects these sentiments?
Frazer (or Frazer Mac, his stage pseudonym), Toronto-based singer/songwriter, counts the adage “keep it simple” as a defining concept from his musical education at the University of Western Ontario. He grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles’ classics, and singing in a choir, but there is no defining genre that informed his current style.
Having recently won the Toronto Independent Music Award in the Electronic category, Frazer suggests perhaps his music leans towards a pop sentiment rather than electronic. And upon first listening, us musical illerati will label it as “pop”, because such pedestrian nomenclature feels immediately applicable. Whilst it is easy to categorise his music based its similarity to current trends, Frazer believes that writing the ultimate pop hit is much harder.
Frazer has done most of the necessary rites of passage of a current songwriter. He’s sharing his time between Toronto and imposing himself on studios in L.A. to sell himself. He won a whole swag of international songwriting awards, but hasn’t really had to rough it, living off the earnings of his childhood acting career. Frazer unashamedly speaks of the drive to succeed and achieve a Number One hit. But not as the guy behind the mike, he’d prefer to be behind the music, the name you’d find on the back of an album in the fine print (even less lauded on a digital download).
His idols are names most laymen wouldn’t recognize, yet the laymen (or you) would gladly fist pump to their extensive list of dance floor fillers. He wants the Ke$has, Gagas and Katy Perrys of the music world to be singing his music. The more creatively introverted side of him admits that he would love Elton John to sing his stuff, and in a perfect world, collaborate with greats like John Lennon. His best work is done under pressure and on a schedule.
Frazer has a very current and predictable sound, following the adage of keeping it simple. His songwriting process isn’t too different from any others’, working from a keyboard, recollecting threads of conversation misheard on the subway and melodic fragments recorded using his Top 40-esque vocal onto his iPhone, frequently heard during our interview intoning his favourite riffs. We aren’t breaking musical or lyrical ground here, just trying to maintain a sound that’s been described as “so now”.
Opening synth riffs reminiscent of Ke$ha, Lady Gaga and Taio Cruz (whose songs are mostly written by his heroes) give way to dance floor-filling beats, and lyrics that he describes as having “an edge”. Drinking antics, walks of shame, and exes, all the realm of the modern pop listener, but nothing too autobiographical like the seemingly not-from-personal-experience lyrics of ‘Blackout’: “What’s in store / My pants are inside out and on the floor / Free love is what I’m after, give me more / I want to know did the DJ play my track” (with a lovingly reminiscent echo of a Britney-esque more”).
Frazer admits he’s just “faking it” ‘til he makes it. It’s probably a good thing he admits his lyric writing isn’t inspired, as no one has ever decried the realism of the writing of most Top 10 hits. The modern listener is more of a pre-language beast, more concerned with subterranean bass lines and the feel-good “woah” and “uh-huhs” littered throughout his music.
Motived about his future, Frazer seems ready to step into the fickle circus that is mainstream hit-writing. He admits the business and hobnobbing aspect of his industry is a necessary evil for his music to be heard. Which is ironic since, as his music becomes more popular, the less famous he’ll be. Which strangely works for him.