Q&A — Low Hum Finds Peace in the Unknown

Colin Desha — the Hawaiian-born, Los Angeles-based artist better known as Low Hum — makes music that feels like leaving home. It’s the trepidation of taking those first steps away from the familiar and into the unknown, the excitement inherent to uncertainty propelling you forward. As you move farther away from that which you’ve always known, a peace takes hold, resulting from the knowledge that you can venture out into new territory and be okay and find lives that you haven’t yet lived, comfort formed by your own courage and resilience. This peace is what Low Hum’s music feels like, each song a reminder that you belong in this world wherever you find yourself within it.  

303 Magazine recently spoke with Low Hum about his upcoming album, Terra Incognita, out May 24th, literary influences on songwriting, growing up surrounded by music in Hawaii, committing to music for the long haul and more.

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303 Magazine: To start, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where’d you grow up? Can you tell me about some of your earliest brushes with music and playing instruments? 

Low Hum: I grew up in Hawaii, mostly on the Big Island and Oahu. Music really started with Hawaiian music festivals I’d attended as a kid with my parents on the Big Island. Super fun outdoor music festivals deep in the mountains. In school, I really took to the ukulele as my first instrument. During recess, we’d all meet around these concrete circular tables and jam Hawaiian songs. It definitely formed my love of playing with friends, and the power music has on people. 

Next, during high school, I was heavily inspired by punk rock music through surfing videos. This inspired me to get an electric guitar that my grandfather bought me when I was 14/15. He was hugely influential in pushing my ability and, specifically, the discipline to work on my craft. 

303: When did you realize that you could pursue music as a full career? 

LH: I’m a pretty stubborn person. When I was 15 or 16, I knew I wanted to make records for a living. I really had no idea how to do it, being so isolated out in Hawaii and not really having any real insight into how it works. So, I packed my bags when I graduated high school at 18 and moved to LA to keep following my passion. At this point, it feels like I’ve known what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I still have the same drive and passion that I did being that kid back in Hawaii. I’m incredibly enamored by the process from beginning to end and it’ll be the same till I die. 

303: Your first album, Room to Breathe (which I’m a big fan of, by the way), debuted in 2019. Five years and another album, Nonfiction, later, what have you learned about crafting an album?

LH: Aw, thank you so much. My first two albums are really that process of exploring myself as an artist and figuring out how to craft a Low Hum album. It feels like the process was largely like being an adolescent. Making mistakes and trying new things. During Room To Breathe, I was largely on tour in the back of a van, in hotel lobbies, and backstage of venues, experimenting with music. I defined very clear rules I was going to keep for this project, and a lot of the first two records were leaving creative freedom for myself. 

303: What was the recording process for Terra Incognita like? Did you do anything different than you had for previous releases? 

LH: I’m extremely proud of Terra Incognita. I took full control of producing this album and I wrote more music at one time than I ever had. We were on tour in Europe with Warpaint when the writing process started. Midway through the following tour, all my music was stolen from a van robbery in Portland. It definitely hurt, but about 2 months later, I had cranked out 30 new songs/demos/experiments, and I really felt like I came back with a vengeance. About 6 months later, I was out in Joshua Tree for two weeks, producing 10 songs from Stella Mozgawa’s (Warpaint’s drummer) studio. I brought a handful of homies out but mostly lived there by myself, wrapping things up. I feel like this is the beginning of something really special for what’s to come with Low Hum. 

303: Your music spans a wide range of feelings and emotions. At times, it’s gentle and sweet; at others, boisterous and joyous, and there’s always an edge lurking at the corners. What’s your songwriting process like? Do you typically start with the instrumentation, or is it more lyric-driven? Anything you could tell me would be great. 

LH: The majority of my writing starts with instrumental experimenting. I really like to use Ableton as a sketch pad to map out ideas and experiments. It usually starts as a free place to explore, and I really like to experiment with different places (Hotel lobbies, nature, vans, etc.). I believe environments are hugely influential on the music creation process, so it’s fun to experiment with that process.  

303: Your music is also quite literary from a lyrical standpoint. A lot of your songs feel like poetry put to music. What inspires your writing? Are there topics or ideas you find yourself coming back to? Are there any literary works or works in any medium that inform your writing? 

LH: I love John Steinbeck.  He’s been largely influential on my writing for the last few years. His ability to write about the American experience has been hugely influential to me. I love his ability to paint beautifully with words and I take large amounts of inspiration from him.

During my writing process, my lyrics tend to take the longest. I take a lot of time writing them and marinating on how I want to execute my thoughts. I tend to write melodies first and then add lyrics into them. I usually sing my own language and allow myself to just free-flow melodies all over the instrumentals and then add the lyrics. Sometimes they take days and sometimes they take months.

303: Do you have a general philosophy when it comes to making music?

LH: I generally just follow my inspiration.  Whatever keeps the flow going is the ruler of the process.  I usually use surfing in my mind as an analogy for music-making.  I find so many parallels in the process; these sorts of lessons I learned as a kid growing up in the water. You can’t really control anything when you surf; you just need to be prepared for the ocean to provide a wave and ready to ride it when it comes.  Creativity is really the same thing: constantly making yourself available for inspiration when it comes.  

303: You just played Lost Lake on April 15th. What can fans expect from a Low Hum show? 

LH: New music! I’ve spent a lot of time building a simple yet massive-sounding set. I’m really excited to play new stuff and showcase the new live sound.

303: Finally, is there anything else on the horizon that you’d like to plug or anyone you’d like to shout out?

LH: Low Hum is just getting going so fans can expect lots of new music coming down the pipeline.  Live shows are a must — we are trying to get down to Mexico City to finally play for our Mexican fans and go back to Europe and the UK and Australia. Really, we want to go and play for everyone! We’re really excited about where we are in the project, and there is much more to come!

Stream Low Hum’s latest singles here!

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