AQUAGIE: THE FINAL ACT
WRITTEN BY ALLIE ANTONEVICH
MARCH 16, 2021
Right at the turn of the new year, I had the opportunity to chat with Emmanuel Andre, known as Aquagie. The Boston-based writer, singer, and all-around creative genius is set to release his album, The Final Act in early 2021. Leading up to the album’s release, we talked about the songwriting process, creative influences that range from Kanye West to The Beatles, and how insanely inventive his year was despite the pandemic.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.*
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m an artist, and have been for a long time. My brother and I are artists in our own ways. He was more of a visual artist, and I’ve built off of that since we were kids. Throughout high school, I knew I wanted to do something in that field, and it was really about figuring it out. Thankfully, right after high school, I was able to figure out that music was going to be the thing for now to get me in the door so I can do more creative things. I never went to college, so it was really about figuring that out and how that works into being creative and still being productive. With Berklee [Berklee College of Music] being in Boston, my first order of business was finding someone I could reach out to and collab with early on. I knew I could sing, but I didn’t play any instruments or anything. I reached out to a friend I knew, and he was in his second year at Berklee at the time and was very busy doing a lot of things. He introduced me to one of his friends, and that was one of my first takes doing music in an apartment just a few blocks from Berklee. Nothing came from it, but it was my first experience. After that, there were a lot of ups and downs trying to figure out where I could record. I was trying to find people who could help me record for free, stayed on the path and was working in between to stay afloat, and finally got in touch with the right people, and now we’re here.
What’s one word you’d use to describe your 2020?
Do you consider yourself a DIY artist, or are you working with people right now? What does that look like?
I guess I would call it DIY. I started doing music officially in 2018, and when I was working on my own doing one-off songs, I was going to Cyber Sound Recording Studios on Newbury Street, and from there I met my friend Pete who was an intern there. He’s been a plug with everyone I’ve been working with—made a small mixtape with him in his bedroom, and we finished it. We put it out, and it wasn’t really what I wanted, but it was a great first step in putting something out there. After that, he introduced me to his friend Ryan, and through Ryan, I met my producer now, whose name is Ben Desoto. We recorded our second project in his room literally five minutes from Berklee. To answer your question, it is DIY—it’s really about reaching out to friends and doing it ourselves, with a really cheap mic and talented engineers and trying to make magic out of it. It’s a really good place to be in.
What drew you to music specifically?
Ironically enough, I was very influenced by Kanye West. He’s an influential figure with everything he talks about. He was the first person who made me want to be creative. I wanted to be known for doing different things. My brother and I were always those creative people, but it was about what we wanted to do in that creative space and in the field. In 2016, when SoundCloud was at its height… all these rappers were blowing up out of nowhere, and I thought, wow, these guys can make it, so I can do it. I consider myself a writer first. Since I was 16, I’ve been writing for shows and writing my own shows and scripts. My concern was figuring out how to become a screenwriter and write shows and movies without proper schooling. It was a cool time in 2016 and felt as if there was a bit of a renaissance going on. Donald Glover was doing his television show, and Kanye was doing all the things he was doing, it was a good space and a great time to be inspired. I knew I could sing and I knew enough about good music, which made me realize I can figure this out. 2016 was my senior year of high school, andI knew music was what I had to do. Even Lil Yachty was my biggest influence at one point, he gets a lot of credit.
How would you describe the music you create?
It’s a Pandora’s Box of everything. The stuff that’s on streaming is more pop/R&B inspired. At one point, my cousin (who was sort of my manager ), wanted me to stick more in that genre—a lot of artists were doing well at that time, like Daniel Caesar. He thought it was best for me. I grew up very religious, so I didn’t really have that around me unless it was on the radio. Once I started listening to music in high school, it was a melting pot of everything—The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Kanye West… anything that caught my attention. At one point, I made it to Rolling Stone’s Top 500 albums. Really, any album that looked interesting or was in the top 50, I just made sure to listen to. That was my introduction into secular music. The R&B thing, which my cousin wanted me to do, was a little uncomfortable for me but I tried to find a place where I could still use my creative side to get something from it and be satisfied. The songs I have on streaming are the ones I felt were best to go up there. It’s kind of like Frank Ocean—he started out as an R&B artist, but then at a certain point, he wasn’t an R&B artist. This album is so much different, and it has so many different influences. I’m
excited for this one especially, to be out and be the first thing that I can build my foundation off of.
What did the songwriting process look like for you with this album? As you said, you had some projects and released some singles, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it would probably look a little different?
Yeah, it was very interesting how this all happened. The songs I have out, especially the most recent ones, were supposed to be a part of a project that was more R&B based. It was a struggle for me to make certain people happy while also being satisfied with the writing. Those two songs definitely did a good job of it. The friend I was working with, Ryan, right before Ben, was in his senior year of Berklee right before COVID. By February 2019, I had recorded about 25 songs, and I was trying to put my twist on it but still trying to make other people happy. It was very frustrating, and Ryan was very busy. He told me that he couldn’t give me the time and focus that I was looking for. I said that was fine and he could focus on school and I made a mixtape in the meantime. Then, I hit up a friend, Ben, who he introduced me to, and asked him if he was down to do a five-song mixtape with me, which happened to be everything I wanted. I didn’t have that pressure to be an R&B artist anymore, I was just free. I wrote my ass off for everything I had built in that time. I was listening to Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, you name it, all of those influences showed in this moment of freedom. It was easy, it didn’t feel forced. It was a free moment, and 10 songs in, I realized that it was everything I had wanted since 2018. I had the hard decision of telling Ryan that this was the direction we needed to go in. We parted ways, and he’s still one of my best friends. This project was about doubling down on the process that brought me there: re-reading all the lyrics from the artists that I mentioned, experimenting with new songs—all of it melted into this perfect moment.
How has the pandemic affected your creative hustles?
It hasn’t really had much of an impact. My friend group is all musicians and it was a great opportunity to be with them all the time and connect on the creative end of things. I started the project before COVID happened, and I didn’t want to derail myself. I went through a little something the year before, where I was home for a very long time. I didn’t want to fall into that hole again, so I made a conscious effort to go out and stay with friends as much as I could. Ever since COVID happened, I’ve been in the city, working on that project. We started it in late February/early March, so throughout that whole time, I was getting unemployment and putting it into the project, and making sure that Ben got compensated for his time. That’s really what COVID has been—and that’s linking back to that first question you asked about this year. While it has been a productive year, it’s definitely been a shitty one equally, but I wouldn’t have had this project if I hadn’t gotten the money to afford to buy it, so it was convenient, to say the least. I don’t take it for granted, and I want to capitalize on it now, with the time. I’m excited about that.
Could you talk a little bit about the visual representation you have for your music?
Everything that’s on my Instagram page currently is all me. My brother went to school for design, so his background is more visual art. We’re teaming up right now to have some more stuff come out that we’ve collabed on. But Instagram, that’s just me on my phone, with dollar apps I can find on the App Store, just figuring that stuff out. A lot of my writing is movie-themed. My number one passion is creating stories… the album I created before that’s been shelved is based on a certain genre, which was about the horror side of love and life. “Dracula” and “Ex Machina” were the two singles from it. Even in this project, there are four songs named after some movies—“Lost in Translation,” "Apocalypse Now,” “Back to the Future,” “There Will Be Blood," and “End of the Fucking World"—that’s a big influence on how I do my writing. I like the idea of incorporating pop culture and having it be a blueprint while I create my own stories. Some of the other songs on the project are close with my own life, and what’s been going on with that. With some support in the future, hopefully, we can get some good quality design.
I also saw in your Instagram bio, you have another project going, “Cherimoya Street.” Could you tell me a little bit about that?
It’s a creative endeavor that I want to be a hub for the future, and I want to potentially LLC it. It’s more about solidifying it now… a house for all of my ideas to live in. I want it to be a more all-around, creative vision going forward.
What’s something you wish more people knew about you?
I want people to know I’m good at what I do. I feel like I can be one of the best writers living. I know that can be a very big statement, but that’s what I’m shooting for and that’s my mindset. I’m good at writing and I’m good at what I do—I’m a well-rounded creative
person. That’s what I’m always shooting for.
The Final Act will be released in spring 2021. Listen to Aquagie’s new single “100%” out now on all streaming platforms, and follow @aquagie on Instagram to stay up-to-date on his latest news.