MelodySheep autotune creator John Boswell’s musical magic: Bruce Lee, Bob Ross, Mr. Rogers & More
To say John Boswell grows ideas in the garden of his mind is at once an understatement and yet highly appropriate. As you may have seen on CNN, Forbes, NPR, or especially YouTube, Boswell creates infectiously catchy pop songs from such unlikely sources as Julia Child, Billy Mays and Yoda – all through the magic of autotune technology and his incredible talent for musical montage.
The results are simultaneously hilarious, touching and highly enjoyable, as evidenced by the millions of views his videos have been racking up lately. I recently asked Boswell a few questions about his process, and his responses follow. Do yourself a favor and check out his full catalog, available for download at MelodySheep.BandCamp.com.
rsmithing: How did you get started in music, and what instruments do you play?
John Boswell: I started off as a keyboardist and turntablist for a metal band in high school – definitely an unorthodox way to begin, but I learned basic music theory and how to combine different elements of music, both of which paved the way for the work I do today. I play mostly piano and guitar but dabble in a handful of other instruments, like mandolin and accordion.
rs: Have any of the subjects of your videos seen them, and what have their reactions been?
jb: A few of the figures I have used in my videos have been in touch with me, and their reactions have been entirely positive. I think what I am doing can be considered a mostly positive endeavor to begin with, and it’s always fun to see yourself given the remix treatment.
rs: What’s been your favorite composition so far?
jb: It’s hard to pick a favorite piece of my own, but the Ode to the Brain video is definitely near the top. It was a blast to make and I learned so many things in the process, which is always a plus. The music came together really well too, which gave it all the right ingredients for a solid video.
rs: Happy Little Clouds got a million views in one weekend. What’s it like to get so much attention so fast?
jb: It’s always great to get the sort of recognition that the Bob Ross video got, and I always appreciate the comments coming in and love hearing people’s reactions. Attention spans on the Internet are very short though, so once one big thing is happening it’s crucial to think about what is going to be next and how it can be different and better.
rs: Which composition has been the most challenging?
jb: The most challenging video thus far was most likely the Bob Ross remix. His quiet voice and tendency to mumble, combined with the constant sound of his brush on the canvas, made it hard to isolate good vocal samples. Luckily he was philosophical enough to provide enough clean quotes to use in the song.
rs: Why did you go with a pay-what-you-like model, and how’s that going for you?
jb: I believe music should be available free to those who want to listen but cannot afford. There is still enough generosity in this world to make pay-what-you-want worth it to artists, although there has to be a critical mass. Anybody who works hard enough can reach that point, as I have demonstrated.
rs: Anything else you’d like to add?
jb: Bruce Lee video is coming next week!
rs: AWESOME! (rsmithing = long-time Bruce Lee fan)
UPDATE, 8/28: And now, Bruce Lee:
A big thank you to John Boswell for answering my questions. Check out his stuff here:
- Downloads: melodysheep.bandcamp.com
- See all the videos: YouTube Channel (MelodySheep)
- MelodySheep presents: Symphony of Science
- Commercial contact: Colorpulse Productions
What’s your favorite autotune mix? Who would you suggest for John’s next project? Let us hear from you in the comments!
- PBS Painter Gets Awesomely Autotuned (TheAVClub.com)
- PBS Remixes Bob Ross, Julia Child and Mister Rogers (npr.org)
- melodysheep remixes more than just Mr. Rogers (hearingaide.wordpress.com)
- Listen Here!: PBS Auto-tunes Mr. Rogers (wired.com)
- A Glorious Dawn (nothingbutscience.wordpress.com)
- Remix Turns Julia Child Into T-Pain (mashable.com)
- Symphony of Science: Onward to the Edge (servareintaminatum.wordpress.com)
- Bob Ross PBS Remix Puts Us on ‘Happy Little Cloud’ Nine (mashable.com)
- We are all connected – Symphony of Science (higherthinkingprimate.wordpress.com)