by Riley Hart
Less Than Three is a project that has brought me so much joy and so much frustration in the span of little over a year. Being a small artist in a big industry feels so lonely at times, and yet, I find myself continuing to put so much work into my music. The only thing you can really do in my position is just put yourself out there and hope. These feelings of helplessness and self-pity are what drove me to write my first full-length album Impostor Syndrome.
Listen to the album while reading the text.
Dashed White Lines
Starting out, like most artists, I really had no idea how big the world of music production actually was. I posted my first track ever to SoundCloud, an instrumental piece titled “Dashed White Lines” expecting few people to ever hear of it. While I’m correct that very few people have, or will ever, listen to that song, it got a decent number of plays. And by decent number, I mean close to 300 in about a week.
This was huge to me, mainly because I know that I do not have 300 friends who cared enough to click on the link I had on my Snapchat story. There were other artists out there who liked it and added it to playlists. It’s a feeling like no other. When you share your music and others can listen and enjoy it.
I had to follow it up with something just as good. So I immediately threw together some lyrics, recorded myself with my phone, slapped that mp3 over top of the track, and expected to rock the world. It did not work. The instrumental track continued to gain some traction (and by gain traction I mean around 20 plays a day), while my “new” song barely got any attention.
So, after refreshing my SoundCloud page for the hundredth time, waiting to see if that 12 plays would turn into 13, I set my sights on writing more music that had a little more variety.
In the time since my first little “brush with fame,” I still haven’t figured out why my first time ever sharing my music was so successful to me. By no means am I setting records, or even showing up on anyone’s radar, but I had a moment where I believed that I could actually do something with my music. Achieve the dream of playing a sold-out show somewhere in a different country. Maybe even earn a steady income just from creating something that means the whole world to me. That was enough to kickstart this whole journey.
Soon I was composing some punk-inspired instrumentals through Ableton. I didn’t have access to any recording equipment besides my own computer, so I just stuck to what I had and kept the midi sounds I had access to. I think that’s the reason why I tend to mix in a little EDM-type intro to some of my tracks because I have the software available and I feel bad using just three sounds I have saved to plug in chords and a melody.
After spending some money on an actual microphone, I did what any emo/pop-punk artist fresh out of high school would do, and I covered a Modern Baseball song. It got a good amount of attention, as of right now it’s sitting at over 500 plays.
So after that I started to write my third original song with actual lyrics. This time, I’d have better sounding vocals. I posted the song “Sleeptalkers” in early October, and it’s by far my most popular song on SoundCloud. Sitting at over 1,000 plays I can firmly say that I felt like a rockstar when it took off like that.
I told more friends about my music and even paid an artist way too much money to do a piece for the art on my next single. After a couple failed follow-ups, I couldn’t seem to break through again, so I stopped making music for a couple of months until I took a huge step as an artist.
I joined a local band called No Lungs and got a taste of what it was like to be a part of a group that had a small fan base. My good friend, Austin Cooper, wrote and recorded two entire albums in his bedroom and found some success with it. We’re invited to play some shows, and we even headlined a couple of bar shows and whatnot.
It’s great to see how everyone in the local music community respects him for the music he writes and produces. It made me hungry for that same respect and recognition for my own project.
Initially, I just went by my name, Riley Hart, but I didn’t want to be the “Riley Hart” show. I want to be a part of a group that can capture an audience using the music that comes out of my brain. I can’t play guitar or bass, so my music is not just a one-man-show. Although I started as just an angsty teen putting chords into Ableton, I don’t want this to stay that way forever.
I decided to take a step up and write a full album and publish it to Spotify and other, larger platforms. Not only that, but I would record all the guitar and drum tracks with live instruments. I decided to title it “Impostor Syndrome” as I was familiar with the feeling of not being good enough.
Most of the lyrics I write tend to be about my feeling in a relationship of “maybe I’m not the right one” or “does this person really feel this way about me?” Austin was kind enough to let me use his equipment and record the guitar tracks for me.
After recording my first single under Less Than Three, titled “New Year’s (Forget That Night),” I realized that I wanted to re-record a couple of songs I already had released with real instruments. I picked three I believed would fit in the album and wrote the rest over the span of four months.
The hardest part of taking your time to produce your first album is definitely all the second-guessing. I’ve listened to all the iterations of my work, and there were some days I would just hate them. Nothing could be done to fix them, everything was terrible, nothing fit right, the lyrics were stupid, and I sucked.
After a day, that feeling would go away, and I’d make a couple of tweaks, and everything would be fine again. After I finished the process of posting it to all the different platforms, I realize how fitting the title is.
Disappointed, and to Higher Heights
Now, it’s been out for around four days, and after looking at the reception it’s gotten, you could say that I’m a little underwhelmed. At most, two people have listened to all the songs, and my first two songs on SoundCloud are littered with fake likes from bots trying to get me to spend money to have them repost it to a bigger account.
To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I had spent months working on a project that will just fly under the radar.
Checking stats every few hours to see if my luck will change, I was so caught up in worrying about how few people were listening that I didn’t even take time to appreciate that I had done it. I had my music on a platform that was so much bigger than I believed it would ever be. I have an audience of a few friends who enjoy my music, and I have enough content to even make a set list and do a show.
It’s still far off, but I genuinely believe that I can take myself to higher heights with my music and reach out to more people through trial and error. For now, Less Than Three will be quiet for a while, but I’ll definitely be back to try again. I’ll continue to make music until it’s impossible to ignore it. And most importantly, I’ll remember that this is what I love, and no one can take that away.
Less Than Three
Less Than Three, Category: Artist, Albums: Impostor Syndrome, Singles: Every Way, Always and Forever, I Will Follow You Into the Dark, Sleeptalkers, Split, Top Tracks: New Year’s (Forget That Night), I Will Follow You Into the Dark, Sleeptalkers, Why Me, Jefferson Park, Biography: Less Than Three is a, alt/emo band started by myself, Riley Hart., Monthly Listeners: 14, Where People Listen: Chandler, Gilbert, Newmarket, Winnipeg, Auckland