In the electronic music sphere many genres, styles and sounds can become saturated – leaving space for new tastemakers to change the scene. Enter heartholder: the Eora based artist pushing waves with his genre-bending jazz & electronic fusion records. We caught up for a Q&A to break down some of the production techniques, processes and sonic choices of heartholder below…

With such diverse layers in your tunes, describe the heartholder project & sound!

At its core, my music as heartholder is all about contrast. I set out to bring together the sounds I love from both the neo-jazz and electronic worlds and to create something that could equally come from a live, improvised session, or be right at home in a club. I use a wide variety of live instruments, from saxophone to strings, and layer these with darker synth basses, jazz drum chops, and saturated grime and drill vocals.

How has your journey been with music?

My earliest music-related memory is desperately wanting to learn saxophone in my Year 1 band but instead being relegated to playing the Tuba part on an electric keyboard. Since then I’ve written and produced music as much as possible and played in everything from a Sun Ra Tribute band to a Cumbia group. During the pandemic, I began volunteering at FBi Radio, an independent community radio station here in Eora/Sydney, which opened my eyes further to so many incredible local and international acts and really led me to the sound I have now. I went through the Produce Music course at Liveschool in 2023 after making the switch to Ableton, which gave me the tools to finally get my own releases across the line after working on the concepts for so many years.

How do your tracks start when you’re creating & writing?

I like to begin all my tracks by creating two core opposing elements, usually one jazz-inspired and one electronic. This could be an interesting progression on keys coupled with a heavy jungle break or a lighter jazz drum sample over a Reese bass, for example. This instantly pulls the project into the heartholder space and establishes a tone and sense of tension. With any drum breaks, I like to EQ out the kick and snare and swap them straight away. Once I’m happy I start layering harmonies and other textures and often drop in an interim vocal sample. I’ve also put together some Ableton racks to give a distinct tone to several of my core elements and bring them quickly into the same world.

Who would you say are your inspirations?

I’m constantly inspired by the breadth of talent and incredible new voices coming out of the underground jazz/fusion scene here in so-called Australia right now. Manfredo Lament, Setwun, xmunashe, Yasmina Sadiki, Grievous Bodily Calm, Don Glori, Ella Haber, Malla, 30/70, and GODTET just to name a few. The latest albums from Yussef Dayes and Overmono both formed a huge part of the influence for the project, as well as some of my other favourites like Kamasi Washington, 700 Feel, Skin On Skin, Vegyn, and Logic1000.

How do you tackle recording / sampling your saxophone & bringing it into a dance context?

Interesting question! On the tracks so far I’ve been playing with a mix of my own saxophone recordings and other samples, so trying to blend those together has been a challenge. Usually, I like to repitch and warp the horns to help them sit in context with the track, and through that process I’ve loved pulling out moments of vibrato and harmonics to resample as other textures. I’m a sucker for a huge sense of space, so I’ve given the sax more of an ethereal quality with heavy verb and delay to offset some of the other sharper elements in the mix. I also played with adding distortion to the end of some phrases, like the opening of On Zip for example, which helps to bring an almost electronic edge to the live instrument.

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The fusion of jazz / acoustic / electronic elements is so unique, how’s the reception been so far?

I was definitely nervous to see if the idea would land, but the response to both On Zip and Skim has been killer. I’ve felt so privileged to be part of such a beautiful creative community here in Eora/Sydney that shows the most generous support for independent, local artists. In particular, I’ve had some incredible support from community radio, including charting on AMRAP and a feature on ToneDeaf, but really just to have even one person listen to the music I’ve been working on for so long feels surreal and very fulfilling.

What’s coming next for heartholder?

I’m putting the last touches on my first EP which I can’t wait to share a bit later this year and working on some collaborations with artists I love to come a bit further down the line. I played my first DJ set as heartholder back in April and will be jumping on some more mixes soon, as well as taking the project live in the very near future…


Stuck on where to release your records? Check out the Release Music course!