Artist of the month: Los Altos junior writes, records and releases his own four-track EP

STORY AND PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN, ILLUSTRATION BY ALLISON HUANG

While the rest of his teenage peers have been lying on the couch watching TikToks, Dominic (Christiansen) Crosby’s been writing his own EP. 

Dom’s EP — “Sophomore Year Singles” — features four songs, two of which he’s written during the pandemic; they’re dreamy, high-reverb tracks, reminiscent of many modern-day indie artists with a touch of ’60s surf rock. 

(Okay, to be clear, Dom did say that he also lies on the couch and watches TikToks. But the EP’s still pretty cool.)

“Right now, my goal is just to make songs that I like in high school and practice,” the Los Altos junior said. “So when I’m an adult and I’m trying to be a musician I’ll have a little more experience with songwriting. Hopefully it’ll be better.”

Impressively, Dom managed everything on the EP himself, including the guitar, bass, keys, drums and even the mixing. Maybe even more impressively, the only formal instruction he’s ever gotten was three years of drum lessons at age 9.

“The thing that keeps me going is that I’ve improved enough that people actually enjoy my music in a way that it’s not just ‘oh this is cool I know this kid’ it’s ‘oh I actually like this song,’” he said. “Which wasn’t so much the case in middle school when we were first starting out.”

Last year, Dom released a single, “Somehow, Someday,” on Soundcloud, but this is his first time releasing to more ubiquitous services (“more legit,” as he called them) like Apple Music and Spotify. Previously, he had played in a band with friends from middle school through freshman year.

Dom — almost sheepishly — reported that he’s gotten overwhelmingly positive reception following his release; he noted that it’s not as if any of his friends would say something negative, but the reception still feels good.

“When it was on Soundcloud, people were still super nice, but now that I’ve put it on Spotify, everybody listens to it differently,” he said. “The response to this EP was crazy; it made me so happy.”

He did mention that a high schooler who does music reviews was critical of the fact that his tracks draw too heavy of an influence from artists like Mac DeMarco, but Dom seemed good natured about it, even going so far as to post the review on his Instagram story.

And while the budding songwriter does have ambitions of working in the music industry, Dom seemed surprisingly grounded in reality.

“Well, I feel kind of silly saying [I want to do music for a living], because everybody knows it’s hard,” he said. “I want to go to college just because I’m not ready to invest my whole career in the hope that a music career will work out.”

The plan — as of now — is to continue songwriting and improving his technical skills through high school and college, then try to dive into a career for a couple years after graduating college.

Dom didn’t seem particularly terrified at the prospect of working in a “traditional” career, noting that he’d probably still play in bands and songwrite even then. Plus, he says he’s pretty good at science and math.

“I’ll probably be super poor,” he quipped. “And if it doesn’t work, which it probably won’t, I’ll slowly back off and go into a traditional career … But that’s what I want to do. I mean who knows what’ll happen. I’m willing to put a bunch of work in because I think it’ll be work that I enjoy.”

Dom said music draws him so much because of a lot of things — like playing live, working with other musicians and even just making noise — but primarily the songwriting aspect.

“People treat songwriting like it’s some natural thing and people are born with it,” he said. “Maybe it’s a little bit of that. But it’s a skill, so I treat songwriting like practicing music composition and putting all the instruments together and writing a song.”

Dom mentioned that both his parents are very much supportive of his current and planned forays into the music world, and that he and his dad even have similar tastes in music; the two of them listened to his EP together following its release.

And unlike a stereotypical high school rocker, Dom says he takes a relatively rigorous course load and genuinely enjoys school and learning; although, he did say that during the pandemic, he’s found it challenging not only to stay motivated in school, but also in his music.

“I feel like I was less creative just because of how little was going on,” he said, speaking about the songwriting process for his two tracks that were written during the pandemic. “Actually maybe not less creative, more so less productive like I am with school work.”

But it’s clear that Dom even in a “less productive” stage yields some pretty impressive stuff; being cautiously optimistic, Dom said that he hopes to release a three-song EP this summer.

And already, Dom said he’s grateful for all the support and recognition he’s gotten following his release of “Sophomore Year Singles.”

“In terms of just recognition from other people, I see that as a door opening,” he said. “I’m a little bit known as the ‘kid who does music’ … and I think that’s sick.”

Spotify users can find Dom’s EP here, and Apple Music users can find it here.

This story is a part of our Artist of the Month feature column, where we’ll highlight some of the best high school musicians, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and any other kind of artists from the local area. If you know someone that you think we should feature, please don’t hesitate to email midpenpost@gmail.com or DM us at @midpenpost on Instagram.

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