The formula for a great video game isn't a very simple one, but to break it down in the simplest of forms, the greatest franchises all have three things in common: great gameplay, memorable characters, and a fantastic soundtrack. One of the great uses of YouTube is to see all of the fan-based changes and creations from these musical scores. In the last couple of months, our guest for this interview, Smooth McGroove, has captured the attention of gamers young and old with his unique collection of a cappella pieces to various video game franchises such as The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, and Castlevania. We cover a variety of topics with Smooth McGroove, from how he prepares for a piece, this year's E3 Expo, the nicknames dubbed by his audience, and the attention that his cat, Charl, has received.
First off, what is your musical background how did you get started doing acappella pieces?
I took some piano lessons during elementary school, but didn't really get into music until I turned 11 and started taking drum lessons. I continued drum lessons until I graduated high school and got a scholarship playing drums for a college jazz band program. Soon afterwards, I started teaching drums which became my main source of income until recently. I actually stumbled upon acapella by getting stuck writing an original song about video games. I ended up with the idea that I'd cover a video game song but I wanted to do it in a unique way, which led me to use my voice.
Where did the inspiration come from to create this channel and share the music with the world?
I started my YouTube channel because I had written a few original songs that I wanted to post on the interwebs for my friends and family to see. Once I started arranging acapella video game songs, I enjoyed it so much that I kept doing that instead. Eventually people started to notice, so it gave me even more motivation to keep at it.
What do you look for in gaming music that makes one song better to do than another?
I like songs that make me feel awesome or nostalgic. They can be three-track NES songs, or extravagant 12+ track modern video game tunes. It doesn't matter to me.
Is there a specific process you go through in choosing what pieces to perform?
Because I get so many requests, I generally pick my favorite out of what people have been asking me to do recently. Once I pick the track, it's all work from there.
What type of equipment and software are you using to create each piece?
I use an old Audio Technica condenser mic that I got as a gift years ago which hooks into a Focusrite audio interface. I use old KRK studio monitors that I've had for years and a PC that I rebuilt last winter. I record audio into Cubase and use Sony Vegas to do the video editing.
Looking through your channel, we can see that there are varying amounts of rhythms that have to be covered from song to song. How long does the entire process take to create one of your pieces on average?
From the easiest to the hardest songs I've done so far, it takes anywhere from about 15 to 40 hours to finish a song.
We have read through some of the comments on your pieces and seen a multitude of requests for different franchises. Are there some you simply can't do for varying reasons, whether it be length (Dancing Mad from Final Fantasy 6 seemed to be a big request) or the amount of rhythms in a piece?
I'd love to do Dancing Mad, One Winged Angel, or any really long extravagant song, but they will take a long time to tackle and finish. I want to have everything prepared, including myself, before I dig into a song like those.
We love retro gaming here at Gaming Nexus and it's obvious that both you and your subscribers do as well. Do you have one favorite franchise over any others?
I really don't have a favorite franchise, but I do have many that I like. You've seen me do songs from many of them, and there will be more to come!
The commenters on your channel have given you a large amount of nicknames aside from your own moniker, including names as Viking Nintendo Jesus, Singing Jesus, Epic Beard Singer, and a few others. Are there a couple that you have seen in the comments section that you personally like?
I think they're all very entertaining!
Stepping away from your channel for just a couple of questions, this year is shaping up to be a big one for gaming. Are you leaning one way or the other on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 from what we've seen so far?
Truth be told, the last consoles I actually owned were the PS1 and the Gamecube. Since I discovered Starcraft 1 and Diablo 2, I delved heavily into online PC games. World of Warcraft followed, and I had a love/hate relationship with that game for over seven years. That didn't give me much time to own any of the consoles, but recently I've been delving back into my love for the old console franchises and the feel of a controller in my hand. My money's on the PS4. I don't want a piece of Microsoft surveillance equipment in the middle of my living room. I will say that I plan on buying a Wii U soon though, because I absolutely have to play the new Nintendo titles.
E3 is right around the corner as well. What are you looking forward to the most out of this year's E3? [E3 will have come and gone by the time this posts. - Ed.]
Lots of things, actually. I'm making the trip to E3 this year and I'm super excited to actually be there during all of the big announcements.
As you've released more videos, the amount of views and comments you have received has risen quickly and the response seems to be very positive. How does it make you feel to bring this kind of enjoyment to everyone who has enjoyed gaming at some point in their lives and have you received any messages or comments that have stuck out more than others?
It makes me unbelievably happy that I can share the love I have for these games and their music with thousands of people that I've never met. It puts me at a loss for words. Some people leave comments about how their little kids love watching my videos or how my videos have helped them through a tough time in their life, and that makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.
A bit on the humorous side, are you feeling threatened at all that Charl, your cat that makes random appearances in your videos, will gain a bigger following than you?
I don't think there's any threat anymore. It's happened already!
And lastly, how can your followers find your music outside of YouTube?
You can find my VGM Acapella Volume 1 on iTunes, Loudr.fm, and I also release everything I do on Bandcamp.
I also recently ran a t-shirt design contest, and you pre-order the winning t-shirts at Sharkrobot
We would like to thank Smooth McGroove for taking time out of his schedule for the interview and wish him the best of luck in the future.
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