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Psych major turns hip-hop producer

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Tara Jeffrey

Cullen McCurrach always knew music would be a big part of his life.

“I grew up surrounded by it,” said the 21-year-old Sarnia native, who began playing guitar in Grade 4, followed by the drums in Grade 9, then singing.

“It was sort of a journey of self-discovery for me.”

Growing up, his mother preferred more soulful tunes, while his father listened to heavier rock music. It’s those influences that have helped carve out a unique sound that’s earning the psychology major-turned producer and audio engineer some newfound attention.

“It just started out as a hobby, really,” said McCurrach, a third-year student at the University of Guelph, who, in his dorm room, began compiling music tracks with sound equipment, synthesizers and a computer.

The soulful, hip-hop instrumentals he was coming up with — inspired by old vinyl records, which he loves, and a vintage-style, nostalgic hip-hop sound — weren’t like anything he’d heard in Sarnia, and certainly not in Guelph, where county music is popular.

“I used Twitter to reach out to some of my favourite artists who were also beginning to grow and find their sounds,” said McCurrach, pointing to collaborations with groups like Pro Era, a U.S. hip hop collective from Brooklyn, NY, and others as far as New Zealand and Los Angeles.

He started producing tracks for other groups, often swapping ideas and drafts through programs like Skype.

He’s known as ‘Soulstruck’ and his Soundcloud page has garnered 4,000 followers, and his tracks have reached more than 300,000 plays.

“It takes a lot of commitment to finish an entire production,” he admits, noting it can be a struggle finding a balance between producing and studying.

Last year, he released a small EP of instrumentals and is working on his own vinyl release.

“I definitely don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” said McCurrach, a graduate of Northern Collegiate. “But I’m not about to drop out of school to pursue music production.

“I would love to do it for others as a career,” he added. “But I’m also pretty comfortable just doing it for me.”

 

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