Almost every day, in addition to the usual steady hum of press releases and album promos, I receive emails from aspiring musicians existing wholly outside the machinery of the industry. These emails usually come from personal GMail accounts and, truth be told, the content lands at around 1000 different points on the quality spectrum. I try to listen to as many of them as my day allows, because, honestly, every now and then, one of them turns out to be someone like Ed Balloon.
I don’t know what made me click on Ed’s Soundcloud — well, OK, yes I do: it was the fact that he was calling himself Ed Balloon, which I found improbably awesome. Within 30 seconds of “The Swimmer,” I was yelling to anyone who would listen, “WHO IS ED BALLOON?” Slippery four-track soul vaguely reminiscent of early Cody ChesnuTT that wisely foregrounded Balloon’s voice, the song grew more hypnotic and enthralling every time I listened to it (and I think I listened to it upwards of 20 times). I reached out immediately to ask him if we could premiere the song and to try to find out a little more about him. You can — and should — listen to “The Swimmer” below, and scroll down a little further for our Q&A with Ed.
Ed Balloon’s Soundcloud is here, and you would be crazy not to go there and listen to “Cool Guy” right away.
What was the first record or song you heard that made you want to make music? What was it about that record or song that inspired you?
Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” I just found Michael’s voice to be so effortless on that track, and I thought to myself, “I want to do this. I want to make music.”
When did you record your first song?
The first song I recorded was when I was really young — like 15. The song was called “Cool.” I went to the studio not knowing anything about it and tried to record. It was scary. When I didn’t like the result, I realized I had work to do. I’ve still only been in a recording studio four times in my whole life.
How did you settle on the name Ed Balloon?
For some strange reason, I’ve always had a liking for damn balloons. They always appealed to me. I couldn’t understand why until I got older. I realized that balloons symbolize progression, surpassing societal boundaries and barriers. I was at a point in my life where I got tired of having society restrict me to their standards. So I said to myself, “They can’t hold me. I’m like a balloon. I float over b.s.” That’s how the name came about.
Tell me a little about the evolution of “The Swimmer” — how did the song develop? How did you arrive at the central metaphor of a swimmer?
“The Swimmer” was not supposed to happen. It was actually supposed to be another song using the same beat, but I didn’t like the recording. I actually almost gave up on the beat itself until a few friends told me to come back to it later. I began to re-listen to the instrumental and, I’m not saying the first version wasn’t real, but I didn’t feel it. This one, I felt. I always felt like, because I haven’t dated that much, I was kind of a weakling when it came to relationships. I always had the fear that if I am not experienced enough, I won’t get far. So the song pretty much is a about having that person who is experienced and willing to go slow, just for the betterment of the relationship.
The metaphor of the swimmer came about because I was swimming can be so difficult to master. It requires discipline. And that is the key question: Would a master at such a sport be willing to discipline him or herself to teach that person they want to be with? I guess the song works because the beat is oceanic. But in all honesty, I did not feel that vibe until the song was done.
You’re going about this more or less on your own — what’s been the biggest challenge so far? What’s been the biggest reward?
The biggest challenge is, of course, the finances, but also trying to capture people enough to make them believe in you. The biggest reward is seeing people loving your music. That is something I always look forward to. I’ve heard artists say this all the time, but you really can’t understand until you experience it.