When TRACES burst onto the scene a little over two years ago, the San Diego-born writer and producer was met with support from the likes of Indie Shuffle, Ones to Watch and Neon Gold. With his raw lyricism and heavy-hitting electronic-pop sound, he quickly drew the attention of listeners and carved out his own lane within the music scene. So, when he signed to esteemed Canadian label Dine Alone Records late last year, we wondered how his electronic-leaning sound would fit within the label’s predominantly rock-heavy lineup. As time has gone on, however, it’s become increasingly clear that TRACES—whose real name is Tim Dehnert—is leading the charge behind the label’s new, more varied sound.
Since signing to the label, Dehnert has already begun to make his mark. Last October, he got off to a promising start with the release of his long-awaited EP, Heart of Gold. Written during his move from San Diego to Los Angeles, the genre-spanning EP saw Dehnert demonstrate his knack for production, while also bringing to light his struggle with depression and anxiety. On songs like “Trouble in Mind,” “Black Cadillac” and “Haunted,” he describes feelings of inadequacy, isolation and helplessness with strength and honesty. Set amongst a backdrop of deep, dark, and, at times, menacing electronic beats, these feelings become all the more powerful.
In light of his battle with depression, Dehnert has found some ever-important peace within himself—a feeling that’s apparent when listening to his latest offering, “Before I Wilt.” Taken from his newly-minted EP, Median, it marks another important step in his growth both as a musician and as a person. On the back of its release, we caught up with Dehnert to discuss more about the song, his latest EP and his idea of success. Read our full conversation below.
Indie Current: First and foremost, what can you tell us about the name TRACES? Where does the name come from and does it have any personal significance to you?
T: The idea behind the name was this idea that we all have memories, emotion, and characteristics from our past that make up who you are. It doesn’t necessarily have any profound meaning to me but I liked how it sounded along with the fact that I write down all those thoughts, characteristics and memories that make up who I am in the moment.
IC: With your most recent single, “Before I Wilt,” you’ve taken a more mellow approach to production. Was this a conscious decision and can we expect more of this sound from your forthcoming EP?
T: The production is all about creating a tone that best serves the message. So for this song in particular it was best to have it be a little smoother and mellow because the message is reflective and yearning. I make sure the songs across the projects all fit together but no, there is definitely a variety on this EP.
IC: Having recently signed to Dine Alone Records, do you feel you have more freedom to focus on making music than you did before; that is, now that you have a team to support you? Are there any artists on Dine Alone’s roster that you’d like to collaborate with either now or in the future?
T: It’s been really great having them on the team. They have really come along side and helped make possible my big or somewhat vague ideas. Collaboration wise, I really love City and Colour along with James Vincent McMorrow. Those two guys I have been a fan of for a very long time so it would be amazing just to have a conversation.
IC: Having grown up in San Diego and living so close to Los Angeles, would you say you were always drawn to the entertainment industry? With that in mind, how would you say the music scene compares between the two cities?
T: I don’t think it was necessarily me being drawn to the entertainment industry but LA being so close made it accessible. A lot of bands would come through San Diego because it was just close enough to LA so I still got the opportunity to see most of my favorite acts. San Diego music when I was coming up was pretty much half Hardcore/Metal and half Beachy Acoustic Singer/Songwriter. I’m not terribly interested in either of those genres so thank god for iTunes/Spotify hahaha.
IC: Two years ago, you shared your debut single “Share Your Love” with the world. Listening back to that single, I couldn’t help but notice how polished the production was. How long had you worked on perfecting your sound before you released that first single?
T: At that time I was just working on being a writer for other artists, so most of the work to find my sound culminated to the Heart of Gold EP. On those first three songs I worked with an incredible Producer named Michael Morgan who was able to take some ideas I had along with his insane skill and make something really cool. I knew those song were not too far off from what I wanted to do as an artist and I would rather put them out then have them sit on my hard drive so we made it happen. Glad we did it but it definitely wasn’t until a year after that when I felt I landed on a TRACES sound.
IC: To this point, you’ve had considerable success with everything you’ve released thus far. At what point will you know that you’ve “made it”?
T: It’s funny, that idea of “making it” and “arriving” are things I’ve thought a lot about the best two years. I don’t think there will ever be a divine realization haha but I do know I want to be able to just make music and play it for people around the world. I want to be able to collaborate and have the means of working well with some of my favourite artists. It is more about the songs, the meaning, the progression, and the connection that is most important to me right now.
IC: Lastly, can you tell us three things about yourself that we won’t find in another interview or on the internet for that matter?
T: I didn’t have a cheeseburger till age 12. I have a weird obsession with the show Survivor and Tom Bergeron, the one true host of America’s funniest home videos. I understand how these two shows are totally unrelated. Ahhh… and I don’t know a third so I guess… I probably should’ve failed first grade. I used to hide all the homework assignments in the back of my desk at school or in my pants and then asked to go to the bathroom to throw them all away. If they weren’t there how could I finish them? Pretty sure the teacher was too nice to fail a little 6 year-old with spiky hair.