UB student-DJ hits over 1 million plays on Spotify
Simplicity is key for Frank Pierce’s sound
If Frank Pierce doesn’t get goose bumps when he hears his music, he starts over.
Femi Popoola, a junior pharmacy major who goes by the name Frank Pierce, wants his music to sound original and not just another nightclub hit. He has been making music since he was a child and has over 1 million plays on Spotify. He started off making remixes of popular songs on SoundCloud, but strayed away to focus on making his own sounds.
“I don’t care how many people like my music, I need to be able to feel the music,” Pierce said. “If I can get goose bumps and if it brings me to the brink of emotional turmoil, I think that for me is everything. And if people like it after that, it’s a bonus.”
Pierce got too comfortable producing for other people, saying that he said he “absolutely hated it.” Some of his remixes hit No. 11 on U.S. charts and radio DJs played his songs. But Pierce said it didn’t feel authentic.
When Pierce remixed an Alessia Cara song, Def Jam Recordings reached out to him and asked for permission to put it online.
He said the offer was tempting, but decided to turn it down. He didn’t want to be restricted to remixing.
“I knew I could write better music than just a cool remix and there are some songs that I do get commission for but I’ve turned down a lot of offers because I want to love what I’m doing,” he said.
Pierce’s writing process is scatterbrained. Sometimes the lyrics come first and other times a catchy beat will inspire him to write.
Once they’re put together, it’s a symphony of melodic synths, swinging drums and beautiful vocal top lines with the occasional vocal chop.
Pierce’s first musical ambition was songwriting. While most kids were watching cartoons and playing video games, he was focused on honing his writing skills.
“I feel like I’ve always kind of written music, it’s hard to think of a time when I wasn’t,” Pierce said. “I’m a producer so I make beats, but I’m also a song writer, I started writing songs at the age of nine and I started producing beats when I was introduced to the program Logic, at age 15.”
Pierce said that as a kid, he had a lot of energy, but didn’t always know where to put it. He started playing the piano in seventh grade and continued throughout high school. He was then classically trained and played in recitals and pit orchestras.
Sam Vespone, a junior biomedical engineering major is one of Pierce’s close friends and has worked on projects with him in the past.
“He and I are on the same page, he doesn’t want to be in the spotlight,” Vespone said. “[Pierce] wants to gain enough resources to keep making people dance to his songs, he doesn’t necessarily want all the fame, but if he could make enough money to make this his main gig, he would.”
Pierce admitted his friends have a huge impact on his music. They might not know it, but their time spent together is reflected in his music.
“He always asks his friends for their opinion and what’s cool is that we all come from different musical backgrounds, so we all have different tastes that we bring to the table,” Vespone said. “At one point or another I’ve thrown in my own thoughts, recently he asked my opinion about his single “True Love” and I was happy to take a listen.”
Pierce’s newest single “True Love” is a culmination of all his hard work with a more simplistic sound compared to past releases.
The song features fellow UB student, Alexa Feiner, or “Lex," a junior psychology major with a vocal minor, as the vocal lead.
“We first met at a party he was DJing at on South Campus this past fall semester,” she said. “I liked his sound so I introduced myself. A few weeks later, I was walking on the spine and I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was him.”
Feiner said she gets offers from artists looking to feature her on their songs, but rarely do those opportunities turn into anything significant.
When Pierce approached her, at first, she thought it would be another opportunity that would fall through. But after recording the track and seeing it on streaming websites, she’s happy they crossed paths.
“He’s persistent, he wanted to hear me sing and as soon as we got together he asked me to collaborate on the song,” Feiner said. “We went back to his apartment and his room was completely sound proofed with two giant speakers and a microphone; the whole setup.”
As a reward for all of their hard work, the song was picked up by Warner Music and will be released sometime next month.
Now that Pierce has found his own sound, he’s looking forward to the future.
Pierce will attend pharmacy school in the fall, but if the opportunity arises where he can make DJing his full-time job, he wouldn’t hesitate to do so.
“I don’t want to sell out, it’s a hard place to find yourself, but I would easily drop from being a Pharmacist to doing music full time,” he said.
Max Kalnitz is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org