EXCLUSIVE: Conor Michael Smith Talks “With You In Mind,” Being a Solo Artist and More

If you know the boy band, In Real Life, then you most likely know former band member, Conor Michael Smith. He played the violin and rapped some insane verses in the band. Now, Conor is solo, like all the other members, they’re working on solo music. Conor released a powerful song with an important message for what occurred in 2020 with all the racism and tension. His new song “With You In Mind” deals with that topic and ECHO chatted with him about the message and creating the song in such a tough time.

Photo Credit: Lukas Dong

How has working as a solo artist been compared to being in a boy band? 

Good question, they’re both very different experiences. For me the biggest difference between being a solo artist and being in a band has been the artistic freedom. Being able to do whatever you want is scary, but a million times more rewarding when you get it right. There’s nothing like writing a song and bringing it to life yourself. On top of that, seeing fans resonate with the thing that you created is priceless. I got to experience that with the band a little bit, but not nearly as much as I get to now. 

Talk about creating your new song, With You In Mind, you released it during a high tension year, so what was going through your mind when working on it?

Truthfully its been something that’s always bothered me, and something I knew I wanted to write about one day, but never had the courage I guess. I had actually written a different verse very similar to what With You In Mind was talking about in January, but it wasn’t as specific to the Black Lives Matter movement, that song is still gonna come out though. I say that to say I was planning on saying something in a song, but seeing the George Floyd video surface later that year, I knew my statement had to be a lot more specific to what was really going on. Like the rest of the world, I was heartbroken. Now I’m not going to sit here and say, all cops are bad, but it’s just like, the system is corrupt. Certain things just shouldn’t be happening. That’s like, if we had like a bunch of airplane crashes every year, you’d be like, yo pilots are fucked. You shouldn’t be making those mistakes. If that’s your job, don’t make that mistake. It shouldn’t be allowed. When it happened, I sat down, and I remember I was like “God, if I could say anything about this, I would love to say it, because I feel something, I feel this. So, if you have any words you want to put through me, I would love to say something.”  Three weeks later, I came out to LA. On a random Wednesday I laid down the drums and started writing “if I’m being honest in tired of seeing bloodshed on the doorsteps of these young men but how can I defend…” 

What some artists do you collaborate with as a solo artist? 

Dude, I want to work with Dominic Fike. I think we’d make something so cool. I also wanna work with Billie Eilish cause I know she doesn’t work with too many people. Whatever we end up doing would be really special I feel like. On the rap side, JID, Cordae, Ye, Freddie Gibbs. I also wanna work with Jaden Smith, it doesn’t even have to be music but that guy does a lot for the planet, so thatd be an honor. Oh Lin Manuel Miranda!! I shouldn’t even have to explain that one. My biggest dream collaboration would have to be John Williams though. He wrote the scores for my favorite movies like Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones etc. I have a dream of him creating a “Conor’s Theme” song. I think what Kenny Beats is doing right now is insane too.

What are your kind of musical goals for 2021? 

I want to put out music, but it’s important to me that I take it at my pace and make sure what I’m putting out is something that I can live with for the rest of my life. I really care about music more than anything else that I do, and I I really want to be primarily known FOR my music. Now that I’m out of the band, I just want to explore. I wanna try everything. I want to pick up new instruments too, and I don’t want to just rap. I’ve been practicing my violin, singing a lot, and playing ukulele, but I also wanna pick up guitar and learn drums. I’ve learned so much from studying hip hop but I need to grow as a musician. Everything I do is still rooted in hiphop though, cause I still feel like that’s where I get the heart of my music from. One of my managers Louis has always told me I’m not just the rap guy, that there’s so much more to me, so I wanna break the box that people may put me in. 

If you could set up a fan in a setting for them to listen to your music, what setting would that be?

You’re sitting in the back of the bus on your way to school, or in the car with your headphones on, or you’re on a walk around your neighborhood or a city or something. Maybe you’re driving by yourself but I really think my music is meant to be listened to in an intimate setting. Some songs I’m gonna kick you in the ass and tell you to keep moving, some songs I’m gonna empathize with you and meet you where you are. As humans we all want to feel understood so that we don’t think our problems are because we are bad people. I’ve learned that my weaknesses are my biggest strengths, meaning the stuff I hate about myself is what people love about me. When I tell my people about my insecurities, they really, really appreciate it. It’s liberating because it means that I can fully be me. When people say, “Oh, I just want to be myself.” A lot of times they leave out the bad parts of them and that’s, that’s just not human.You know, we’re good. And we’re bad. We’re good and evil. We have that. We have bad days. We have days where we’re annoyed. We have days when we’re angry, I have terrible thoughts sometimes, and with cancel culture going on these days, you can’t have a bad thought, you can’t do a bad thing.We have all these robots on the internet. People that have never done anything wrong in their life. They want to tell us how to live, so that they don’t have to.  

What’s one quote that you’ve heard in life that you’d want to ECHO out to fans?

A lot of times we’re stuck in our own bubble. I really believe we’re on this planet to love, to give back what we have. We’re always seeking something greater for ourselves, but I believe you can only get that through helping those around you. There’s a reason it feels good to donate. There’s a reason it feels good to give someone who’s homeless a meal. It’s in our nature. I show my mom I love her when I do the dishes before she gets home, I show my sister I love her when I go and hang out with her after school, instead of playing video games. I show my friends I love them when I check in on them. It’s just small stuff like that. I’m not saying donate all your money haha, but give back sometimes. 

Stream “With You In Mind” now!