Felix Cartal Breaks Down His 18-Track Album 'Next Season': Exclusive

Trevor Brady
Felix Cartal

Two years ago, Canadian producer Felix Cartal began working on his third album, Next Season 18 tracks and two Juno Award nominations later, Cartal's impassioned LP is here in full forward. 

The body of work includes six previously released tracks, most notably the New Radicals cover "Get What You Give," which peaked at No. 70 on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 in January 2018. Other familiar cuts include "Drifting Away" featuring Ofelia K and "Hold Tight."

Next Season encourages listeners to lose sense of the immediate reality and, instead, curl up in the producer's hour-long story which is furnished with vulnerability, nostalgia and escapism. Check out Cartal's exclusive album breakdown below:​

1. "Stop Being Yourself"

This was one of the lyrical themes that became one of the main subject matters of the album. I really wanted to write this positive lyric about just staying true to who you really are but every time I tried to write something like that, it felt cheesy and predictable. Once I flipped the lyric to the opposite direction and said "stop being yourself," it felt interesting. Sometimes a great lyric is like a great joke; where someone takes something that we all know is familiar and puts it in a new way that we haven't heard before. I strive to do this as often as possible.

I also felt like a lot of lyrics in my world of dance music weren't too inventive and often don't deal with things that sound negative, so I thought flipping this lyric into those words would be something interesting. This is also the first song on the album that has field recordings from my trip to Tokyo, these are scattered amongst the songs on the album because I feel that travel, along with nostalgia, are two important themes for this record.

2. "Drifting Away"

I wrote this song with Ofelia two summers ago in L.A. on one of the hottest days of the year. I remember sitting in my apartment and checking the temperature and it was over 100° F inside. I think the lyric was inspired by this idea of wanting to literally get away from how the temperature felt that day and also just to break out of your shell and do something that felt different.

A week later I had a plane ride, and I came up with the idea to try and flip the vocal so that it was very repetitive throughout the song, without getting boring. I always think a song is great when you can repeat a phrase over and over again and it doesn't annoy you. Ofelia has one of my favorite voices and made this song a beauty.

3. "Faces"

This song was written in Toronto with Veronica and two other writers. I really love how the starting lyrics of each verse are references to Bob Dylan songs. This song came together really quickly; we wrote the majority of the vocal in a few hours and while the engineer was timing the vocal cuts I produced the majority of the beat on my headphones. I often feel like the songs that come together the quickest are the ones that turn out the best. Pure inspiration.

4. "Walking By"

This was one of two songs that I wrote in Sweden with Iselin, Kriss and Erik, all very talented writers. I came to the session with this demo track that had a vocal chopped up that sort of sounded like the words "walking by." I hadn't thought that this would be the concept for the hook but once we started thinking of the theme of seeing someone in street that you never get to meet, I knew that we were onto something original. It felt like this concept was really obvious but no one had ever made a song about it. We wrote new chords for the chorus section and tried to write something extremely sing-song and Iselin completely killed the delivery of the vocal. I can't really stress how much she brought the song to life.

5. "Hold Tight"

During the course of this album I became obsessed with sampling my own songs. "Hold Tight" was a phrase that I pulled from the "Get What You Give" a capella. The whole beat for the song I had written a few months before, and I tried to write numerous vocals for it but nothing ever felt right. I got into sampling my own songs and it became really easy to finish this track, it also gave me clarity for a few other songs from the album which I did in a similar fashion.

6. "Down for You"

I wrote this beat beside a pool in the summer in L.A. I was a little bit inspired by "One Dance" by Drake, with that sort of Dutch/samba snare rhythm. It also inspired the outro section that ends the song in a different way rather than just ending with the drop. I flipped the tempo to something upbeat just to make it something that went really hard at my shows. My friend at my label put me onto a singer named TRACE, and we ended up writing the lyrics and topline together in L.A. I really like how cheeky the lyrics are, they're about that feeling where you keep going back to someone that you know is not really great for you but it's hard to turn down. I think that's something that a lot of people struggle with.

7. "The Wave"

I wrote this song a few years ago with Moon Bounce, and I honestly feel bad that it's taken so long for it to come out. I was really inspired by M83, trying to re-create this wall of sound while still feeling nostalgic. The title of the song feels like an apt description of how it builds to this one moment that then crashes over the entire soundscape. The arrangement doesn't really make sense and that's why I love it. I particularly love the middle section after the second chorus, which was inspired by the Wurlitzer section from "In My Life" by the Beatles.

8. "Everything Is Fine"​

Sometimes I feel like I don't communicate properly in relationships, because songwriting sessions often act as their own form of therapy. I wanted to write a song from the perspective of an imaginary someone that I was in a relationship with, and how frustrating it can be when someone says that "everything is fine" when it isn't. I wanted this beat to be aggressive to compliment that frustration. I love the harsh Auto-Tune on the vocal before the drop -- it removes the feeling from the vocal which I feel mimics the emotion of someone that would make that statement.

9. "The Searchers"

This interlude was inspired by Shel Silverstein poetry. Since nostalgia is an important theme of this record, I thought it would be important to reference art that impacted me when I was young. I hadn't really thought about the influence of the things that I read when I was really young, so I started assessing that when revisiting a lot of these texts. The instrumental was something I've been working on for a while that never really felt like it should be a full song.

10. "Wherever"

I had done a remix for Coeur de Pirate, and afterwards I expressed that I really wanted to work on something with her. She sent me a voice note of a vocal idea that she had started, and I started building out ideas to it. This was one of the hardest songs for me to finish on the album because every instrumental that I made didn't feel like it did her voice justice. I finally figured out a way to make it work once I sped up the song entirely and started working in a tempo I was more unfamiliar with.

This proved to be inspiring, and from there I finished the instrumental, and we tracked the vocal when she was in town in Vancouver at Bryan Adams' studio. She used the drum mic to record her vocal, which I thought was badass. This is one of those songs that I would describe as sort of sad but also sort of uplifting; I find that's a theme with a lot of my songs. Also, I've always been a fan of Coeur de Pirate so to work with her was a surreal experience.

11. "Everyone But Me"

These are probably some of my favorite lyrics on the record and they talk about the difficulties of maintaining relationships while traveling all the time. I wrote them with Matt and Taylor in L.A. The original production for this beat built into this big climax for the chorus every time, but I really didn't feel like that complimented what was happening lyrically.

That was actually a big breakthrough for me with a lot of the songs on this record, thinking about what matches the lyric rather than just making a drop for the sake of a drop. I had always toyed with the idea of doing a pure piano ballad, but didn't really have the opportunity when just doing singles previously. I love the anti-drop on the final chorus. Also, I wrote the chords for this song with my sister -- it was fun to finally collaborate with her on something. I also feel it's important to mention how amazing Daniela's vocal performance is on this record. She really brought the emotion of the lyrics to life.

12. "Runaway"

These are the sassiest lyrics on the album, and they were written with the sassiest lyricist on the album, REGN. The song is about telling anyone off who is trying to control you. I love all the references in the lyrics to "oohs" and "ahhs," and then the cheekiness of actually singing them afterwards. I got that idea from an old punk song by NOFX. I really wanted this beat to just keep going and work in the club. Fun house vibes. It also felt like a similar thing to "Drifting Away," where I got away with saying the song title a lot of times without it getting boring.

13. "Falling Down"

I had this idea of writing a song as a fictional journal entry to myself about something that scares me in an attempt to overcome it. The repeated lyric of "I'm Falling Down, I'm Falling Down Again," is a mantra that I repeat to myself a lot, telling myself that through struggle comes the best things. Rather than being demoralized by something that keeps knocking me over, I want to embrace the fact that through time, this struggle is the only way to produce great work.

14. "Mood"

This is the second song that I wrote in Sweden with Iselin, Kriss and Erik. Iselin had been googling random American T-shirt slogans about "killing it" and whatever, and we had this great "ooooh -- ohhhh" chant that was super hooky. The biggest breakthrough came when we flipped one of the "oohs" into the word "mood." The title and the single were born and my first passes at production were extremely dancey. I felt like what I did didn't match it though, so after sitting on it for a while I went for a more organic approach inspired by some folk things that I had been listening to recently. The offbeat guitar and new chord progression felt kind of quirky which is how I felt about the lyrics, so I thought that it actually complemented it perfectly. I love how it turned out.

15. "Get What You Give"

I had the idea to flip this song two summers ago and cold emailed the vocalist Fjord with this idea. He agreed and cut the vocal from home and from there I built the beat around what he is sent. I love the lyrics of the song -- I feel like every year that passes, they age better and teach me something new about life. That's what I strive for in my own songwriting and why I felt this homage to this classic tune was appropriate.

16. "Over Used"

The second effort in sampling myself. I got obsessed with scoring beats to Simpsons wave videos on YouTube and this is what I came up with. Sometimes the best part of an album is the chance to make a song that wouldn't be possible to release as a single.

17. "Worry"

I wrote this song with Victoria and Nate while I was in L.A. Nate dubbed this the "anti-anxiety anthem," which I think is a great description of the lyrics. It also feels like an affirmation that everything will be okay, not to overthink things, and realize that if you get too inside your own head it can cripple you, so you just need to power through. The production on the song was one I struggled with a lot, it felt like a lot more elements than most songs. But hey, you have to challenge yourself.

I really wanted the gang vocals at the end to feel alive ,and reference a lot of the punk rock music that I listened to growing up, without feeling cheesy or out of place. I think that's what makes it feel like an anthem, though -- and one of the reasons why I love it.

18. "Listen"

It seemed appropriate to end the album with an instrumental, because the album is quite personal and I felt like it had to end on a personal note, a song done just by me. The final lyric is me talking; I pitched it up slightly, and I feel like that phrase sums up the entire album. It's all about not forgetting why you started doing things and that you should continue doing them for those reasons. "Sometimes I think that voice never goes away, we just choose to stop listening."


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.