CLUBHOUSE - A DIVE INTO THE DEPTH w/AXEL MANSOOR AND MANAGER BRYAN MOONEY
The invite-only audio based social media platform, Clubhouse, is now just a year old. Over the last few months, I’ve joined, and watched my friends hop on the app one by one, too. When asked: “What is Clubhouse?” the answer is both very simple and somewhat complicated. I think Clubhouse at its root does what social media is supposed to do- help people connect. While other apps can be flooded with ads and VSCO-filtered, edited realities, Clubhouse relies on the human voice alone. This vocal element allows room for a level of depth and realness that other platforms can sometimes lack.
Allegedly, the app will be coming to Android soon, so for those of you new or unfamiliar with Clubhouse, here are some quick definitions about how the app works.
Users communicate via audio in different virtual rooms.
Clubs are virtual communities that host rooms.
Moderators are people who start rooms and can invite others to speak.
Speakers have the ability to talk in a room.
Exactly what it sounds like- people who join a room and listen in on conversations.
Based on the conversational element, Clubhouse has become a great place to network and connect with people on both a personal and professional level. The music industry, specifically, is so reliant on relationships, and Clubhouse has filled a void during the pandemic- allowing creative minds to connect, collaborate, and discuss.
In a world lacking live music, artists have searched for creative ways to build relationships with fans- and an audio platform like Clubhouse could be just the place if done correctly. Enter Axel Mansoor and manager Bryan Mooney.
Mansoor’s soothing vocals and honest songwriting have landed him various synch placements, and a spot on NBC’s Songland. His music is always introspective, whether it is set to funk and R&B inspired grooves, or a more acoustic leaning vibe.
AXEL MANSOOR - SCARY
Axel started singing on Clubhouse shortly after joining, which ultimately led to the creation of Lullaby Club. Lullaby Club has grown to have thousands of members and followers, and Axel even became the icon of the app for some time! We had the chance to chat with Axel and Bryan about connecting with people on Clubhouse, Lullaby Club, and what’s on the horizon for Axel in 2021 (including his debut EP that you can pre-save here).
AXEL MANSOOR - I WROTE THIS WHEN I WAS MAD
WE ARE: THE GUARD: How did you get started in music, and is it what you always thought that you’d do?
AXEL MANSOOR: I did not always think I was going to do music. In fact, I had a psychedelic experience when I was going into my sophomore year of college. I started playing music when I was 13- playing guitar and singing, and like doing high school choir at the suggestion of my sister.
I went to USC and I went as a psychology major, so I had no real plans to try to pursue music full time, but what happened was drugs. I had an acid trip and it just like blew the doors wide open on who I thought I was, and what I thought I was doing. I realized that I had been living my life for other people, and not for myself.
I ended up coming up with this theory that the reason we're on this Earth is to participate in what I call the “cycle of love,” which is giving, creating, receiving love in all of its many different forms. And for me, music was like the absolute best way for me to participate in that, and like from that moment on I was like “Okay, I have to do music.” I’m 28 now, so it’s been 9 years!
So the decision to professionally be a musician was after that. I had started writing songs and had some really therapeutic emotional experiences around like 16 or 17. Writing was also my way of connecting to my older brother who I just idolized and wanted to be like. He's six years older than me and he's a really successful musician in his own right- completely different genre. He does progressive metal, and that's what I grew up listening to and writing, and then I discovered John Mayer when I was like 14.
WE ARE: THE GUARD: You recently released “I wrote this when I was mad,” as well as a couple other singles throughout COVID-19. What has it been like releasing music during a pandemic?
AXEL MANSOOR: It's funny- I was literally talking about this with Bryan, my manager, earlier today and I realized that my career in general has exploded through the pandemic. It started with me doing Songland, and then the pandemic happening, and then the episode coming out during the pandemic, and it's just kind of it's been a very weird thing where it's like all of this really amazing stuff is happening for me, and now this community called Lullaby Club that I created on Clubhouse for other people, which is like my favorite thing- all against the backdrop of like the worst f****** disaster in American history in terms of Americans dying on American soil. Like 500,000 Americans dying is -I think- more than World War I. Also, the protests and the f****** ridiculous systemic racism that has always been there bubbled to the surface. There's just been so much craziness and so much strife, and pain, and there was a moment where I was really wrestling with the guilt of enjoying success during this time.
I guess the way that I normalize it for myself is by coming to the conclusion that like the worst thing that you can do with privilege is to squander. I get to do music as my job, and it's an incredible privilege. I understand that being a musician for most people is not something that you can even have the support to put enough time into, and that you can start to generate income for yourself. I'm just really grateful that it's all happening. It motivates me because things are going well, it motivates me to work hard, and keep working hard because if I can do this during a pandemic, then I sort of believe that anybody can. It just happened in a room I was in on Clubhouse- and maybe it sounds egotistical, but people were telling me that I’m inspiring by just doing my thing, and that’s really cool. Like f*** that’s awesome. One of the main things I want to do with my music is to help people and provide some sense of healing in a f***ing chaotic world.
WATG: I love that! Speaking of Clubhouse, Clubhouse has provided a new way for you to connect with listeners. When did you join the app?
AXEL: September 14ish? 15ish?
WATG: Cool! Specific.
AXEL: Well, I’ve been asked that question so many times, so one time I looked it up. I have a rough estimate.
WATG: That makes sense. I just joined last month.
AXEL: Welcome to the app! Come to Lullaby Club! How do you like it?
WATG: It’s cool! I’ve listened to Lullaby Club, I’m in some Women in Business and Women in Music Clubs. I saw that 21 Savage was giving relationship advice, and I might have some questions…
AXEL: I wonder if it was good advice.
WATG: So Clubhouse is a new way to network, and networking is so important in the music industry. How has it helped you to network?
AXEL: I hate the word network. When I think of the word network, it makes me freeze up and act differently. It makes me not be myself and I feel like I’m not allowed to be me. So the way that I approach it, is I say “I’m making friends. I’m building deep relationships with people intentionally.” I’m not ashamed to be like “I think you’re dope and I want to hang out with you because you do incredible shit.” I want to be around that. I think what Clubhouse has allowed for is (and it’s not like everyone instantly has this experience. You need to be in the right rooms and around the right people. It is possible to have incredibly shallow experiences on Clubhouse, as it’s a microcosm of the world), but there are places where you can go where you’ll feel that depth of connection. If you come to a place like Lullaby Club where we try to be nice and respectful, and create an environment where there’s this incredible potential for depth, you can really get to know people. It doesn’t feel like you’re just scrolling through a highlight reel or scrolling through a soundbite. If you see someone again and again and they’re consistent in not what they say, but how they say it, and the way they approach different situations, it’s just your voice- it’s a symmetrical system- so it’s hard to fake who you are. If you’re acting authentically, people who are attracted to that will also act authentically and you will find each other. My network of friends consists of people who want to be involved in my life, but also people whose lives I want to be involved in. It’s that give and take that makes it a friendship. That’s how you build community. Coming at it from that angle is a win-win situation. I have literally thousands of friends that I’ve made over the last 2 months.
WATG: That’s incredible!
AXEL: And they’re all really great people. I’ve heard their voices- it’s much harder to fake. Maybe it’s possible, maybe there are some real sheisters- it’s not foolproof. Relative to other social media, I think Clubhouse has hands down been the best way for me to create authentic relationships and actual friendships. Those friendships will last you a lifetime. I don’t care about making a relationship where I get like $2000 for like one thing, that’s $2000, that won’t even last me a year. But, a dope relationship with somebody- the value in that is priceless. That’s the way I look at it, especially in something like the music industry that’s so people driven.
WATG: I think that when I first got on the app, I had this idea that it would be panel discussions, and a Q&A format. Then I realized, however, that a lot of it is more about having a conversation. It’s not this buttoned up “here’s-my-business-card” kind of networking. It’s actual connecting, and this industry is all about that, so it makes sense that music has a home on Clubhouse.
AXEL: I believe that the value and depth can be found in small rooms, like 10 people or less and/or rooms where the moderators know how to make big rooms feel small. When you’re creating that sense of intimacy and vulnerability, that’s where the depth of connection can live. I don’t think you’ll find it in rooms where there are like 40 moderators on stage and they go through each person and it takes 2 hours before anything happens… I don’t go to those rooms. I stay far away from those rooms because it’s not my thing. And there are people who love those rooms- great, I’m happy they’re happy, but for me it’s about that intimacy. My best experiences have been in those actual small rooms or big rooms that feel small.
WATG: Is there an amazing conversation that you’ve heard on Clubhouse recently that has stuck with you?
AXEL: Yes! It’s kind of a heavy topic, but a timely one. Yesterday, right after Lullaby Club- which happened to be the Lullaby Club where John Mayer came and sang which was insane- one of the people on the backstage team messaged me and was like “Hey, this room is going on, and I’d love to have your support in this room.” I was like “What’s the room?” and it was about the shooting that had just happened in Atlanta, GA. The piece of the discussion that really stuck with me particularly was about how when I heard the news, I was like “Oh great, another one.” I realized underneath that, what that reaction really meant… There have been so many mass shootings that we’re desensitized to it. There was a discussion about how we need to allow ourselves to feel this. We can’t allow ourselves to be desensitized because it’s literally stripping us of our humanity. Our emotions are what make us human. We need that pain, that anger, that outrage to change things and make a shitty world better. That really stuck with me and that’s something that I will hold onto for a while.
WATG: Can you tell us about Lullaby Club and how this idea came to be?
AXEL: Lullaby Club is the best thing ever. It’s been referred to as “No Drama Narnia” which is my favorite term for it. My definition is that Lullaby Club is a place on the internet where you can come to relax, unwind, and fall asleep to great music with great people. My business partner, Aviva, and I have put our heads together and the official mission statement of Lullaby Club is “to soothe the world through the power of music and vibe.” That is really our mission and our intention is to do that not just on the internet, but also physically when we’re able to. In some ways, the idea developed over many, many years unconsciously. In other ways, the idea happened over night. It’s one of those things where it’s neither and both. My whole career, I’ve been in situations where I’d do house concerts or I’d do more intimate performances for friends late at night, and very often they’d be like “Man, I wish you’d just sing me to sleep.” It was always a nice compliment, but I never took it seriously. No one in the music industry makes money singing people to sleep. It had been building up for many years, but unconsciously. I had done a lot of live streaming in the past on Twitch, Periscope, and YouNow. When I got onto this platform that was all audio, my first thought was “Are there musicians playing music on here?” My friend Wayne invited me, and he was like “Nah I don’t think so, there aren’t really people playing music.” A couple days in, I worked up the courage to go into a room and play some music for people late at night, and they were really nice about it and supportive. No one was talking because they had been running the room for 6 days in a row. They were going for the record for longest open room. So I walked in, no one was saying anything, and I was like “Would anybody like a song?” I played, and people were like “This is like a late night lullaby” and it kind of just continued from there. Clubhouse had just made the ability for people to create clubs. Everyone had been saying I was doing lullabies, and I was like “Ok, I’ll call it Lullaby Club.” I didn’t think about it too hard, and that’s really where it started. It was just me having fun doing this thing I love to do.
I kept doing it, and I was doing it very sporadically. There would be like two people in the room, I’d say “Hey my name is Axel, let me play you a song.” It started to grow organically and people were coming. Then Aviva came in while there were maybe 20-30 people in the room, and she was like “Hey I think this is something really special. I come from the ASMR room, so this is really interesting to me. Wanna build something together?” That happened January 11th, and that’s when we started doing it every night. That's when it started to totally blow up. Within two weeks, Scooter Braun had popped in, and Charlie Puth, and the founders. 3 weeks into doing that, that’s when they asked me to be the icon.
I also had the chance to ask Axel’s manager, Bryan Mooney, some questions about Clubhouse via email.
WATG: Clubhouse is a new way for people to network, and networking is so important in the music industry! How has the app helped you to network?
BRYAN MOONEY: Clubhouse has become an easy way for me to chat with colleagues I don't get to see at shows/events anymore during the pandemic. It also provides a natural environment for providing guidance and support to those who request it.
WATG: Apart from networking, what other ways can the platform be utilized by musicians?
BRYAN MOONEY: The drop-in audio-only nature of Clubhouse presents an opportunity for artists to be their authentic selves, in a way that's often difficult to convey on social media platforms. I believe that we'll soon look at Clubhouse as a viable platform for artists to amass a following and promote their work, in the same way we now discuss TikTok in 2021.
WATG: Let's say we just got on Clubhouse for the first time. What should we do?
BM: Follow Axel Mansoor and check out Lullaby Club, of course! But in all seriousness- follow the folks that you know, and take the time to search for clubs that cater to your interests, professional and personal. Clubhouse can be overwhelming, and requires some investment in finding your own community.
WATG: What is your definition of Lullaby Club?
BM: A virtual blanket fort in your living room, full of new friends.
WATG: Axel was the face of the app! How did that happen and what has been the impact since?
BM: Axel was an early user of the app, and invested in building and providing a service to his community. He built something special, and Clubhouse recognized that.
WATG: I've noticed that other social media networks are developing audio-based chats. Why do you think this is effective, and why now?
BM: Audio provides an entirely different dynamic. There's a human element that's lacking on text-based social media platforms. Most Clubhouse rooms feel either like a panel, or a dinner party conversation. I prefer to avoid panel-style rooms, and find that a good Clubhouse room is similar to a conversation you might have at a party, in a world without the COVID-19 pandemic.
WATG: What's on the horizon for Axel as a musician in 2021?
BM: At the moment, we know that Axel will continue rolling out his debut EP 'i hadn't ever loved myself.’ The last few weeks have been wild, and are beyond anything we planned or could have envisioned a month ago. Hopefully 2021 will continue to surprise all of us!
Pre-save Axel Mansoor’s debut EP coming May 7th here.