Sound & Vision: L.A. vs. Seattle

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox
Photo by Angel Ceballos

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday. Subscribe now.

Seattle has changed a lot in 10 years. The cost of buying a house has doubled and rent has gone up by nearly 70% in the region. With that, artist are getting pushed out of the city and some of them are moving to Los Angeles. Sound & Vision host Emily Fox spoke with musicians Jenn Champion, Ceci Gomez, John van Deusen (who has since returned to Anacortes) and the band Tangerine who all took a one way trip from the Northwest to Southern California, to understand why people leave and if Seattle’s woes are really that bad in the grand scheme of things.

Why leave Seattle?

Champion: Me and my wife were living on Capitol Hill – this is like 2017 and I had lived there most of my Seattle life. I think it was just like, are we going to move to Beacon Hill or Rainier Beach? It was like the hill is changing so much that, to be an artist and live there, it was difficult. Like financially and then, just like everything is changing and I think it was getting kind of sad. Then she got a job offer in L.A. and was like, do you want to move to L.A? And I was in the middle of recording “Single Rider,” but aside from that, I was like yeah.
Gomez: Seattle doesn't have the infrastructure of the entertainment industry that L.A. has had for a really long time. As far as the producers and artists that live there, I feel like there's never really been a time where there were a ton of producers coming out of Seattle, and the pop industry has always been in L.A. Just having thousands and thousands of artists to work with in L.A. is awesome and something that isn't as present in Seattle. I feel like, though the music has always been thriving in Seattle and there's so many amazing musicians that live there, for the most part, people are pretty insular within their music communities and consider themselves self-sufficient and able to create the music they want to make on their own without the outside help of other writers and producers in the room.
Tangerine: I mean there is definitely like some personal reasons and some musical reasons. I think, first of all, just for any artist, it's important to change your surroundings, to challenge yourself. We're all born and raised in Seattle our whole life. So, it felt really right as we continued writing our music to change our surroundings.
John Van Deusen: Because my dream job is to write songs for other artists and I've been told by many people that I should at least get in the proximity of L.A. so I could occasionally see people who also do that. You know, Anacortes -- it's not a hotbed of pop songwriters. 

How has LA been?

Champion: I definitely am loving L.A. Like musically, I like the opportunities that can come up and meeting people and this almost common feeling of like, we're so close to our dreams. As silly as it is, you're in line getting some coffee and then there's this like a celebrity in front of you getting coffee. It just feels like so close but so far away at the same time.
Tangerine: I just feel like there's so much to explore here and there's so many creatives that it always kinds of held this special place in my heart and just gave up this really kind of dark magical vibe. 
John Van Deusen: I love L.A. and I'm terrified of L.A. I spent a little bit of time there with some friends who were in the thick of it and it was interesting because they all seem to feel the same way. Like, I love being here, it's necessary but I dream of being somewhere more peaceful.

What’s the difference/differences between LA and Seattle’s music scenes?

Champion: There isn't like an L.A. music scene because it's massive. It seems so strange coming from Seattle where the music scene is so close and it's smaller. So, everybody knows each other and like, you probably share a practice space or you're in the same building or you work at the same place or you've toured together.

Gomez: L.A. is a hard place to live as far as anything in the entertainment industry goes because it's such a big city and everybody's trying to do the same thing. Simultaneously, there is a lot more work out here, especially in the pop music realm as far as producing and writing goes – to have more opportunities to work with artists that have the funding through larger labels and things like that – to make a living doing that.

John Van Deusen: It was very aggressive, and a dog eat dog world within the art scene. And that terrifies me. I get that you have to have a certain amount of tenacity and you really got to make it happen for yourself – you have to. And I just don't do that. I think you have to have this mentality that allows yourself to kick down doors and I don't really like doing that. 

What has LA done for your music career (opportunities and creatively?)

Champion: It's been an opportunity to meet different musicians and I know that seems kind of weird, but being in the Seattle music scene for many years like I knew and had worked with a lot of people. So L.A. just… I feel like I have this opportunity to meet different musicians doing different stuff. I have found, surprisingly, people being so open to work together like, oh, do you want to go write a song together? 
Tangerine: I feel like we've been kind of like drops in a larger ocean, [it] makes us feel a little bit less inhibited so we kind of just write whatever without feeling like there's this audience watching.
John Van Deusen: I think if I was to stay even in Solana Beach, my professional life would be much more productive. I'd probably be writing more songs with other people going to more shows, meeting artists who want co writers. I love film and really badly want to be involved in film and so I think you really have to be around in order to even begin to enter into that world. So, if I was to live in Southern California for a decade, obviously the likelihood of me being involved in something like a film or even a short film or TV series – it goes up exponentially. So, I will admit that living there was great because of that reason and coming home to Anacortes was difficult for that very same reason. 

Is LA more expensive or the same as Seattle?

Champion: I think it really depends on where you live. L.A. is so huge that it just depends on what area of town you want to live in and like, are you close to the metro line? There is a weird way things get expensive. Like, depending on what freeway you're next to or whatever it is. I've learned a lot living here about how to get places.
Gomez: I remember complaining about it at the time, but I definitely pay way more in rent now than I did when I lived in Seattle.

What do you miss about Seattle?

Champion: I will say, some of what I miss about Seattle is gone now. I miss it, but it's not there anymore. But I definitely miss the community up there. I miss like, you don't know everybody's name, but everyone at a show is kind of familiar. And I think that it's a really cool thing about Seattle being like a bigger city. But still having this kind of like, everybody knows each other kind of a feeling.
Gomez: I think that if I didn't have the history of me making music in Seattle and developing who I was as a person and what I valued – I don't know if I would've been able to make it through L.A. on a daily basis and be able to parse through what is real and what isn't. I think that’s also something that just comes with age, because I'm 29 now and I have a very strong sense of who I am, but I attribute a lot of that to Seattle and the people I know from there. I felt like, in Seattle, I had a lot of time to myself to reflect on who I was and who I wanted to be and I’m very grateful for that.
Tangerine: I mean, we've traveled all over the country and I've really not seen any place as beautiful as the Pacific Northwest – or at least I haven't seen anywhere that was more beautiful. So, I miss that all the time. We all do. Day trips, just going to the islands, jumping on a ferry – we miss that for sure because it is not as beautiful down here.



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