Photo Credit: Alexis Yorey a.k.a. LUCY
Derek Smith, more popularly known as Mod Sun, has had a flair for the arts and eccentricity since birth. Growing up in rural Bloomington, Minnesota, Mod Sun came of age on classic '60s and '70s artists, instilling in him a hunger for the organic components of music. Starting with drums then picking up the guitar to the keys and everything in between, he immersed himself in the post-hardcore/emo rock world, touring with the likes of Four Letter Lie and Scary Kids Scaring Kids.
From his often unruly and raucous childhood, Mod Sun has adopted and truly embodies the rock star lifestyle. Yet, his life wasn't always the glitz and glamour you see in the press today. His first few years in Los Angeles were spent homeless on the beaches of Long Beach. There he learned valuable lessons from the homeless community around him, hearing their stories and coming to understand the power of real human connection. Harnessing the creative energy that had always lived inside of him, Mod Sun traded his rags for riches and his currency? Art. All forms, visual arts, literary arts, musical arts. You name it, Mod Sun revels in it.
Three books, a myriad of poems, a collection of videos, and slew of musical projects later, Mod Sun has become a respected member of a variety of artistic communities, finding a special niche in the hip hop world. Making early friends with the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, blackbear, G-Eazy and more, Mod Sun has become more than an artist but a public figure with compelling messages for the world.
One of those messages is being heard today on his highly anticipated single "I Remember Way Too Much" (May 31). An anthemic, reminiscing track oozing with hope and perfected with a stupidly catchy hook, "I Remember Way Too Much" is a fitting single for the Mod Sun of today. A person who is looking forward, never back and is dedicated to pursuing a life of clarity and heightened enlightenment.
We had a moment to catch up with Mod Sun and ask him all about his feelings toward the new single, his past and childhood, and most importantly the lessons he has garnered along the way.
OTW: Let's start at the top. Can you give us a look into Mod Sun as a kid and how you found a calling for the arts?
Mod Sun: Born on a farm in Minnesota. My parents were listening to music and partying almost all day and night - mostly Bob Dylan, Allman Brothers, The Doors. My love for that kind of lifestyle most likely began there. Then in 8th grade I found blink-182 and became a full time pop-punk, skateboarding, trouble making teen. Started countless bands and was a nasty drummer. Toured the world with Four Letter Lie and Scary Kids Scaring Kids before 20 years old, then boom started Mod Sun at 21.
OTW: You grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota later moving to Los Angeles. Was growing up in the Mid West difficult for you as a person with an affinity for eccentricity?
Mod Sun: Honesty no, but that might just be due to the fact that I was also raised to never complain. I loved it. I was the only outsider in town, truly. They would always try to bring me inside, I played all kinds of sports til 9th grade, but I was never having it. I used it as a catapult because I knew I had NO competition.
OTW: Who was the #1 figure in your life that has influenced your artistry most profoundly?
Mod Sun: Bob Dylan, without a doubt. He is loved for his words not his voice or look. I have always looked up to that as the utmost when it comes to music. As far as his lifestyle, I jumped trains and ran away from home at 17 because of him. I read Arthur Rimbaud and Jack Kerouac because of him. I learned everything I know from him. Others have affected me like Jim Morrison, Charles Bukowski, Miles Davis, the list goes on BUT no one like Mr. Bob Dylan.
OTW: How did post-hardcore and emo music influenced your sound and style today?
Mod Sun: It's honestly come back around full circle at this point. I always had an advantage in hip hop because of those days 'cause I was taught to perform at a very high intensity level from day one. I also know how to play EVERY instrument because laptop days didn't exist then. It molded me completely.
OTW: You're an artist of many hues, boasting endeavors in literary and visual arts. Any new non-musically related projects we can look forward to?
Mod Sun: Always. A new book on the way which is documenting my current state of sobriety. I'm currently 20 days clean of drugs and alcohol which happens to the longest I've gone since 15 years old. I feel present right now. :)
Photo Credit: Alexis Yorey a.k.a. LUCY
OTW: You've mentioned before that Machine Gun Kelly is a mentor of yours; what is one MGKism that has affected you most profoundly?
Mod Sun: To be UNAPOLOGETIC at all times. Remain self aware but also be outside yourself. A lot of it is how he holds himself to a specific, distinct regard and refuses to ever stray from that. It's very endearing and I consistently find real life moments to use what he has taught me. I love him like a brother, this life and the next.
OTW: "I Remember Way Too Much" is a big release for you, from all your work in music, what about this record is so special to you?
Mod Sun: Okay, being completely narcissistic here, so excuse me please. It's a hit. A very big DJ was nice enough to let me come in to a station here in LA and play it for him, what he said was "Mod, here's how it is. Songs are good. Songs are great and some songs are hits. It's a complete different degree between the three. This song is a hit. You got one. I'm gonna help you out." So that moment right there shifted my thinking. I felt like the way I felt about my music was finally able to be felt by everyone. That's what a hit is to me. Lemme know your thoughts.
OTW: You're an avid supporter of real human connection and staying rooted in positivity. How do you personally stay grounded in the entertainment industry?
Mod Sun: Honesty. Everyday, all day long, all I can preach to the world right now is honesty. Transparency is a form of power. You tell the world the truth and nothing can be taken from you. That's how I'm navigating through everything right now, especially because things in my personal life have become very public within the last two years.
OTW: Alright, we are obsessed with "I Remember Way Too Much," please tell us we have a full length project coming from you soon *fingers crossed*?
Mod Sun: I promise it's literally a song or two away from being complete, and just like my other albums it's a story from front to finish. A true album. So please be patient while I align these stars, it is almost our time.
OTW: Tell us about the rise to where you are now, from homelessness to finding success through your artistry amongst some of LA's finest, what are the lessons you hold closest to your heart?
Mod Sun: Sometimes the top of the world can only be seen at the bottom of the sea. I guess now at this point in time, I have such a clear mind state for the first time ever, and I do believe in everything I've preached to the world. Positivity is the answer my friends. I feel grateful right now at this very moment to be alive. I'm happy to be here.
OTW: Who are your Ones to Watch?
Mod Sun: Lost In Vegas is next. Period. Plain and simple. He is my first artist on New Hippys… and he will do amazing things so WATCH HIM.