ELKTON — Elkton High School senior David Price released his third album, “Morning Person,” as a tribute to his hometown on March 12. Price’s piano and drumbeats takes listeners through a calm leisurely day in Elkton from dawn to dinnertime.
“There’s a lot of negative talk about Elkton,” said Price, who releases music under the name SYNC. EXE. “I wanted to take that bad stuff and push it away and look at the positive stuff.”
The 18-year-old started writing the nine-song album a couple of months after finishing his four-part album “Equinox,” which was based on the seasons. He begins his songs with his piano, creating different chord progressions or recycling old progressions and coming up with melodies and harmonies over them. He then turns his ideas into an eight-bar loop and creates a song structure based on the loop.
The most obvious nod on “Morning Person” to Elkton is the song ‘SPORK! (feat. j. hurlock),’ a tribute to Spork Cafe on Main Street, featuring a bubbling bassline and piano solo. The song leans into a neo-soul feeling, especially when Price stops the drumbeat for a more ethereal bridge around two minutes in.
Cecil County Public Schools Fine Arts Coordinator David Hastings said the magnitude of Price’s original music is unique amongst high school students across the county.
“His music is brilliant,” Hastings said.
Price won an opportunity to work with Grammy-nominated producer CRADA, who has worked with Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Alicia Keys and other artists, earlier this year. He played the producer three different songs, including ‘Lounging’ from “Morning Person,” a collaboration with Australian singer Alizée titled “Routine” and a third unreleased song. Along with feedback on how to balance the different frequencies in a song through EQ and other mixing techniques, they discussed the business aspects of music that are often necessary to succeed.
Alizée is not Price’s only international collaboration — the title track “Morning Person” features German vocalist Grisp, whose vocals provide a cheerful happy tone as he singings that “there’s no rain that’s falling.”
His lo-fi and chillhop style is descended from the work of 90s hip-hop producers Nujabes and J Dilla. However, those producers used samples from old jazz or R&B records, while Price composes all his own work. He said he first became attracted to the style because of the minimalistic atmosphere.
“I don’t really listen to pop that much,” said Price. “It basically sounds the same to me. There’s no point in listening to the same chord structure and chord progression all the time, so what stuck out to me with lo-fi chillhop is there’s a whole bunch of variety in the things that you can do.”
Price first started writing music when he was 12 years old. He is a self-taught piano player. Though Price is a vocalist, soloing in the Elkton High School Choir’s performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during the school’s African American History Festival, his music is mostly instrumental. The vocals often come from featured artists like fellow Elkton student Esther Greenblatt, who is credited as Zohar on the track “Feathers,” a love duet with Price in the style of early 2000’s R&B.
Though Price plays many instruments other than piano, such as bass and drums, all the music on “Morning Person” is created using virtual instruments played with a MIDI keyboard. The songs are defined by a vinyl crackle replicating the sound of old records on a turntable, which harkens back to J Dilla’s use of vinyl.
“I use vinyl crackles all the time in all my songs,” said Price. “It’s kind of the holy grail for starting a lo-fi song.”
Price said he hopes that the album helps draw more attention to local artists.
“I wanted to heighten that reputation a little bit,” said Price. “Because there’s a lot of local artists in Elkton that I know of that a lot of people around here don’t know of. It doesn’t make sense at all because they’re good.”
The next step for Price is expanding his reach through radio and podcasts. “Routine” has received some radio play, and Price will be a guest on the Chill Sampled Podcast on March 19. A collaboration with jazz trumpeter Farnell Newton, who previously worked with Bootsy Collins and Aretha Franklin, will be released on April 19. “Morning Person” is available on all major streaming platforms.
Price said he plans to go to Cecil College before attending a music school like Berklee College of Music in Boston or the Peabody Institute in Baltimore.