Exploration: An Interview with CMTEN

Photo courtesy of Sean Coakley
For the last few years, creating music has been an emotional outlet for the artist known as CMTEN (pronounced c-m-ten). He transformed his University of Utah dorm room into a studio, originally finding bedroom pop artists such as Clairo, Victor Internet and Billy Lemos as inspiration while incorporating concepts of EDM and dubstep into his own personal sound. When he found a community of artists known as hyper pop, he knew he found his place of belonging.

Making music was just meant as a way to keep from bottling up emotions, turning those feelings into a beat or lyrics after a night out with friends or studying for an exam. He took the username his father made for his Webkinz account, “netmrc”, flipped it and removed the R to form his stage name before sharing his single, “NEVER MET!”, on TikTok. He watched as creators started to use the song on their own videos, and as his video hit 1,000 views, he felt like maybe this was growing into something bigger.

“I think it's the best way right now to grow and, for better or worse, sometimes you can have that one song that goes up and nothing will ever compete with that,” he said. “But even if that does happen, I don't really mind because it's a really cool opportunity for me.”

That support grew into more than 30 million streams plus more than one million TikTok users utilized the song on their own videos. Although “NEVER MET!” was his first single, he had been working on the track “ALONE” with producer RILEY THE MUSICIAN months beforehand. It was the first time he attempted a sound that would be considered glitchcore, and as a longtime fan of RILEY THE MUSICIAN, decided to reach out to them.

“It was my first time collaborating with someone else and I was really happy with how their verse sounded,” he said. “It was pretty cool having a beat and then having someone send me vocals over it, especially going that crazy over it because their part is so good.”

Working with them exceeded his expectations, and led to another collaboration, this time with XIX for “I LOVE GLITCHCORE”. His latest track, “BORED”, is a solo endeavor but explores a sound different from previous releases. The main guitar loop was found on Splice, a music production platform, and mixed in with a big bass, drum samples and glitching the guitar a bit to generate a sound that represented how he was feeling in that moment. When it came time to add lyrics, he wanted them to be as personal as the beat was.

“From a surface level, it sounds like a love song to someone who's not interested in you anymore or maybe you're not as interested as you want to be, but it's more actually about my mental state,” he said. “The song is basically two versions of myself talking to each other; so there's one side of me that's super hyper emotional, just does things that don't make sense out of emotion, because I get in that place sometimes. The other side of me gets dissociated with stuff, feels pretty empty, and those two sides are talking to each other trying to communicate and understand each other's behavior.”

No matter the emotion that CMTEN is trying to get across to the listener, he hopes that his music sparks some kind of emotion. He is thoroughly enjoying creating music, no matter the sound or genre, and wants to continue to explore ideas that may or may not lead to the next big track. This project is about exploration, determination and a simple love of the craft.