About five years ago, Aaron Paris would take his violin and loop pedal out onto the streets of Toronto to perform a one-man orchestra.
I remember catching one of his street performances and promptly following him on Instagram. Many know the violin to be a classical instrument, but Paris finds ways to make the strings sound like a bass drum, an electric guitar solo, and even a record scratch.
“I started [busking] as just a way to be creative,” the musician and producer told Daily Hive. “I would take my violin and a loop pedal and I would create arrangements of pop songs and hip hop songs, and try and make weird noises with my violin.”
Since then, Paris’ ability to make the violin sing has landed him a producer credit on an album by arguably one of the most prolific artists of this generation.
On Kanye West’s latest project, DONDA 2, you can hear Paris’ strings as a key feature on the song “SCI FI.” It seems to be the only real instrument heard on the track, with just a simple addition of a drum beat, synths, and West’s voice.
Paris, who was born and raised in Toronto, shared the news on Instagram in early March with a screenshot of the lyric site Genius and his name under the credits.
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He says he found out he made it on the album on a trip to Los Angeles. It was the day West held his “Donda Experience” event on February 22 in Miami. The show, which was used to promote his latest album, was streamed on YouTube.
“It was kind of wild. We weren’t even watching the show, we were playing ping pong in LA,” Paris said with a laugh. “Then a few people texted me and they were like ‘Congrats!’ and I was like ‘What? What’s happening?'”
He was then tagged in an Instagram post of a snippet of West performing “SCI FI” at the show.
“I was like ‘Oh sh*t. I’m on this!'”
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How he made it onto the album
“It feels very serendipitous in a sense that the artist that’s featured on the track, Sean Leon, was one of the first artists I’ve ever worked with,” said Paris.
Sean Leon is an up-and-coming rapper, singer, and producer who also hails from Toronto. Paris said he had created a sample with two other Toronto-based producers three years ago, which was then sent to Leon. Since Leon has been working closely with West, that’s how Paris’ violin made it onto “SCI FI.”
The musician explains that the original sample had guitar, piano, vocals, and violin on it, but when it got to West’s team, everything was stripped except for Paris’ strings.
“It had the same feeling in the end, but the instrumentation itself was pretty different,” said Paris.
From busking to producing
Paris’ journey into the hip-hop and producing world has been a ride.
Violin was the first instrument he picked up when he was just seven years old. Paris says it wasn’t under the instruction of his parents, it was just something he really wanted to learn as a kid.
What started out as a hobby became a career. Paris ended up studying classical violin at the University of Toronto. While he attended, he also started busking to flex his creativity and make a little cash on the side.
“That in itself grew into a whole business for me where people would hire me to come and play corporate events and things like that,” said Paris.
He says he knew nothing of the world of producing until he was invited to record strings for Leon.
“That was kind of my first experience of seeing that this producing thing is a real thing, and recording strings is a very valuable thing I can do for people,” he said.
Paris began recording strings for other artists and after slowly building up a network, he started producing with those artists too.
Other notable music credits he has is on Canadian pop star Alessia Cara’s song “You Let Me Down” and on US rapper Roddy Ricch’s song “Ilf.”
“I think strings really allowed me to get into rooms with a lot of people just because people would hit me up for strings and then I would go on to just produce for them as well,” he said.
While Paris has hit a pretty big milestone being featured on West’s album, some of his dream collaborations are with artists like James Blake, Bon Iver, and Frank Ocean.
In the meantime, the musician is also dipping his toes in film scoring and has a sample pack dropping soon on his website.
Paris shared some earnest advice for aspiring musicians and producers, telling them to “make music you want to make.”
“That’s where I started really enjoying it, enjoying the process, and having fun with it,” he said. “Coincidentally, things started opening up for me as well. I just really listened to what I was trying to make, and was honest with myself and really trying to make music that spoke my truth.”