1. Firstly do you want to say a little about who you are and what your creative project is?
My name is Tera Catallo, and I am a musician on YouTube! I normally cover songs from videogames (and sometimes animes). My two main instruments are violin and voice. I have covered songs from Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, Chrono Cross, Animal Crossing, Naruto, Angel Beats!, and more. My YouTube channel can be found here.
I have a Patreon page where people can help support my content, which is here.
2. First up – a big question I know – what’s the dream?
That is a big question indeed! I have several dreams/ambitions, but they all fall under the same category: make a living off of my music. I think one of the biggest dreams of mine is to write music for a videogame. I want to give back to the community that taught me so much. I also want to be able to give new life into pre-existing VGM songs with my covers. Like many YouTube musicians, I think I mainly want to be an inspiration to others.
3. How can I/we help you achieve that dream?
There is a set standard of practice with achieving these dreams. We all start out covering VGM songs in a straightforward manner. As time goes on, we start to arrange the songs in our own style. Finally, we begin to release our own original content. What matters the most is how far our reach is. I don’t have a ton of subscribers so every comment, like, and share counts tremendously. As of right now, I simply want others to share my content! The VGM community is pretty small, but it is definitely growing. I believe that with enough exposure, this community could take over the world!
4. Ok, so, let’s go right back to the very beginning: what’s your earliest memory of learning an instrument and was there any one thing – a piece of music or a person – you can remember inspiring you?
Of course! I remember having a cassette player in my boombox (oh no, now I’ve shown my age) and always playing the same song from a Mozart for Young Minds cassette. It was his Rondo from the Haffner Serenade, and I could not get enough of that piece! It was the reason why I started violin in fourth grade.
5. You’ve stated that some of your big influences are Kpop, Taylor Davis and Jascha Heifetz – those are fairly diverse! Obviously video-game music inspires you as well, so are there any unifying themes with each that you think continue to drive you forward with your music? Are there any things unique to each?
The link for K-pop is a song by VIXX, and it reminds me that each song/piece should have a story to it. They did an amazing job in getting their message across. Taylor Davis motivates me to work on my technicality as a violinist, and she reminds me that you don’t need to play fast to be successful. Her original songs are amazing! Finally, Mr. Heifetz is the big role model that keeps me humble. I know that I will never be as good as him and it keeps me from being egotistical. Too many artists nowadays let their egos get to them and I do not want that to happen to me. The unifying theme in all of these is that they all inspire me become a better musician.
6. What is it about video-games that you think captures your imagination – in ways other than just music – in such a big way? Do you have a favourite game or franchise? How do you think it illustrates what you love best about gaming?
My favorite franchise used to be Legend of Zelda, but ever since I got into the Final Fantasy series, I noticed myself covering more and more songs by Nobuo Uematsu. He does an incredible job with the soundtracks and he is my main inspiration as a composer. In my opinion, the best way to capture attention in a game is with a good storyline. The Final Fantasy series, up to FFX, does this very well. I feel like I’ve entered a completely different world, and as the player, I play such an important part in solving problems/saving the world/rescuing a princess. Videogames make you feel important.
7. You’ve mentioned that two big parts of your personality are your love of music and a love of helping people. Do you think these two traits feed into your YouTube videos or is there another part of your personality that you think drives you as well?
I believe that YouTube satisfies my two passions fairly well. I am able to make covers of songs that personally affected me, and I can share it with my viewers. I have been getting more comments about how I’ve inspired people to start playing violin, or start making YouTube videos. It is so nice to know that I can inspire others already! Another part of my personality that has kept me going is my desire for continuous improvement. I love that I can watch a video of mine from 2 or 3 years ago and then one from last month and see how far I’ve come. The improvement is astonishing!
8. What does a piece of music need to have for you to decide to make an arrangement of it? [I.e. complexity, interlacing melodies, certain types of harmony/timbre/tone, or even scope for you to make your own marks on it] Is there any one aspect of a piece that is certain to capture your imagination?
For the most part, a song needs to have a slow and ‘pretty’ melody line in order for me to cover it. By pretty, I mean it has to have a chord progression that resonates with me when I listen to it. Sometimes when I listen to a piece, I will immediately have ideas and arrangements flowing in my head. I can hear a choir singing in this part, or I can imagine a string section playing this section, etc. If I can listen to the original and get a good sense of an emotion, I usually cover it.
9. Could you describe a typical process for an arrangement or composition, from inception to posting it online? Have you a prescribed method, or is every piece different? What sort of difficulties have you encountered with it in the past?
It definitely depends on what kind of arrangement it is! I usually start with the backbone of the arrangement and use piano to figure out what chord progressions the original piece utilizes. From there, I’ll add other VST instruments and try my best to transfer what I hear in my head into the music itself. For recording violin/vocals, it usually takes me several hours to get recording takes that I am satisfied with. I have some basic mixing skills, so my mixing generally does not take too long. My main difficulty is making sure my neighbors aren’t mowing their lawns when I’m recording, actually. Otherwise, my microphone will pick up the lawn mower! I am hoping to have a soundproof music room at some point in the future.
10. If you’re ever feeling unmotivated, unhappy or just generally grounded with your projects, what inspires you to get back up and keep going with them?
Usually, when I start feeling unmotivated, I just start playing videogames. It immediately puts me in a better mood, especially since I am listening to the in-game music while I’m playing. It also makes me want to cover more OSTs!
I also like to dedicate a set amount of time in completing a small task of the project. For an example, I’ll give myself half an hour to finish the piano part. When I break it down into smaller chunks, it becomes much easier to manage and my motivation usually comes back. I’ll start with the half-hour but end up working on it for the whole day!
11. Do you have any other creative outlets? [e.g. writing, painting, cooking, embroidery, ceramics etc etc] You’ve mentioned that you were interested in conducting a piece of music?
Ah! I was interested in conducting my original piece for my senior project in high school. I was never able to conduct it during that time, but I now realize that maybe it was for the best… I did not know the first thing about conducting back then.
In terms of other hobbies, I do enjoy cooking. To be honest, though, music is my only creative outlet. It is broad enough that I can enjoy it in different ways.
12. What else is going on in your life aside from your YouTube channel?
Well, I am a full-time music therapy student at my local college. It has been amazing so far! All of the classes I’ve taken will help me with my YouTube covers in some way. I cannot wait to get back into covers once finals are done! I also work part-time at a local pharmacy. It’s currently my main source of income.
13. You’ve mentioned changing your majors from Pharmacology to Music Therapy, which can’t have been a lightly-made decision. How do you think it changed your relationship with your youtube videos and with music in general? Have you ever faced any similar work/creativity balance issues?
Oh, man. Here we go. *laughs*
It was a very tough decision, mainly because I felt like I was disappointing my parents and friends by not being able to do well in pharmacy school. At the same time, I kept having that nagging voice inside me telling me that I have to pursue music as my career. I knew in the end that changing majors was the best choice for me. All I ever wanted to do while in pharmacy school was music anyways. I am SO much happier now that I am a music student. In terms of my YouTube videos, I am now much more serious about my covers. I want to advocate myself as a musician now. It is liberating to finally put in the hard work and effort that wasn’t there before! I don’t feel as guilty when posting YouTube videos now, mainly because I finally realize that with enough dedication, I can make a living off of my music. The one thing I dislike about music school is it prevents me from making weekly covers. I haven’t posted a cover in 2 months, but I will have a video done for May 8th!
14. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in a creative online project? Are there any hurdles you found you needed to overcome which you might ward other people away from?
Oh definitely! Firstly, I would say don’t give up. It takes years to build your fanbase and to become a better content creator. With enough hard work and determination, you really can do anything. To be more specific with music-making, my main hurdles were audio and video quality, arranging, and learning about DAWs. I remember starting out just playing in front of a crappy camera and uploading it to YouTube. I then “upgraded” to using a netbook and a USB microphone, recording into Audacity. A few years later, I upgraded again to an actual laptop and bought a new USB microphone (the one I currently use). I also bought an actual DAW, upgraded to a camcorder, and started using real video-editing software. Finally, I recently upgraded to the Canon Rebel T3i and started learning FL Studio 11. I also learned more about video editing so I can now do some green-screen effects. It took me 5.5 years of upgrading and trial-and-error to get where I am today. Although my channel still has a long way to go, I finally feel like I am now able to make quality covers and arrangements. For aspiring musicians: Do not buy Magix Music Maker. I made that mistake and now I have to wait a long time before transitioning completely to FL Studio. I’d suggest Reaper as a good starting DAW. It’s free, and I’ve heard good things about it from my YouTube friends. Also, make sure you consistently create content. That is one thing I struggle with the most, especially since college takes away almost all of my free time. Finally, work with other musicians. I cannot stress that enough! You learn so much about yourself when you work with others. There have been so many collaborations that have completely surpassed my expectations and it was because I had someone else going through the creative process with me. If you work well with the other musician, you’ll end up developing a friendship with him/her. He/she becomes more than just a collaboration partner. Before you know it, you have created your own little community full of other people that share your passions. That’s one thing that definitely keeps me going.
I hope you’ll join me in thanking Tera for this awesome interview! Don’t forget to leave comments below and if you haven’t already, definitely go and check out Tera’s music on Youtube. Especially as she’s been named by Nobuo Uematsu as an inspirational and talented musician! WOW! Congratulations Tera!