If I were to describe Donte Thomas with an archetype, I would slap on the label of "sorcerer" in a heartbeat. A jack-of-all-trades, if you will. Donte Thomas is able to summon his inner music expertise and drop hit after hit with what he calls his "secret sauce." His connection with his brand Produce Portland is as well bonded as an alchemist's potions. This type of wise and vivid mind is not seen often, and Donte utilizes it to the fullest extent. On top of that, his years of nonstop creative work have elevated not only his musical penmanship, but has also grown Produce Portland into one of the biggest creative companies in Portland. It practically defines the city.
I had the luxury of sitting down with Donte to talk about his most recent album, how you like them apples?, his successful brand Produce Portland, and his favorite music scenes across the United States. Check out the video interview and five of the best questions below!
Marty: When did you start creating music?
Donte: I started creating music my sophomore year of high school. My boy Peter and his one friend—who were a grade above me—had Pro Tools and a studio. He's actually had a lot of talent from Portland and was recording out of his closet. He was barely 17 years old. So, I had my first recording session in East Portland with those guys. We literally did it in our high school band room. This was all around 2009.
Marty: Speaking of Portland, could you explain what Produce Portland is? How did you connect with them?
Donte: So, I came up with the name Produce Organics with my boy Boca when we were at his house just making music and kickin’ it a lot. While doing this, we then came to the conclusion that we wanted to have a movement. So, I came up with the name Produce. That was like 2017. We were talking about it being a record label and a clothing line. This record label and clothing line turned into being a storefront, art collective, and pretty much a community anchor in Portland. This molded into Produce Portland. Produce Portland is a record label, storefront, and art collective with a barber shop. There's music artists, there's producers, there's directors, there's photographers. We're going to be branching out into other business ventures soon. We just wanted to have a home. The original idea was to have different artists from every little local clique be a part of Produce and for everybody in the area to get familiar with everyone. It kind of eliminates that barrier of egos and whatnot. It didn't go as planned, but it ended up just coming together organically. A lot of us have known each other for about eight to ten years. A lot of us are actual relatives, so that makes it easier to work in the group just because we're an actual family.
Marty: I saw that producer Cory G was on four of the songs on your most recent album how you like them apples? Did he have a lot of influence on the album? How did you guys meet?
Donte: Cory is to me what 40 is to Drake. Corey produces most of my music, so we've always had a sound that is kind of between the both of us. We just evolve with every record we do, and we just don't want to sound the same. At the same time, Cory has developed his own drums, his own synths, and his own patterns. Honestly, that project came about so fast. We did that project in less than a month, and we were all just having fun throwing ideas around to each other. We have worked on almost every project together. Cory produced half of Grayscale and Colors. The Road Trip EP was all Cory, and how you like them apples? was once again half produced by Cory. My new EP that I'm working on now is mostly Corey. Cory even produced 12/14 songs on this new album that me and my boy are going to drop. He's the secret sauce, if you will.
Marty: What is your personal favorite song you made off how you like them apples?
Donte: See, my personal favorites usually are the ones that people don't like the most. I personally would say my favorite record is like a three-way tie between “apple turnovers,'' and “the big apple” with redveil because the process of how we made that song was crazy. We literally made that song in less than a week. I did the verse, and I hit veil’s line asking if he could give me a verse because I'm trying to submit by this Friday. He was like, “I got you.” He's still going to school, you know, so he hits me back after classes with the verse back, and boom! That was it. Either those two or “applesauce," just because that's my preferred vibe. All my music is like “smoking kind of music.” That is my favorite one to “indulge” to.
Marty: If you could give one piece of advice to a younger Donte Thomas before you drop Grayscale, what would you say?
Donte: I think the main advice that I would tell myself is to invest in Bitcoin and a home studio.
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