Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Michael aka “Kustom” Polk grew up in an average middle class community and very early on demonstrated a clear ambition to be successful in his musical endeavors. While his world was unlike individuals who “hustle the streets” spending their lifetimes dreaming about getting into the music industry, Kustom’s passion for music was no less intense. His internal drive to succeed commercially with his music lead him to pour disciplined years of practice into the development and refinement of the sounds he produces.
Kustom is a music producer, song writer, and audio engineer specializing in the genres of pop, hip hop, electronic, dubstep, and rock. Kustom’s vision is to set the example for how tomorrow’s hit records are supposed to sound and deliver that to the world to hear. The idea of a limit (in the sense of a boundary) in the music industry, supposes that there is an outside and an inside to be separated – but for Kustom, there is not outside, so there can be no boundary for the imagination of cinematic, motivational, memorable, exciting, different & passionate art. Those are the elements of a classic. Kustom’s music has an inevitability about it and can change the atmosphere of a room instantly. There is a rumor about music which states that if ever for any reason anyone doubts today’s musical universe and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another that states that this has already happened and a result of Kustom’s God-given talent will be discovered by all.
To talk with Kustom in person, one can easily discern his talent and creativity, but to get a better perspective of how diverse he is with music, all one has to do is take a trip back in time with Kustom to understand his influences growing up. He wanted to be a drummer but was told he had to learn the keys to be a good drummer. So, he learned the keys from a classical Russian pianist. It was here that Kustom’s God–given talent was discovered, which is that he was born with perfect pitch. This blessing has been a continuing blessing as his musical endeavors advanced from through the acoustical, electronic and digital phases.
“I was always tangled in music activities”, Michael recalls fondly. “I was born with large hands and my parents were convinced that they should be used on the keys. I actually was taught by a classical Russian pianist who was quite the disciplinarian as well, which helped keep me focused at a young age. Apart from that, I was always listening to various types of music. I was part of a “garage” band in high school that included some really good young talent, some of whom still play music. Our vocals were not too good but we could play! We were a rock band, a group of four guys who practiced constantly and, ultimately, competed in a “battle of the bands” which led us to open up for Hootie and the Blowfish at a local concert. We even recorded our own material. I was the drummer rockin’ out in the back and I loved it! That is what really got me started on everything about being a producer as I had always been the one in the band who worked on getting our music recorded.”
While those early days served as the foundation for Kustom’s musical discovery, he would eventually take his talents to a different level. Little did Kustom realize that everything he needed was pretty much right within his hands the whole time. It wasn’t until connecting with the online community of other musicians that he came across the revelation that decent music exists in more places than just the radio, television or concerts.
“I had just graduated from High School and I always thought to make music you had to have lots of expensive equipment and educational degrees to understand sound quality and acoustics”, Michael recalled. “I heard this band from back home and his music and it was nice! I then heard one of my friends and he was doing music of a similar high quality but he was producing it out of his bedroom. From being in a band in school, I knew I could pick it up and, basically, self-teach myself how to make the sound I was trying to achieve.”
Kustom recognized how significant music was to his life and he began devoting extra time and money into his own equipment. While his creative vibes may have been ringing, he came to the cruel reality that he wasn’t in an optimal environment necessary to make the kind of moves that he wanted to make. It wasn’t until later, by fate perhaps, that he would make the necessary connections with other industry executives and in doing so would place himself in a position to flourish as a producer as he settled into life in Northern Virginia after his graduation from college.
“I loved the DMV” (Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia metropolitan area), Michael recalls fondly, of moving because of a commitment to his continuing education and his job as a working for the government. “I came from a small community of about 20,000 people around my area in the West Ashley area of Charleston, SC, and not much of anything ever really went down with the type of music I was producing. They say that home is where the heart is, but the change did me well for the music business and my job with the government. I was in a better situation in the DMV after graduating from The Citadel in 2010. I started music back home and even had a few songs on the streets with different artists but that was about it. I saw that in the DMV there was always something going on and somebody who could always help you out. I liked the fast-paced environment and the non-stop grind for success lifestyle. I’m learning the music business is not much different.”
Kustom adapted to a new lifestyle in the DMV, but admitted that he was in need of help. He jumped on the internet and used every social media tool he could to get his name, his brand, and his sound out to the people he wanted to hear it. After some 2 years, his presence is finally known. Since getting involved on the internet and the online music community, Kustom has been able to network to many leading music executives, travel to various shows and events and meet several famous celebrities within a business and social context. In the music business, that is where the networking road travels to commercial success. Kustom recently completed new transition to the greater Los Angeles area in California to get up close and personal with record labels, political leaders, and creative songwriters. California is where Kustom currently lives and produces all of his music.
Kustom, despite all his early success, is still in the early stages of trying to make his dreams a reality. With every placement on TV, with an artist, in movies or live musical events, there is a clear ambition that exists for Kustom; to satisfy the needs of the music market. Thus, Kustom’s versatility as a producer is a skill set and key attribute which serves him and his customers well when trying to produce across a wide spectrum of genres and venues. “I travel quite a bit to explore new opportunities in the music industry. It’s also good to let people meet me in person – putting a face with a name is important in the entertainment world,” Kustom advises.
“You can’t be risk adverse in this game”, says Kustom. “You have to keep your image and your name in people’s heads. Sustaining that momentum is a priority else you’ll fall off and be forgotten. Another important principle is that it pays off in the long-run to be unique. It’s never a good feeling to go to a record label meeting and have the label executive tell you that your music sounds dated or they have heard it before by someone else. There are a lot of imitators and copy-cat producers out there so that is why I try to stand out from the rest.”
Kustom’s most recent accomplishments include music placements with recording artists such as Tyrese Gibson, Skip Marley, Flo-Rida, Pitbull, DJ Shift, Kiana Brown, Jackie Boyz, Rebecca Black, Uncle Murda, Gucci Mane, Gorilla Zoe, Project Pat, and many others. Kustom also provides music to performing DJ’s around the world. Kustom’s music can also be heard on television all over the world as the background audio for shows such as Bad Girls Club, The Kardashians, Changing Lanes, NCAA Basketball, Born To Dance, Khloe and Lamar, E! News Live, Bar Rescue, and many more. Kustom also provides music to Maker Studio, currently is ranked #10 in the world on YouTube, providing about 4 billion streams per month. Kustom is ready to take his music to the big screen.
Kustom has placements on a myriad number of media platforms. Numerous independent, recording artists, song writers, and producers rely on him exclusively for their music and work with him both in and out of the studio to perfect their songs and bring their lyrics to life. Kustom hopes to soon announce placements in a major motion picture as well as with other major recording artists. His willingness to produce a professional product designed to meet the specific needs of commercial artists in any medium, be it acoustical, digital, video or otherwise, continues to serve Kustom’s network well.
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