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With more than a million likes and streams on TikTok and Spotify, Penn State senior Eric Damiano is finding success doing what he loves the most: writing songs that connect to people’s feelings.
Damiano first started singing in middle school and high school through the school choir. There, he met a director who changed his whole perspective about music. During his senior year of high school, Damiano wanted to participate in his school’s talent show, and he asked him if he would help Damiano prepare for it.
“He told me that if I really wanted to, I could go further with this,” Damiano said. “He told me that if this is what I love to do, then I should definitely pursue it. He’s basically the whole reason why I have the confidence to even pursue music in the first place.”
With the advice, Damiano started to post cover songs online, but they didn’t get much attraction. Other than his friends who would support him, there wasn’t much of an audience.
Due to the pandemic, Damiano stayed at his hometown of Downingtown, Pa., for the whole online fall 2020 semester. Over that span, he really got into writing songs and posted his first original track. He was impressed when it cracked 20,000 views on TikTok.
“I thought it was cool that people seem to care about what I was doing, so I kept just redoing it,” he said. “I kept writing, posting, and seeing what people thought. The first song that I released was in November of 2020 and it was called ‘Haunted Mansion.’ I thought it was an interesting song, but I knew that I could do way better.”
Damiano didn’t stop there. He kept working on promoting that song through Tik Tok, and people seemed to like it. Then, in January, he found a second opportunity.
“I was in this unique situation with this person, and I stumbled upon this one little chorus,” he said. “I decided to just post the little 25-second clip on TikTok of me singing it.”
The video went viral and reached around 700,000 views. He decided he wanted to release the song right away. Damiano immediately went to the studio to record and publish the track, and it got a lot of attention.
“I got comments saying, ‘OMG, you’re the guy that made the, ‘I don’t wanna be the name of your playlist’ song,’ so I got attached to that one a lot,” Damiano said. “It was super important to me and this is how people started to know who I was. But I didn’t want to just be that one-song guy. I wanted to be the artist, so I kept doing my thing.”
guys be honest was this song too mean? #ericdamiano #halfmyheart
He then wrote another chorus for the song “Letting Me Know You,” which Damiano says is his favorite that he’s written so far. Through his writing process, Damiano usually goes to TikTok to post himself singing a part of a song that he wrote. If people like it, he releases the entire song. If they don’t, at least he enjoyed the writing process.
Usually, when Damiano showcases the song to his followers, he doesn’t have it finished yet. He says he wants to make sure that it’s a song that everyone enjoys.
“I don’t want to put too much time on a song I am not completely confident in or that I don’t know if people are going to like it,” he said. “At the end of the day, I am writing songs because I like to do it, and I am writing songs that matter to me. I guess, if nobody wants to listen to it, it doesn’t really matter. But for now, that’s what I am doing as an independent artist, and it seems to be working pretty well.”
When recording his songs, he usually makes the instrumentals in his bedroom. When he needs to record the vocals, he goes either to Downingtown to record with his friends or Bellefonte to record with his friend.
“When you’re recording a song, everything is super important to make it sound good,” he said. “In my apartment, I can’t really get the best vocal recordings.”
Damiano says there’s no better feeling than something he created resonating with so many people. However, he finds that social media can be a tough scene. When something does well online, you want to build off that and continue growing. However, it’s hard when the next thing posted doesn’t go as well, sometimes simply due to complex algorithms that are out of users’ hands.
“At the end of the day, I’m doing it because I love it,” he says. “If I like the song that didn’t do as well better than the one that did well, that’s OK. I’m just posting what I like to post.”
Social media woes can lighten up with just one message, though. Some positive DMs make all the difference for Damiano.
“They don’t have to support me, you know,” he said. “That’s something that I just can’t express my appreciation for enough.”
His song “Half My Heart,” the same song that reached 700,000 views on TikTok, recently reached 1 million streams on Spotify. To Damiano, cracking seven figures was a huge career milestone.
“That was crazy. I always wondered if I’d be able to get to that point,” he said. “At the same time, it’s just a number. I’m trying to focus on the artistic side of things and not getting to caught up in that, but it’s definitely a great feeling.”
At Penn State, Damiano did a side performance at THON during his freshman year while dancers were on a break. He said the performance was a big Penn State memory, and it doubled as his first live gig. During his sophomore year, he also participated in the THON Showcase for the Entertainment Committee.
“I got to go on stage in front of a lot of people who are really involved in THON and sing in front of everyone. That was just a blast,” he said. “Being on stage, performing, and having people listen to what you’re doing, it’s the best feeling in the world. When I get an opportunity like that, it really is a reminder that this is what I really want to do and that I really don’t see myself doing anything else at this point.”
Damiano says he looks for ways to keep involved in music while at Penn State. Right now, he is in a songwriting class, and in the past, he’s done voice lessons with Penn State graduate students, which he feels helped him get a lot better at singing. He took a music production class as a freshman, too.
“MESS THINGS UP” coming Friday, August, 13th… PRESAVE ON SPOTIFY with the link in my bio 🙂 #ericdamiano #messthingsup
Even through his advertising coursework, Damiano says he finds ways to tie what he learns with his music career. He believes that the things he learns in his classes, like outreach and social media growth, actually help with his online presence.
“I’ve been trying to build a brand for myself, and I have been taking classes where I am doing assignments that have to do with other brands, people, and just learning how to gain a following through advertising,” he said. “I’m learning how to grab people’s attention, and it’s definitely helping.”
After graduation, Damiano wants to move to a bigger city like Nashville to keep pursuing his music career. His biggest dream, however, is far less materialistic.
“My biggest goal is to write a song that I love so much that I just need every single person to hear it,” he said. “Right now, I feel like I am very close to finding that song. I want to write my next favorite song.”
To find his songs and keep up with his journey, check out Damiano’s TikTok account and Spotify page.
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Renata is a junior majoring in International Politics and one of Onward State’s contributors. She’s from Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil and no, she doesn’t live in the middle of the Amazon forest. She likes learning new languages, reading, writing, and talking about the one time she went bungee jumping.
Follow her on Twitter @renatadaou to see her rant in Portenglish or e-mail her at [email protected] for serious inquires.
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Alec Baldwin speaks on the phone in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in Santa Fe, N.M., after he was questioned about a shooting on the set of the film “Rust” on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Thursday. Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP hide caption
Alec Baldwin speaks on the phone in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in Santa Fe, N.M., after he was questioned about a shooting on the set of the film “Rust” on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Thursday.
SANTA FE, N.M. — As a film crew and actors in Western garb prepared to rehearse a scene inside a wooden, chapel-like building on a desert movie ranch outside Santa Fe, assistant director Dave Halls stepped outside and grabbed a prop gun off a cart.
He walked back in and handed it to the film’s star, Alec Baldwin, assuring him it was safe to use because it didn’t have live ammo.
“Cold gun,” Halls yelled.
It wasn’t, according to court records made public Friday. Instead, when Baldwin pulled the trigger Thursday, he killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her.
Authorities were alerted to the shooting by a 911 call that hints at panic on the movie set, as detailed in a recording obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.
“We had two people accidentally shot on a move set by a prop gun, we need help immediately,” a script supervisor told an emergency dispatcher. “We were rehearsing and it went off and I ran out, we all ran out.”
The dispatcher asks if the gun was loaded with a real bullet.
“I cannot tell you. We have two injuries,” the script director said
The tragedy came nearly three decades after Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, died in a similar case, and it prompted horrified questions about how it could have happened again. The executive producer of ABC’s police drama “The Rookie” announced Friday the show would no longer use “live” weapons because the “safety of our cast and crew is too important.”
Details of the shooting at the ranch on Bonanza Creek Road were included in a search warrant application filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators were seeking to examine Baldwin’s blood-stained costume for the film “Rust,” as well as the weapon that was fired, other prop guns and ammunition, and any footage that might exist.
The gun was one of three that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, had set on a cart outside the building where a scene was being acted, according to the records. Halls grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin, unaware that it was loaded with live rounds, a detective wrote in the search warrant application.
It was unclear how many rounds were fired. Gutierrez removed a shell casing from the gun after the shooting, and she turned the weapon over to police when they arrived, the court records say.
Halls did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment. The Associated Press was unable to contact Gutierrez, and several messages sent to production companies affiliated with the film were not immediately returned Friday.
The film’s script supervisor, Mamie Mitchell, said she was standing next to Hutchins when she was shot.
“I ran out and called 911 and said ‘Bring everybody, send everybody,’ ” Mitchell told The Associated Press. “This woman is gone at the beginning of her career. She was an extraordinary, rare, very rare woman.”
Mitchell said she and other crew members were attending a private memorial service Friday night in Santa Fe.
Baldwin described the killing as a “tragic accident.”
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter. “My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
No immediate charges were filed, and sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said Baldwin was permitted to travel.
“He’s a free man,” Rios said.
Images of the 63-year-old actor — known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” — showed him distraught outside the sheriff’s office on Thursday.
Guns used in making movies are sometimes real weapons that can fire either bullets or blanks, which are gunpowder charges that produce a flash and a bang but no deadly projectile. Even blanks can eject hot gases and paper or plastic wadding from the barrel that can be lethal at close range. That proved to be the case in the death of an actor in 1984.
In another on-set accident in 1993, Lee was killed after a bullet was left in a prop gun, and similar shootings have occurred involving stage weapons that were loaded with live rounds during historical re-enactments.
Gun-safety protocol on sets in the United States has improved since then, said Steven Hall, a veteran director of photography in Britain. But he said one of the riskiest positions to be in is behind the camera because that person is in the line of fire in scenes where an actor appears to point a gun at the audience.
Sheriff’s deputies responded about 2 p.m. to the movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person being shot there, Rios said. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western “News of the World.”
Hutchins, 42, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film “Archenemy” starring Joe Manganiello. She was a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute and was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.
“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set,” said “Archenemy” director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.”
Manganiello called Hutchins “an incredible talent” and “a great person” on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.
After the shooting, production was halted on “Rust.” The movie is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.
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