Edge, Music, Q & A + Profiles

Musician-student creates album outside studio

Conor McCullough poses for a portrait outside of the new Student Activities Center on Tuesday. Becca Magrino // Contributing Photographer

Conor McCullough poses for a portrait outside of the new Student Activities Center on Tuesday. Becca Magrino // Contributing Photographer

Sometimes walking around UM is like wandering around a music festival. People blast homemade remixes from open dorm rooms, or sit by the lake strumming guitars. Walking past the Frost School, you’ll hear singers rehearsing, or you’ll walk in on a quartet practicing for a show.

With so much talent on campus, it can be hard to find the musician behind the sound. The Miami Hurricane is here to shine a light on some of UM’s talent, bringing you a series of musical profiles. These profiles will be released throughout the semester and feature bands and musicians of all styles, perfect for anyone who wants to learn about the on-campus music scene.

First up is Connor McCullough, a fourth-year student studying music and electrical engineering. McCullough recently released his album “The Cyclical Nature” under the name Vivid Illusion, featuring what he describes as an atmospheric form of metal. The Miami Hurricane got the chance to talk to McCullough about his involvement with music and the process of recording outside a studio.


Musical Beginnings

“When I was 9, I started playing violin because the school system required it,” said the 21-year-old. “For a while, it was just one of those things that your parents make you do; I didn’t really have a passion for it.”

Passion or not, McCullough showed talent early on, picking up the violin easily. At 13, he began taking guitar lessons and attending a music camp.

“It really opened me up to music in a way that school orchestra hadn’t,” he says, describing the camp as a “bonding experience.”


Starting the album

McCullough actually began working on “The Cyclical Nature” back in 2008. He found himself inspired by the band Rosetta, which had an atmospheric dimension that he came to favor.

“I recorded these songs a few times,” recalls McCullough, who talked about how studying music engineering helped him produce the tracks and develop the sound in different ways.


Impact of UM

Before coming to UM, McCullough describes himself as being “melodically centered.”

“I got into the sound design aspect in the last year,” he said. “I was hearing these things I hadn’t heard before because of the music engineering program, and I started figuring out how to produce them.”

He explains how music engineering helped him learn programs like Logic and ProTools.

“I’ve expanded into paying close attention to the textures [of the music]more and the overall mix,” he said.

He also discusses the influence of living in Miami in general, saying, “The biggest scene down here is electronic. I’ve gotten into that … and done a few electronic songs. I even include a little bit of that in this album.”


Involvement on Campus

McCullough is also the events committee head of Phi Mu Alpha, the men’s music fraternity.

“That really opened me up musically, also,” he said. “We have all these guys who are always down to jam or just listen to music.”

He says that he used brothers from the fraternity to help him with certain aspects of his new album, such as the drums.


Self-Made Recording Artist

Besides the help he received from fraternity brothers and peers, McCullough did this project largely on his own.

“On this album, I didn’t go into a recording studio once,” he said. “I did the entire thing with a guitar and my laptop.”

He wants fellow artists to recognize the options they have when it comes to recording.

“Some people don’t realize that they don’t need to raise thousands of dollars to get into a studio if they want to make music,” McCullough said. “You can get these programs for a few hundred and do it yourself.”


Download “The Cyclical Nature” free at vividillusion.bandcamp.com or soundcloud.com/vivid-illusion-1. For more information, visit facebook.com/pages/Vivid-Illusion/151774814885494.

September 4, 2013


Marlee Lisker

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.