Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments of YouTube Millionaires here.
For many, the a cappella artist Smooth McGroove is more well-known than the video game soundtracks from which he draws inspiration.
Known as Max Gleason in real life and hailing from Oklahoma City, this long-haired music master has one of the most popular channels around (thanks to, of course, his musical prowess and occasional appearances from his cat named Charl). In fact, his channel just reached 1 million subscribers, so we asked the Maker Studios-signed creator his thoughts about hitting that important subscriber milestone:
Tubefilter: How do you feel about having one million subscribers and what do you have to say to your fans?
Smooth McGroove: It feels great! Kind of like a new start for me, in a way. To my fans — I have to say thank you so much for listening, watching, and supporting me for the past year and a half!
TF: When you are transposing video game songs for your videos, do you use your ear or pre-arranged sheet music? How long does this process take?
SM: In the beginning I went by ear for everything. It definitely works, but it helps immensely if I can find any type of pre-transcribed music to use as a starting point. The process takes anywhere from a few days to a month depending on the difficulty of the tune.
TF: You’ve said in your videos that you are primarily a drummer rather than a vocalist. Why have you decided to focus your channel entirely on a cappella videos?
SM: I made that decision on a whim, actually. I’d hit a creative block with music and decided to do something different. I had fun with it and saw tons of room for improvement, so I went all in!
TF: Are there any songs you’ve tried to cover that are out of your vocal range? Which of your covers has been the most demanding on your voice?
SM: For sure there are. I’ve even covered some of them, but modified some melodies an octave up or down. My most popular video “Guile’s Theme” is a great example of a song that demands a lot from my voice. In fact, I couldn’t hit the highest note in the lead melody that day and had to sing it an octave down!
TF: How do you balance your song choices between the music you’re interested in covering and the requests you must get from fans?
SM: I really appreciate all the requests that pour in from fans, but in the end I always choose songs that feel the best to me. A huge percentage of them come from fan requests, actually. Through them I’ve been introduced to dozens of games and game soundtracks that I’d never played or even heard of, which has led to me playing some of those games and covering their music!
TF: In general, what do you think makes classic video game music so timeless?
SM: Classic video game music struggled with a huge amount of limitations. Those composers couldn’t just open up a recording program and record whatever instruments they wanted, as many as they wanted like we can today. Because of those limitations, they had to get very creative with their songs to make them work. They had to put way more thought into each of those three, four, or eight tracks that they had to work with than the average musician. Some really amazing ideas came out of those limitations, and that’s why we still listen to them today!
TF: How long did it take you to make the “One Winged Angel” video you just released on your channel?
SM: “One Winged Angel” took about three weeks of work from start to finish. I’d already announced a break from my weekly release schedule and had just finished up a side project when I started working on it, so I was ready to do something bigger than usual. That freedom from my normal weekly schedule gave me the patience to work on it for that amount of time without worrying what my subscribers would think of my lack of video releases. I’m extremely happy with how that video turned out!
TF: What made you decide to launch a Twitch channel, and what has been your favorite part of that experience?
SM: I‘ve watched Twitch streams for a long time. I even created my original Twitch account over a year before I launched my YouTube channel, though I never streamed anything. I guess it’s a lot like YouTube where most people make accounts but stick to watching content. It takes a burst of inspiration to make YouTube videos or start streaming on Twitch, and the success my videos had on YouTube gave me that push to start streaming games for fun.
TF: What’s next for your channel? Any fun plans?
SM: I‘d like to record some more big songs like “One Winged Angel.” I’ll play it by ear though, because my number one goal is to have fun making videos!