Penn State Senior Makes Noise In Music Industry
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.”
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.
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.”
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