Year-end reflection with Mad Keys in Los Angeles

Sonder Spotlight is a series of bite-sized travel chats with a few of our favorites. As 2023 draws to a close, Mad Keys joins us at Sonder The Beacon in Los Angeles to reflect on the year and take a look towards the future. We talk holiday traditions, travel bucket lists, and finding self-security in travel. Plus, you can listen to the playlist inspired by his LA stay.  

Mad Keys is a genre-blending producer and multi-instrumentalist who hails from St Louis. A violinist from childhood who picked up piano and production along the way, he describes his sound as a meeting of Flying Lotus, J Dilla, and D’Angelo. We’re sold. . 

With the holidays coming up, do you have any rituals or traditions?

MK: Usually, around the holidays, wifey and I would try to travel back home to St. Louis to spend time with our family. I’ll also start getting really into my chef bag, making more comfort foods, and using the crock pot more! One thing in particular that I look forward to is making a sweet potato pie. My grandma used to make them this time of year, and I would look forward to that more than the mac and cheese! I don’t have her exact recipe, but I have something extremely close to it that tastes phenomenal. It got my parents’ stamp of approval.

What are some items on your gift wish list?

MK: As a producer that’s on the go, some of the things on my list would be more functional luggage (I’ve had my eye on some pieces from Monos), a set of AIAIAI Unit-4 Wireless+ studio monitors, a few good neutral-colored baggy hoodies and sweatpants, and a good cologne.

What’s something you’ve learned while traveling this year?

MK: Have you ever been somewhere or a part of something and felt like you weren’t really qualified for it? One of the things that I learned during my time in LA doing my first show out here and working in studio sessions is this: I’m right where I’m supposed to be. The older version of me would look at that and call it imposter syndrome. Now, I tell myself, “I’m supposed to be here.” To say anything otherwise would negate all the time I spent developing my craft to be here.

And anywhere you’re hoping to travel in 2024?

MK: Wow, the fact that 2024 is almost here is so crazy to me! I’m not sure why, but Toronto is calling my name next. Might even have to do a show and have some sessions out that way too. Next year, I’m hoping to hit Chicago, New York City, and London too, and possibly either San Juan or St. Lucia for a leisure trip.

And while we’re here, any recommendations in the city? 

MK: At Sonder The Beacon, it was fulfilling just to go for a walk or run by the beach or grab coffee and a bite from Tender Greens. They don’t miss! One thing in particular that you gotta get is their olive oil cake. And y’all gotta go to Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen in Inglewood. Not only is their coffee fire, but the chicken sandwich? Sheesh! Also, get the lavender latte. 

Sonder Sounds in Los Angeles

Listen to Mad Keys’ eclectic LA playlist inspired by his Sonder stay.

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