(Photo by: Joshua Hanford)
Throughout his life, 24-year-old Grant Kwiecinski (aka GRiZ) has always held a passion for music. It has served as an escape and a way to release his emotions to the world. In his school district in Southfield, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit), it was required that each elementary school student picked a musical instrument to play. Initially, he chose to play the oboe, but then made a quick transition to alto saxophone for two reasons: he thought it was cool and there was this cute girl playing saxophone so he wanted to sit by her. To Grant’s surprise, he quickly fell in love with playing saxophone and several years later joined his high school’s marching band. He received lessons from his band instructor who also played in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This is where he learned to become an exceptional saxophonist. Additionally, he played keys in a ramshackle band for no more than a few days. While he enjoyed playing piano, it was nowhere near as fun as the saxophone.
After graduating high school, he didn’t know if he wanted to keep playing instruments in college or ever again for that matter. He was under the impression that being a musician wasn’t cool. So his freshman year he gave it up and dedicated a lot of time to partying instead. This is also when he picked up DJing. Moving away from home served as a tough challenge for Grant because he had to make new friends and experience new places. When he went back to his mom’s house one night, he saw the saxophone sitting there and figured he should just bring it back to college with him. He wanted to test it out and play random notes on top of mixing in order to replicate the whole funky house sound. So in college he became known as “the dude who plays saxophone and DJs.”
Although school helped Grant to learn the foundation of hard work and being open to learning, he felt that it was becoming an inconvenience for his music dream. Therefore, in the spring of 2012, he dropped out of college to focus full-time on this GRiZ project. It was very difficult for him to make such a profound decision. To this day, it is sill something that is always in the back of his head; he wonders if he can do this forever.
If you’re a musician, then you understand that in order to stand out and have longevity you must find a unique, distinct sound. How do I create a unique sound that also resonates with my listeners? What genre does my music function under? Do I want my next song to sound like my last one or do I want to innovate and make it something completely different? If you are asking yourself these questions, don’t worry. It’s normal. Grant has also struggled with similar questions and has found a way to overcome it. He chooses to make what he’s feeling in the moment and to try new things such as structuring his music differently. He is patient. He collaborates with other artists on productions so that he can bounce around ideas and get another ear on his music. At the end of the day, we’re all just finding ways to make people’s hearts (including our own) beat.
For those of you who have been fortunate enough to see GRiZ live, then you know that he is pretty phenomenal. While simultaneously keeping a good rhythm on his sax, he also throws down some heavy beats with DJing. Since he doesn’t sing, this is how he speaks his voice – through a melody. It is his chance to interact with everyone and people are so interested in his style of music because it is so unique. He just wants to play what he feels inside. Even though Grant makes performing onstage look easy, this is not always the case. According to Grant, performing live is a constant challenge. You always want to sound amazing, but the quality can depend on a lot of factors. These factors include: the way the stage is set up each time, the way fans receive the saxophone signals, the kind of plugins he uses, and how windy it is on a given day. Sometimes he is unable to hear what he’s playing through the monitors and there can be feedback issues during sound check and even throughout his performances. He mentions that the key to a successful performance is to just never stop playing. When something goes awry, improvise.
GRiZ is not only a solo artist, but he also tours with Gramatik as “Grizmatik” (a trio) as well. Grant says that playing with another act can be extremely hard because it’s difficult to communicate what you want to play next or how you are going to play it. While Grant likes to mix into his songs and only play certain parts, Denis (Gramatik) enjoys playing each track from start to finish. However, it’s an awesome and fun experience because he gets a different perspective and is now able to understand how to play music with other people.
GRiZ is not only an exceptional musician, but he is also a charismatic leader for our community as well. What do I mean? Well, the message behind his music and persona is to “show love, spread love.” Instead of being a jerk and acting selfishly, Grant believes in the power of love. He admits that he fails and doesn’t always stay true to this belief, but the important thing is that he’s learning and trying to become a better person. He gets frustrated and tends to be his toughest critic. He has his good days and his bad days just like the rest of us. He knows that life is hard, but to Grant love is not always about being happy. Love is about being human. It’s about forgiveness, patience, and dedication. Don’t feel the need to compete with everyone and support your peers instead. Be love.
In the digital age, it can be difficult for us to interact honestly with one another. We sculpt our identities by what we do and do not post on our social media pages for instance. Grant sees this as a world issue that he would like to prevent as much as possible. He wants to promote community over individualistic success. If you follow GRiZ, then you have probably read about the “GRiZFam.” GRiZFam is a platform for people to function as a “we” instead of as a bunch of “me’s.” It was formed by a group of GRiZ fans to enjoy music as a community and to spread love and good vibes. This family has played a significant role in helping Grant to spread his message of love. Join the GRiZFam so that you too can feel a sense of community and promote both Grant’s music and mission to the world!