GRiZ has been laying low for almost a year, and just like that, he’s back again with two brand new and funky singles. But, he was never really gone — he was taking some much needed time to himself to breathe, focus on his art, and appreciate life in general.
During his time away from the spotlight, Grant Kwiecinski immersed himself into the various communities, cultures, and sounds that inhabit America, making his music more diverse and wide-reaching than ever. With each new release GRiZ takes a massive step forward. This time around, he’s meeting the worlds of funk, electronica, hip hop and pop, and he’s doing it his way.
Enjoy the latest from GRiZ here, read up on his personal and musical journey below, and be sure to give him some mad love for his inspiring work.
You’ve been laying relatively low — what have you been up to?
I have been chillin’! Honestly, it might’ve seemed like we were kinda taking days off, but it’s been every single day giving myself space to make music and just be me — which is amazing! It was a weird transition to go from putting yourself out there and talking to people, and then to come into yourself and take some time to slow it the fuck down and see what it is that you love and getting back into you.
Do you think your break from social was beneficial for your personal wellness?
Yeah, man. That shit is so important. It’s so important to take some time for yourself. Take some time to just breathe and check in with you and see how you feelin’ about stuff. Because, it’s not always so easy to understand how you feel about everything when you’re always asked for your opinion or sharing your opinion on stuff. It’s important to be able to separate and live your life and check in with yourself and not always have this conversation with somebody. It’s really refreshing and I highly encourage anybody who might read this or check out this article to take some time to just do some shit for you. I know it sounds so simple and maybe it sounds difficult.
I definitely feel like there’s some crazy addiction feeling towards it — this compulsory like — here I am and I’m just walking somewhere. I open my phone and I’m sitting down somewhere just killing time. I’m like alright cool, I’m just gonna surf thru Instagram — I’m like nah, nah you can’t do it! But it’s just a nice thing to be able to turn that part of your brain off. When you do, it’s beautiful how much other stuff starts happening in your head if you give yourself that space. It’s kinda tight to be bored and just sitting there looking around. If you look around you see how beautiful this world is. Even this small shit like I’ll be sitting at a restaurant and instead of checking my phone I’ll end up having a better conversation with the person I’m with and just enjoying the space I’m in. Like the cup I’m drinking out of, the wallpaper, the atmosphere, the music, the whole vibe — and all of life is like that. You can enjoy stillness. You can enjoy those moments of space and being able to hold space for yourself. It’s pretty life changing to be honest.
How long have you been keeping this double release a secret from us?
[laughs] A long time! We’ve been on the low keeping a lot of shit to ourselves. And it has been fun in a way, ’cause you’re like “Alright, I’ve got all this cool shit coming!” And in another way you’re like, “I just really want to tell people what’s up.” ‘Cause I didn’t disappear. I’m still working really, really hard on this thing and I’m trying to bring myself into a new chapter and be able to tell a story of how I feel about things and to be able to live that truth and be able to live through it. It was important to be able to take time to do a deep dive inwardly and understand how I felt without the influence of anything else. To be able to write and to meditate and to live life in more of a methodical, slow, and present sense. And work through this stuff and these songs that have been finished for quite some time now. I’ve performed one of them a few different times at festivals and stuff and it’s kinda my sneaky way of letting people know what’s going on. I love being able to surprise people again, and I really wanted to give people that feeling of anticipation and excitement about this thing — not that I think we lost it, but I think that it’s fun like that. It’s fun to be able to take some time to make a new narrative or some shit so people can be like, “Yo, this is what’s going on!”
What kind of feeling do you get when you share new art with the world, like today?
If I’m being honest — I’m nervous, ’cause I hope people like it. ‘Cause you been working on something and I’ve invested so much in myself in these tunes. I just really hope they resonate with people and I hope that they feel like it came at a good time for them, because I know personally that this subject matter and working thru these things — it helped me in my life. I use music as a coping mechanism for the crazy shit that I think about all the time. I create songs to be able to experience the emotions that I have, whether they’re positive or negative, in a constructive way, and create some resolution there. To be able to feel sad, to be able to feel excited, and put that within a musical setting so that I can viscerally, in a human way, feel that shit — then by the end of the song I feel better, ya know. I’ve been healed by this shit.
“It Gets Better” is amazing to hear, because you and DRAM share a similar message of positivity — how did that track come about?
That started I went to Chicago and I had this hook and I really wanted it to be expressed by a joyful voice and I wanted it to sound like, [sings] “I know, I know it gets better!” I really wanted it to sound how it made me feel — that sentiment. So we got this kid’s choir and wrapped it up with that trip, and that session was just magical. I feel like the best songs I’ve ever done have worked that way like, “I have no idea what’s going on right now… but it’s blowing my fucking mind and everybody in this session right now is having a great time and it’s this beautiful thing.”
So we went down there and recorded with these kids and they have never been in a music studio before and their faces were just lit up. They had so much fun with the song. Being able to meet them and see them showcasing their talents and experiencing how this song made me feel with them delivering it was just 100% maximum feeling. Then, I went down to New Orleans to record the horns, then I came back to Denver to finish the piano parts out, and then I was like, “We gotta find the right voice for this,” to really staple the message down. And DRAM — I’ve loved his work, I love his vibes. He has such a great attitude, and I thought he’d be absolutely perfect. I hit him up, he loved the tune, they sent us something back it was like, “Cool. Done. Perfect. That was amazing. They nailed it.” And it just came together in this almost like very effortless way.
What made you decide to jump on “Can’t Get Enough” and rap yourself?
I really want to put myself into this project even more than in the past — and it really just started as I’m writing all these things and writing these hooks and sometimes I’m writing verses. I’m like in a hotel room in New Orleans and it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I’m spitting this verse in my computer microphone and I’m just kinda sitting there and I go outside to vibe out and listen and I’m like, “I fucking love this, like this sounds cool to me.” And it’s in a laptop microphone, it’s not even like — good. And the way it was delivered and with an instrumental and everything I was like, “It just feels right.” And I don’t need to consider myself an MC or a rapper or a vocalist or whatever. I don’t need to be that person, but I can do that job. I can deliver my emotion into it.
I felt like, if I’m gonna give this to anybody else, it might sound better. [laughs] Which, humor, right? But it wouldn’t be me. This song is about me. This song is about all my shit. It’d be hard for me to give this to anybody to deliver those lines. So, I gotta be the one saying it. I sent it around to some people and we started performing it and it just started to fit and feel like a really good place for those vocals to fit in a song. It felt like a really good place for me to be with that piece of music and I was like, “Shit, we’re just gonna do this shit!” I feel like if we do it and if I just do it confidently, people will be as convinced as I.
During your live shows, how does it feel grabbing the mic and lending your own voice to the production?
It’s an amazing feeling, ’cause I do this thing with saxophone, right? It has a different kind of voice to it. Of course it’s a different sounding thing, but it’s still an extension of breath and controlling the breath. It’s a very cathartic experience. But when you start putting words behind this shit and you start really interpreting what the story is, like you’re telling people verbatim what it’s about — it’s not just a melody, it’s not up to interpretation so much — I’m telling you exactly what it is. And to be able to express that part of myself with that platform in that space is, one — really, really scary ’cause you’re like, “Oh man I hope I don’t forget the words” and yada yada yada. But the other part of it is like, I’m lucky enough to have such a supportive group of fans that it felt really safe. They gave me the safe space to be exactly me and they always continue to give me a safe space to be me and do my shit, and express myself the way that I feel like I need to. I felt like I was flowing through the entire thing. To be able to encompass the message so fully was a very new, fresh, and beautiful experience. I look forward to be able to perform that song more and more.
Speaking of which, what’s the process you guys go through when prepping for such intricate shows with the live band?
It really starts with me talking to Stu Brooks, who is our bass player and music director. Typically I fly out to New York (that’s where he lives) and we’ll just kinda have a rap session, ya know? We’ll brainstorm and we’ll sit down with a bunch of GRiZ tunes and be like, “Alright this is definitely something we could nail, ’cause it’s all instrumental and vocals and we got that. And this is some shit that is kinda crossover we could probably do. And this is some shit that we definitely can’t do but we’re gonna try it anyways.”
So we’ll go though the track and we’ll try and see, what’s a good example here — like a tune with a good drop. How do we get that emotional quality? That feeling without using any backing track, without using any computers, without using any like digital synthesizer. Everything is all analog. It’s all human, it’s all performance, it’s all us in the moment. How do we re-duplicate that with the people we have on stage? Mind you, the reason we have 15 people on stage is that we need all of us. We need every last voice. Every last person contributes so much. If you took someone away it’d be a big gap. We got a bunch of the most brilliant and go-getter musicians we could possibly find with such a cool style about their whole character — now, how do we use these people?
So we’ll try and create these layers and we’ll conceptualize it and then way before the show we’ll do a rhythm section practice where it’s just percussion, drums, bass, two guitars, keys, and myself. That’s the cutting room floor for shit — we’ll take what Stu and I thought up, like “You play this, you play this, guitar does this.” And we’ll just play the groove of the song. If the groove ain’t groovin’ and we can’t do anything to make it sound super tight, the song gets scrapped. Nah, we can’t even do it. ‘Cause if you ain’t got a cool groove with just your rhythm section, it ain’t gonna be a dope tune, so you gotta make sure that that’s bangin’ there before you go in and lay in all the candy — the horns and the vocalists, which is the other 8 pieces of the band.
“Chasin’ Galaxies” at GRiZmas last year was my favorite! Seriously, magical!
That was so fun and that’s an open ended tune. Where most of the songs of the band, like we have some jam sections for it, but I didn’t want it to be a jam band per say. I wanted it to be like, “We’re a band, we’re playing some bad ass tunes,” that’s the whole thing. But that’s one of the songs where I played it for Stu and I was like, “Dude if we can pull this off it would be some shit!” And he was like I think we can do it, we just gotta do it our own way.
That’s the other thing — imagining GRiZ songs for the band, we’re not remaking that song. The song is how it is on record, that’s just what it is. It’s gonna sound like that. We’re gonna do us, because we have what we have, and we’re limited in that sense. We’re unlimited in the sense that we are human beings and we have this infinite capacity to do beautiful shit and come up with fresh ideas and improvise on the spot so that tune is just all improv. We know that there’s a place we can get to, so we’re just gonna all look at each other, and pray to God that we’re gonna arrive at the same place eventually. We start building the momentum of this shit up and we’re like, “Alright, alright, here we go! Where are we going?” We know we’re going somewhere and all of the sudden it just clicks because we practice enough and we know each other enough and we’ve got a good vibe. But that’s one of those ones where the trains moving, we’re going somewhere, let’s just dive in.
Like much of your music, these tracks are instant mood boosters! When you’re feeling down, what lifts you up?
Music is definitely one of my instant mood lifters. That’s a big, big thing for me. Lately, this past year and a half or two years, if I’m feeling really down and lost and I can’t get my feet underneath me, I’ll go meditate. That’s a daily thing, but if I need it I’ll create some space for myself, create some quiet space, and just sit and just let all the shit go and let all the shit end. Not think about anything in particular and just focus on existence. It’s so simple and it works so well.
Do you feel like your inspiration has shifted, from Good Will Prevail to where you’re at now musically?
Definitely. Good Will Prevail came from one place and time — and whatever is coming next, the next collection of music, is a different time and place. Ya know, time changes, people change, and I think that there’s a little bit of common theme between all the things I’m doing and that’s just me as a person and the way that I experience emotion. But the situations for people change, everyone’s life situation changes. You go through heartache, you go through happiness, you go through huge wins, you go through huge failures and that’s growth and that’s a beautiful thing. We are so lucky to be able to experience all that is life, all the ups and downs, and I’m just here to be able to ride that feeling of life and express it through music.