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Cover Story- PAUSE Meets: Bazzi

PAUSE MEETS:

Bazzi

Talks time out, Infinite Dream, and working through trauma.

Photographer: Ollie Ali // @MrOllieAli
Stylist: Taija-Leorelle Weekes // @Taija_Leorelle
Producer: Johnson Gold // @Johnson_Gold
MUA: Scott Osbourne Jr @thescottedit
Interviewer: Thomas Woods // @thomaswoods
Artist: Bazzi // @bazzi
Location: Los Angeles, CA

“Create something with people. It’s what we’re good for.”

At just age 25, you’d be excused for thinking Bazzi was older than he is. Having been around music’s metaphorical block a countless number of times, the Michigan-born singer-songwriter is no stranger to the music world, having been signed at just age 20. Enter 2022, Bazzi seems just as full of questions as he does answers- and that’s what makes him so alluring. “What does it mean? How many people come to your shows? How many people did it touch? What did it inspire?”. An artist’s artist, Bazzi makes sure to put the music first, and in a world full of TikTok trends, label hounding, and mass consumption, that’s a lot easier said than done.

An undeniable thirst for untainted human connection and a never-ending search for authenticity fills the air that Bazzi breathes as the ‘Mine’ hitmaker goes further down his road of genre-less creativity with Infinite Dream, his latest studio album. A championing of vulnerability and raw emotion, Infinite Dream puts forward a real sense of what the last 3 years looked like for Bazzi in both a personal and musical sense, merging the two together seamlessly. Again, this isn’t always a given, making Bazzi’s organic dedication to his craft even more impressive.

Humbly taking in the sights of his success, Bazzi sat down with PAUSE earlier this year to reflect on his latest body of work, the excitement of hitting the road, as well as the current state of creative control in the music industry.

Coat – Dolce & Gabbana, Trousers – Bazzi’s own

So, I heard you’re heading off on tour soon?

Yes sir! Tour in one month. Less than one month actually.

Are you excited for it?

Ah man, excited is a weird word. I wish there was a bigger word to give you. All of this sharing music digitally, it’s like you never really feel it until you see people, you can’t really experience anything through your phone… I’m really starting to think that. 

Yeah! I guess it doesn’t translate as well.

Yeah of course, we’re not built like robots, we’re built for human interaction!

Definitely! I think COVID-19 proved that more than anything. Just kicking things off, what are some things that you’re grateful for in life at the moment? Little or large. 

You know what, I’m recently grateful, because literally one hour ago I ran across this guy named Andrew Huberman through a podcast I was listening to, and I went to this guy’s page and it was just super helpful and really informative about our brains. I’m listening to this one right now, it’s about dopamine, and I’m only 40 minutes into and it already feels sort of revolutionary, which is crazy. It’s a little bit brainy, but it’s great if you really want to get into the science of why we feel the way we feel. I guess I’m grateful for that guy, long story short. I’m grateful for tour and I’m grateful to wake up and be able to create everyday, kind of live like a kid… I think that’s a pretty beautiful thing. I couldn’t imagine doing any other job so I’m super excited to put this show together and give people an experience that they haven’t had yet. I’m grateful for life itself and the fact that things can be confusing and then all make sense in a matter of minutes. This wild ride and journey, it’s cool that we get to experience it and figure it out.

Yeah, I mean I suppose that’s what you always aspire to. I think a big part about growing up is realising that you want a lot of what you wanted when you were 10. I think you lose that a little bit along the way, and then later on in life maybe you discover that’s what you’ve searched for all along, that kind of innocent understanding of what you always wanted to be. 

Totally. 

I mean, I’ll definitely be checking out the podcast!

It’s very interesting how these days the right information is available but there’s just so much sh*t and so much garbage that like, to find that and then connect with it is so difficult because everything is just attacking our opinion, everything is attacking our interests. It’s interesting though because the right information is out there, you know? It’s available, it’s just a needle in a haystack.

It’s sifting through everything else that’s bombarding us. I guess that’s the positive and negative of being online a lot. Getting into your journey, I believe you grew up in Michigan? 

Yes sir!

Do you think it was somewhere you considered home? I know you’ve long had a passion for music, so did you feel like that love would always take you away into a bigger city?

Yeah, you know, I always definitely did feel like in my heart and in my dreams that I wanted to see things and explore. I wanted to see where and what I could be capable of, but yeah, it (Michigan) felt like home, for sure. I think so much of who I am and the way I feel, the way I act, and the way I treat people comes from where I came from, but yeah I was definitely an ambitious kid. I think that’s the good thing about growing up somewhere that isn’t necessarily ideal for what you do or what you want to do, because it makes it very obvious about where you want to go. Sometimes, what most people struggle with in life is just a sense of direction in the first place, you know? Just wanting something in the first place. I think it’s a good environment to put yourself in, you want to be clear about what you’re looking for. 

Yeah! I guess that space can kind of help you have some clarity about what you want and where you want to end up. I’ve given a listen to the album over the past couple of days and I loved it. Looking at a lot of critical reviews, they’re all positive. Based on my first listen, I took this overarching sense of ascension and growth, kind of like a Phoenix narrative. Would you say that’s fair? And how would you summarise your feelings towards the record now that it’s out and you’ve given it away to the people?

Thank you, that’s very kind. I would definitely agree in a sense. It’s interesting, I wouldn’t consider it like ‘figuring it out’, I would consider it more like unwiring and untangling the headphones of my mind… really getting back to the core of why I make music in the first place, you know? I think it’s interesting being in a position like mine because you compete with people who… if you compete with people who don’t care about the same stuff as you, people will just by realm of nature assume that you feel the same way about your craft as those people. Being in pop music, and I guess at some point going for a certain type of commercial success, I think some people maybe see me in that way. What’s important to me and what I really care about is making music that I like and pushing barriers with my sound and keeping it fun and exciting. In a lot of ways, this album was about growth and a return home to why I even do this in the first place.

A full circle type moment… I definitely felt that. As I was saying, reviews have been rave. Eclectic, raw, and open are some of the words I’ve seen describing the record. Where do you feel most love as a musician? Do official reviews do anything for you? Or is it mainly when you hit that stage?

I think that there are two main places, and I think one of them is in the studio. Being in the studio and just creating, getting to be present in watching some of these stories unfold and seeing some of these songs happen, that’s like my favourite part of the job. It’s just about being a vessel for creativity and not having a plan for how I want a record to go or how I want the drums to hit. Walking the path and seeing how things happen, I think that’s one of the most magical parts. I don’t really care much for putting it out to be honest, like, that part for me is whatever, you know? That’s kind of like being a business man and thinking about a product… I guess maybe if I saw it that way it would help me in some aspects, but I don’t really care for that. So yeah, making it and then getting to perform it are probably tied for first place… it’s pretty much the present part. Music these days feels like it’s ninety-five percent of the business and bullsh*t and five percent about the music. I’m not a pessimist, I do think things can return to that state if we just change our morals and what’s important to us as people in society. I think it should be the opposite, like maybe ten percent promotion and making sure people hear it but then let the rest of it be about what it means or what it sounds and looks like, you know? Because we’re kind of losing that man, it’s kind of scary when you lose that. 

Earrings – Alligator Jesus, Top – HEYUN PAN, Trousers – TAAKK, Gloves – HEYUN PAN, Shoes – Converse

You had a meteoric rise to fame with ‘Mine’ and I know you quickly got signed after that, you blew up on Vine as well. Being a success story on the internet, where do you stand on labels pushing for artists to produce TikTok-friendly music or internet-friendly music? Do you think artistic integrity is at risk there? 

Yeah, I think artist’s integrity is a little bit at risk, but I also think we just need more leaders. It’s not the label’s fault necessarily. If nobody is challenging them and nobody is having these conversations, who is going to differ from what’s working? Who is going to differ from what’s safe or predictable or analytical? Especially on the business side. I don’t know, I do feel a little bit of that responsibility to at least have some of these conversations of what’s important because it’s not anybody’s one fault; we’re all kind of feeding into this. I think it’s going to take someone, not saying it’s me, who is strong. I feel like as humans we really just need a conversation in the air to be like, “Oh, I identify with that.” Most people that want to sit and articulate the way they feel about things just want to point a finger and be like, “Yeah, that’s it.” I just think we need better conversations in the business and to know that not everything is a race on the charts. What does it mean? How many people come to your shows? How many people did it touch? What did it inspire? Kind of changing the qualifications of success. 

That feeds into your earlier point about coming full circle and getting back to that. I feel like at the moment in music we’re definitely in the middle of that and I agree with you in that music definitely needs that line of communication a bit more. I know it’s been a long time since you released a full body of work, so what has this past three to four years looked like for you spiritually? Where and what do you look back on and see growth in that time? Personally or musically.

Well, there are so many aspects… but I’d say that one is that there’s obviously a lot of excitement about putting out the album, but I also just felt like ‘do it for me.’ I’ve been sitting on so much great music and sharing it is like a responsibility, you know? As much as that part isn’t something that I obsess over too much, sharing it is a responsibility and just putting it out, letting it be what it will be, and letting it find who it will find. I think with growth, even with the genre-based growth, I love a lot of the music on Soul Searching and I’ve always made the music I’ve loved to listen to, and I think Soul Searching was a great project, but it wasn’t my natural authentic voice or sound. Some of the record definitely was, but I think it’s more about getting back to that authentic voice and I think Infinite Dream was a step in that direction. 

I definitely felt a lot of you come through on that record. Speaking on the album and a sense of self-reflection, many in popular music reflect on their experiences, but I feel like you definitely rank as somebody who is quite proficient at it and it comes across as natural. Do you think that skill comes from actively working through traumatic experiences and general life? Or were you always a good storyteller? 

It’s definitely a skill and a muscle you work on. Once again, I’m so grateful for songwriting and I’m grateful for having this weird and ambitious mind that saw me wanting to write all of my music and tell my own stories. My writing sessions have been therapy since I was eighteen-years old. Being really empathetic and introspective, really looking at yourself and observing situations and why they happened the way that they happened, all in the name of putting it into song, is incredibly helpful and eye-opening when looking at yourself. But yeah, definitely… that’s a muscle. Sometimes it’s a disadvantage because I can read people too easily or I can see through something too clearly, and I guess in the long run I’ll see that as a good thing but sometimes young people, and I see it in my peers, we want to be able to believe in something stupid just for a little bit. That’s tough for me at my age, relating with my peers about that, because from looking at things so much and trying to take the heart, the pulse, and the emotion of that, you become really observant as an artist, you know, writing music. Even when I miss, my goal has always been to take that core and true feeling and put it into songs. 

Going off of my first listen of Infinite Dream, there’s a very bass-heavy exit from the album opener into a plucky guitar in the next track. It immediately put forward this sense of atmosphere for me and I saw this run throughout the entirety of the record. Did you aim to cover this many bases sonically? Or was that just a natural occurrence after spending a fair bit of time away? 

It was definitely a natural occurrence. I don’t like to use the term ADD, but it’s more creative ADD, so I never feel too much of a responsibility to commit to one thing and I just have fun. It’s about making whatever it was that was on my heart that day or make it sound however I wanted it to sound that day, and not trying to manipulate and morph it into one thing so it’s easier for other people to understand. But, it definitely wasn’t an intention by any means to have so many different sounds, it’s just what happened. Pretty much any time I make music, people ask me about my process and my process is just what happened that day. Of course we’ll go back in and try make it hit harder or replace sounds and give it the exact feeling we want, but the core and heart of the song is definitely very present all the time. 

Yeah! I think that’s something that is evident throughout. I read that music is kind of all you’ve ever known and I know you came into the industry very young. I can imagine it must’ve been quite hard to find your feet considering the pace of the music world. What are some techniques that you implement to keep yourself grounded in such a tumultuous environment?

You know what, I’m 25 years old and I’m still figuring that out. There really is no rule book and the scary thing is that even the ones that think that they have it figured out don’t really have it figured it out, and it kind of looks self-destructive from every angle from the outside looking in. I’m somebody who’s also trying to protect myself and my best interests while trying to pursue such an ambitious thing, so I’m still figuring that out. What I realise is that a lot of it is just about self-value and knowing that I get to decide what I find important, that I get to decide what’s in my control and out of my control. It’s kind of about setting my own rules and I actually do feel a responsibility. Popular music in general feels so separate and so isolated, and I think anybody that does this job is brave and anyone who tries at this I respect, because it’s not easy. It’s not easy to promote yourself and think about yourself all the time, or pick up the phone everyday… you don’t get to escape it. So, I respect anyone that does this and I do feel a responsibility. Once I figure it out more, if I can create an environment where things are healthier, more creative or are better on the people who want to be here, I’ll definitely encourage that. 

Earrings – Alligator Jesus, Co-ord – Willy Chavarria, Shoes – Converse

You’re still very young, in your mid-20s, so it’s still a living and breathing thing. I guess it’s all about finding out where your boundaries lie and where you say no and what you do accept. When you did come into the world of music, did you have any guiding lights? 

You know what? Not really in the business. I feel like my guiding light and somebody who has offered a lot of great guidance is my dad, I’m really close with him. He’s really intuitive, spiritual, and smart; he’s like a good friend. My dad was a really strong influence but honestly, I kind of look around in the business and it’s like, there are people who have been very successful, but I kind of wonder whether anyone really knows what they’re doing. I don’t mean if they know what they’re doing career wise, but with themselves or what it all means. It’s just very confusing. Human beings, even with myself, you can’t see yourself how other people see you and you’re constantly trying to manipulate that and change it… it’s kind of weird, you know? These days I often think about being in a band or having a project that I wasn’t the face of, where I don’t have to say, “Hey, this is me.” I could make music and make art and then I could go and be a human being outside of that, because I don’t know if those two things match together very well. I mean, you can just look at history. 

I completely agree.

I think the future more looks like a return back to the basics versus more technology, because I think people are already sick of it, they’re already f*cking burnt out and exhausted. I don’t think anybody needs any little bit more of it, you know? 

I think that digital world, including the Meta-verse, is almost a step too far for people. We’ve come so far that a lot of people have become bemused by it. 

I feel optimistic that it will create something really beautiful in the future because I don’t necessarily think in the 1980s and 1990s, or even early 2000s, that people were grateful for what they had or the presentness that they had because it wasn’t by choice. I think in the future, with all the technology that will exist, the future presentness will be a choice, which will create more gratitude for it. It will be like, “We’ve seen both sides, and we’re picking this one”, versus it being just what we know. 

That’s a very good point. I agree though, I think it will hopefully do the reverse and give people a little bit more perspective. I know that you’ve spoken a lot about mental health in the past and on this album you can see that you’re being very open, which is lovely to hear. Acknowledging mental health as this constantly evolving and devolving being, living and breathing with no constant, what are some practices that you implement in your everyday life to help you manage yourself and keep balance?

Well for one I’m the worst at this, but trying to be off of my phone. Being on your phone and trying to live any kind of life through your phone is a let down challenge. I go to the gym everyday and I try and go for walks, just being outside and moving… kind of anything away from technology, except for making music. That definitely helps me.

In relation to fashion, looking at your Instagram I can see that your proportions are very on point, you’ve really figured them out well! Can you give us an on-the-record account of some of your style influences?

I’d say that a lot of what I’m influenced by in fashion now is just character. I used to like the new pieces of clothing that hadn’t been worn, but now I look for a jacket that looks like it has a story on it, you know? It’s like somebody has lived in it. Good fashion is a form of art and any form of art can be alive, like a painting can be alive because it can make you feel something and it can personify something inside of you. I think when I dress, I just like to look for things with character. Obviously the fit and stuff like that is important, but something that looks like it has a story. It’s kind of like when you see a painting that just jumps out at you and you don’t know why you like it, I like to approach fashion in the same way, to just see things and look at a bunch of stuff and see what jumps out at me. It’s about what my spirit and soul identifies with naturally… those are my favourite pieces.

That’s great. Whilst many rightfully deem teenage years as a defining period in a person’s life, the early 20s are often overlooked. What have your 20s brought you personally and where do you want the next half of your 20s to take you? 

I think that the first half of my 20s have been the most self-defining years of my entire life because obviously I was thrown into a career that allows me to experience a lot of things and learn a lot of things pretty fast. I think that the first five have kind of been about getting past this point and I feel like it was just an uphill battle towards feeling okay and understanding myself. I hope that the next five is easier to understand, hopefully going down hill and focusing on what’s important, continuing to act out bad habits, and growing up into someone who can live a sustainable life and be sustainable creatively and professionally. 

Follow Bazzi on Instagram

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Alec Boggess says:

    My favorite artist of all time… and he’s only 25. What an awesome interview. Thank you for this, Pause Magazine!

    • Alec Boggess says:

      The guy is so insightful for being so young (coming from a 26 year old haha). He has a beautiful perspective on life. The depth of his insights are a beauty to absorb. It especially stands out as a pop star in Hollywood, which is known for being hollow/shallow. His music and his voice are a signal in the face of so much noise in the music industry.

      If you can relay this message to him, make sure he knows one of his biggest fans tells him to never stop creating art. He has a fan for life.

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