Chaz Cardigan: "None of what I’m doing makes much sense without playing shows if I’m being honest"
The rising queer alt-pop star is assured for greatness through his soulful, genre-bending mix of R&B and modern pop that is hitting the right mark.
The 25-years-old, Nashville based artist has had a stand-out year, even in the middle of a pandemic. From releasing his latest EP 'Vulnerabilla' to in his own words "totally accidental" that his single 'As I'll Ever Be' featured on Netflix original 'To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You' soundtrack. To now embracing a new journey with his latest singles 'Middle of The Road' and 'Everything's Wrong'.
From his biggest challenge of starting a marketing cycle for his first project under a major label at the start of a pandemic as he said: " Taking a song to radio, trying to get people to stream music in the age of COVID — that’s put me through the wringer and made me question what I’m doing this for. It’s got to be for the love of the work because music doesn’t make any money these days. “To his biggest accomplishment of paying off his personal debts with music as he opened up to us and said: "The years where I couldn’t afford rent or borrowed money from friends while I was couch-surfing: being able to pay that off with money I made from music was fulfilling." With one hell of a journey, you can't help but admire Chaz's admiration to continue what he is best at.
Growing up in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, Chaz became obsessed with creating music after being inspired by the likes of Queen, Prince and Stevie Wonder. From then he said: "As a kid, I loved making things. I was always inventing toys out of shoestring or tape or making up stories or trying to write movies. Music was just the thing that really clicked and clicked deeply. I started writing songs after a pretty-long hospital stay in 4th grade, and it was all I wanted to do; it was the ultimate thing I could make because anyone could listen to music and understand it if you wanted to be understood." At the age of 10, he then began recording himself and from then on, he played in a range of bands, performed in gigs and uploaded a whole range of content to Myspace (remember those days artists) - at the age of 12 it took over his whole life. Upon moving to Nashville at age 17, Chaz became part of a local hip-hop collective called The Diatribe. He made his full-length debut with his 2017 album 'I' and soon he was selling out headline shows throughout Nashville. For now the 25-year old wants to be honest about himself through his songwriting as he said: "I don’t think I think too deeply about it beyond asking myself: “am I saying something I would say in a conversation?”.
"I feel a lot more comfortable with myself than I did earlier this year now that I've had to hang out with myself so much."
With lockdown taking a toll for all musicians, Chaz has been lucky to find happiness at home. Whilst slowing down on the writing process, Chaz said: "I'm writing a little less than I was before the pandemic, but I think I'm writing more intentionally when I do, and that's been good for me. I'm happy with the pace of everything right now. I feel a lot more comfortable with myself than I did earlier this year now that I've had to hang out with myself so much." Even though he admitted the circumstances suck, Chaz has tried to take time out of his day keeping himself sane, even if it's 15-20 minutes away from a screen.
As fans are treated with a series of singles and quarantine videos, Chaz has without a doubt found lockdown challenging when it comes to creating content. He added: "Without the option of playing shows, I’m dependent on playlisting or support from DSP’s to help grow the brand, and that’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, when they’re helpful, they’re very helpful, and it makes a big impact on my streaming numbers — on the other hand, they can’t give you an olive branch on every song to help grow your brand when there are hundreds of thousands of other artists my age making music that’s a little more playlist-friendly. So, the main pressure I’ve had this year is trying to make the buzz happen on my own, basically on TikTok, and that’s been a real head trip."
"I wrote ‘Vulnerabilia’ as I was first starting to go to therapy and unpack my panic disorder in 2018. I had a lot of unaddressed anxiety and a few maladapted coping mechanisms I’d picked up that I needed to disentangle, and that’s what I ended up writing about."
Whilst Chaz has found lockdown challenging and had to find new ways to create content and connect with his fans; he has also had some standout moments this year. With being his recent EP 'Vulnerabilla - a project that unfolds in a genre-bending take on pop that is a bodywork, closely informed by the moments of intense vulnerability that have shaped his own life - including coming out queer to his parents and a brief period of homelessness. 'Vulnerbillia' is a down to earth personal story through hypnotic rhythms and pop guitar riffs; alongside personal lyrics that shape the project. With him describing his sound “extroverted music for introverts" - it is evident how personal his music is and how his fans connect with him. Talking about his recent EP and the story behind it, he said: I wrote ‘Vulnerabilia’ as I was first starting to go to therapy and unpack my panic disorder in 2018. I had a lot of unaddressed anxiety and a few maladapted coping mechanisms I’d picked up that I needed to disentangle, and that’s what I ended up writing about. I worked on the songs throughout 2018 and got to play all of them live with my band before I dug into producing the EP; which let me be intentional about how I recorded them."
With only a series of singles, a debut album and an EP, Chaz has established himself as a pop star to be not messed about with. Although he made several tracks in collaboration with Jamie Lidell, Chaz produced the EP on his own and played every instrument, reclaiming the D.I.Y spirit he's long embraced. This is evident in his hit single 'Not Ok', an infectious celebration of human imperfection and since the release, Chaz has widely opened up about his life.
At around the same time of his release, Chaz embarked on a new journey of becoming the first artist jointly signing to Capitol Records/Loud Robot which he described as "surreal and natural." He also added about how it all happened and said: "I’d gone to LA for a writing trip and an A&R at Capitol reached out about meeting up and talking; he’d known my managers for like 15 years and they’d played him a handful of the songs. He and I hung out together at the tower and had a great chat about music and tech and politics; we bonded over punk music and had immediate chemistry. I got the deal offer a few months later after I played my first show in LA, at Madame Siam. He introduced me to the Loud Robot crew over the next few months. Capitol and Bad Robot had talked about working together on a project for about a year, and Loud Robot seemed to like ‘Vulnerabilia’ and some of my more visual ideas."
Whilst producing 'Vulnerabilla' Chaz also contributed 'As I'll Ever Be' to the soundtrack for 'To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You'. Even though it was "totally accidental", Chaz is glad that it found a home and added: "It happened organically, and the song worked exactly as they needed, which is awesome."
"I think my favourite to work on of the two was Middle Of The Road; it happened pretty spontaneously and without a lot of tinkering."
As we hit mid-way of 2020, Chaz has gifted us with two hit singles 'Middle of The Road' a track about his life if he stayed in his hometown and 'Everything's Wrong' which takes on a post-breakdown life and not letting a breakdown keep you down. Both of which shows off his growth in both of his music and life since his EP 'Vulnerabilla'. However, Chaz admitted to us: " I think my favourite to work on of the two was Middle Of The Road; it happened pretty spontaneously and without a lot of tinkering." He also added about his creative process and said: "I try not to think of writing songs as “singles” if I can help it, but I’m always trying to find sticky choruses and put as many hooks in a song as I can fit."
Unfortunately, as the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll, the biggest blow for Chaz, is live concerts as he misses out on his Spring Tour and his plan to support Barns Courtney. He extended on the reason why he makes music for tours as he said: "None of what I’m doing makes much sense without playing shows if I’m being honest. It’s the main way people find out about new music, it’s where I really make my income, and it’s the main reason I’ve made music for as long as I have, so to have that taken away has been a big blow. It’s a nice reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around any of us, though! That’s been good for my ego. Right now, nobody knows what’s going to happen. It's heavy to think about."
With such unprecedented times in our life, Chaz has still got his spark, hailing as a certified 21st-century pop artist who hopes to live happy in a house of his own, make art and get back on the road playing shows.