Bryce Vine says the secret to becoming a rapper is by reading
By BANU IBRAHIM
Bryce Vine is a breath of fresh air. The Los Angeles rapper refuses to let his genre, profession, or really any label confine him to any stereotypes -- he's even critical of city he calls home. And because of that you'll rarely find overdone motifs or sounds in his music. Instead, you'll discover a mélange of 90's scene elements à la Third Eye Blind and Rancid with contemporary synthesized beats, tracks that play on the nostalgia of eating Sour Patch Kids and watching "Rocky's Modern Life," and lyrics like the ones in "Los Angeles" that feel wholly confessional; "I hate it/Maybe just enough to vacate it/Because the more I learn in Los Angeles, the less I think about staying." The sheer breadth of topics in his albums, consisting of rhymes inspired by the Ferguson riots to verses penned during a time of depression in Bryce Vine's life, allows listeners to dive head first into the rapper's psyche.
Bryce thanks all of this to one major lifestyle choice: reading. Talking about his songwriting process, Bryce explains, "You just have to find things along the way that help a song come to life. Like reading books. I became an avid reader in the last year because it's constantly stimulating my head." It's the one advice he always gives up-and-coming rappers hoping to break it big.
His unique approach to rap music hasn't gone unnoticed. His single "Sour Patch Kids" went viral on Spotify, garnering over 4.3 million views. He has also performed alongside some of the biggest names in the industry including Ludacris and Big Sean. But if you want to see Bryce Vine's success in a more tangible form, all you have to do is go to one of his live performances.
During his set at the iconic Webster Hall in New York City, fans flocked from all over the tri-state area to catch a glimpse of the artist. Their obsession with him ran deep; almost every person in attendance screamed along to his lyrics, they held up bags of Sour Patch Kids, and even took the mic for their own rendition of Bryce's hit songs. This is pretty common place for his fans. Bryce explains, "...when you can get people in a small group that don't know each other to feel completely comfortable, it's amazing. I let this guy do magic tricks on stage last time; it doesn't always have to be about you and your art." His live shows are just as much about the attendees as it is about his performance. And because of that, without a doubt, after every performance Bryce makes sure to meet every single person who came. As he claims, it's a necessity. "You have to, man. You have to let them know that you appreciate them."
It's clear that Hollywood isn't getting the best of him.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the rising rapper before his set at Webster Hall to talk about his creative process, how music helped heal him from his bout with depression, and why reading books is essential to any rappers' career.
#OnOurRadar is a feature that showcases creative minds and up-and-coming talent. To see more past interviews, click here.
When did you first realize you had a passion for music?
When I was 13. I saw some comedian named Stephen Lynch who played funny songs, but he actually had a good voice and he was great at guitar. And it just hit me that I wanted to be able to do that, and be able to play the guitar and sing songs -- whether they're funny or not. My mom bought me a guitar for my 13th birthday and I spent every night in my garage with my acoustic guitar. I would look up tabs on the internet and learned songs that I liked to listen to. So then I thought, "Okay, well now I need to start a band." And my mom found a little tape recently from when I would record myself playing songs, and in my pre-pubescent voice I said, "I'm still learning the guitar, I haven't figured it out yet but I will have a band one day and I'll hopefully be playing around the world."
What function does music specifically play in your life?
It just follows me around. My favorite songs in the world mean something to me at different times. And a lot of them aren't cool songs or are the dopest tracks by Pac and Dre, but it's songs that hit me in a different way. Like "Semi Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind or this song called "Aside" by this band called the Weakerthans. They grab me and I never let them go. And I hear them at different times of my life when I need to. I'll be driving with my friends in the car and out of nowhere a song from 1997 like "The Jumper" comes on and we all sing it. And when I went to Warped Tour is how I discovered my love for punk, reggae and ska. I never really realized the fact that all these different styles of music and letting myself be open to different genres would end up playing into my sound and what I've created as a musician now. No one is going to make something like my song "Bang Bang" because they didn't listen to Rancid growing up since that's basically a Rancid song that I've written in my own way.
What does your creative process look like? How do you go about writing your raps and creating a song from start to finish?
There's not really any process; I wish I could say that there was. I've started to create little ones, but there never used to be. When I was in high school I would think of chords and play melodies. And then I started doing this kind of music and I had a beat to go over and I had go through that process. It takes minutes or hours or years to write a song. I can't force it and I can't do it faster than it naturally comes. And sometimes I have to go through things before I can even finish a song. You just have to find things along the way that help a song come to life. Like reading books, I became an avid reader in the last year because it's constantly stimulating my head. So I bring a book with me everywhere I go. And then I started producing for myself on the computer making basic beats; that's how I wrote "Glamorama." And then I bring them to my producers and he makes them not sound like sh-t. But you just keep finding new ways to stimulate yourself.
What book are you reading now?
I'm reading a book called "The Night Circus" which is what the name of my second album is.
Why is that?
It wasn't actually about the book itself. I started reading the book after I decided on the title. I was on a date and it was the first time in LA I was ever able to talk about books with somebody my age. We were going back and forth asking what we have read. And I was still trying to figure out the name of my album at the time. And she goes, "Have you read 'The Night Circus' because I feel like you would love that!" And I was like, "That's it! That's the title of my new album." It makes sense since the title of my first was "Lazy Fair" and it seemed like "Night Circus" was a good next transition to that. And the songs are a little darker.
What can fans expect from your second album that differs from your first?
It's more mature. It's deeper for sure. Like I said, you have to go through things in life and when you go through things it changes you and your sound. I went through things I had never been through. I fell in love for the first time in my life last year and then it ended so that was a whirlwind of emotions that I had never experienced before. I'm not that kind of person and I won't go into things with just anybody. So that happened and I had to get myself out of it so I started reading and producing, so it opened up new ways to think. I had to become more self-aware. All these things just played into a different sound and voice in the things I've been playing into. I think "Los Angeles" was the first song that I wrote in this somber, cynical way. Once I started, I couldn't stop. Anything that was on my mind I had to write about. We were talking about the Ferguson riots one day so I wrote "Bang Bang" and we talked about girls at Hollywood parties, so I talked about "Private School." It's just about the daily life in Los Angeles and being cynical a lot. I was upset and went through a time of depression. You know, things happen.
So music helped you release those feelings or cope with them?
It's hard to write once you're going through it. It's one of those things that happens in retrospect. It's easier to talk about it once you come out of it. I would have never been able to write the song I just finished called "The Fall" about the end of that relationship eight months ago. It would have been too much going on in my head.
You infuse a lot of different sounds in your music that break the mold of the rap genre. Where did that influence come from?
So I try to respond to everyone on social media. I'll get other rappers or people who are working on their stuff for the first time for my advice. And I always tell them the same thing, because I'm pretty sure they aren't going to do it. My process of starting as a rapper is so different from anyone else that I know. I always tell them read a lot, listen to songs besides rap, and try to be honest in your lyrics. Those are the three things. And for some reason, they do not understand what I mean by the third one. I've had kids over and over send me songs and they think it's from the heart, and I'm like "Dude, there is literally nothing specific about what you're saying. What colors are her eyes? What did she say to you specifically that made you think that she is the sexiest chick you've ever met?" You can put that in a song and tell a story. We didn't ask for it, you started this whole thing. But it doesn't register with them to be honest because they're too busy talking about smoking more weed than anyone possibly has time to smoke.
So I grew up loving lyrics and artists that were honest; they were telling me a real story. Third Eye Blind was one of them. Even some songs by The Rolling Stones too. They all had a story that was specific. When people fall in love with a song because it's cool and popular, they'll be a fan of that song. But when they feel like they've been spoken to, they fall in love with the artist. That's the difference most rappers are losing these days. As soon as they don't have a hit, they're done. But if you can grab listeners and talk to them, thats when you have them forever.
What's running through your mind while you're performing on stage?
How did I get here? I'm the happiest I could possibly be. It's the one moment in my life when I'm not thinking about anything else but being right there. People talk about living in the moment but no one does it, they're always thinking about what's happening next in their future. I'm no different. I'm terrified all the time. I miss my past all the time or worry about the future. And once my present is my past I miss that time. But that is the one period in my life every single time where I am completely there in that moment with the people who are singing the songs back.
And what is it like for you to meet your fans after the show?
It's surreal. It's hard for me to imagine that these people are just here because they love the music. There's no other gain for them. For all my life it's been my friends coming to support my shows and even when I was doing punk music it was my mom and best friends at every show. And now it's people I've never met and they still feel like they know me. It feels like it's still the same thing but it's not.
And you can kind of see how your music is touching different corners all over the world.
You know on Spotify it will show you the five main cities that are listening to your music and for me a while one of them was Oslo, Norway. And I was like, "How and why?!" What playlist am I on in Norway that is just connecting with these people. And then sometimes it will be places I've never been to. I had some people -- more than one person this week -- ask me to come to Anchorage, Alaska. I didn't even know they had running water yet, that's how ignorant I am to the rest of the world that I look at Anchorage as if it's a third world country. And it's a part of the United States. But I think once I get big I'm going to play a few shows there because I can't imagine a lot of people tour there.
What's the biggest thing you hope listeners will take away from your live performances?
I just want people to feel like they're a part of something instead of just going to an artist's show. My dad always used to say don't mistake your arrival for the event and it's ironic because my arrival is exactly that. But I want people to feel like they're a a part of something and it's not just me singing my songs for the people who paid for tickets. We're all singing these songs together and I can tell people are understanding that because they feel so comfortable to do things. We just played in Detroit and there was not one person not singing at the top of their lungs. That's not unusual, but it is when there's only 150-200 people total because people are self-conscious by nature. So when you can get people in a small group that don't know each other to feel completely comfortable, it's amazing. I let this guy do magic tricks on stage last time, it doesn't always have to be about you and your art. You can also enjoy what you've managed to create.
#OnOurRadar is a feature that showcases creative minds and up-and-coming talent. To see more interviews, click here.
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