(FEATURED IMAGE BY MOSES MORENO)
This air-conditioned 7 train I am in is a sanctuary after being out in the blazing heat of New York all day. Just a few hours ago, I witnessed Ariel and Jason tie the knot in a quick but intimate wedding in the Courthouse, followed by dinner and a bar hop in Long Island City. Yes, in full wedding attire. Yes, it got us lots of free drinks.
I am sitting in one corner of the subway car, while Kieran stands in front of me, holding on to a rail for balance.
“Who’s your friend that’s performing?” he asks me.
I explain that the person I’m seeing is not exactly a friend–we don’t hang out or anything–but rather an acquaintance. “His name is Skrizzly Adams,” I say. “He’s a singer. I’m writing about him on my blog.”
“Skrizzly Adams,” I correct him, emphasizing the first syllable.
The 7 train rolls up to Grand Central station, where Kieran and I part ways–him to catch his train to go back home upstate, and I the 6 train to Spring Street from where I can walk to Bowery Ballroom. Skrizzly Adams is scheduled to open for singer Elle King in the aforementioned venue tonight. The doors had opened at 8, and the time on my phone tells me that I’m almost half an hour late.
In my defense, I didn’t think I’d have time to attend the show. But when our post-wedding shenanigans ended a bit early, I hurried to make a last minute ticket purchase on my phone. The event’s official page on Ticketmaster was sold out, so I had to pay for a pricier, third-party ticket on StubHub. And, to make things even better, my beloved iPhone decides to sit pretty at 6% battery. And since the “e” part in “e-Ticket” is darn important, I pray to the phone gods that the battery doesn’t die. I switch to airplane mode.
I wasn’t lying when I told Kieran that my intentions for attending the show were for professional reasons. I mean, I have interviewed Skrizz and am working on a post about him. But what I omitted was that I have actually become a fan of the New Jersey-based singer. It wasn’t until early 2015 that I started listening to his music, but ever since then, I’ve been catching myself randomly humming and singing lines from his songs. If I had to pick one word to describe his music, I’d say timeless–I don’t think his songs are the type you put on repeat and then never listen to ever again. They’re distinct enough to claim a spot in your memory, linger, and then reemerge if you ever dare forget.
I interviewed Skrizz–whose real name I purposely never bothered to ask because calling someone “Skrizz” is pretty awesome–about two months ago. His name and face had appeared on my Instagram newsfeed several times long before I even really knew about him, thanks to mutual friends who would post about the singer every now and then. I think, if you’re from the same side of the state like we are, you’re bound to at least know a few of the same people.
“[I was] born in Elizabeth, New Jersey,” he says when I ask him about his background. “I love it here and never plan on living anywhere else.” He proceeds to call himself a “super proud Jersey boy,” so maybe he is not kidding. Skrizz tells me that his father was born and raised in Istanbul, while his American mother had ancestors who “came over to the U.S. shortly after the Mayflower.” He also has a brother who’s older by two years.
Skrizz is just weeks shy of his 24th birthday at the time of our interview, but got started in music at a very young age. “I began taking violin lessons when I was 5 … I got my first guitar at 13 and wrote songs, then started producing at 16. Once I started, I kind of just never stopped.” Since he makes no mentions of singing in his childhood, I ask him if singing has always been part of the plan, to which he says no. “I always really wanted to be a producer, like Rick Rubin,” he explains. “[I] honestly didn’t really see ‘singing’ as even potentially being my profession until early 2014.”
Fast forward to 2015 and Skrizzly Adams has an EP out called “Stains,” new music in the works, a combined Spotify stream count of almost 70,000, over 260,000 plays on Youtube, and a deal with Atlantic Records. The laid-back “West Virginia and These Cigarettes” is Skrizz’s most streamed song out of the five on his EP, but it was the catchy “That’s Life” that got me hooked to the singer’s unique sound: “Heartland Rock and an 808 bump,” is how he describes it.
Perez Hilton, one of Skrizz’s high-profile fans, has a more playful way of talking about the “Me and You” singer. “Sonically, [Skrizz is] a hodgepodge of a lot of influences,” he posts on perezhilton.com, naming The Black Crows, Mike Posner, and Corey Hart as artists that remind him of Skrizz’s sound. The blogger also categorizes him under “bropop.”
Who are your musical influences?
Top ten: Kanye West, Johnny Cash, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Nirvana, Rick Rubin, John Mellencamp, Allman Brothers Band, Garth Brooks.
“I am actually a wicked good slide guitar player, like Duane Allman,” he says, referring to the late musician who’s revered as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. “I used to compete in competitions for that back in the day and usually won. Funny thing is, you don’t hear that anywhere in my recordings or live show… yet.”
As far as unlikely influences are concerned, Skrizz has a revelation. “My favorite TV show is absolutely the Sopranos, I’m a die-hard fan and watch it nearly every day,” he says. “In a strange way the show as an entire entity has been a huge influence on the creation of my album. I also have a pet bird named Tony; I’m on that level.”
Fresher air hits me as I exit the subway station on Spring street, but my joy diminishes as I realize that I don’t really know where I am going. My phone has always helped me navigate streets that use names instead of numbers, but since my dying phone is essentially my ticket to the venue, I am unable to consult it for help. I walk around a bit in search of someone to ask for directions, and, not too long after, help presents itself in the form of a man having a smoke outside a building.
I go up to the man and say “hey,” letting him know of my intentions. “Sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you could tell me which way the Bowery Ballroom is.”
He appears to be taken aback by my question. “Did you look it up on your phone?” he replies. There is no hint of rudeness or attitude in the way he asks the question. Instead, he seems to display an honest curiosity about why any person would ask another for directions in 2015.
“My phone is dead.” I figure it’s easier saying that, than explaining that my phone is on its deathbed and I needed to let it live long enough so that I can see Skrizzly Adams live. “So I can’t.”
He takes a few seconds to fiddle with his phone, and then hands me it to show me the map on the screen. I memorize my route, hand his phone back, and thank him for his help. “Is asking for directions really that unusual anymore?” I think to myself, but not too hard, as I don’t want to forget the directions I crammed in my head.
Skrizz interacts with his fans online a lot. “[E]very person matters, that’s just the bottom line. If someone in the slightest way is making contact with me regarding my music, that means that most likely they have spent time listening to and engaging in my music,” he explains.
Skrizz tends to go on Twitter and ask questions that are a bit silly in nature, which I think is a very lighthearted way of getting to know his supporters. “Chocolate chip OR sugar cookies? Blueberry OR strawberry pie?” Savage. Just savage. How is anyone supposed to choose one over the other? But since Skrizz likes to play the choosing game so much, I thought I’d put him in the hot seat myself. I tell him my favorite song by him is “That’s Life,” and then ask him for his.
“I like to think of my songs as my children, and no parent should ever pick favorites,” he says, hopefully starting to realize that maybe some people consider chocolate chip and sugar cookies as their children. He doesn’t surrender, however. “BUT my song ‘Lies’ is really special to me.”
Now, I am not a singer, but I guess it’s only logical to believe that an artist would value a song more if they wrote it themselves. Which then leads me to a question that is currently hot in the music industry amidst ghostwriter accusations: Do you write your own music?
Yessir, I write all my own music.
I know Taylor Swift wrote “Love Story” on her bedroom floor in twenty minutes, about a man whom her friends and family did not approve of. Since every artist has his or her own way of writing and finding inspiration, I decide to inquire about Skrizz’s own method.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I have no idea. It’s kind of a cliché, but my music honestly writes itself. It just runs through me. I’m not the type of guy to sit down and say, “I’m going to the studio this afternoon and am going to write a song.” That just doesn’t work for me and seems too non-genuine. My songs just come to me, most often at the most inconvenient moments. But I also am never pro-active in writing them down or capturing them the moment they come to me. If the spark of a song or basic idea comes to me, I like to test it; if I wake the next morning obsessing over it, or find myself singing it randomly months later, I allow it to manifest in my head and eventually complete itself.
As I arrive at the venue, I stand to the side and pull out my phone–now at 3%. I turn off airplane mode and get to work. I navigate through my StubHub account, but am welcomed by a “Current Orders: You don’t have any orders” notice written across the screen where my ticket is supposed to be. Not a good sign.
I try again, and get the same result. Logging in and logging out does nothing. I burn through precious time and battery life as I try to figure out where in the world my ticket is, as I miss what may possibly be a one hell of an opening act by Skrizz.
Running out of time and patience, I say fuck it and go up to the bouncer, ready to explain my situation and show whatever proof of purchase I can whip up. “Hey I–”
“Drinking?” he interrupts, and that’s when I notice the wristbands in his hand. He’s not the ticket guy.
“Nope,” I tell him.
He gestures towards the stairs, which I follow. Upon being welcomed by the sight of the bar, my brain zones out and tells me to excitedly keep walking towards the music and the party. That is, until I find a woman in my way and I snap back to reality.
“You have your ticket?”
Oh, right. I still haven’t shown my ticket. I pull out my phone–hanging by a thread at 1%–to try and find that damn e-Ticket. It’s still not showing. I step aside as I try to find it again. A man can be heard speaking in to the microphone, asking the crowd how they’re feeling tonight. Damn it. That’s probably Skrizz. And I’m not inside.
After searching for what felt like hours, I finally find some kind of indication that I have bought a ticket to the show. It was under “Past Orders,” maybe because the doors opened at 8 and I’m arriving almost an hour late. “I’m gonna need to scan it,” she says, holding up the scanner in her right hand. I know she’s correct, as I’ve used e-Tickets before at concerts and airports. But I look at my screen and there’s nothing to scan. It’s a loop of hell. I show her what I have, try again with her help, but to no avail.
She offers to sell me a ticket on the spot. I give a sigh of relief, because even though Skrizz’s set is almost over, I’d be able to at least see him perform a little bit live. I reach for my wallet and pull out my card. Mind you, if she says “Sorry, no American Express,” I am ready to use my Visa as a backup. No way I’m not getting this one.
Instead, she hits me with a line I wasn’t ready for. “Oh, sorry. Cash only.” I’m pretty sure I actually just heard my brain say “bruh.” Normally, I’d have at least $20 on me, but the post-wedding festivities left me with nothing but plastics in my wallet.
I head back outside and map the nearest Bank of America, and find that it’s about five blocks away. Just as I was about to sprint like a maniac to the bank and back, I come to my senses.You’ve pretty much already missed Skrizz’s entire set. Just wait for the next one.
“Next time,” I tell myself as I accept defeat. “I’ll see it from start to finish.” And, as if on cue, my phone finally succumbs to energy loss.
Skrizz, what’s one of your ultimate career goals?
“Sold out stadium tours for sure. Being able to share such an intense moment with such a large group of people, night after night, would be the ultimate experience,” he says. Skrizz adds that this time next year, he would like to be doing some non-stop touring and promoting for his debut album. His EP is on the way, and the first single from said album is scheduled to come out in September. While its name is still a mystery, Skrizz promises that it will feature “some of [his] most explosive vocals to date.”
How is your next album going to be different from Stains?
It’s a continuation of what “Stains” started. The whole project tells a story, and it will put a lot of “Stains” into context. Stylistically, I can overall say the project heavily focuses on the anthemic elements of my music.
As for other plans not related to music, Skrizz is looking into the food industry. He tells me that he plans on getting involved in restaurant franchising in the future, “…like open a Waffle House or something like that,” adding that “it’s a huge passion” of his.