When the coronavirus took hold in March of last year, creatives were left at a crossroads.
On one hand, it seemed like the perfect time to take a break – no tours, no festivals, no shows period. With standard performance protocol lifted, there was no need for artists to keep up appearances at regular capacity, so why not use the forced isolation as a mini vacation?
But on the other hand, the stretch of time with no schedules presented a rare opportunity to produce new material with no distractions. No outside obligations meant uninterrupted time in the studio, the chance to double down on writing, producing, creating for days on end.
Los Angeles-based artist and producer NEZ, a true creative at heart, took the latter route, setting up shop in a makeshift studio located just 10 minutes from his house and using it as a reprieve from the chaos currently dominating our culture. With it, he created environment where creative freedom is the sole focus. In the latest installment of the Dr. Martens Presents: Music and Film Series, the Chicago native invites us into the space as he discusses his origins, the balance between empathy and isolation, and why the pandemic has actually been prime time for artists.
NEZ has found his creative haven in the last few months, but he didn’t always feel that way. The first few weeks of quarantine, he couldn’t touch his music at all, too much in shock from the world coming to a complete stop. Considering the way he started 2020 – the release of his first single, “Wild Youngster” ft. ScHoolboy Q, and a trip to Berlin – it’s understandable. In fact, shock might be putting it lightly.
But NEZ could never stay away from music for too long. He’d grown up surrounded by it, his parents exposing him to all types of genres at an early age, and once his friend introduced him to the production software Fruity Loops, he never looked back. Since then, he’s produced a handful of hits for A$AP Rocky, Chance the Rapper, Wale, and others as one half of the Grammy-nominated producer duo Nez & Rio along with crafting his solo sound, an infectious blend of house, hip-hop, R&B, and other influences.
So back to the studio he went, hunkering down in a space free from all the noise of the outside world and zeroing in on optimal artistic expression. But shutting himself in didn’t mean shutting the world out. The pandemic, the burgeoning movement for racial justice, the political unrest – NEZ used it all as fuel to inform his artistry, and in doing so, worked toward being a better friend, a better brother, and a better person.”
“As a creative, I think our job is to express ourselves in the truest form possible, but then also use what’s around us and use what’s going on to kind of illustrate a different side, or kind of give some kind of love and positivity to the world,” he said.
After months in the studio, NEZ is stepping out and shining once again. Don’t miss him live on Dr. Martens’ Instagram on February 2 at 1 pm PST!