Self-professed Warped Tour apprentice GARZI is reinventing himself. After two productive years under the umbrella of SoundCloud rap, he’s exploring his melodic emo roots. Captured on his new EP, STUCK IN THE MIDDLE, he’s exclusively premiering the release with AltPress.
Co-produced by a legendary team of John Feldmann and Travis Barker, the latter even makes a guest drum appearance for “SICK OF ME.” GARZI conjures up a vibrant rock vibe that pays tribute to his background while delving into his unique, expressive persona.
To celebrate this new approach, we asked GARZI about this drastic change and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
What’s the meaning behind the EP title STUCK IN THE MIDDLE?
In life, I feel like I’ve been in this weird transitory period where I’m not a huge star, but I’m also not a nobody. This is what I do to support myself. I don’t wanna do anything else. Sometimes I don’t know if I’ll make it all the way there. This is a way to remind myself not to be afraid and just keep pushing because things will work out, and it’s all about the music at the end of the day. If things don’t work out to the fullest, I hope people take something away from the music and are able to be inspired or get through tough times because of the music.
Your new sound is a lot more rock than your SoundCloud rap roots. Where did that genre shift come from?
It definitely follows on from “Higher,” the first song I put out as just GARZI. I’ve always had that emo-ish vibe to my music, but the EP takes a further step in that direction. As soon as I first put out music, I didn’t like being associated with the other artists on the SoundCloud platform or the boxes they put me in. That wasn’t what I was doing, and I felt like my music was misunderstood. I saw a lot of people getting popular, and I didn’t really like that. I wasn’t really making music to get popular. I was just doing it because I enjoyed it. I wanted to inspire people to do the same thing like the people I looked up to when I was young. That’s why I dropped the name Yung Garzi and changed to GARZI—I wanted to evolve.
Your lyrics are much more personal and reflective now. Was it hard drawing out that new approach?
It was definitely a bit of a transition before I’d actually met John Feldmann. But once I met him, everything just clicked. It came along really quickly, and I got to where I wanted to be. Before that, it was just an experimental stage practicing being more open, putting more personal experiences out, being more experimental with my range and being more melodic. I hope my fans are able to accept me for who I am and enjoy the music. I don’t want to be making something that doesn’t feel 100% me. My old songs are cool, but I feel like I’ve grown past that. I never really felt like it was me, whereas I turn on any of these new songs, and it feels like I’m listening to me.
What was it like working with the legendary John Feldmann?
John’s so excited about everything, and he’s the happiest guy in the room. I just wanted to match that energy all the time because he brings such high energy to the room. I’m not comfortable with a lot of people when I’m in the room with them because I can be a little anti-social and weird sometimes. But with John, I was really comfortable, and I looked up to him like a dad. He’d ask me about my life. We’d just start talking about personal things sometimes, and that’s where the music would come from. He’s such a fast worker. Every single time I go over to his house, we make at least three solid, high-quality tracks.
How surreal was recording with Travis Barker for “SICK OF ME”?
It was really weird because I’ve obviously listened to his music since I was little, so it was crazy that I was really in the studio with him. He’s a really down-to-earth, normal human being just like anyone else. I got the whole personal drum show and everything while he was recording. It was a really cool experience. I was happy enough that I got him on one song, but then I got him working on “HOPELESS” and “SUMMER” too, so it obviously adds to the perfect sound. He really brought everything to the next level, and it was a big blessing. I’m extremely grateful.
Which track means the most to you personally?
I made one of the tracks on the EP at John’s house on the day one of my friends died from a drug overdose. I was upset about that, talking to him about it, crying a little bit, and he said we should write about it, so we did, and I love it. “HOPELESS” is my favorite. I love the energy on it and its meaning. I was in a dark place when I wrote the song, so every time I listen to it, it helps me remember that I made it out, and everything’s good, and there’s always hope, which is ironic when the song’s called “HOPELESS.”
How’s the rest of your year looking?
I’m about to fly out to Portland to [meet with] my videographer to shoot the videos for “SICK OF ME” and “HOPELESS,” so I’m excited for that. I’m booked for Reading and Leeds festivals in the U.K., which haven’t been canceled yet, so hopefully everything clears up and I’m able to play some shows. If not, we’re gonna do some live shows on Instagram and YouTube. I’m also trying to do some more real-life vlog content on my YouTube channel to interact more with my fanbase.