It’s quite lovely listening to a new artist who sounds completely unique and gives you vibes you didn’t know you could experience through music- feelings similar to how one feels after meditation or a long walk.
I felt this way after listening to Spazz Cardigan, and I’m completely awestruck by his talent, creativity, and message. This indie-pop artist has created a unique perspective of the current culture through the delightfully imaginative and wonderous conception of his song, “Nerves.” While experiencing Spazz Cardigan’s music, you can sense the passion exuberating from this beautiful voice and mind.
Spazz Cardigan presents a powerful internal paradigm in the current political and social culture. He wrote this song, in linear order, as a response to the 2016 presidential election. The unapologetic message bursting from the eloquently poetic, yet energetic, pop lyrics is an emotionally pressing plea to speak one’s mind, while being present and active during conversations. It’s quite normal to want your voice to be heard, and this song perfectly demonstrates the urgency and susceptibility present when dealing with the conundrum of conflicting opinions within a group.
Everybody wants to get their word in, and sometimes your chance of being heard is cut short or taken away. In today’s cultural climate, it’s quite difficult to articulate your views when there are so many brash and opinionated personalities dominating both societal and intimate conversations.
“Nerves” depicts this anxiety of partaking in such close-minded debates; it’s a rare occurrence when a pop song inspires you to sing along and engage in intellectual reflection of oneself and the culture.
My favorite lines of “Nerves” is,
My nerves are wearing down to the thinnest wire
You only hear me out when I’m preaching to the choir
I love this observation because it’s so relatable. Everyone already has a steadfast hold on their beliefs and values, so it’s difficult to intelligently debate with someone who has opposing viewpoints from your own. While it’s wonderful to be passionate about a subject, I think it’s equally important to have an open mind and be in the moment, actively listening, while having a conversation. I had basically given up talking about society and politics with friends, for the same reason Spazz Cardigan articulates in this song. But maybe I’ll give such discussion another try- perhaps after suggesting this song to them!
Just one look at the music video for “Nerves,” and you’ll fall in love with his aesthetic. I admire the way he plays with colors, lighting, and nostalgic images to create a strangely comforting yet eccentric piece of art.
Such uniqueness in style is why you’ll fall completely in love with Spazz Cardigan’s vibe and sound.
Listening to “Nerves” will inspire you to embrace your ideals and gain the confidence to engage with the world. Go experience his song for yourself, and then read on to discover Spazz Cardigan’s musical influences, aesthetic evolution, where he finds his inspiration, and more below.
When and how did you first know you wanted to be a musician and songwriter?
Music was something I was always drawn to. Maybe as a consequence of always having music on around my house growing up, but I can’t remember a point in my life where I didn’t imagine myself being an artist. I was always curious, always trying to invent things out of toys and appliances — at some point that manifested into trying to make music because I knew that if I could be a performer and create experiences for people, then I could make a living out of creating generally. I started learning piano when I was 8 and remember consciously wanting to learn how to write songs when I was about 9 or 10 because of Justin Timberlake & Michael Jackson. I would read album liner notes as a kid and it stuck with me that they were always listed as writers on their material, so it seemed like an obvious thing to set myself to if I wanted to make music.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Prince, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Imogen Heap, Kanye West, & Bjork are the pillars of my musical life. I cycle through other music as it comes out or as I discover new pools of music I wasn’t aware of, but those are the big ones for me.
Do you have any non-musical influences who you feel has inspired your style?
Steve Jobs is massive for me because of his belief in his imagination and the drive to try obvious, minimal solutions to complex problems. JK Rowling is huge for me as well for mostly the same reason; the ability to build yourself out of nothing with only your imagination, and then to use the fruit of your platform to encourage people to look deeper than the surface layer is awe-inspiring to me.
How did your unique aesthetic and musical style come about- has it evolved through time or did you have a specific depiction in mind when starting out?
My aesthetic is really pieces of design and culture that influenced me as a kid — things that feel liberating or freeing. I love loud colors and things that are just a little outside of the box. Abstract art and sci-fi, VHS tapes and big sweatshirts. It’s definitely something I evolved into, but I’ve honestly just tapped into things that I was attracted to as a kid. Musically it’s the same story: I end up using touchstones of things I’ve always loved that make me feel liberated, but it’s a combination that’s taken me awhile to unlock — and something that will be a little more obvious going forward. I’m just learning how to wear my influences comfortably.
What’s your favorite part about being a songwriter?
The job of making the imagination come to life, turning a thought into a reality that’s tangible for people to attach their own imagination to.
What’s your favorite and least favorite part about being a musician in today’s world- a society so influenced by social media?
I LOVE the ability to connect with people all around the world. A lot of my listeners and fans that engage with me the most are kids from countries I’ve never been to; we end up forming these awesome relationships online that are centered around art and identity, and that’s a beautiful consequence of technology. The more damaging side-effect, though, is that there’s an expectation of constant content — continuous output regardless of quality, and that bleeds into real life in the ways that creators approach their work. So often I’m in rooms with producers or other writers who aren’t present with what they’re doing, they’re doing it in service of having something to post on Instagram. There are lot of days I don’t feel up to being on camera, or days where I don’t like to video what I’m doing the studio because I’m caught up in actually working, and I’ll lose a follower or two that day if I post nothing, and that’s mildly frustrating.
What does your songwriting process look like?
It changes a bit day-to-day depending on where I’m working or who with, but typically the first thing to come is the general groove of the track. A “vibe.” From there I’ll start spitting out some gibberish melody /rhythm ideas and usually sus out what the vibe makes me feel topically from there.
Do you have a preferred place to go when you write, or does inspiration happen at random?
I write pretty much full-time in Nashville, so I’m in and out of different studios and different writer’s rooms every day. I’ve had to learn the balance of tapping into inspiration even if I’m not particularly inspired or if I’m not gelling well with my co-writer that day, which becomes something like an athletic exercise. But where I’m usually the most sincerely inspired is on hikes or when I’m swimming somewhere out in the woods. I love being alone outside. It’s a difficult piece of privacy to find much of in 2018 and, when I can pull it off, it’s the most centering thing imaginable.
What kind of message do you wish to convey as a songwriter?
That people are complicated, we’re all trying to figure it out, and being present with your emotions is transcendental. Self-awareness and self-analysis, especially when you’re in the wrong, are paramount to growth.
When writing a song, do the lyrics or the melody come easier to you?
Both come equally easy for me, but I do definitely spend more time rewriting lyrics to make sure they sit correctly. Melodies come fairly naturally to me; with lyrics I’m more prone to second guess my initial thought to “dumb” them down and make them more conversational.
What’s the hardest part about writing a song?
Figuring out what a song is about. For me, anyway. I have friends that can come into a session with a punchline in mind and gear a session around writing that song, but I like going into sessions every day as a blank slate to receive whatever we tap into. Granted, if something big is happening in my life or if I’m particularly moved by something, then I’ll start to figure out how to create a song around it, but on a daily basis my biggest struggle is listening to an instrumental that I’ve created, mulling around a melody idea, and asking myself “what is this?”.
Were there any specific events that stirred you to write “Nerves?”
The 2016 election. At the time, I was living in a house with a bunch of very large personalities that were all competing constantly, and it made vulnerable conversation difficult to have without liquid courage. That exacerbated a lot of feelings of living in a bubble and not being able to speak, and those feelings were compounded by the election of Trump and feeling like I was living in a fundamentally different reality than ⅓ of my country. It was disorienting to try to reconcile that my idea of America that felt ingrained into my experience as a citizen, felt unreal to some people in the same way that their experience of America felt unreal to me.
What was the first part of “Nerves” to be written?
The opening line. The song was written in linear order from start to finish. It started by playing the piano part underneath and that spurred the first lyrics.
What’s your favorite aspect of the song?
The honesty. The song isn’t exactly “hooky” or very obvious as a pop song, but I think the rawness of where I was coming from is still what strikes me about it when I listen to it. My vocal take isn’t perfect, the piano playing is a little messy, and the chopped-vocal bridge is a bit meandering, all intentionally — I think it makes it feel as urgent and imperfect as it did when I wrote it.
What message do you hope your audience will absorb while listening to “Nerves?”
That vulnerability is everything. Speak your mind. Don’t try to repress what you’re experiencing, be honest and present with it.
What’s next for you in terms of upcoming music and shows?
I’ve got loads of songs written to keep releasing over the next year that will keep steering into a more organic and honest place. Songs that are fun to play live and will be liberating to dance to in a crowd. Building the audience as a headliner in Nashville over the past year has been essential, but as I put out more music I’ll be traveling to more cities to share the show. I get loads of messages from fans asking me to come to their city and that’s really what I’m working towards.