The popular EDM artist talks about his new album, continuing his GRiZMAS parties and how being out as gay will change his music.
By Amanda Rahn
If there ever was music to blast on a sunny day in a car filled to the brim with friends on the way to the beach, it’s the groovy, bass-soaked music by EDM artist Grant Kwiecinski, better known by his stage name GRiZ.
The multi-instrumentalist and producer has had a busy two years. Kwiecinski raised thousands for Detroit’s public schools through his GRiZMAS holiday show, performed at last month’s Movement fest and released “Ride Waves” this spring. The 14-track album is his first since coming out as gay in a 2017 Huffington Post op-ed.
“In past albums, I kept it more vague,” says Kwiecinski, a 29-year-old Southfield native. “This one is very personal. In my opinion, this is my most genuine work — genuine to me and the way I feel about life.”
“Ride Waves” delivers the funky saxophone and bouncy energy fans expect, plus collaborations with popular rappers D.R.A.M., Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg and Matisyahu. Unique to this album, though, is a frank focus on social issues, including a song about gun violence in schools.
“Why would it not be important to include?” he says. “I want to include more socially conscious tunes while making super fun dance tunes at the same time.”
“It’s about every single gun death,” he adds. “It’s staggering, and I’m here to not only make you dance, but create a space to help grow that conversation in hopes of creating a more peaceful space for everyone.”
Kwiecinski’s interest in making the world a better place for his fans, and everyone else, extends beyond his music. Every holiday season, the artist hosts “12 Days of GRiZMAS” charity events at different locations around Detroit in the lead up to back-to-back GRiZMAS concerts.
Last year, the GRiZ team sold tickets to events like yoga, panel discussions, bowling, dance parties, caroling and more (with Kwiecinski in attendance, of course) and donated the proceeds to increasing access to music education in Detroit public schools.
The charity Seven Mile, a University of Michigan student-run nonprofit, is set to benefit from roughly $50,000 raised from the GRiZMAS fundraising. The organization provides after-school and summer music, art, creative writing and coding lessons for Detroit students in grades K-12.
“For us, this was a really big deal,” says Lillian Lu, a co-president of the charity. “The amount of money for us means we can do so much more — it really impacts us in such a great way.”
The nonprofit is planning to replace old musical instruments, fix the air conditioning in some buildings, improve the music curriculum and hire more music educators for the roughly 200 children involved in the programs.
Despite moving to Denver, Kwiecinski says he has no plans to stop putting on GRiZMAS in the city.
“GRiZMAS is not leaving Detroit,” he says. “Detroit has given me so much opportunity.
“When you talk about Detroit influences there’s a few things that comes to mind: the birthplace of techno, soul, funk, the Motown sound, which has inspired so much of beat music culture,” he says. “That is the backbone of the GRiZ groove.”
He plans to bring back his popular Michigan summer camp experience, Camp Kulabunga, this year as well. The experience was billed as a wellness summer camp for adult fans and designed to forge connections between attendees through group hangouts, spending time in nature, time with spiritual leaders and camp activities. It was available for a limited number of members of the “GRiZFam,” the devout fanbase that operates on the mantra “Show Love, Spread Love.”
GRiZ says the idea for the camp came out of a “frustration that I couldn’t connect with my closest fans.”
“Through those relationships, I’ve been afforded so many opportunities to grow,” he says. “I want people who know me for my music to be able to spread peaceful, helpful practices to live within a world oftentimes framed for us in a stressful, anxious way.”
As for what’s next for GRiZ, he says he plans to speak more openly on gay love in his music. “Ride Waves” shies away from focusing on his own partnerships.
“There are definitely songs I want to write talking about love that I have and experiences and gay experience and gay love,” he says. “I haven’t written that yet. Love is that feeling that consumes your entire soul: that’s not a gender — that feeling is genderless. I want to be able to honor and reflect that more.”
“I haven’t gotten there yet, but (coming out) definitely created a space to feel more vulnerable and to create music unapologetically that’s super kick-ass,” he adds.