It’s an exciting time to be Chaz Cardigan. He’s Capitol Music Group & Loud Robot’s first joint signee, which of course was announced today alongside the release of his debut single, “Not OK!”. His debut single is an infectious and anthemic observance of the imperfections we all face in every day life. Chaz Cardigan’s music is perfect for fans of Bleachers, Walk The Moon, COIN, and Barns Courtney. We had the opportunity to talk to Chaz about his musical influences, his debut single, and what fans can expect from him this year.
BTS: Can you tell us how you got started with making music?
Chaz Cardigan: I was a pretty awkward kid, and I lived far enough out in the country that I didn’t have many friends over at my house. I would play games with myself or learn movies or try to choreograph little dance shows I’d make my parents watch — always the impulse to connect with people. My sister was 10 years older; growing up in the late 90’s I thought that *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys was what “music” was, so I picked up piano and guitar to be like Justin Timberlake. But I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” when I was 10, and it was like a religious experience. It was so expressive — real connection. That’s what really got me into making music. After that I started playing in punk bands and learning to produce, but *NSYNC and Queen are still the ground-level for me.
BTS: How would you describe your music for someone who hasn’t heard it before?
CC: It shifts a bit song to song, but I would say it’s alternative. My new songs especially, they’re pop songs with messy guitars.
BTS: Who are some of your musical influences?
CC: Bowie and Prince are my top two. I love Imogen Heap, Third Eye Blind, Kanye, Genesis — anything with a pulse and some heart to it. The 1975 are high on the list for me, as well, but I feel like a dork giving such a new band as an answer.
BTS: What’s your process like in the studio when it comes to writing and recording?
CC: The great things about music is that you can work with different people every day, so I’m always trying slightly different tricks or tools in the studio; always iterating. Every song has a different shape it needs to take, but usually I start with a melody idea or a concept and then shape it and try to figure out how to make it interesting. I start with melody and chords; that’s usually the easy part. I struggle a lot with figuring out where a vibe puts me conceptually, once the concept is locked I can write the song in 20 minutes. I like playing as many live instruments on a song as possible on the first day, and usually I’ll leave a 4-5 hour writing session with a pretty complete demo. I’ll live with that demo for months and months and take notes on it, and when I decide “yeah that song should be on the record” I love to completely start producing it again from scratch to fit the other songs it will exist with on a record.
BTS: Tell us about your debut single “Not OK!” What was the writing and recording process like?
CC: My buddy Todd Clark and I wrote “Not OK!” right after I’d started going to therapy. I remember that we talked about therapy for about an hour, but somewhere in there I picked up a guitar. The song is super simple — it’s 3 chords. I remember, vividly, saying “what about something like this?” and improvising the chorus almost word-for-word on the spot. Todd really zeroed in on the “not okay” lyric as a hook; had I written the song alone I might have completely overlooked that and looked for every other hook possible. We wrote the song in about an hour; I wrote the verses and the bridge while Todd made some loops to record a vocal against. That demo was pretty close to the finished version of the song. The biggest difference is that I replaced what was a banjo part with a sitar on the final version. I made some other structural changes when I produced the song for real, but none of them are as fun as the sitar.
BTS: What inspired “Not OK!”?
CC: I talked about this when my last single “DOIDOIT” came out is well, but starting therapy was a pretty big shift for me. I was really digging into myself and trying to unpack these bad habits, like using emotional vacancy as a drug or a crutch. So “Not OK!” is me going through that unpacking process — it’s a look back at my life since my first panic attack, and trying to not see rough patches as being ‘broken’. It was me going: “wait, actually — nobody is completely fine. So why am I pretending I’m fine?” That was liberating.
BTS: What was it like filming the music video for “Not OK!”?
CC: So, so, so much fun. I worked on the video with Al Kalyk, and it started from an idea I had of sitting in a tub full of gummy bears. I knew I wanted to make something kind of psychedelic, and Al took that idea and really expanded on it in a cool way. The shoot was awesome. I’ve made music videos on a budget before, so it was really cool to get to see such a production. We had about 40 people on set, everyone very in their element. Then, actually, we finished the video and we decided to re-shoot the ending. So I went back to Santa Monica and filmed a new ending at Bad Robot. There’s one scene in the video where I jam a handful of gummy bears in my mouth. We shot that as a reshoot, and I actually got so much sugar in my bloodstream (from jamming gummy bears into my mouth and chewing angrily) that I went into a diabetic sugar shock. I ate, like, double what I eat daily, all in gummy bears. I got super dizzy, I threw up at Bad Robot, it was insane. My manager made me eat a potato and I ended up fine, but that was a rough two hours of vertigo and shaking. I had a show that night in LA! It was wild.
BTS: You just signed to Capitol Music Group / Loud Robot, what’s that been like?
CC: It’s pretty humbling. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s easier to lose a record deal than to keep one, and that’s been pretty grounding. I can’t control what people think of the music or how it does once it’s released, but I can keep making better work. That’s all I can do. Capitol and Loud Robot have really nurtured that, specifically. I think the possibilities of what we can make together are limitless — and the only real direction I ever get is to be more myself.
BTS: What’s one goal you have for yourself as an artist?
CC: Do what I can with what I’m given. The record deal, the team, the agents: I worked for a decade to get those things and they can disappear overnight, so I have to make the music I actually want to make.
BTS: What’s one fun fact about yourself for our readers?
CC: I once worked as a waiter for a french restaurant that turned out to be a money laundering front!
BTS: What can fans expect from you this year?
CC: Lots of new music, my own and other people’s. I put a lot of time into creating last year, and I’m so happy to get it all out there now. I’ll also be playing way more shows in more cities than I’ve gotten to before. I’m also working on a webshow called Wild World that you can watch every Wednesday on my Instagram or TikTok. Basically it’s me breaking down a history story or a piece of trivia in 60 seconds, but it’s super fun. I did all the research and wrote the first season of episodes, and I think that will become a really fun thing for fans.
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