GRiZ the Season: Southfield producer celebrates GRiZMAS
It all started with a sign — not a sign from above, but an actual, physical sign.
Saxophone-toting Southfield-bred electronic musician and producer GRiZ was performing at the Majestic Theatre in December 2011 when he looked out into the crowd of waving hands and bobbing heads and spotted a fan holding up a sign wishing all a Merry GRiZMAS. Clever, he thought, and tucked the phrase away in the back of his mind for later use.
Several years and a few hundred shows later, GRiZ resurrected the concept last year with the inaugural GRiZMAS concert at Detroit’s Masonic Temple. For the artist born Grant Kwiecinski, the sold-out show was a blowout success: It was his biggest local concert to date, a hometown holiday happening toasting his steady climb up the ladder within the burgeoning dance music world.
“It was probably one of the best shows we’ve ever done,” says GRiZ, on the phone last week while en route to get a haircut. “It was so well-received. I remember feeling really, genuinely nervous before walking on stage, and I don’t get that feeling too often. But I felt the magnitude of it. It felt like we were creating something, and the people in the audience felt like they were making something of their own. And now it’s developing into a new, bigger thing.”
Bigger is right. In addition to Saturday’s sold-out GRiZMAS concert at the Masonic Temple — tickets are selling for double and triple their face value on the secondary market — GRiZ preceded the event with two weeks worth of charitable functions, which he dubbed the “12 Days of GRiZMAS.” The events, which began Dec. 8, included a coat drive, an appearance at an animal shelter, a beer tasting and more, all designed to spread cheer and goodwill in the community. Merry GRiZMAS, indeed.
“We’re trying to make it fun,” says GRiZ, who has the friendly, easygoing charm of a neighborhood hippie. “The difficult thing is trying to get people to interact with a charity event. You’re chilling, you’re like, ‘I don’t want to get off my couch and do this thing for charity, that’s not cool.’ We’ll, we’re gonna make it cool. We’re just trying to do as much as possible to spread these vibes around.”
GRiZ, who says around 70 fans showed up at the animal shelter event, frequently mentions vibes and energies and speaks with a focus on community, using “we” rather than “I” when discussing professional matters. His team includes his label manager, Jordan Kleiman, and his national street team organizer, Harrison Diskin, both childhood friends with whom he grew up in Metro Detroit.
“We take this music thing with weight,” says the 25-year-old. “It’s like Spider-Man: With great power comes great responsibility. We want to do stuff that is hopefully going to give back, and inspire people to think more positively.”
GRiZ’s musical journey began when he took piano lessons as a child, picking up the saxophone in later years and studying with musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He began making beats on his home computer as a high school student at Birmingham Groves High School, and was uploading his songs to Soundcloud by the time he was a student at Michigan State University.
His productions started gaining attention, as well as offers to perform concerts out-of-state. In 2010, he took a semester off from MSU to perform a handful of shows, which eventually turned into five years of steady touring. He never returned to MSU.
GRiZ has since become a staple on the electronic music circuit, performing his high energy mix of electronic-funk-soul (complete with ripping sax solos) at shows and festivals including Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza, Electric Zoo, Voodoo Festival and Electric Forest. At this year’s Movement festival, GRiZ performed in the weekend’s penultimate spot on the festival’s main stage, just before Snoop Dogg closed out the event. “It was a glorious return home,” he says of the madcap performance that played to a full bowl inside Hart Plaza.
GRiZ is currently working on his fifth album, his follow-up to this year’s “Say It Loud,” and when he’s not touring, he splits his time between Denver and Detroit.
Career-wise, he says he still has yet to write his “favorite” song, and he hopes to one day record a track with Earth, Wind & Fire. “It’s in the works, man, we’ll see,” he says. “We’ve done our bit.”
As for GRiZMAS, he plans for it to be an annual tradition going forward.
“We’re going on this whole Christmas spirit thing,” he says. “It’s festive and it’s fun, and people get stoked about being home, being with family, seeing old friends, catching up, and taking a chance to reflect on the last year.
“It’s a culmination. It’s a celebration of the end of the year, and we’re taking those vibes and inserting our character and personality into them, and catching this wave to try to create something even more good out of it.”
Creating something “even more good” — that is truly, wonderfully, the GRiZMAS spirit.
with GRiZ, FKJ, Big Wild and Will Sessions
8 p.m. Saturday
500 Temple, Detroit
Tickets sold out
(313) 832-7100 or