It’s a trope nearly as old as award shows themselves.
A child has big dreams of fame, neglects school work to focus on their passion – and their mom wonders if the day will ever come when their offspring will accompany them to the Grammy Awards.
The chances of that Grammy moment actually happening to many are laughably slim. But Tearce Kizzo’s ‘I told you so’ moment is coming in 2022.
Kizzo first made his name in the mid-2000s world of pre-EDM dance music, playing as a studio musician from 16 years old.
Now, he’s a freshly crowned four-time Grammy nominee, thanks to his production work on Jon Batiste’s eighth studio album We Are.
We Are is a bold record that echoes the big band energy of America’s southern states. (It’s also garnered Batiste himself more Grammy nominations in 2022 than any other artist.)
“Kizzo is a musician of substance, incredible taste and a master of groove,” says Batiste. “He has a global understanding of culture and is a master of his craft when it comes to production. We had a ton of fun working together, such a great guy.”
Born in Amsterdam with roots in South America and the sounds of kaseko music, Kizzo’s natural influences leant themselves well to Batiste’s vision.
“When I met Kizzo 17 years ago in Amsterdam, I knew he was someone special,” says Niels Walboomer, Managing Director of Sony Music Publishing Benelux and co-founder of independent record label Walboomers Music. “Like we say at SMP, History is always being written. And mark my words, this is just Kizzo’s first chapter with many more to come.”
Musician and Kizzo collaborator David Foster adds: “I’m always a little skeptical of young guns coming along, having some early success and then fading into the ethos somewhere,” says
“Why? Because they didn’t do the hard work. Kizzo is an exception. His dedication, hard work, passion is only outshined by his talent.”
“KIZZO IS A TRUE DEDICATED COMPOSER/PRODUCER. YOU CAN’T SAY THAT ABOUT MANY PEOPLE. THE TRUE DEFINITION OF A COMPOSER/PRODUCER IS ONE WHO CAN CREATE AND OPERATE FROM BEGINNING TO FINISH. I’VE SEEN HIM IN ACTION AND ALL I CAN SAY IS LOOK FOR NOTHING BUT GREAT CREATIONS IN HIS DASH!”
Before his work with Batiste, Kizzo circled the worlds of dance music, hip hop and R&B. He worked with Pitbull and Afrojack and helped turn Usher and Jason Derulo into superstars.
“It is said that you need to have served your true apprenticeship in this game and Kizzo has most definitely done that from ghost writing and producing for some of the biggest in the game in Europe to believing in himself and moving to LA to realize his ambition as one of the best,” says Danny D, esteemed songwriter manager and A&R. “To me it comes as no surprise as to what he has achieved in such a short time.”
“THE FIRST TIME I MET WITH KIZZO, I INSTANTLY KNEW HE WOULD BECOME A MAJOR PRODUCER AND STAR IN THIS BUSINESS.”
While Kizzo enjoys the praise of his peers and award show deciders alike, much of his current success is owed to what encouraged him to pursue music in the first place. To one day, take his mom to the Grammys.
Here, he chats with MBW about that, and how jamming sessions in Stephen Colbert’s dressing room inspired one of 2021’s biggest albums…
CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN ORDER ON THE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS.
Thanks a lot. It is actually my first Grammy nomination. It feels a bit surreal.
When we started working on this album, we did it in Jon’s dressing room on The Colbert Show, where he’s the band leader. My writing partner, Autumn Rowe, was working with me and one day she got a call from him, saying he was on his way to LA and he wanted to get in the studio.
He asked, ‘do you have anybody to work with?’ and she looked over her shoulder, looked at me and said, ‘hey, have you heard of Jon Batiste?’
At the time, I had never heard of him. I’m personally a jazz musician, too. I started classical piano, and then went over to jazz. I have a huge love for that world, so I said yes.
“Within the first six, or seven days, we pretty much laid the foundation of what then became We Are. This was in September 2019.”
A few days later, Jon walked into my home studio for the first time, and that’s really where we started creating. We had an immediate chemistry as soon as he walked into the door. Sometimes, you just know.
So we started jamming out and created our first song, and that song was Freedom, the second time we worked together. Which is now considered to be nominated for Record of the Year.
He left LA, and about two or three months later, he invited us to come out to New York, but because he’s so busy with The Colbert Show, we didn’t really have time to go to an actual studio. So we just had the idea to set up in his dressing room.
We never knew what was going to happen. We didn’t have a project in mind. We just had a great chemistry, and built that out. Within the first six, or seven days, we pretty much laid the foundation of what then became We Are. This was in September 2019.
THE ALBUM DOES HAVE THIS AMERICAN MARCHING BAND, HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FEEL TO IT. FOR JON, HE WAS BORN AND GREW UP IN LOUISIANA, SO THAT INFLUENCE IS ALL AROUND HIM. FOR YOU, AS SOMEONE WHO GREW UP IN THE NETHERLANDS, HOW DID THAT INFLUENCE TAKE HOLD OF YOU?
My roots lie in Suriname, which is a country right above Brazil.
Musically, there’s a lot of kaseko music, styles that implement the marching band type of rhythms. It’s almost like Soca. I play piano, but I also play djembe, so I’m very percussive regardless.
When you grow up hearing those music styles, that’s how I got introduced to that world. And then also, at some point in my life, I was playing in a big band as a jazz piano player.
IN WHAT WAY DO the songs on Jon’s album REPRESENT HOW YOU WERE FEELING AT THE TIME?
It’s interesting how when we were working on these songs, we weren’t in a pandemic yet.
It’s very interesting how we were writing songs about freedom. It seems so perfect in the time that the pandemic happened. But that’s how we were feeling when we were writing these songs.
But there are all types of ways that you can have this hunger for freedom. So when I say represents us, we really just went with anything that we were feeling at the time, and it wasn’t based on it needing to be hip. We just really just made what felt right.
OBVIOUSLY YOU WERE WORKING WITH A LOT OF PEOPLE ON THIS. WAS THAT ANY DIFFERENT TO HOW YOU’VE WORKED WITH ARTISTS IN THE PAST?
The biggest thing in this scenario was that we got to create a body of work, a sonic, from scratch.
With Pitbull, stylistically, you know what Pitbull is about.
You always try to make songs for an artist that they haven’t done before, but stylistically, a lot of times, it feels like there’s already a realm.
Around Jon, there wasn’t really a crossover reference of what it needed to be.
And that’s something that’s very different for me, but at the same time, it’s something that I’ve always aspired to do. My first real big European record was a record that I did with Eva Simons called Silly Boy.
That was a demo record that leaked, and it just blew up all over the internet. Even though it wasn’t meant to be released, it had its own sound. And at the time that resonated, and that’s why it ended up getting signed and sold very successfully in Europe.
I feel like my roots always lie in creating sounds and sonics from the ground up. And it was just amazing to be back in a chair where we could really do ‘us’.
IT’S A PRETTY UNIQUE SITUATION TO BE IN WHEN YOU’VE GOT BASICALLY A BLANK SLATE TO DO WHAT YOU WANT WITH, AND THAT’S ALL PAID OFF WITH THE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS. IS THERE A NOMINATION THAT YOU FEEL PARTICULARLY PROUD IN ACHIEVING?
It’s really between the Album of the Year, the Record of the Year and then the Best R&B Performance.
I really would say Record of the Year, and that’s just simply because it’s nice to see a record like Freedom, with that message and that particular sound, resonate to a point where it got nominated.
It wasn’t a Hot 100, this was just a record that resonated enough to get considered. It has an actual message.
IN THE SPACE OF A MONTH, YOU’VE GONE FROM A PRODUCER IN DEMAND, BUT NOW YOU’RE MULTI-GRAMMY NOMINATED. IS YOUR PHONE BLOWING UP?
I was working out in martial arts class when I found out. At one o’clock, I grabbed my phone and had 22 missed calls within an hour. There were a lot of congratulations, a lot of people who I respect reaching out to me.
How did it affect me other than that? I have a huge love for developing artists, and it’s something that me and Autumn Rowe have already been focusing on.
Development, to me, means taking the time out to take an artist from point A, develop their sound, find their message and image all the way up to point Z where it’s ready for distribution.
“At one o’clock, I grabbed my phone and had 22 missed calls within an hour.”
For me, we already have some distribution offers from people who saw what we did, and now they’re saying let’s really do this. It’s not so much that we have to sell what we want to do, but they now see what we can do.
I personally don’t really care how many streams you have. If I see the talent and the vision, I’m just going to go for it. That’s always been my mentality, and I think that will always be my mentality.
The bigger platform just means I can really bring that vision to life.
DO YOU THINK THERE IS TOO MUCH ATTENTION PLACED ON THE NUMBER OF STREAMS SOMEONE HAS?
I’m going to keep it straight: The amount of streams is not equivalent to how talented someone is.
It’s definitely equivalent to how much people like them. There’s always something to say for a fan base, but there are lots of artists out there right now who are extremely talented who just need a little push and a little bit of vision.
“I get that the business changed, but talent didn’t change. We just decided to neglect certain talent.”
And once they are ready to go, I’m sure that they can rank up three times the streams that this particular, less talented artist has right now. But they’re not even being heard. It’s overlooking talent.
I can’t understand that concept. I’ll probably never be able to understand it.
Back in the day, Clive Davis would fly out to shows to see somebody if they were amazing. If they were amazing, they started working. I get that the business changed, but talent didn’t change. We just decided to neglect certain talent.
But if we go out and look for it, and put some time into developing it, we could still have the next generation of extremely talented artists and entertainers.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT HAS CHANGED? DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE LESS WILLING TO TAKE RISKS?
It’s partly risk. Everything has become so much about following and influence. If somebody has a million or two million followers, if maybe all of those two million followers buy this thing, we have a win.
But does that really define someone’s talent?
Who’s to say that the person around the corner that’s extremely talented, if you put them in the mix after you develop them, that they can’t rack up the streams?
“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but I just want to add my flavor to what’s already there.”
I don’t know why that has changed, but it’s definitely not something that I plan on letting be my guidance.
Don’t get me wrong, me and my team are willing to work with any artists who are ready to really get out of their comfort zone and try something different.
I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but I just want to add my flavor to what’s already there. That’s really my whole way of thinking. How far can we push it?
I’M ASSUMING YOU’LL BE GOING TO THE Grammy AWARDS AT THE END OF JANUARY. WHO ARE YOU GOING WITH?
I’ll definitely be with Jon, but I’m also flying my mom in from Amsterdam.
EVERYONE STRIVES TO TAKE THEIR MOM TO THE GRAMMYS, OR THE OSCARS. IT’S JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS.
When I first told her, she had no idea. But when it finally hit her, it was so amazing to see.
When I started making music, when I was six years old, I started putting school to the side. My mom was obviously not happy with that. At the time, I didn’t really get the support that I wanted, or I felt like I deserved. My mom wanted me to stay in school.
“it really wasn’t until my 25th birthday, where people were giving speeches about me, that she finally said, ‘you know what, I’m so happy you actually never listened to me.”
My mom was pretty strict when I was young, but respectfully so. I did live under her roof, and I kind of went against what she wanted.
I say all this to say that, it really wasn’t until my 25th birthday, where people were giving speeches about me, that she finally said, ‘you know what, I’m so happy you actually never listened to me.’
At the time, that was such a big thing for me to hear her say that, because I literally went against the grain of what everybody felt like I needed to be doing.Music Business Worldwide