KUALA Lumpur-born Kuizz is attracting a lot of attention…
with the single, Uncool. The track, as Kuizz explains, relates to a time when, at school, he did not fit into cliques and was often seen as an outsider- it is, perhaps, a heartache many of us have experienced. Uncool not only affects because of that honesty but its catchiness and addictive qualities. Kuizz’s E.P., Till the End, has been getting a great reception so I ask what that was like. Kuizz is an itinerant musician who has studied in Australia, lived in L.A. and seems like a restless, curious soul. I was intrigued about future tour dates – and whether the U.K. is on the docket – and what the rest of the year holds.
Kuizz gives me an idea of the artists and music he grew up listening to; what it was like working with the likes of Mia Martina and Kristina Debarge and whether social media has had a detrimental or positive effect on human relations – and how instrumental it has been in his career.
Hi Kuizz, how are you? How has your week been?
Hey, my week’s going great! Thank you for asking.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
No problem. My name is Kuizz and I’m a singer-songwriter and producer from Malaysia.
I’ve been pretty much behind the scenes for quite a number of years writing and producing for other artists. I still do that but last year I decided to take the leap by becoming the artist and releasing my own music.
It still feels a bit weird, because now I’m the face of my own brand, but I have to get used to it.
Before that, I would experiment and put out my music on SoundCloud or YouTube to see what other people thought of them. I also made covers for a while but would produce them using different chords and instruments – to make them sound different from the original.
Uncool is your newest single. What can you tell me about it and the story behind it?
I wrote Uncool a day before mixing it. The E.P. was scheduled to be mastered and released in, about, two weeks so I panicked because, initially, another song was supposed to be on there – but it just didn’t feel right. So, I made a simple beat and wrote the first thing that came to mind.
That’s how Uncool was born. I moved a lot growing up and always felt socially-awkward. I was never popular or unpopular: I was just there.
I’ve met people who went to the same school as I did and they say they don’t remember me going to that school. That’s pretty funny. In Uncool I sing “Music was my best friend” and that’s true. To make up for not having many friends I looked to music and, by making music, I found it okay to not put myself in a box at a young age.
I know one side of it, feeling awkward in social media world, can be understood by a lot of people. Do you think social media and technological increase is seeing human contact being replaced to an extent?
To an extent, yes.
I think we’re all guilty of not being able to put our phones down when we need to. We find it easier to type out our emotions rather than saying it face-to-face. Technology has its pros and cons. I think, with Facebook and YouTube, we’re able to share and see amazing things done by people across the globe.
But, on the flipside, we also stumble across the ugly side of humanity. Technology increase, though, enables anyone to organise meet-ups and events to connect with people they’ve never met before.
That being said; how instrumental and influential has social media been to your music and success?
It’s been an integral part of my success and where I’m at today. I’m able to share music with a click of a button and not have a middle-man stand in my way. I go back and forth to L.A. and my connections through social media have helped me connect with people there. I even met my friend Daniel Matthias who helped co-produce a couple of tracks on my E.P. through social media – he’s from Minnesota and we met up in L.A.
PHOTO CREDIT: @deeyaz
Uncool is taken from your debut E.P. What has the reaction been like to the E.P. and will there be any more singles released from it?
My E.P., Till The End, was released last September and it was a slow growth. The first single did okay but I had to leave to L.A., like, a week after the release so I wasn’t really able to focus on pushing it.
I played the E.P. to a few labels and friends while I was there and the song that stood out the most was Uncool.
I probably think the simplicity of the production and emotion on it separate it from the rest of tracks.
About a week ago, I felt like putting Uncool on SoundCloud just for the sake of it and it started getting a lot of plays. People were saying how much they related to the song and started sharing it on other platforms.
You are, originally, from Kuala Lumpur. Is there a big music scene there at the moment? Would it be quite hard for a new artist to make a career there?
The music scene isn’t that big due to the population in comparison to other countries – but it’s definitely picking up. There’s a lot of talent here. How I got out there was I just emailed and messaged a ton of people to check out my music. I’ve definitely had my share of bad reviews and NOs – but you’ve just got to keep on going.
Malaysia has had a couple of success stories in the U.S. and around the world – most notably with Yuna and Zee Avi, who I’ve had the privilege of meeting and hanging out with in L.A. Yuna has definitely set the bar high in the American music industry for us Malaysians – so we’re proud of her for that.
Saying that, you have studied at the SAE Institute in Melbourne. What was that experience like and what did you learn from your time there?
It was great! I took up audio engineering and music production while I was there. I needed a change of scenery so I decided to study music in Australia. With places like SAE, you’re surrounded with like-minded people who are chasing the same dreams as you; so it’s always exciting to be in that kind of environment. Melbourne also taught me how to be more vocal with my opinions and step out of my shell.
After studying and constant effort on your part, you caught the attention of a music publisher in L.A. Is Los Angeles where you are spending your time now and how does U.S. audiences/musicians compare to, say, Melbourne?
I do a lot of my work and submissions online through Skype and file transfers.
But, being in L.A. helps push my work even more and it’s definitely easier to get meetings and connect with other industry folks.
I try to go each year for a substantial amount of time to get the bigger projects done but I’m at a point in my life where I think it would be best to move out there for a while. So, I’m still looking into that.
As for the Melbourne and L.A. comparison, I love both but L.A. has a bigger mainstream scene than any other place in the world.
I believe, before you started producing your own music, you worked with a range of other artists – including Mia Martina and Kristina Debarge. What compelled the decision to step out solo and what have you learned from your time producing others?
I get asked that a lot. I think with people like me in the music industry, sometimes you just want to express yourself through your own music. You learn from the people you work with and your artist friends – about the pros and cons of it all – so it does help you prep. for what to expect.
One thing about being an artist is you have to face a lot of criticism – especially in this day and age where people like to compare artists with each other. I also love the fact that Julia Michaels, Emily Warren etc. are stepping out and making their own music too.
Can you give me an idea of the artists you grew up listening to?
I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson growing up. I think that’s probably where my love for Pop music came from.
My mum was really into ballads so she would play Mariah Carey and Celine Dion: my dad would play The Bee Gees and Eric Clapton in the car. Once Britney Spears and that whole ‘90s and 2000s Pop era came about, I discovered Max Martin. I never knew there were other people writing lyrics and melodies for these artists!
So, I became obsessed with who wrote and produced these tunes. Then I discovered James Fauntleroy, Travis Garland and more. I usually don’t mind who the artist is as long as the song is great.
In terms of 2017 and the remaining months; what plans do you have in store?
I’m currently producing and mixing for a few artists right now but I’m also going to release a bunch of new music for myself in the coming months. I’m working on a few collaborations so I’m excited for that too. I’m blessed to be able to create what I want from scratch; sing it and put it out for everyone – so I think it’s all just about timing.
Can we expect to see you in the U.K. at any point this year?
Most definitely! It’s in my plans to do a couple studio sessions and perform while I’m out there – so looking forward to that.
Who are the new/upcoming artists you advise we keep an eye out for this year at all?
There’s so many but Sandro Cavazza is someone who I think is going to break out big this year.
His E.P. has been on-repeat and his voice is out of this world.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Be true to yourself and your art. Uncool was never supposed to be a single because of its tempo and honesty.
I think, when I learned to not care and go with my gut feeling, everything came together.
You’re going to get a lot of people telling you you’re not that good along the way but being an artist is all about growth. You can’t grow if you don’t try.
Take criticism for what it is but learn to separate what you think helps you become a better artist and what doesn’t. Not everyone’s right all the time.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Allie X – Paper Love