Artist Of The Month: Chaz Cardigan

It’s the most wonderful time of the month…Artist Of The Month time! I’m super excited to share my interview with Chaz Cardigan. I’ve listened to his music for a couple years now, and I can’t wait to check out his EP which drops in a couple days.

Name: Chaz Cardigan
Hometown: Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Genre: Indie Pop
For Fans Of: Quinn XCII, Matt Maeson, Ryann
Why You Should Care: Chaz, now 25-years-old, has been developing his career in the industry ever since he was a teenager, and his songwriting abilities clearly show for it. He started performing in punk bands at the young age of 11-years-old in his hometown, and later started covering songs in Louisville bars while in high school. Thanks to his die-hard dedication to honing his craft and career during his adolescence, he was able to move to Nashville at just 17-years-old to continue developing his career at an even higher level.

Chaz’ debut album, I, was self-released in 2017 and helped Cardigan gain the attention of heavy hitters in the industry. If you’re one to be curious to learn about the intricacies of the music industry like I am…get ready for this tidbit of information. Chaz is the first person to ever be signed to TWO music hubs. In January of this year, Cardigan signed to both Capitol Records and Loud Robot—the new record label under the film production company Bad Robot, which was created and currently run by J.J. Abrams).

Chaz’ new EP Holograma drops this Thursday, October 22. Check out our Q&A below:

Chicago Haze: As a kid, what initially drew you to creating music and performing? 

Chaz: I just loved making things. I was always making little inventions out of shoestring or duct tape, or making up stories or coming up with songs. Music started as just another thing to make. I was really into my older sister’s CD collection, so my first real musical memories are Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Christina Aguilera — late-90’s pop. I begged my parents to let me take piano lessons, picked up guitar from there, and then when I was about 10 I fell in love with Queen and that gave me the itch to start playing in bands.

Chicago Haze: What was it like moving to Nashville from Kentucky at the age of 17? Was moving for your career so early something that you had always planned to do? How did that fall into place?

Chaz: The right amount of scary and effortless. I’d been going to Nashville every day after school from the time I was in 7th grade until I graduated high school, and I had a handful of really great mentor figures in the city from working there for so many years. Moving was completely natural, but I think I really expected that I’d only be there for a year or so and then sign some big record deal and start my life in New York. Instead I ended up falling in love with the city and staying for the last 7 years.

Billboard reported at the beginning of the year that you were the first artist jointly signed to Capitol Records and Loud Robot. How did that come to fruition? 

Chaz: Capitol came first, and it so happened that they’d been quietly talking to Bad Robot for a year about finding a project to work on together. The A&R that signed me to Capitol sent my EP Vulnerabilia over to the Bad Robot crew, and they were interested in having a conversation. We met at their office in Santa Monica and had a great talk about tech and multimedia in music, and it just felt very obvious once we were in a room together.

Chicago Haze: Who are your musical inspirations, past and present?

Chaz: My big 3 are David Bowie, Imogen Heap, and Prince. They stay relevant for me no matter how old I get. Nirvana is my favorite band of all time. As a kid Kanye was huge for me, but otherwise I would’ve been listening to stuff like Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Bright Eyes, Get Up Kids, My Chemical Romance — I really lived in emo music for years. Right now I’m really inspired by The 1975, Phoebe Bridgers, and Sufjan Stevens.  

Chicago Haze: One of my favorite things to ask musicians is what their creative process is like. Can you describe to our readers what yours is like?

Chaz: I’ve spent about 10 years treating songwriting like an office job. It’s very “Nashville”, and there’s a bit of it in LA but: you show up to a studio session at 11, bang out a song by 2 with a stranger you’ve just met, and you record a demo by 4 to beat traffic. That’s how I wrote all of my first record, Vulnerabilia, Holograma, and only in the pandemic am I saying to myself “Hey this actually makes me hate writing music”.

These days I really love coming up with a concept and sort of meditating on it for a few days or a few weeks before I start writing it. I keep a running list of ideas in my Notes app. Usually once a day I’ll start coming up with melody ideas for a while, and what I’ve liked doing this year is sort of piecing those melody ideas together and seeing what concepts or lyrics I’ve got in my Notes that feel like those melodies, and then the songs usually come in about an hour once those pieces click. It’s much more fun and honest for me.

Chicago Haze: If you had to get a stranger on the street to listen to your music by describing it in three words, what words would you use?

Chaz: Oh wow. Hmm. “Killers, but Beck”.

Chicago Haze: Your upcoming EP Holograma drops this week—what about this project excites you the most?

Chaz: How much freedom I had with it. I made Vulnerabilia on my own, before signing my record deals, so Holograma is my first project made with a label. That process was a question-mark for me going into the EP. There’s definitely a degree of creative compromise when you bring in a record label, let alone two, and that can be really frustrating in the moment; but all things considered, these songs are really authentic for me, and I got to execute my vision.  

Chicago Haze: What other musicians should our readers have on their radar? Who are you currently loving? 

Chaz: I mentioned her earlier, but Phoebe Bridgers is a once-in-a-generation talent; I haven’t been as electrified by a writer since the first time I heard Kendrick Lamar.  Jake Wesley Rogers, Joy Oladokun, Annika Bennett, Molly Martin, and Jordy Searcy are all friends of mine in Nashville whose music I think is impeccable; they all live somewhere on the pop/folk/songwriter spectrum.  Brasko is a great glam-rock artist who really plays with androgyny in a way I love. 

Chicago Haze: Anything else you’d like to add? 

Chaz: Please please please Vote. The civil liberties of women, immigrants, BIPOC, and queer folk in the United States quite literally depend on this election. Donald Trump has already said multiple times that he’s not going to leave office if he’s voted out, but I’d really encourage everyone to vote so that the people’s voice is still seen by the history books. Mitch McConnell pushing through a Senate vote to approve another Trump-appointed judge on the Supreme Court will legitimize Trump staying in office, and I’d like to hope that people recognize that as fascism. That’s infinitely more important than music. We’re staring down the barrel of a civil war in this country, and I’d like for people to take what the President says seriously.

Follow Chaz on Spotify, Twitter, and Instagram.

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