Grant Kwiecinski is a true artist. Everything he puts his energy into seems to come from a place of highly focused intention. From his studio recordings to his live show to his daily life, his creative juices are always flowing.
Most of us know this talented artist as GRiZ, whose live shows are nothing short of mind-blowing. I just recently witnessed his two nights of performances at Red Rocks and was able to catch up with him before he hit the road for his Ride Waves Season 2 tour. We had a nice talk about everything from the live show to his visual artwork and more. With everything we dove into I felt it was best to break these into two separate pieces – this first one about the evolution of GRiZ, the artist, and his live show as he kicks off tour. The next one coming is more personal and dives into who Grant is, and his various creative passions.
Grant is the type of person that has an unbridled vision for his projects, and then makes that come to life. He seems to put 100% into anything he does. Everything from his live show to his visual art stems from a place of deep passion “This year’s been showing me that I really just needed to lean way the fuck into the things I’m doing,” says Grant while discussing incorporating his own vocals into his live performances. “Just lean into it. If I’m doing throwbacks, lean into it. Go deep. Go all the way. If I’m trying to throw the next stage-is-moving-lasers-everywhere-blowing-things-up-with-pyro, having a timecoded show with horn lines and choreography, 100% original storyboarded visual content for a show that we’d spend hours and days and weeks on…. If I’m gonna do all that shit just LEAN into it and do it to the max. Maximize the personal participation.”
“I love doing the vocal stuff. I don’t think there’s like a future in it. I’m not taking vocal lessons. When it feels right, you’ll hear my voice on a song. I feel more comfortable doing it these days because I just kinda said fuck it… One, it’s fucking terrifying to put yourself out there in that way. You’re just asking people to fuckin’ hate you for it if you don’t do it well [laughs]. But then it really comes down to me doing this because it feels really good to me. I don’t fancy myself to be the best saxophone player, the best vocalist, the best producer… I’m an entertainer, man. I’m a performer and I just want to perform. I want to enable myself to perform and have fun. If you can connect with somebody on the level of fun that they’re having while they’re performing, I feel like that’s what people are looking for. That’s where I’m talented: putting forth the energy, putting forth the vibe. I’m not like Alicia Keys out here.”
Grant just recently played his final pair of Red Rocks shows for the foreseeable future. As someone who’s lived in Colorado for the past nine years I thought I had seen it all there, but somehow the new show still managed to blow me away. The production was arguably the best the venue has ever seen and the intro was undoubtedly the most epic I’ve seen there personally. Out of nowhere lazers popped up, forming a square shape atop the lighting & sound area about 20 rows up, shooting up as far into the sky as you could see. Sure enough Grant was there as if he was just beamed down from a UFO. During the performance he announced these will be his final Red Rocks shows, and he surely went out with a bang.
GRiZ put poured his time and energy into all aspects of his live performances from a production standpoint to delivering a passionate, acapella slam poetry moment. When reflecting on these last Red Rocks show, Grant explained – “I cried. When that show ended on Saturday I like legit just cried. In front of everybody. And it was genuine. I haven’t felt that collected self-appreciation in a very long time. It really put it into perspective. I feel like the first time I played Red Rocks on my own really set course for this adoration and success from the GRiZ fanbase. I was like ‘cool here’s a benchmark- a milestone’ and just reflecting on that really hit me.”
While some of the past years at Red Rocks included a normal GRiZ show in addition to his live band performances, he decided to switch things up this year. He explained that his his band has almost been a GRiZ cover band in the sense they re-imagine already existing GRiZ songs into this larger band format opposed to creating new songs specifically for the band. On that point he went on to explain “That’s all well and good and its really fucking cool but it doesn’t really have its own story. It doesn’t have its own sound. We are trying to mimic something that’s already existing and I think what necessitates this moving forward is living life with the band and experiencing things with them and creating something with them, for us. Something that empowers each individual member to contribute, and make it feel like theirs so that when we play again, we are a good fucking band. In my mind, that’s what it deserves.”
This time around, he held off on the live band to include a throwback GRiZ show including tracks from 2010-2017 for the first night, and the Ride Waves show for the second night. “I couldn’t walk away from that stage without playing the classics, man,” said Grant. “That had to happen.”
“I did a 2010-2017 set at Wilmington, North Carolina for one of the GRiZmas in July shows. That was the first time that I was decidedly like ‘we’re playing the old throwback music’ as a device to be able to play two nights worth of music, without repeating the experience. Each night had its own feel to it.”
His ability to continuously incorporate newly developed talents like his own vocals into the Ride Waves show showcases his ever-evolving growth as an artist. This evolution was even more apparent after seeing both his Ride Waves and “throwback” shows in back to back nights. His manager pointed out to me how different the two shows were and that the “throwback” set is what a normal set from him would have been not that long ago.
“There was a deciding factor where like.. Griz sets two years ago used like monster-mashup-amalgamation sets where its like everything is free game. As soon as Good Will Prevail came out I wanted to re-contextualize what I’m serving up as far as the show is concerned,” said Grant. “If I come out with a new album, what I want to present to the audience at that time is purely that album in it’s new performance, in its new production look, in its new ethos. I didn’t want to draw from old classics, I wanted to always feel like I was moving forward with this career, never looking backwards and feel like I’m tied down to the things that people want me to have to be. If you see me on a new album tour, I’m going to be touring that album, and that’s kind of the current way I feel about it. I like being able to create the space to pay homage to what once was. And kind of give it new life as well.”
“The new show has really taken life from a massively performance aspect. How are these songs performed live? What is the live component? Beyond pressing play on the song and twisting a filter over the section of the song to create some sort of personal interaction with it. What am I doing while these songs are being played? That changed a lot of things for me, even my intentions for making music. This song is being made with the intention to perform it. I want to be able to interact with my music in a live setting. I want to be able to insert myself into it. And I want to play with the energy of it. Otherwise it feels kind of stale and too repetitive and boring. I think now a big focus of how I feel about this live thing and where records are – the big thing is being conscious during the entire performance. It’s turned away from being a ‘here-I-am-playing-a-song’ to a play. I was inspired by so many different things. Just seeing the way the production was being put together in this tight-knit way… You can do so much. You can really take people to a place, but it has to be thoughtful. This entire performance is like… movements. It has a life. It has different shades to it, it has these different kinds of motions within it and that’s what the new challenge has been for me.”
The new stage setup GRiZ debuted at these final Red Rocks shows is something you need to see for yourself to fully understand. It’s what he’s currently out on tour with and is the foundation for his most impressive live show yet. “With this being my last year at Red Rocks, I really wanted to be able to show the future of just purely Grant,” he explained. “I’m thinking about how the music should be demonstrated so this new thing – which is going to turn into the Imaginarium – is the new production. It’s the new vision for everything. The Imaginarium is my personal vision for this display of music, this play, this fucking drama, this insanity that happens on stage. That is what it is.”
“I was trying to figure out what this meant to me,” says Grant. “It’s hard to describe a thing to somebody that they haven’t seen yet. This thing to me, is everything that I could imagine without holding back anything. My imagination in visible format and nothing short of that. The full vision, man. No shortcuts. Didn’t say no to anything. Got hella crazy and creative with it. Went the distance and spent the time to create a visual component that isn’t just reactionary to the music. It expands the music.”
After years of heavy touring, Grant explained he’s going to break away from the standard bus tour format of the past:
“This tour might be the last like touring tour. I don’t want to do “tour tours” anymore. Like buses, and seven shows in a fuckin’ week like this is probably gonna be it. Ride Waves season 2 will be hopefully the last Griz tour tour where its like multiple shows a week in every single city between the east coast and the west coast. There’s other things I want to do with my life that is not being on the road all the time. I need to create space for that, so this isn’t a farewell to playing shows – this is a farewell to a touring format. I love switching things up and I’ve spent so much energy on this upcoming tour, this Imaginarium tour. It’s a fuckin next-level thing and it’s all I got. So if you want to see the 100%? Then this is it. And then it will be gone. See you there.”
Since these recent Red Rocks shows were his last at the iconic venue, I asked if he could shed light on what his plans are for the future in the Colorado market. Grant replied, “I wish I could. I don’t have a solid plan yet. I don’t want to lean one way or another. If I do that then I might set the wrong intention. I really have three options, and I’m saying yes to all of them in my mind currently so I don’t choose between any one of them and sour the possibility… You just don’t know what’s right until it’s right. I don’t’ want to say no to something that might not be the obvious choice because I just haven’t been able to think on it. Right now my entire focus is the Imaginarium tour. Going psycho on it every single day of the week playing the most baller shows we’ve ever done. That’s where my head’s at.”
“Always thinking man, always plotting. Finding my zen so I can go fuckin full psycho mode. It’s crazy shit dude. Cool things happen.”
If you get the change to see a show on the Ride Waves tour, don’t miss this opportunity! Why? Because it’s mind blowing. Additionally, it seems this is going to be the last time we see GRiZ do shows in a proper bus touring format. See tour dates below and grab your tickets here while you can. Stay tuned for part two of the interview and enjoy!
October 2 – Birmingham, AL – Avondale Brewing Company*~
October 3 – Nashville, TN – War Memorial Auditorium*~
October 4 – Indianapolis, IN – The Pavilion at Pan Am*~
October 5 – Chicago, IL – Navy Pier at Festival Hall*~
October 6 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
October 9 – Cincinnati, OH – PNC Pavilion*~
October 10 – Atlanta, GA – Tabernacle*^~
October 11 – Atlanta, GA – Coca-Cola Roxy*#~
October 12 – New Orleans, LA – The Fillmore*~
October 13 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits
October 15 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex*~
October 17 – Seattle, WA – The Paramount Theatre*~
October 18 – Vancouver, BC – The Commodore Ballroom*+
October 19 – Eugene, OR – The Cuthbert Amphitheater*~
October 22 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park*~
October 24 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Palladium*~
October 25 – San Luis Obispo, CA – Fremont Theater*
October 26 – Berkeley, CA – The Greek Theatre w/ CloZee*~
* Ride Waves Tour: Season Two
# Ride Waves set
~ with special guest The Funk Hunters
+ with special guest Fort Knox Five