Get to Know LOCS [Interview]

Kieran Kohorst

As any great baseball pitcher would tell you, you can’t just throw a fastball down the middle of the plate every pitch. Unpredictability and calculated risks are key to success, just as great artists would testify. In his latest effort, LOCS delivers a curveball in “Settle Down.” Stepping away from his wheelhouse in hip-hop, the Atlanta-based creative calls on some of his earliest musical inspirations to produce a groovy departure from his January single “DON’T.” Maintaining his electric delivery, “Settle Down” captures the versatility of an artist growing into his talent before our eyes.

Through Zoom, I talked with LOCS about his start in music, the lessons being an artist has taught him, and the highlights of his young career. 

What were your beginnings in music? Was it something that you knew you wanted to do from an early age or something you grew into?

I got into it when I got older. I actually didn't get really deep into music, at least the making of music until like my sophomore year in college. So that's like around 2017. That's when I made my first song. I was in the studio for the first time, just like trying things out. I think I've always been poetic in a way. I used to write poetry and little stories as a kid. So I think I had the writing capabilities, and I would always freestyle with the homies on the bus and stuff like that. But I didn't really get into the song making process until later. I definitely have a passion for it and I love to do it and would like to do it for a long time.

That's really impressive, especially considering on your 2022 EP you wrote, recorded, produced, mixed, mastered, and obviously performed it, so you were putting together a lot of skills really fast and developing super quick. Did that feel overwhelming for you at all? Or did that come naturally to you once you started putting all the work in?

I think I've just been a person that's really dedicated to learning new things in life in general, music related and non-music related. The fact is being an aspiring artist isn't exactly the cheapest thing in the world... it could be anything. Whether you're building a house or doing something else, learning a lot of things on your own saves you a lot of time and money and it allows you to be personalized in your approach in whatever you do. So I learned to make beats, I learned to mix my vocals, I got better at songwriting. I mean, that came naturally just with time and repetition of making a lot of music. I can't tell you how many songs would never see the light of day. I have hundreds. I think that learning everything on my own, and I'm still learning, I would love to do more. I can only do so much, what time allows.

Back in 2022 again, around when your project came out, you had the chance to perform at a Joyner Lucas show, which obviously is super cool, that being a big stage for you. What did that experience teach you? I don't know if that was one of your first performances, being that you haven't been in music too long. What was that moment like for you?

I had a few performances before that. A lot of 'em being in LA. I've done tons of open mics. I hop on the stage whenever I can, honestly, so I can't even tell you how many times I've just been to like, open mics, just showing people my talent, you know, sharpening my skills. But I've done a couple of more shows with bigger crowds in LA before, but nothing like that, man. It was like, I don't know, like five to 700 people in that place. There's people on the main floor and up in the rafters. It was an amazing experience cuz I had the all access pass and I was there early, I was there before people even walked in the building. I got a chance to meet Joyner and Symba was also opening up for him, which is another talented rap artist, they were touring together. It was a crazy experience and something to look forward to like later in my career when I'm touring and stuff. It was just amazing in the venue. It was in Madison, Wisconsin. That was my first time ever being there. A lot of people showed up and showed love and just walking out there, I could see the crowd when I was backstage, ready to come out. I was only back there for about five to ten minutes, but it felt like an eternity, cuz the adrenaline was going and I was just like, "this is a moment. This is a true moment." And then the butterflies was gone. As soon as I stepped out on the stage, as soon as I said my first word and I saw everybody out there, it was game time, you know? It just felt natural. It felt like home. You could see all the smiles and people enjoying it from what you can see. It was a great experience, man. It was something that I will definitely remember for a long time.

Would you say that's probably the highlight of your career so far, or do you have another moment that comes to mind that would surpass it?

Yeah, it's definitely a highlight. It's definitely a performance highlight. I've had a lot of great things, like even when I had my first show in LA, it was a packed room. That was kind of like the same feeling, smaller venue, but it's still packed. You still get that same feeling. I've seen my music behind the NFL corporation and HBO, other TV shows. Definitely something very memorable.

You mentioned you didn't get into music very early, making it that is, but what about inspirations in music? Was there something you were listening to when you were super young that planted that seed for when you were getting into music that really motivated you to keep getting in the studio and recording?

I have two families, one that is in Nashville, one that lives in Ohio, where I lived most of my life. My mom, she would play a lot of like R&B. My mom and my stepdad played a lot of R&B, a lot of slow jams. That's where I get that from, but my biological father, he played a lot of southern rap. Harder stuff, you know? So I get that too. I think I've had a nice mixture in regards to the spectrum of music growing up and now that spills into my music with me making different kinds of music. I can have different vibes and feed everybody a little. Different things from time to time.

And what about right now? Anybody right now you're listening to that makes you wanna go record or write something?

Yeah, man, always. My inspirations are Drake, Kendrick, J. Cole, Logic, Big Sean. I still go back to their old stuff when they were grinding, just like me. Just listening how they're doing their thing, how they were getting after it, so I could implement it in my music and keep it going. There's newer artists too that have come out, like JID, I love a lot of what he's doing. I like Cordae, I love a lot what he's doing. I see a lot in me and him alike. Like when I first heard him, I was like, "man, that's like, I was like, I can make music like that too. And Jack Harlow, I like his style. So there's a lot of newer artists that I pay attention to see what's going on.

You mentioned a lot of different names and styles in there, but you can definitely hear them in different parts of your music and especially with you mentioning the wide spectrum of music you had growing up. You can definitely hear that range in your catalog, getting into different corners of hip-hop, and now you're leaning even further into R&B with "Settle Down" coming out in a couple days. Is it natural for you to fit into these different styles or is it an effort to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try something new?

I think it's natural to fit into the vibes of kind of hip hop and R&B or down tempo, calmer type of things. Cuz that's where, before I went mainstream and releasing my music on DSPs, I did have a lot of music that was very slow and like monotone in a sense. I didn't really get my energy until a couple years in, you know, just having fun and trying that out and getting that niche going. I think that it is harder for me to step into some of the pop lanes sometimes. But it's always a great challenge. It's always nice in the studio cuz you're just working, working, working. I definitely spend longer on those songs than I do my rap songs. And when it comes out to be a good product, I do feel good about it. I can do rap in my sleep, but sometimes I do like to challenge myself in the studio, seeing I do a lot of it myself.

You said you recorded "Settle Down" in 2019. Can you recall what your intentions were when you were making the track? Did you have an idea going in to make a love song, or was it more spontaneous?

Man, 2019. That was my last year in college. In that phase, I was still just trying love songs. I kind of just tapped it. It wasn't a personal story of mine, but it was around that time where we were becoming adults and trying to figure things out. Hearing stories from my friends, I gathered that all together and made this little story. Wanting to settle down, trying to find love at that time, venturing into adulthood, being vulnerable in my music, which I haven't done too much, but I'm – I'm happy to see how people receive it. I'm happy to put that side out.

And why'd you feel like right now was the right time to release "Settle Down"?

I wanted this year to be a year where I show my versatility. I had a lot of different things going last year that was planned out. I didn't really get a chance to put my plans to actions the way that I wanted to. Moving into this year, I have different kinds of music. People understand that I can rap, people understand that I can rhyme, do the energetic stuff, the slow stuff, and I've put pieces of who I am out, but I think I'm going to really flush it out this year and give people a variety of everything. This year is gonna be so interesting and crazy cuz I have so many different kind of energies that I'm bringing, I'm bringing back I like to call it my roots, where I started out. I had an older song, one of my first songs that ever got attention was "Bright and Early", and it was really groovy and a lot of people like it. And I'm definitely tapping back into that heavy. But I also wanted to put out some slower stuff. I'm still gonna rap, I'm still gonna put high, high energy out, but I like to keep people on their toes, man. Nobody ever really knows what's coming out from me. I like that kind of suspense aspect.

Timing wise, it is convenient. We just passed Valentine's Day and this is the most romantic song in your discography that fits into this time in the year. So if you were making a love-themed playlist that had "Settle Down" at the core of it, what other songs would you put in there to round out that playlist?

In this single it is very mellow, it has a guitar, has some vocal chops in there. So I'd probably include some...I'll probably throw some Brent Faiyaz in there. I'll throw some R&B Drake in there, some Summer Walker in there. She does some relationship tracks in there. Let's see, who else, man. If I wanted to get a little bit rappy, you know, get some storytelling, I'll throw some J. Cole, he's pretty good at painting the picture and getting that going. I feel like I need another singer man, like a R&B one. I'll probably throw in Ari Lennox.

Only five years of making music, the growth and development of your art is evident. What's the biggest lesson you would say music has taught you so far?

Practice makes perfect. Everybody's not perfect and everybody's ever changing. And your moods change, your life changes, and music is like a spillover of that. Not getting down on yourself, remain confident in yourself, believe in yourself because you are your first fan. Um, so. Remaining confident, learning, and getting to a point where you're comfortable. Rap is like my forte, I always know I can rap. If I'm doing some other genre and I'm like, "man, I don't know, this may not be working out for me," I'll make a rap song. Now I feel better. Now. I'm like, all right, I still got it. I don't know what I was thinking before, but I actually still got it. Keeping that confidence in yourself and always trying to learn. Don't be afraid to ask questions from people that are more experienced, just have those simple conversations with people that have been in the industry longer than you can teach you a lot of things.

It's been a busy year for you already. Two releases out, I'm sure more to come. Do you have any plans you want to share or goals you've set for yourself in 2023?

Just releasing as much music as I can and really expanding my fan base. I would love to perform in my hometown this year at some point too. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, I currently reside in Atlanta, so I would love to perform in those two cities. I just really wanna release a lot of music and give people a real understanding of who I am as an artist and my capabilities and what I can do.

Release day is two days away. Are you nervous, excited? Does it change as you go in your career to where you're more confident when any release comes around?

I think you always have your excitement, because you love it. And then you have it set in. You know what's coming for a while but not everybody else knows it's coming. You're like a month, month and a half out or two months, whatever, and you're just building up to this moment and it gets closer and gets closer. I say I'm always nervous, man. I love it and I want other people to love it too. It is like you're releasing a secret, you know? Now I'm putting it out in the world. It's kind of like, dang, I don't have it to myself no more. It's all good though because I always get feedback from my friends, my family, new supporters. It's always a good feeling to hear from them. It's always exciting the day of, staying up late. When I was out on the west coast, it's better because it's 9:00 PM when you can listen to music, but Eastern time zone, midnight, man, sometimes it'll be like 11:50 and then I'll have one eye open like, no, I have to stay up. It's nice to see people listening and seeing the numbers growing.

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