Determined musicians reflect on awards

Katie Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: The Daily Eastern News was invited to participate in a conference call Wednesday with 2015 MTVU Woodie Award nominees: Rae Sremmurd, Raury, Misterwives, and Hoodie Allen.

Rapper Iggy Azelia has earned $5,160,000 for her single “Fancy” based on iTunes purchases alone. Before her success, however, the artist debuted her hit single at the 2014 MTVU Woodie Awards, where Ryan Kroft, executive producer of this year’s show, said college-aged listeners often discover up-and-coming artists before they make it big.

“It’s been really cool to see that artists are now seeing the show as a launching pad, and coming here and having big years,” Kroft said.

The Woodie awards are based on an inde label, Sub Pop’s tradition of issuing their artists wooden plaques because their albums were not ones that generally received gold or platinum recognition.

Kroft said idea of college-aged audiences choosing who the music industry recognizes as influential is rewarding for both the fans and musicians.

“I think it’s huge. I think for artists to really achieve success and get their music heard they need to connect with a young audience and then it’s that young audience that gets out that and is most passionate about music and really talks about the artist and socialize with the artist and get the older audiences hearing about them.”

This year’s show will be live-streamed online at 8 p.m. Friday March 20 from the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, TX. Audiences can vote online at MTV.com, where polls are currently open.

The show’s early years, beginning in 2004, generally featured rock artists, although Kroft said hiphop has become a new popular genre at the Woodie Awards.

Some of this year’s nominees agree, however, they prefer not to be classified in one specific genre because of its limiting nature.

Rae Sremmurd

Musical group Rae Sremmurd knew they were famous “the girls at Starbucks” knew who they were.

Sremmurd is nominated for the Woodies’ Artist to Watch (best emerging artist) award.

Singles including “No Flex Zone” and “No Type” have earned Sremmured a swiftly growing and young fan-base. Despite the duo’s quick success with a distinct sound, they expect a strong loyalty from their fan-base should they decide to go in a different direction.

“We’re gonna keep doing Rae Sremmurd stuff,” brothers Kahlif “Swae Lee” Kahlif and Aaquil “Slim Jimmy” Brown said.  “We have the type of fans that are gonna evolve with us. We’ll always have a unique sound but when we change our sound, if we’re gonna elevate our fans are gonna elevate with us.”

For Sremmurd, rising to a new level of fame has provided them with a positive outlook they attribute to a sense of confidence in themselves and one another.

“Our confidence, it just comes within us from where we’re from,” Khalif and Brown said. “You have to stand out, you know? They’re gonna throw you in the jungle with all the other wild animals and you just have to know that you’re an elephant.”

Just 20 and 21 years old, the hip-hop artists said they were startled to learn they had been nominated for an award.

“It felt like I had just won the lottery,” they said. “I jumped up and down. I spilled my Starbucks and everything.”

Hoodie Allen

Steven Adam Markowitz’s, “Hoodie Allen” remembers experiencing music for the first time with a young girl at a Britney Spears concert.

“I was 9 years old,” he said. “She was the first girlfriend that I had.”

Now his single “All about it,” featuring singer, songwriter and friend Ed Sheeran is nominated for the Co-Sign Woodie as a potential best collaboration between two or more artists.

Markowitz said the collaboration was not planned for his album, rather the two stumbled upon the idea nonchalantly.

“He’s been a buddy of mine for a couple of years now. Every time he’s in New York we hang out,” Markowitz said. “So it was a very casual thing where we decided, ‘instead of going to the bar let’s go to the studio and make a song’ and ‘All about it’ is that song.”

He said the recording process went favorably, and described Sheeran as “a dream collaboration,” feeling optimistic abut the final product.

“I think I do put a lot of value in wanting to be a positive influence and in the stories that I try to tell and convey the message is supposed to be positive and one people can follow,” he said. “Our responsibilities as artists is to feel passionate about things and to communicate that and make them feel their best as well.”

Markowitz is currently working on new music, which he plans to release samples of.

“It’s in its early stages,” he said. “I’m always trying to give people previews so hopefully you can expect a mixtape-type project on the way.”

Raury

Artist Raury’s album “Indigo Child” has been described as hard categorize in both its lyricism and sound.

The Georgia-native is nominated for the Artist to Watch Woodie alongside Rae Scremmurd, who say they are personal fans of Raury’s.

“Indigo Child” combines folk, rock and rap styles that create a sound Raury is proud to say cannot be pigeonholed. 

“That comes down to egos and how critics and readers feel about their ability to identify something,” he said. “You may take offense if someone produces so many different genres. You may think they don’t know what they’re doing or they don’t know who they are yet. I’m always going to create what I feel like making. I’m maybe a product of this internet age.”

Raury introduces psychic associations with his generation in the song “God’s Whisper,” in which he says, “We are indigos/Living lives we chose/Show you’re brave/Those with faith/On a mission/Led by intuition/You should listen . . .”

“I make music and aim to create and maybe inspire these young kids and make them become better versions of themselves because you are what you listen to not what you eat.”

Despite his nomination, Raury said he still does not feel he has accomplished the level of success he strives for.

“I still see a much more work to be done,” he said. “My goals and my vision and perception of having made it is being in a situation where I don’t have to worry about anything.”

MisterWives

Though their album “Our Own House” debuted just last week, MisterWives, an American indie band is in the running for MTVU’s Artist to Watch Woodie.

Bassist, Will Heir said the album’s popularity caught on almost immediately, evident by the band’s sold-out first show since the release of “Our Own House” on Feb. 25.

“I think probably the most monumental moment was finally playing that first show and coming off stage and seeing the reaction we got from our managers and our family and our friends,” he said. “To see them actually almost beaming with pride was incredibly humbling. It almost brought a tear to my eye. But I’m super manly so it didn’t happen.”

The band’s songwriter and singer, Mandy Lee, found inspiration for the albums lyrics while seeking solitude outdoors.

“We actually locked her in a tree house for a while and she found some inspiration there,” Heir laughed. “There’s almost an immediate connection between her heart and her hand.”

Drawing influence from a wide range of musicians, members of MisterWives are careful to not be catalogued into genre-specific labels.

“It’s almost schizophrenic,” he said. “I think it’s humbling to a certain degree and it’s definitely reassuring when people don’t know how to classify us because we’re all inspired by so may different shapes of music.”

More than anything, Heir said the group strives to produce a sound that is creative, cohesive, and overall makes people want to move.

“When we take the music and work together it becomes cohesive without being cacophonic,” he said. “But it’s happy music. It all comes from the show. We’re trying to get people to get up and dance.”

Katie Smith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]