Nicholas Grooms is a rapper outta Garden City, Kansas. Not too long ago, he released “Thirty-One”, an album filled with Grooms’ good and bad experiences. We interviewed Grooms about his album, and this is what he had to say:
What’s life like in Garden City, Kansas?
Nicholas Grooms: I am very fortunate to have grown up and lived in such a diverse community. Just today, I saw a chart about the current enrollment at Garden City High School representing over 29 countries and 28 different languages. Not bad for a city of around 30,000. Growing up in Garden City was a unique experience. It’s one of those small towns with very little to do. So creating your own means of entertainment was usually a must.
The people I grew up with all seem to remain close. We all seem to pick up where we left off because we all spent so much time with each other at shows or finding ways to fend off the small-town boredom. In all honesty, I wouldn’t ever change the fact that I grew up there. I am extremely fortunate to have met and befriended so many characters and good people. Garden City is home; always has been and always will be no matter where my life sees me going.
How would you describe your sound?
NG: I heard a quote a long while back from “American Splendor” writer, Harvey Pekar.
“It’s my perspective…gloom and doom.”
I think if there was one way to sum up my music that would be the six words to do it. I am not flashy like a lot of other artists, and most of the time, I don’t look the part. My goal is never to win battles or thrill people with my rhyming speed or complex metaphors. There are so many guys and girls out there who do that stuff far better than I do. So I stick to my strengths. The best I can be is myself and I have always been infatuated with poetry and storytelling. That is what I do best.
My sound is basically my personal issues set to a beat. Sometimes that bores people who are out looking to dance and see someone pop a drunken crowd. But I am perfectly content with doing what I am doing. I think I often find the confidence to say personal things other people wish they could say about themselves. And to me, helping people find strength in just being who they are is far better than making drunk people dance at a random club at 1am on any given weekend.
Tell us about your new album, “Thirty-One”.
NG: It is hard to describe how happy and relieved I am to have this album finished. “Thirty-One” is basically a look into my life between the ages of 30-32, with my 31st year being one of the worst I have ever had in my life. For years, I have had many periods where I felt emotionally unfit when dealing with circumstances and situations. And over the last couple of years I have had to come to grips with the fact that anxiety and bipolar disorder are the reason I have experienced these waves of emotion. I have spent the last few years combating and coming to grips with the fact that this is a very real thing that will occur in my head forever. It’s hard to accept, especially when your bad days feel so dark and bottomless.
Nicholas Grooms is 31
“Thirty-One” was a way to show the mixture of emotions I tend to navigate through. I can wake up for a week straight feeling pretty regular, and then out of nowhere, wake up feeling like I can’t function on day eight. Some parts of the album are sad, some are fun, some are heartfelt, some are cheeky and silly, and some are downright hurtful to even look back on. Much like my mind over the past three years. This album is all over the place but ends with acceptance and the promise to look forward instead of backward.
What was your most-memorable recording moment?
NG: I always have a great time recording with Dustin Ridder at Bulletride Productions. His studio is one of only a couple of reputable places to record out here in Southwest Kansas. And his usual clientele consists of mostly rock and metal bands. As far as I know, I am the only hip-hop artist he records with on a regular basis. I think the fact that I was able to do this album with Ridder is the only reason I was able to get it finished. I have built such a report with him and always trust his opinions. And I know he always has my best interests at heart.
Every hour we spent recording is memorable to me as it was the first time in a long time where I was able to loosen up and have fun without any worry. Plus, he’s always good for nerd talks about MMA, Wrestling, video games, sci-fi and any other dorky thing you can think of. I think most people would find our session exchanges entertaining as I try to describe what I want done on something and he looks at me like I am an idiot for being a musician for so many years without learning any actual lingo or vocabulary. “Make it sound prettier” or “How can we make that part a little more shiny?” are sentences I have said out loud only to be greeted with a patented Dustin Ridder glare.
What’s the greatest obstacle you had to overcome?
NG: The bipolar/anxiety effect was almost detrimental to this album. In October of last year, I had a close friend and former roommate pass away very unexpectedly, and I felt a tremendous amount of guilt and sadness because of that. The last few years I have become somewhat of a recluse due to my afflictions and worries. And I often put off calling friends or following through with plans because I couldn’t bear to socialize on certain days. The last two opportunities I had to see him, I put off due to this. I spent a lot of time wondering, “Why him and not me?” He did so much good for the world and made so many people happy.
I spent October and November in a daze and found that blogging about pro-wrestling with some friends was the only part of the day I felt normal. I had been a writer for wrestling websites on and off over the years. So I reached out to a couple of places and ended up becoming a full-time wrestling writer in the midst of my rut. Staying busy with that has really helped me forge ahead. I owe Dave Reno and David Garlick a great deal of gratitude for helping me get back on track.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
NG: I always think back to my friend Dominic Davi telling me to always listen when people talk and don’t talk over them. Everyone has a story to tell and wants to be heard. And sometimes the best way to make an impression is to just be the person who was willing to listen. Also, if you are seeking answers, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’d be surprised how far those simple little nuggets of truth will take you. I have also always thrived on being humble; something my parents instilled in me. It is okay to be proud of what you have accomplished, but boasting about it never gets you anywhere with people. Especially in a genre layered with so many unnecessary egos. It helps you weed out the weak from the worthwhile.
Tell us something about you that your world doesn’t know.
NG: I don’t tend to listen to popular artists or watch popular shows. I don’t know why. I can name obscure movies and albums all day long, but I can’t tell you one song that Drake sings or what the plot of “Game of Thrones” is. It would surprise people how little I keep up with the world of pop culture and music these days. If I don’t see a news article or feel enthused to dig deeper on a subject, then I just let it be.
I didn’t watch “Breaking Bad” until the series was over. On the last tour, I did. And someone asked me if I liked “Twenty One Pilots” and I thought it was in reference to a drink at the bar. I slowly learn new things about pop culture at shows and on tour. Mostly from shocked people who act like I have been living in a cave because I can’t name all the Kardashians. Kim is the one with the booty, right? Hahahaha. Whatever, we’ve all seen her tape.
Years from now, when people mention your name—what will they say?
NG: I hope they have positive memories of me. Whether its music, writing or just life in general, and I hope people are able to see that I have always put my entire heart into the things I do. I am extremely human and far from perfect. But at this point in my life, I feel that just being honest about who you are and what you are going through is the biggest and toughest step to take.
So many people choose to kick their flaws under the rug, and instead point out the flaws of others in an effort to take the focus off themselves. I just never want to be that way again because I have done that in the past and it’s such a hollow existence. I hope people say I never kicked them while they were down and that I instead held a hand out in an effort to pick them up. Truthfully, if my niece thinks I am cool, then I feel pretty complete.
Any last words?
NG: I just want to thank everyone for all the love and support. I also want to thank blogs like this one for being so willing to promote independent music. You can check out my music just about anywhere just search Nicholas Grooms or follow me on Twitter @NicholasGrooms.
Listen to Nicholas Grooms – “Thirty-One” album via Spotify.