Chaz Cardigan is adjusting to this coronavirus-riddled world. Just when he starts getting the hang of it, sadness sets in again.
“This is still weird,” Cardigan says. “I miss people. I’m tired of seeing my bedroom. There are so many people who have had much worse circumstances. But I’m bored of doing the same thing.”
That same bedroom was a source of inspiration. He locked himself in it to record his latest EP, “Vulnerabilia,” for Capitol Records and Loud Robot, the new label from J.J. Abrams’ production company Bad Robot. The first single was the Beck-ish “Not OK!”
“I made most of it in my bedroom,” he says. “I didn’t leave my room for about two weeks. We finished it at a friend’s studio. It was a relatively easy project. I remember this quote: ‘Great art is never finished. It’s just abandoned.’ I would have done loads more to it. I’m really, really proud of it.”
Cardigan describes his songwriting as a means of “cracking codes to emotion,” an ongoing attempt at untangling life’s most complex feelings. In that process, he draws from a boundless musical palette that includes everything from gigging in punk bands at the age of 11 to joining a hip-hop collective in his adopted hometown of Nashville.
In March, Cardigan released the single “As I’ll Ever Be,” which landed on the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You” soundtrack.
“I had written the song about a year before,” he says. “It didn’t fit (on the EP). It didn’t feel like it was working. When the soundtrack curator was putting together the soundtrack, he happened to hear my A&R listening and he asked her for the demo.
“Originally, the part at the end was instrumental. They asked if I could go back and write some bits for the movie. It came so easily. My co-writer and I wrote it in about 10 minutes.”
Cardigan’s love for music began as a child in rural Kentucky. His mother was big into Christian rock and took a young Cardigan to see Third Day and the David Crowder Band for his first concert. However, the musician counts Lady Gaga’s “The Monster Ball” show as his real first gig.
“I just liked to make things,” he says. “I was very disenfranchised. I lived pretty far out in the country. I didn’t have friends over a lot. I would make things—little inventions with duct tape and shoestrings.
“My earliest memories were I wanted to be a performer. I was just looking for an excuse to create things—and make enough to pay the bills.”
His instrumentation began with piano, following in the footsteps of his boy band-loving sister.
“My mom made her play piano,” he says. “I loved the sound of it. I learned anything musical I could. I took piano lessons and guitar lessons. As I got into rock music and rap, I started reading these books on rock history and classic records.”
He picked up bass “accidentally” and learned to play steel drum, mandolin and banjo.
At 17, Cardigan, now in his mid-20s, moved to Nashville, where he would commute to for songwriting sessions.
“I’d love to move to LA,” he says. “I’ve lived here for seven years, and it’s changed super drastically. It went from this little big city to being a city city. Being stuck inside has made me appreciate this city and my friends. I’m making so many more phone calls and catching up.”
Chaz Cardigan, chazcardigan.com.