“It originally started with completely different lyrics,” says Bazzi about his new song. “I Like That” radiates a classic R&B warmth, but the way the singer-songwriter rides the smoldering groove yanks it into the modern era. He’d had the song initially done for two or three months when he decided to give it a fresh spin. “I liked the groove and the energy, but I didn’t think lyrically if it was the feeling that I wanted,” he recalls.
Through a new perspective, Bazzi wanted to bring a sense of his “new chapter” in life and the energy from “hanging out with new people and meeting new friends” into the lyrical rings. So, on a trip to Malibu, he tinkered around with the lyrics and soon arrived at what the listener now experiences, a totally arresting, full-bodied, low-key bop about living in the moment.
He wouldn’t call himself a perfectionist with his lyrics, however, playing it song-by-song with whatever feels right at the moment. “I usually just rock with whatever I do first,” Bazzi tells American Songwriter over a recent phone call. But he will “work on something until I love it. I finish it and I don’t really go back to it.”
With the song’s accompanying visual, directed by Christian Breslauer (Lil Nas X, The Weeknd), Bazzi guides the viewer into a color-splashed world brimming with feel-good vibes一just before extending an invitation to hop aboard his psychedelic party bus. “Visually, it shows what I wanted the song to do, sonically, and how it touches people in their everyday life and kind of puts a groove into their day,” he says, adding, “It’s an adventure with some of my closest friends.
“Music is the only thing that can do that. It’s art. It’s music. It’s our movies. And it’s what we create一the only true times that we can get a link between everybody” he continues. “And I think that’s so much of the beauty of music and creating art. We get to create this positive thread where people just enjoy it. And they don’t need a religion or an explanation why. They just see it, and they feel it.”
“I Like That” stages Bazzi’s boldest era to date. After “years of kind of hearing music at a similar tempo and similar sound with 808s and kicks,” he slowly grew tired of the usual, so he flips the script with his forthcoming, yet-untitled, new project. “With the new music, it’s looking in a new direction and bringing in a different groove and rhythm,” he says.
Scrolling through his recent listening, Bazzi takes a second to list off names like The Eagles, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Eurythmics, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Radiohead, and even Queen. The singer-songwriter employs the work of such trendsetting icons as a springboard into his own creative renaissance. “I’m obsessed with the way that that music still absolutely cuts through. These are really timeless records that were made,” he says. “I like that idea一I don’t want anything to ever feel dated, and I want something to be able to exist 50 years down the road and still give people a similar experience.
“I like how the vocals don’t feel perfect, and you can hear inflections. I don’t want to use the word mistakes, but it feels like you’re hearing something live, rather than digitally pieced together,” he continues. “I’m just inspired by that era, in general and how they create some similar feelings we get today but it’s just completely different, sonically. It was just a different time for music. But I don’t think anything’s ever over. I think everything’s meant to be continued, and that’s the responsibility of an artist and a songwriter – to keep these colors and paints in front of people’s eyes and ears.”
“I Like That” hooks you in with its funkadelic flow but don’t get too comfortable. The new project promises to showcase a “really wide variety of sound,” he says. “But I think it’s a really good bridge from the older stuff into the newer stuff. There’s going to be some similar tones and feelings, but the grooves are changing, and I’m really experimenting more.”
On a mission to experiment and play, Bazzi’s songwriting benefits greatly from his own personal sense of gratitude, uncovered, like many of us, through 18 months of a global pandemic. Not only does he have a renewed energy simply in creating the work, but his perspective “on how I see it” has transformed drastically, as well.
“I just want to do things that really align with my spirit. That’s actually challenging sometimes in this job because you find some stuff that maybe you don’t think is authentic to yourself, but you do it for the opportunity,” he reflects. “And I’m kind of grateful for a little bit of the stubbornness I have right now to really see things through and see if these are some of the things that align with my beliefs and who I want to be as an artist.”
While his songwriting style or approach hasn’t shifted all that much, his relationship to the work itself has only strengthened with time. “My healthiest relationship in my life is creating music. It doesn’t really have to do with making it as much as how am I presenting it一what is the experience I’m trying to create around the songs and the vibe I’m trying to give.”
During a recent appearance on the Zach Sang radio show, Bazzi joked about collaborations with country giants Keith Urban and Garth Brooks. But there might be a morsel of truth underneath, at least in terms of infusing a bit of country inflection to his solo work. He explains, “So much of my love for music is the songwriting process and, and I think the home of good songwriting does come from country music. It’s the fullness of melody and how things resolve and how they follow chords, and the musicality of it is something I’m very much into.
“You know, I was joking about it, but some of the new music does have little flares, just the ways I’ve caught myself singing,” he adds. “I wouldn’t call it country but there’s definitely a classic feel to it一almost a smokiness to it that exists in country music.”
Listen to “I Like That” below.