Marc E. Bassy can get a little reckless. He attests as much with his groove-heavy new track, “Trouble,” co-written with Pete Jonas during an excursion to Palm Springs. Flickering with a vibe not unlike “Teardrops” by NEIL FRANCES, a direct influence here, the slow-rolling stunner highlights “the part of my personality that’s sort of like a cliche─the rock ‘n’ roll side,” he says. “When I’m home working, it’s something different; I’m more of an entrepreneur and an ‘adult’. It’s basically me talking about my dating life.
“When you date in Los Angeles, and you’re in this industry over time, you get a little bit jaded. Especially the older you get. As a man growing up here, I don’t know, you just kind of lose faith in the prospect of falling in love and having a happy ending,” Bassy tells American Songwriter over a recent phone call. “A lot of the time in relationships, people don’t even read the signs, you know? People will tell you who they are, but it’s up to you to listen.”
With the accompanying visual, directed by Bobby Hanaford (Vic Mensa, Greyson Chance, Baby Jake), Bassy levels up with an extravagant setting to contrast the emotional heft. “We just rented this beautiful mansion outside of LA that’s over a hundred years old. It was almost spooky,” he says. “There’s one really cool shot where the girl is floating next to me while I’m playing the piano. Being a musician has to be one of the best jobs available to a human being, and living in LA, sometimes you forget how blessed you are to do it.”
“Trouble” comes on the heels of a double-sided single release, “Atmosphere” / “Zone,” and in all, the new music embodies a personal transformation. “There’s been several turning points that were sort of born out of necessity where I realized that I had to take the reins when it came to my business and my sound. I think it’s easy to get caught up in chasing success when you live in LA,” he reflects. “You live kind of in the machine and you see the machine work, and it works certain ways for certain people. And sometimes you can kind of see that and think to yourself, ‘Oh, I could do that. I could make that and come up with that sound. I could write like that’─until you start chasing things that already exist and it never really works.”
Previously signed to a major label, he “had a couple wake-up calls. I had success, but it was a struggle for me, creatively,” he says. 18 months ago, he forged his own record label, New Gold Medal, and released his 2019 studio record, PMD, a flag-planting project that found him rediscovering his true sound “for the first time in a long time.”
With his latest singles, Bassy commits himself further to blending synthetic and real instruments, a way to bring the electricity of live performance right into the eardrums. “I love the energy you get from a live performance, and there is no substitute for that. A lot of pop artists have live instruments and incredible studio musicians on their records, so it’s not that much different. But I’ve taken it a step farther. I don’t try to make it perfect. I leave the human error a little bit in my records. It gives it a feel and personality that is identifiable.
“I have a hard time considering myself an artist, and I have a hard time putting value on what it means to be an artist. I wasn’t raised around artists,” he recalls. His mother was a businesswoman, while his father was a lawyer—so art and music were not focal points in his younger days. “I didn’t grow up thinking that being an artist was important, necessarily. I was a basketball player, a normal high school jock going to house parties and smoking weed and just doing normal high school shit.
“But any time I had something traumatic happen, I would really fall back on music. I just would do it without knowing it. I had a pretty serious brain injury when I was in high school, and that was right on the tail end of my father passing away. Music was what got me out of it every time,” he continues. “I would go sit in my room and just listen for hours, and that’s what always made me feel better. So, once I started making music, it’s really been the same thing. Music really is my therapy. I can feel really bad about something, and I go listen to an honest piece of music I wrote and I genuinely feel better.”
In addition to his solo work, Bassy (formerly a band member of 2AM) boasts quite a prolific songwriting resume. He’s written for Cee Lo Green, Ty Dolla Sign, and Wiz Khalifa, among many others, and worked alongside artists like G-Eazy, Lost Kings, and Quinn XCII in feature capacities. With such an extensive catalog, there naturally has come plenty of growth, and he’s found his approach actually flourishing most with the technical aspects of the craft. “I’ve learned about what notes work within each chord I’m hitting,” he says, remarking how piano and guitar, as well as studying music theory, has opened up his artistic world.
“I put a language to how I was actually writing. I started off with raw emotion, and I refined my skills by actually learning the technical side of music. When I listen back to my old songs, like the melody will be really cool, but one of the notes will rub against the chord the wrong way. Or one of the harmonies will not be in the right key or something.”