INTERVIEW: Heartless The Monster talks influences, collabs, and his new single 'Say What You Wanna'
Following on from the release of his heavily-praised single ‘Guava’, which recently broke through the 100k barrier on Spotify as well as receiving airplay on numerous US radio stations, San Antonio-based singer, rapper and songwriter Heartless The Monster is now looking to continue that impressive momentum with the release of his latest jam ‘Say What You Wanna’.
Blending RnB tones and his own distinct hip-hop flow, his latest offering is a bold and fiery genre-bending delight that has got us all talking. So we decided to sit him down to find out more about his background, influences, and the process behind his latest single.
Hi Nigel, how are you today?
I’m good! I’m always busy and tired nowadays but I think that’s just the new norm for me at this point!
For those that haven’t heard of you yet, how would you best describe your sound and who have been your biggest influences so far?
My current music is a pretty even mix of pop, R&B, and rap. In the past, I’ve ventured into some fringe sub-genres but my current sound, I think, sits squarely with in those three genres. As far as influences go Childish Gambino is definitely the biggest. He’s the reason I thought I could even make a career out of this and probably this biggest reason that I can’t drop a project without trying to turn it into some massive concept album.
You have just released your new single ‘Say What You Wanna’ Can you tell us how that track came about?
Lyrically, that song definitely stems from my disdain for cheap romantic relationships. The kind that you get into knowing it will fail, or trying to convince yourself you’re in love when the reality is you just don’t wanna be alone. I’m all for hookups and flings but let’s just call it what it is and not pretend that it is or even needs to be something deeper. I’ve been on both sides of that scenario and nobody ever walks away from it feeling okay. I’ve just done that song and dance too many times and I don’t feel like doing it anymore so just say what’s real and let’s deal with that instead getting ourselves wrapped up in a fantasy that leaves us both hurt.
In term of building the actual song, this song was probably one of the easier ones to make on the album. I record at Produce studio in Corpus with Mariano Herrera and El Dusty and those guys make everything I do sound great. I came in the studio with a chorus in my head, and told Mariano i wanted something that slaps. We sat down and got to work, called in El Dusty to do the drums and construct the sample. Built the beat that day, went to my hotel wrote the whole song that night and came back and recorded it the next day.
There are also a lot of different styles going on in there. Was there a particular tone you were looking for when you wrote it?
Not at all. I don’t think incorporating the varying tones or styles on here was done deliberately but I know that trying to master all of those styles overall definitely is a goal of mine. I listen to a bunch of genres but I started off making music that sounded like 90’s era boom bap/backpack/ lyrical miracle type stuff with some minor influences from 00-10’s horror core (early Odd Future,Eminem, etc). Then, I moved on to more emotional/indie rap and after that I started toying with singing and doing R&B and pop songs. Now whenever I’m writing a song, it’s like each of those skill sets or different iterations of myself all kind of intermingle and that’s why my songs sound the way they do. I mean the chorus is definitely 2000’s era R&B influenced as well as the first verse, the 2nd is straightforward and explicit rap and the bridge and the harmonies on it sound like they could be on the b-side of an NSYNC album. On the surface that sounds like a bad idea but in practice…it still might be a bad idea but I’m going with it anyways.
You are also planning a collaborative album with Shilxh called ‘Confetty’ next year. How did that project come about?
I had just finished doing this goofy Christmas EP with another San Antonio singer/rapper Yvng Hanshi and I was looking to do another one before I got back to working on my third solo album. I hit up Shilxh, since we’d worked together on songs before, and I asked if she’d be down to hang out in an AirBnb for a few days to write a couple songs and release another little mini EP with me and she was completely on board. A few weeks later, we’re at the AirBnb and we have this tentative tracklist and I just keep envisioning this whole story I want to tell and the track list keeps growing and growing until we’re finally looking at a 17-track concept album about a girl who falls into codependent relationship with an alcoholic. I don’t know why I can’t just let things be simple and release a couple of fun pop songs on a short EP but my brain takes an idea and just runs with it so that’s where we’re at now!
And what was the vision you had for the collaborations?
Initially, we were just going to keep it simple, make a few songs and then get back to our respective solo projects but I think once we heard the music we were making together and how good it was we mutually decided we couldn’t do and say everything we wanted without making a full-length album. Recently, we were at Produce talking about how well our previous single “Guava” was doing and hearing how good all the rest of our unreleased material is and both just decided this project was probably going to serve as the start of both of our individual professional careers as legitimate artists.
The coronavirus outbreak has obviously affected everyone’s plans, but are you still going to try and do some live performances soon? Online perhaps?
I’m excited to try and get enough hype going to for the album that we could eventually tour it once more venues start to open up. As for as shows in the immediate future or online shows in general, neither one is really on my radar at the moment. I’ve been using my time in quarantine to write, record, and plan all the things that I want and need to do so that when the album releases we’ve built up enough of a following that we can kind of do whatever we want.
And finally, what has been the most unusual thing to happen to you since you began in the music industry?
Music actually saving my life was definitely a surprise to me to say the least. I started off making music to try and avoid doing any real work, make gross amounts of money with relative ease and to sleep with tons of women because I was 18 and an idiot. Drugs had played a huge part in my life from the time that I was 14 and by the time I was 20 I was in my 6th treatment center (my 4th since leaving high school), I had become a felon, ruined all of my relationships, and I had nothing. I had to get sober and turn my life completely around and the only thing that kept me going when all else had failed me was the music. It wasn’t about women or money or any of the other stuff, music was the only thing that made we want to stay alive when everything else made me feel like dying. Today, I’m almost 6 years sober and when I’m not making music I work as a recovery coach for kids who are just like me but none of it would’ve been possible if I didn’t have the desire to create pushing me when I was at my lowest.
Heartless The Monster's new single 'Say What You Wanna' is out now. Listen to it below.