Marc E. Bassy is an up & coming R&B singer from San Francisco, CA. He recently released Only The Poets, Vol. 1, his new solo debut mixtape-EP which features his Bay Area peers IAMSU and Kehlani. Bassy is known for his soulful yet futuristic voice that has captured the ears of the music industry and new fans this past year. His lyrics and song-writing aesthetic have made their way onto the tracks of Chris Brown, Sean Kingston, and more. However, the most important thing we appreciate about Bassy is the natural tone in his voice and the raspy yet smooth vibes that resonate from his music. Bassy resides in Los Angeles now as he continues to strengthen his solo career. Read our exclusive interview with the San Francisco native below.
Photographs + Interview by Leah Takele
Leah: Let’s take it back to the start. How did you begin your career as a songwriter?
Marc: I worked with this kid Nic-Nac. (Nic-Nac beats) Nic’s like my partner with a lot of stuff when I moved back to LA about a year ago. This is all really new to me – this is actually my first interview. I’ve done everything with my old band but this is my first Marc E Bassy interview. I met up with Nic a year and a half ago. The first song I did, he was like you should just come write and the first song we did was Beat It with Sean Kingston and that was funny. I don’t know if I can ever hear that song again. That was last summer, that was the jam. I really love working with Nic-Nac – He’s one of the most talented musicians in the world.
Nic’s manager is a friend of mine, Neima, and he asked could I make his artist Pia Mia a song. So she came through and she sung hella good. We did two or three songs. We’ve actually spent the last year and a half really working on Pia’s music and it’s crazy to see her go through and overcome a lot of the obstacles I went through. Being signed at a young age is tough and I got signed at 20.
Leah: How did you transition from being a songwriter to an artist?
Marc: I was writing with Pia Mia and then I was going to other sessions with other artists. Then I continued sending people songs like my publisher. A lot of people responded and said “you should do it yourself”. I have a pretty distinct style and tone. Plus I grew up listening to rap music like Tupac and Bay Area rap music. But I would write pop music so it’s always been my own thing. So I was like we should just put a song out and then we put the Kehlani song out and it got 400,000 plays.
Leah: Are you independent right now? Is it something that you prefer?
Marc: I’m independent. There’s no blanket or right way to do it anymore. You have to trust the people you’re working with and still navigate for yourself. If I have a good opportunity with a label and they seem like they can get it creatively, then we’ll push it. But the trap is signing with a major label just because you have one radio song. And that’s what you want to avoid because then you spend the rest of your career trying to find yourself.
Leah: What’s the most challenging aspect of the music business in your opinion?
Marc: The most challenging thing is that if you really study and educate yourself about music, you’ll create a set of standards in your mind for what equals greatness. What people buy and what people take to commercially is just so far away from that standard. So it’s walking that line between trying to make something that you know is genuine & authentic like a good product, something nutritious; but then also trying to make it commercial. Trying to be commercial is really hard. It’s weird. For me, it’s easier to just be good and I know how to write a song.
I’ve put in 10,000 hours worth of music and I know how it goes. When you’re a songwriter, that’s the hard part everyday, knowing that you’re going to write 100 songs and people are going to only hear one. It’s the same thing trying to break through in the industry. You have to really put in the time and plant a lot of seeds.
Leah: How did your upbringing play a role in your music and taste?
Marc: I grew up with a family that was filled with music lovers and people who cared really deeply about music. I was raised around classic soul music. My dad’s family is from the south and they’re really into classic R&B and soul. Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway, the greatest of the greatest – so I was really lucky to get that. My mom was also playing Jackson Brown, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and singer/songwriter acoustic music. I’m actually starting to do that in a way with my new project. I was just always around people who loved music and made me respect music. As I grew up I started doing poetry slams, which lead to me being in a band that was along the lines of Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was called The Transfer.
Leah: When did you realize that your need to make music and sing was larger than any other passion you had?
Marc: Music has always been my favorite. I didn’t know that it was what I wanted to do until I was 17 but it was always my passion and something that I followed. The greatest thing people can do together is make music.
It turned out I was singing all the time. I played basketball with Josh my entire life. The other day he saw one of our friends that we grew up playing with and he said “Marc used to always sing, that shit was annoying”. Ha, I’d be out there on the court singing something while I was playing. I guess I really didn’t notice you know.
I see things in terms of lyrics and melody. People say that shit a lot and it sounds corny – but if I see two people in a fight in the street and then they make-up or something random, that might be in my next song. I probably have over a 1,000 voice memos on my phone. That’s where it’s at and that’s where it came from.
Leah: Do you have any other projects you’re working on?
Marc: Nic-Nac and I are working on something major in the future – a platform. I can’t really say what it is but I think me and the words that I came here with need a space. People are starting to see real success and things are really happening for me and some of my Bay Area friends. There’s a small circle of us who are out here in LA and we want to preserve our sound. We just want to keep it really tight and figure out how we can help each other out. We’re changing the Bay Area sound. Kehlani is too.
Leah: How do you maintain yourself on social media? I get this vibe that you’re not too into it.
Marc: I don’t know. Before I wasn’t into it but now I think that social media can be a cool platform. I just think that it can be very one-dimensional and surface-level. So you might miss out on a lot. I think now there are two different music industries. Construction and making songs – and then there’s the social media music world – those who are famous on vine and might not know how to write songs. I like to interact with that wave but I’m not apart of that wave. I still grew up playing music in the garage.
Leah: Overall, how would you describe your music style from the outside looking in?
Marc: My style in music really is future R&B music. I guess that’s what they’re calling it on the internet. It comes from R&B music and hip-hop music but it pushes the boundary. Also it’s really important to me to make conscious music. To not make conscious music is ridiculous. I want people to know when they get my music that thoughts were going through my head when I was making it.
STREAM ONLY THE POETS VOL. I