Building a Career Worth Mentioning: An Interview with Hip Hop Artist NANCE

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted regularly on the blog, but all of that is about to change. Today marks the start of a new interview series where we profile artists, managers and other industry professionals; to give you an insider’s perspective on what it takes to build a successful career in music. First up is Hip-Hop artist NANCE from Raleigh, NC. Nance has been making waves since the release of his debut EP, Thanks For Having Me, in 2014. Most recently, he performed at the Art of Cool Festival in Durham, NC; and debuted a blazing new single “Mentions”, which has racked up over 6,000 plays on Soundcloud in just two weeks. We spoke to Nance about getting started in the music business, networking, and the importance of a strong brand. Check out our interview with him below!
The purpose of this interview is to look behind-the-scenes inside the careers of indie artists, and show newcomers just how much work it takes to be successful. Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get your start?
As far as getting my start, I could take things all the way back to when I started really getting into rap. Which was in middle school. I started studying the art form and writing my own raps. In high school, I started recording my own stuff and spreading it around school. Then in college, I started to take my music seriously and beginning to lay down the ground work for a potential career in music. Every little step counts. It’s crazy to think that just by me writing raps in middle school that it would lead to me actually touching stages, recording and releasing songs, and selling merch. It started out with me just having fun, I still have fun but when I first started writing I had no clue that I would fall in love with creating music and pursing a career in it.
 
At the point when you decided to go all in and make this a true business venture, what steps did you take to set yourself apart from others?
This might sound cliche but, but I decided to just embrace who I am. From the type of music I like to create, from the things that I’m interested in, to the clothes that I wear. I apply all of that into everything that embodies my career. I’m also still learning to apply more of me into my music, brand, career, etc. It takes time but these little things really do set anyone apart. I use to feel super uncomfortable being the clean cut looking white dude telling people that I rap when they asked me “so what do you do?”  Because in the back of my mind I would assume that they were thinking that I didn’t have a chance, or I didn’t fit the image of a rapper. But, I started embracing those things knowing that they set me apart. It’s pretty dope.
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You’ve made quite the name for yourself through live shows, most recently performing at the Art of Cool Festival. What has been the key to your live success?
The main thing is just putting on a dope show. That’s always important. Me and my homie POSADA (he DJ’s for me) always rehearse our shows a lot and find ways to make them fun and engaging. I just try not to stress it, relax, and have a good time. That’s why people go out to shows anyway. They just want to vibe out and have a good time. Plus, you never know who will be in the crowd. Somebody with some connections could be there, so just by putting on a good show I could potentially get booked for more shows or whatever. Also, my team always tries to find unique ways to promote shows. We usually make funny videos to spread the about my upcoming shows.
 
How has networking played a role in your career?
Networking is almost everything. I feel like a career in music is 20% creating music and content and the rest is spreading the word about it. As far as networking goes, I try to reply to everyone and treat everyone that supports me like family. It’s all about creating relationships. Honestly I think that’s been one of the key things to my local success when it comes to live shows. When people reach out, show interest in me, or my music, then I try to get to know them on a personal level. Sometimes its hard to remember everyone I come across or meet at a show but I try my best. Treat everyone good, from the owner of the venue to the person who said they were coming out to the show but ended up not showing up. You never know who somebody is or who they will become. The key to networking for me is just being a good person. Just by doing that, I’ve been able to network, and meet a bunch of cool people that are down to listen and spread the word about my music.
 
Your visual brand is very appealing — from your social media imagery to your merch — a far cry from what we’re accustomed to seeing from indie rappers. Was that your idea? How important has maintaining that aesthetic been to your overall business goals?
I appreciate that! Yeah it was my idea, but really it just came natural. Growing up everything I got into from Anime, fashion, skateboarding, music, etc. has played a role in how I’ve branded myself. I’ve been doing this stuff since the MySpace days. Back when I had a MySpace me and my homies would go out and take pictures just to update our profile pictures haha. It seemed pretty lame at the time but that ended up playing a huge role in how I take pictures for social media today. Also, when it comes down to my merch. I always wanted my stuff to come off more than just a black t-shirt with a rappers name on it. I wanted the logo’s to be cool. Cool enough to actually wear out and about. I also wanted the color ways to be appealing and release them in limited quantities. People like wearing limited edition stuff and the fact that my team only releases merch in limited quantities, it makes people want to purchase merch as quick as possible. I want my merch to end up being more like like a lifestyle brand. That’s the goal.
We stress on the site that it is important to have a great team around you if you want to set yourself up for success. Who are the unsung heroes on your team, and how do they contribute to your success?
I have a really small team and everyone in it is an unsung hero! We are all pretty much co-managing the moves I make. Which is really cool. I’m looking to expand my team as things grow though and I’m excited about that. I would be nowhere without POSADA, he helps my live shows come to life and takes the time to rehearse with me. I also run all of my new songs by him and he reviews them to let me know what I should change or work on. Which is really helpful. Shout outs to POSADA! Also, my girlfriend Gaby is an unsung hero. She helps me manage everything, listens to all of my crazy ideas when it comes to music and my career. Plus, she always sells merch at my shows and she looks good doing it haha.
 
What’s next for Nance & Co? Any projects we can look forward to?
I plan on dropping a good amount of music this year, from singles to an album. I have a bunch of music in the vault and honestly I’ve never been more excited about it. This is the first time I’ve made a bunch of music that I’ve this happy with. As an artist, I can be my toughest critic so it feels good to enjoy my new unreleased music. I’m also working on getting something together that will get all of my supporters really involved with me career. I have to keep that a secret for now but you guys will see it unfold. It’s going to be exciting! Bigger and better shows are in the works. Music videos are going to be in the works. Everything is on the up and up!
For more from NANCE, check out his official website at http://iamnance.com . You can also follow him on all social media at @CNancer.
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