Bryce Vine, a rapper and singer based out of LA, rose to the spotlight with the hit single 'Sour Patch Kids' off of his 2014 EP Lazy Fair. Now 29, Bryce is on the verge of releasing his third project highlighted by hits like 'Bella' and 'Drew Barrymore.' But before he ever stepped into the studio, Bryce grew up watching his mother face the realities of LA acting life.
Growing Up On Set
“It wasn’t like we moved out there and everything was awesome,” says Bryce. “She still drove a shitty car with no insurance.” Bryce Vine was born in New York City. Ten years later, Bryce’s mother, Tracey Ross, moved out to LA to pursue an acting career, taking Bryce with her. She struggled. Auditioning, working multiple jobs, and raising her son, she stuck to the routine when opportunities wore thin. “When I got older, I realized how difficult she had it as a single black woman in LA in the early 90s,” says Bryce.
After months of dead-end auditions and limited parts, Tracey landed a recurring role on the daytime soap opera, Passions. She appeared on the show for 9 years until the final season in 2008. As a kid, Bryce didn’t understand the gravity of her mother’s breakthrough. “I was so young,” he says. “She bought a new car, we moved into Westlake Village...it felt different.”
Hanging around his mom, Bryce absorbed the life of an LA actress. “Growing up on set like that was wild as fuck,” he says. “I learned so much accidentally.” He watched his mother work and witnessed the realities of producing a daily soap-opera. “I saw what it takes to shoot, memorize the lines...every day is a new episode,” he says. “You have to stay a month ahead of the show.” Saving enough to live on her own terms, Bryce’s mother inspired him to embrace the path of an artist. “I saw all sides of the industry...the good parts, the shit parts...the long path moving forward.”
Bryce’s mother encouraged him to watch plays, read classic literature, and develop an eye for quality art. Before the days of Shazaam, he heard a song on the radio that gripped his soul. He spent weeks shuffling through artists trying to identify the soundtrack. After much energy spent, he clicked a match. “It was ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ by Third Eye Blind,” he says. “It felt so happy.” Bryce resonated with the shiny sound on the surface of the track without realizing the lyrical darkness. Stephan Jenkins, the lead singer, voices the depths of crystal meth addiction. “He opened me up to messed up shit,” says Bryce. “He wrote about these topics I had never heard in songs before.” Diving deeper into Third Eye Blind's repertoire, Bryce listened to the song ‘Wounded,’ which challenged his conceptions of the songwriting perspective. “They were making music about what it’s like to be the friend of a woman in an abusive relationship,” he says, “how they could feel the electric shock on her skin.”
Before Bryce ever heard Stephan Jenkins voice, he taught himself how to play the guitar at 13 years old. Setting up in the garage with an 8 track recorder, he began to write. “I wanted to go beyond listening,” he says. “I wanted to make my own music.” In high school, Bryce started the four-piece punk rock band Goodsell and imagined classical stories through his own eyes. He wrote a song inspired by Romeo and Juliet but from the perspective of two teens.
Slowly, Bryce discovered his own style and earned a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. “People were telling me I had to give up music, and then my stepmom told me about this music college,” he says. “I was like no shit! I can go to school for this.” He auditioned for the summer program and was accepted.
Six months into his first year, Bryce called his mother wanting to give up. Everyone else seemed more talented. “What am I doing here?” Bryce remembers thinking. “They made a mistake letting me in.” On the advice of his mother, he stuck it out and formed creative relationships that have lasted to this day.
From the practice space on the second floor, Bryce heard an alluring pop-rap melody echoing from another room. He knocked on the door and met Nick Shanholtz, currently one half of the DJ duo Lost Kings. They soon started writing together and released songs on MySpace. Back in 2009, Bryce and Nick received a message from a DJ and a Bay Area rapper who wanted to remix one of their songs. That DJ was Carnage. The rapper was Gerald Gillum, better known as G-Eazy.
Bryce and Nick eventually linked up with two more students at Berklee, Nolan Lambroza and Dave Sack “Lvcky Dave”, to form the pop-rap collective Crush Club. Lambroza, who now goes by Sir Nolan, still produces with Bryce, and Dave has been DJ’ing for Bryce since his start as a solo artist. “Back then I was into jazz, singing in a gospel ensemble,” says Bryce. “Crush club was the first time I found my voice in a pop way.” Down the line, G-Eazy came out to LA and opened for Crush Club. They would also collaborate on the nostalgic, addiction laden track ‘Luvaholic.’ When Crush Club split after school, Bryce moved to LA and embarked on a solo career. He listens to a wide palette of music outside of rap to spark untapped channels of thought. Gorillaz, Frank Ocean, Josef Salvat, and Cage The Elephant routinely run through his headphones. When he presses pauses on the music, Bryce reads to stay sharp creatively. He grew up with severe ADD and struggled to keep his head in one place. Reading helps him focus and break beyond the boundaries of storytelling. “I create images in my brain and turn the words into something,” he says. “I have no say in the process. I see words and pictures form.”
To maintain creative consistency, Bryce switches up physical and mental stimulations every few months. Too much structure can stifle new concepts, but no structure can lead to even less productivity. He has existed on both ends of the spectrum. “I have phases where I’ll go to the gym, try to write, come up with nothing, repeat,” he says. “Other times I’m too scattered and I don’t know where to go next.”
Last year, Bryce broke through a creative funk. He drank and smoked cigs as a crutch. On top of the vices, he was treading in lyrical quicksand with no proof of progress. “Music used to be fun,” he says. “I tried to write something every day and would walk away with nothing.” Cutting down on his vices, Bryce adopted a more healthy routine, seeing shades of his normal self reappear. “I was trying to find inspiration from going out and meeting new women,” he says, “but my home has always been the studio.” Setting alarms, pushing himself physically, and reading more, Bryce harnessed a more wholesome space to create. He focused on moving forward and stripping away excess. “I started to feel like I was in my garage making music again.”
Not long after adopting his new lifestyle, Bryce served as the designated driver for his two friends. As a nightcap, they drove to a pizza joint. A gorgeous woman approached Bryce at the table. She knew one of his friends. “We walked outside and one thing led to another,” he says. “I woke up at her house the next day and drove straight to the studio.” A wild night explored through a clear-headed lens shifted his view of LA culture. “I was completely sober taking everything in perfectly… just how bizarre it was,” he says. “I needed to get it all out.” Over the next 24 hours, Bryce wrote the lyrics and made the beat for the song ‘Bella.’ He met Emma Zander, who sang and wrote the hook, over Grammy’s weekend after hearing her voice on Instagram.
Even when collaborating with other artists, songwriting doesn’t always flow smoothly. Bryce goes into a session with a story but lyrically unfolding the idea can take longer than expected. “Every song I write it gets harder,” he says. “I wish I wrote more quickly.” When the lyrics do break through, the vibe raises thoughts of hope and happiness. Bryce listens to music to feel better, and he reflects that in his own writing. “If I’m dealing with a breakup, or a friend passes away...songs to me are therapeutic,” he says. “When the person who’s singing them understands me and what it’s like to suffer, I want to be able to do that for someone else.”