Despite still being at school and having only started making music in his remote Hendersonville, North Carolina bedroom in early 2020, glaive has become a sensation overnight. Soon after uploading his angst-charged glitchy guitar tracks to SoundCloud, the songwriter, producer and singer landed a deal with Interscope Records (Billie Eilish, DaBaby), aged just 15. A year later – and with an endless supply of catchy hooks in his arsenal – glaive has racked up tens of millions of streams and found himself hailed as the future of hyperpop.
While retaining his throne atop that post-100 gecs scene, he’s also infiltrating the mainstream, having been in the studio with blink 182‘s Travis Barker and Internet Money Records’ Nick Mira. Oh, and Lana Del Rey is a fan, too (she shared the music video for glaive’s single ‘astrid’ on her Instagram).
NME spoke with glaive about why the hyperpop scene is “impossible to ignore”, what it was like to collaborate with his dream artists and how his second EP will “blow my first one out of the water”.
It feels like you’re one of the first artists to have decided to make music during the pandemic – what led you to that?
“I was always into SoundCloud and DIY stuff, where people would write, record and do a lot of the production themselves. At the time I thought that was the craziest thing in the world. When quarantine happened I wasn’t really doing anything because school was just for four hours, so it left me the rest of the day to do whatever I wanted. I thought I might as well, because nothing was holding me back. I wasn’t into sports or anything so it was a natural progression.”
Why did you decide music was for you?
“There’s literally nothing in the world I enjoy more than listening to music and making it is even better. When I’m not making it, I’m blasting music. I have two huge speakers in my bedroom and my parents are like ‘bro, you need to chill!’. It has so much bass it shakes the walls sometimes. I feel bad for them, but they’re so good about it.”
Which artists were you a fan of growing up?
“At first I was listening to anything on the radio, because that’s what my parents listened to. Then my dad introduced me to rock music and as I got on the internet a little more, I started finding out about EDM. Being a teenage boy in America, I was also listening to lots of rap music. I’m not a rapper but I definitely draw inspiration from their production and the cadences are interesting to me.
“I was the hugest Skrillex fan for a long time; just the way he was doing it. I loved Lil Wayne so much, which doesn’t come through in my music at all, and then mainstream pop music that would be on the radio. I would know all the hooks.”
Living in a remote town, how important has the internet been in helping you discover different music scenes and grow your own fanbase?
“It all started on SoundCloud – that’s probably the best music platform if you want to find really interesting new stuff because anybody can upload to it. I’d listen to one song and then look at the related tracks, then I’d get down to people with 20 followers who were making really obscure ambient music but screaming over it.
“With my music, being on the internet has allowed me to talk to people, make friends and do what you need to do to be a successful musician. I’ll forever be very grateful for quarantine, in that sense. Scholarly, I haven’t learned anything in the last year, but music-wise, it’s been the best thing ever.”
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Did signing to Interscope Records change the way you look at and make music?
“Not at all! It’s still all in my bedroom. It did allow me to buy a nicer microphone, though. That was my first ever purchase with my own money! It’s just like, ‘oh, now there’s more people that care about it’. But I still only make music because I enjoy it. Putting out my first EP, ‘cypress grove’, was so fun like getting the cover art, figuring out how I was going to dress, and filming the music videos.”
How does it feel to be labelmates with fellow Gen Z artists Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo?
“It’s crazy! Billie was my age and she became the biggest artist in the world. Olivia is a year or two older than me and she is the biggest now. I don’t want to be a pop pop musician like they are, but it’s super inspiring. I would love to make the charts, though; that’s a huge aspiration for me.”
The last year has been pretty crazy for you. Tell us about your recent trip to Los Angeles?
“It was the best experience of my life. I’m from a small town that isn’t the craziest place and there’s not much that really happens. LA was the complete opposite, and I got to meet a lot of friends [from the hyperpop scene] that I talk to everyday online but had never met in person before.”
And you got in the studio with Travis Barker and Nick Mira while you were there, right?
“With Travis, obviously that was pretty mind-blowing. And then, with Nick, I’ve watched his YouTube videos since I was 12. He’s been GOAT-ed in my eyes for so long, and I got to meet him. He DM’d me on Insta and now I’ve made my favourite song I’ve ever made with Nick Mira, – that’s crazy. I’d get home to the AirBnB and be like ‘what just happened?!’ That’s how I felt for a lot of the LA trip.”
How do you feel about being at the forefront of the fast-rising hyperpop scene?
“It’s super sick. Everyone involved is great. There are so many kids my age, a little bit older or younger, that are so good at music. It’s a case of a lot of talented people coming together and, when that happens, someone has to pay attention because it’s impossible to ignore.”
“I haven’t learned anything for school over the last year, but for my music quarantine has been the best thing ever”
Do you think people sometimes lazily label artists making left-of-centre music with the hyperpop tag?
“Definitely. You could be rapping, singing on acoustic guitar, screaming over heavy metal drums… it doesn’t matter. If you’re hyperpop-associated, it’s a hyperpop song. Every day, more people are realising it’s just a little bit left of centre music. Everyone is different and has their own take on it; that’s why there’s so many cool, individual people. It encompasses too much music for it to be one definitive sound.”
Why do you think your music is resonating with people?
“I have no idea! I wish somebody would tell me. I just talk about how I feel all the time and it seems like a lot of people agree. A lot of my songs are… not super happy. If I ever go live on Instagram and it’s more personality me, people realise ‘oh, this guy’s not just a depressed 16-year-old boy in the middle of nowhere’. I’m a pretty energetic, happy person and the music is where all my negative emotions go.”
How do you juggle your music with being a normal teenager who still goes to school?
“For a while, I didn’t juggle it very well. It was like ‘yeah, I do school on the side but music’s my thing’. And then, more recently, I’ve realised I need to knuckle down. I already worked my ass off in LA, so I could come home and do school, and be an actual human being as opposed to being in the studio every day. That’s what I live for, but it’s also nice to take a step back and chill.”
You’ve said on Twitter that your second EP will “blow my first one out of the water…
“I feel like I’ve levelled up. The music is just crazy. The hooks are the best I’ve ever written; it’s so catchy and very emotional but palatable at the same time. ‘cypress grove’ was good but, listening back to it now, there are some things I could have changed or done better. This project has the best music I’ve ever made.”
Did you ever imagine this level of success when you started out?
“Only recently have I been like ‘this is what I really want to do’. At the start of 2021, I wrote down a list of goals. I’m just super ambitious. I don’t want to stop at a certain level and I want to go as far as it will take me. But I just have a blast doing it and that’s all that really matters.”
glaive’s next single is out soon
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