Conversation: Can Musicians Make it Big Without Leaving Milwaukee?

A conversation on music between Kiran Vee and Grace Weber

Producer and musician Kiran Vee (a.k.a. Q The Sun) and singer-songwriter Grace Weber are two of the brightest stars in Milwaukee’s pop music constellation. Vee has been a staple of the local scene for the past decade, first with the now-defunct hip-hop group Fresh Cut Collective and more recently with the much-buzzed-about New Age Narcissism. Weber studied music in New York City – collaborating with the likes of Chance the Rapper – but returned to Milwaukee to found a youth non-profit called the Music Lab and work on her latest album.

GW: When I was in high school, there was this notion that you have to get out of Milwaukee to be successful. So, I went to New York. It thickened up my skin. If the bar was set at a certain place in Milwaukee, in New York everyone was on their game and it forced you to get up to its level. But the downside is that it’s actually hard to create a community. Did you ever have a desire of going to New York?

KV: I want my work to take me there. I want my production to contend with Pharrell and Timbaland and Kanye West. I know it’s not there but I’m working towards that and getting better.

GW: The one thing that is a benefit about cities like L.A., New York and Chicago is that you can be in the studio just chilling and Chance [The Rapper] will walk in. You get exposure to that level of artist that you want to be collaborating with.

KV: Have you met Jay Anderson? He’s a saxophonist. In his house, he set up a rehearsal space and he cooks. That family is something I couldn’t see being without. All the other stuff comes out of that. Opportunities I never thought would come. The relationships are everywhere.

GW: Yeah, you grow as an artist because you feel like you have a family that supports you so you can be yourself. You can mess up and you don’t feel the pressure that it’s the end. Not every single moment is make or break. If you mess up in New York, people throw you a lot of shade. That doesn’t help in the growth of an artist.

KV: Right. You have to be able to make mistakes.

GW: If you can be hanging in an apartment and people are cooking, relaxed and happy, you’re probably going to make doper music.

KV: I’m a slow-build person always. My parents read me “The Tortoise and the Hare” every day. That’s Milwaukee.

GW: Milwaukee has this cool opportunity because it’s growing. It doesn’t matter what this concept of success is; the only thing that matters is that we are creating community and music. Let’s keep those values instilled here. Like we don’t need your validation to be good; we just are.

Your 2017 Milwaukee Fall Arts Guide

This story is part of the 2017 Fall Arts Guide feature in our September issue. Click to read the rest of the guide.

‘Fall Arts Guide’ appears in the September 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Kevin is a freelance writer residing in Milwaukee. He’s contributed to The Shepherd Express, Third Coast Daily, Pop Matters and the sadly now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. He looks forward to forging a deeper connection with the city’s impressive music scene during his gig as a Music Notes blogger. His talents include music criticism, riding a bicycle, drinking tasty beers and a crafty croquet swing. His weaknesses comprise Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, professional wrestling and his ever-growing record collection. He’s in desperate need to find more physical (and hard drive) space for the exceptional albums Milwaukee musicians keep churning out.