Without even knowing it, you’ve probably heard a Curtis Waters song before. After six years of producing, posting versatile original tracks, and branding himself as a confident and sincere artist, Waters overcame his hesitations and posted to Tik Tok. Two weeks in, he woke up to 150,000 views on a dance video over his track “Stunnin’”. Now, four months later, Stunnin’ has amassed over 30,000,000 streams, been used in 411,000 Tik Tok videos, and changed Curtis’ life.
At only 20 years old, the Nepal-born artist is disrupting the music industry as an independent threat. He became the fastest independent artist to make it on Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits” playlist since Arizona Zervas’ “Roxanne” (which has accumulated over 1 billion streams), and has turned down multiple major record deals, giving merit to his new track “System”, where he asserts that he’s going to “f**k the system up”.
However, this bold statement is aimed at more than just the music industry. In an interview with Kathmandu Post, Water’s states “the song [‘System’] has a deeper meaning,” pointing to its relevance on topics like police brutality and societal unrest. Curtis is moving towards a more opinionated presence, which will be highlighted by his near-future album release, “Pity Party”.
We had the chance to speak to Curtis and learn more about his story. Get to know him below:
When’d you move from Nepal to North Carolina?
I actually moved to India, Germany, and Canada, spending most of my teenage years in Calgary, Alberta until I was 17. Then I moved down here to North Carolina.
Do you think that moving around the world had an effect on your music?
I never really felt like a part of any local music scene when growing up. I’ve always just been very on the internet where there are no borders. So I feel like I just took influences from everyone rather than from one community.
Did it have an impact on you as a person?
Yeah, for sure. It’s made me so much more extraverted. I had to learn how to use my humor and eccentricities to make friends. When you know you’re going to be moving it’s important to know how to be brave and be okay with being weird.
What’s your musical backstory?
I was always drawing and writing poetry growing up, but I started doing graphic design when I was 14 in 2014 and I always wanted to express myself more so I got into making beats and stuff that year. In 2017 I started exploring myself more and got into making vocals. I didn’t know anything about music when I started, I really just watched YouTube videos and had to figure it out.
Stunnin’ has gone viral over the last month, but before that there was an odd setback where you had to unrelease it. What’s the story behind that and do you have any advice for aspiring musicians when they encounter challenges like this?
There were a couple issues I can’t really discuss, but yeah the song got taken down right as it was blowing up on Tik Tok so it was super stressful. A lot of people started reaching out and wanted the rights to the song but I just knew I wanted to release it as an independent artist.
In terms of advice, honestly you just have to love doing what you do. Countless times I’ve put out songs with the mindset of “this is going to be the hit,” but it just never is. That’s taught me not to have expectations, but to focus more on the process and always pushing forward. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to set future goals and it’s natural to get excited by a release, but so many times things just don’t work out the way you want them to.
In the case of Stunnin’, the unrelease actually worked out in my favor. Taking the track down allowed me to continue building up the hype so by the time it actually dropped, people were really excited for it.
What was the process behind your marketing campaign?
In the past I’ve always come up with campaign ideas on my own and this time around it just felt like Stunnin’ was the perfect fun song for Tik tok. I was using Tik tok before just to have fun with my friends, but then my mindset really changed. I realized, I make great music and I shouldn’t be self conscious about posting about it so I started making tons of videos of me casually dancing to it over and over and they started attracting people to my page that were never really there before. One morning I woke up and my video had gotten 150,000 views overnight.
You’ve turned down major record deals, but are you still doing this all on your own?
I actually recently signed management with Chris Anokute before the second release of Stunnin’, and he’s been a huge helping hand! I do always make sure to be very present with all the decisions being made though.
In the wake of your surging streams you just released your revolutionary high-energy track, System, what’s the story behind that?
System is the product of all of the feelings I’ve had recently. Both within the music industry as an independent artist, but also as an American resident.
Who or what are your biggest musical influences?
I need to preface this with the fact that my album is coming out later this year where you’ll be able to hear more of what type of person I was. Stunnin’ is great, I love it, but it’s more of just a fun song. I was just messing around. But I have a lot more music that’s more personal to me. The reason I started making music was because of Childish Gambino, Tyler, The Creator, Kanye West, but I’ve also gotten into some more experimental noise-pop like Dylan Brady and Dorian Electra.
How would you describe your sound in a few words?
I try not to box myself into a genre. It’s always hard to label my music when I have to, but when I’m actually making the music I never think about what genre I’m making that music for. People will take my music however they want.
Who would be your dream collaboration?
I would love to collaborate with Tyler, The Creator, Clairo, Dylan Brady, maybe make a beat for Kanye, but I really don’t want to rush it. I still feel like I’m figuring things out. When I’m good enough I’ll do it, but I’m still working at it.
What are some of your major goals in the near future?
Hmmmm, there’s a few. It all depends on how things really play out. One of my biggest goals would be to live in a house with a bunch of creative people and just make music all day, and not have to worry about school or a career.
Also, I just finished my new album “Pity Party,” which will be coming soon;)
What are you listening to now?
I’ve been listening to Clairo all day because I saw a video of her and I have a crush on her. I love Dorian Electra, Sales, and American Football is my favorite midwestern Emo band. You know, I’m still listening to a lot of the stuff I’ve been listening to since I was 14.
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