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Teezo Touchdown: Nailing The Fundamentals

In a breakout year marked by co-signs and collaborations, Teezo Touchdown's debut album, How Do You Sleep at Night?, extends an open invitation into his vibrant world. We caught up with Teezo Touchdown to discover what makes him your favourite artist's favourite artist.

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Every so often, the music landscape welcomes an artist who defies enough conventions that it elicits both fervent admiration and staunch criticism (see: Young Thug, Prince, Sid Vicious). Teezo Touchdown emerges as a more recent instigator, with tracks exploring the peculiarities of a fan circulating air or grappling with the intricacies of social cues. Unsurprisingly, the Texas native quickly found fans amongst his peers and fellow musicians. His endearingly divergent approach to art-making earned him endorsements from chart-topping titans like Madonna, Drake, Tyler The Creator, and Travis Scott—the latter three of whom enlisted Touchdown for contributions on their most recent albums—all of them reaching #1 on the Billboard Charts..

Teezo Touchdown honours a commitment to creativity in every meticulous detail of his output, and exudes a charm reminiscent of rockstars from bygone days. While the usage of the term ‘brand’ to describe an artist’s entire persona has become trite, looking at Teezo’s, it’s hard to deny that his is one of the strongest we’ve seen in recent times. An ever-evolving visual style sets him apart in the crowd, often seen dripped out like a death-metal gridiron player or an extra straight from the set of Mad Max 2, Teezo’s look made him a hot commodity in the fashion world, leading to collaborations with coveted designers like Moncler, Marc Jacobs, and Telfar.

His lengthy journey from the underground was one marked by stylistic shifts, a DIY ethos and an authentic passion for music and entertainment. Throughout, Teezo consistently pushed his own boundaries musically across a slew of free-spirited and quirky underdog anthems. His storytelling finesse shines best on his debut album How Do You Sleep at Night?, an open invitation to Teezo’s world, built with a broad range of influences across hip-hop, R&B, pop, country, trap, and punk, culminating in an album that Drake hailed as “some of the best music ever.”

In our conversation, Teezo’s cool and attentive nature radiates, accompanied by an infectious enthusiasm for both music and life. We connect with him during a call amid the whirlwind of Travis Scott’s colossal Circus Maximus tour across the US. It’s a significant moment for Teezo as it’s his first interview while on the tour bus, a moment he’s excited to document, as are we.

Hey, Teezo, man. How are you?
I’m good. I’m excited. I got to say this is probably my first interview that I’m doing, not just on tour, but on my tour bus, so I’m really excited to document this point in time right now.

You just played Camp Flog Gnaw. How was the festival?
The festival was great. I feel like the energy was indescribable as I go to describe it, but it was great. It was cool because that’s my first time seeing people who know songs from the album and seeing it really translate into the live factor of it. Songs of course like ‘Too Easy’, but even ‘UUHH’ and ‘Sweet’. It’s one of my best shows to date. Absolutely.

I think the first time I came across your music was actually through your work with Tyler, The Creator. What can you tell us about your relationship with him and what it means to have him as someone who’s consistently shown love to you in the early stages of your career?
I’m glad you mentioned that. Even when I went on tour with him last year, I watched every single show because it just really motivated me. It makes you feel like you can really do whatever. And even seeing him at Flog Gnaw, because I haven’t seen him since, I guess the last show from Seattle last year. And I still get that same feeling like, man, I’m sitting here at your festival where you got the Ferrari key on your hip while you’re performing, but not that, but you have a ferris wheel behind you. Not only that, you have the upcoming artists, you also have stars on your lineup, so it means a lot, man. You can see the care and the love of what he does, and it’s all throughout the art and him as a person. So I’m truly grateful and thankful. I told him that, too. I’m just appreciative, so appreciative of it.

That’s cool to hear. You’re also in the midst of the Circus Maximus tour right now. Obviously you’re on the bus right now. It’s a big tour, man. I didn’t even know that tours could have their own Wikipedia page, but this one does. How has it been so far?
Oh yeah. [Laughs] No, yeah. Touring is a life of its own as far as the lpre of it. Like you said, there’s a Wikipedia page. Even today, I watched the Madonna: Truth or Dare documentary, I watched Backstage with Jay-Z. I’m just fascinated with tour, because tour is when you really get to see the music translate and see the actual people. One of my favourite things about going to tours is seeing people come and dress like the artists they’re going to see.

I always say we’re all different people, but if you’re at the show tonight we all have one thing in common and that’s the love for the artist. So to be on Travis’s tour or Tyler’s—I remember the first time I heard their names, to now they’re doing this at such a high level. It’s all so motivating. I love seeing where they started out. Tyler said the first Camp Flog Gnaw was in a parking lot with a hundred people, and just eight years ago Travis Scott is doing 1200 at the House of Blues with Young Thug, you know what I’m saying? So just to see the growth, I think that’s really inspiring. I think that’s one thing that just really inspires not only just the fans, but the people who are doing this, to see the growth and experience the growth in real time.

For sure. What have you learned about yourself or your approach to music by performing in these large stadiums and taking your show to different cities every night?
I think it’s a good practice and a good habit that I’m building. I’m used to performing directly to the closest people because I’m subliminally used to, or I expect just to touch people right here. But when you’re doing these arenas, you not only have to touch the people standing closest to you, but you have to send that energy all the way to the back of the arena. And I kind of get that from being in band growing up. I remember my band director saying, “Yo, you have to exaggerate your dance moves so the people in the back of the stadium can see you.” So I kind of take that and apply it here to make sure that the energy reaches not only the closest person that I can see but also people all the way at the top. I haven’t had a chance to work the second half of the album live yet, so I’m excited to see if those songs translate just as well as the first half.

Your album some great one-liners, but one that I wanted to ask you about is on ‘You Thought’ where you say, “You would’ve thought I was Nicholas Cage, the way that I do not play.Genius said that that lyric was about Nicholas Cage leaving Hollywood, but I thought it was just because he goes so hard in all his roles.
So I always say my pen is all about perspective. People call me and we talk about songs like ‘Neighborhood’, and they’ll give me a new perspective and I’ll tell them like, yo, you aren’t wrong —maybe it’s a great perspective that sometimes I’ll even adopt. But as far as Nicholas Cage, yeah, you on point.. Jeez, that’s a great one. I’m excited to see his movie that’s coming out end of November.

But yeah, I took it as he really loves his art, and I think he’s dead serious about it, and that’s how I meant it. I don’t know why him—well, I do know why him. If you look at his catalogue and his passion, that’s why. He’s really good at those one-on-one roles, just kind of carrying the whole thing.

I wanted to talk to you about sourcing inspiration because I feel like you’re a great case study for how an artist can draw influence from a wide range of sources beyond mainstream trends. I like hearing the subtle nods to Rick James in your vocal delivery or how your track ‘5 O’Clock’ feels like a homage to Gucci Mane and early trap music. Do you ever think about how you’re keeping those cultural moments alive by reinterpreting them for a younger audience?
Absolutely. I think I can even break it down to before you even get to the sonics. I always say, look around your hometown or what’s in your immediate vicinity. Let that influence you because that’s where you’ll get a good foundation that no one will find anywhere else. Even if you are in LA or New York where there’s obviously a massive culture, you should also look in your household and where your family comes from. Then as far as the sonics, yeah, that comes from me just being a student. And if I’m referencing someone, I try to have a nice little history on them. I try to read their books. I try to go down their catalogue.

I’m even hearing stuff now like going back through Funkadelic’s music and I might hear a voice that Prince would do; that’s an obvious influence from the previous generation. So, I always say there’s nothing wrong with influence. If you’re going to be influenced, do the research because it will only help you make it your own. You don’t want to be a cover band or imitate something because I can always go to that person if I want that. So take what you will and add it into what you already have and make something that the next person will study and research.

What can you tell me about growing up in Texas and listening to artists like Lil’ Flip or Big Moe?
It was cool because you knew they were close; that was just my first time being a fan of someone and then knowing that yo, they’re from right down the street. I guess I can relate it to someone who lives in LA; you might see a Tyler, The Creator. If you were in New York, you would see whoever’s taking over New York, you know? 

For sure, those are the things that give you a sense of pride for where you come from.
Absolutely. And those were the first people that— Them having pop-ups in the mall, and you go into the mall. Like I remember, I think Swishashouse had this pop-up or whatever, and they were signing autographs and stuff, and I remember they asked my mom for a pen and stuff like that. I bring that up because this family brought their kid last night and was like, “Yo, can you take a picture with my kid?” I was like, absolutely, because I remember when I took a picture with Lil’ Flip or whoever. I still remember that. So I was like, here’s my opportunity to make sure this kid knows Teezo Touchdown for the rest of his life. [Laughs]

Speaking of drawing inspiration from things outside of music and sonics—using ‘I’m Just a Fan’ as an example, you seem to be able to take small ideas and turn them into fully-fledged concepts. How important is the concept when you’re writing a track or verse?
It’s very important to me. I love a good story. I love to keep my stories cohesive. So now, I’ve been even practicing doing the opposite of that, trying not to be so detailed-based or this topic-based kind of thing, so that I can explore that end of it as well because I’m good at taking something and really sticking to the story like a ‘5 O’Clock’. I think that song is a great reference, not even from just the time references, it leads up to this play on 5 O’Clock traffic jam.‘Daddy Mama Drama’ as well. I just love a good story. I always say I don’t want to have any fillers. I don’t want to have any filler lines at all.

I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how long do you spend getting the nails put into your hair?
[Speaking to his hair stylist Monique Avant off camera] Mo, how many hours a week do you think we spend a week on hair? Probably like six hours if we’re starting from scratch and washing it and braiding it, and then the actual installation would probably be like 30— 45 minutes I’d say. I’m on the road right now, so I’m not really going heavy nails, so it’s not much maintenance unless I’m doing press or a music video or something like that, but it’s always ready to go. We have a nice little system down.

I noticed you’ve got a few different variations of the hairstyle now. How many different versions are there?
There’s definitely more than five. And they just keep coming. It is really cool to see it evolve. That’s one of my favourite compliments about it. When people find out the story… like yes, I want brand association, but also the story of my hometown, the home that I grew up in, and my Father. But it keeps evolving, it came out very abrasive, which I think is the kind of way you want to make a debut and make an impression, but to see it just change forms and styles as I grow and evolve. It’s really cool.

I love to see the different spins on it as well. I saw that when you worked with Telfar, he did the hairstyle also. Did you need to consult on that?
No actually. We obviously knew about the idea, but we came in and they had just a really good wig, and we were even inquiring about it because Monique’s been suggesting that I do a protective style like that, but it was cool to see them execute it off the rail. They nailed it, no pun intended. No— pun intended. [laughs]

You’ve collaborated with Telfar on a few projects. What’s something that you admire about their approach to their craft?
The hospitality, their care, and they just have a blast. There’s nothing like being on a Telfar shoot. It makes me want to just be a part of it. It makes me want to be close to them. It’s why I’m wearing a Telfar durag on stage or wearing Telfar for the second tour. It just feels like my family, and there’s nothing like it. I think they were a great introduction into the fashion world. They really set the tone for me of how to do this and have this grace and care for what we do.

It also doesn’t hurt that their logo is a T.
Yeah. [laughs] I mean, I love a good pun.

I was just hearing about how you can play as 21 Savage in the Call of Duty game. What would a Teezo Touchdown video game be like?
Free-roam. I love a free-roam game. I think that’s a game changer if you’re going to have a game. And a good story, but not too much story. And it’ll give you the option to skip, too, so you don’t have to go through all of this. Yeah, so that’s the basis of it. I’ll revisit this game idea later, but that’s the basis—those are my demands. 

So I was lucky enough to interview one of my favourite artists, SahBabii. We actually spoke about the time you met in New York. He said you were a ‘smooth, humble dude and that you were taking that risk to be different.’ Do you remember meeting SahBabii?
Of course I remember meeting with SahBabii. Oh man, SahBabii is on my list of great writers that I have. When they ask what my influences are or who’s writing I’m a fan of, SahBabii is definitely in there. It’s Morrissey, obviously Prince, Rick James, Phil Lynott, but also SahBabii. I love his wit —I just love SahBabii man, and he’s a sweet, humble person too. And I’m a fan of the music. I remember working at a call centre listening to ‘King of the Jungle.’

We met again in LA, and I had the Bluetooth speaker just standing next to him just playing his music just cause man, like you SahBabii bro, one of the greatest writers to me. So yeah, it was cooll to connect with him, man. Thank you for bringing that up. That reminds me, I got to check on the squid, see how my boy doing.

So once the tour is wrapped, where do you see the journey taking you next? What are some goals for you for the next year?
That’s a good question about the goals, because we are going to be on the bus for a nice little minute. My team and I are talking about that because we scratched out a lot of goals already. It’s time that I sit down and make some more. So that’s one thing I wanted to do.

And as far as what’s next, a lot of people have been congratulating me on the year, and I plan on just taking it a day at a time to continue that. Having a good year, a good career, a good decade all starts a day at a time. So I’m just starting it from today. We had a great meeting about where we are with the tour, now I’m about to plan on how we can get better for tomorrow. The plan for 2024 is to take it a day at a time.

Best of luck with the rest of the tour Teezo. Hopefully we see you in Australia before too long.
Very soon. Cass, I got to tell you, I love journalism. This was a great interview. Thank you so much for bringing up SahBabii. You asked some great questions, man. Thank you for covering me. I really appreciate it.

Follow Teezo Touchdown here for more and stream the debut album How Do You Sleep At Night? here.

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