Don’t go broke trying to impress faceless people. Which means, don’t flex on social media to create a façade that you are something that you’re not. Most often than not, many artists that you may think are rich, loaded, and balling, are actually one royalty check away from being broke. Nobody wants to really admit it. The majority of money, outfits, cars, jewelry etc. you see these artists flexing are usually fake or borrowed by their labels, in which they have to give right back. You want to know where the money is? Look at the executives, not the artists. Focus your social media on your humility, personality, and things that make you relatable. You are guaranteed to build a better rapport with your fans than with your “fake lifestyle” because once that gets exposed, you’re done. Why would fans want to trust you? I’m now realizing the importance of being completely genuine to fans in a predominately fake industry.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Count Klassy.
Count Klassy is a new age hip hop artist coming from a background of celebrity ghostwriting for Grammy-winning talent. He has been backstage with many artists on tour such as Tone Loc, Snoop Dogg, Color Me Badd, Mase, Shaggy, Ginuwine, Biz Markie, Vanilla Ice and many more. With plans to take over Toronto’s rap scene with some of his glitter flair, Count Klassy has released his debut album “7 Deadly Sins” featuring Canada’s rap icon, Choclair on the cannabis friendly track “Good Vibes” in which Skunk Magazine crowned “2020’s Cannabis Anthem”. Recently, Count Klassy has been working on his sophomore album, and with Billboard charting producer, Sisco Kennedy, has released an outstanding cover version of Fleetwood Mac’s hit, “Dreams” which incorporates the brilliance of the original song with Count Klassy’s signature sound and style. Familiar with the ins and outs of the music industry, Count Klassy is the one to keep your eye on.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
OHH YEAH!I grew up right in the city of Toronto. I think that’s why I’m naturally very energetic! I’m an only child, so I was constantly the centre of attention. I think most artists, whether they admit it or not, crave some sort of attention. I was very fortunate to grow up in a stable household that fostered my musical talents. I was enrolled in piano lessons as a young kid, joined school choirs, high school musicals, and vocal competitions. My life has always been melodic. I think that’s why its my favourite part of songwriting… creating catchy melodies. I’ve always stated that I wish my life was a musical, maybe one day that will be something to come into fruition!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was about the time I was in the middle of university when I got the call from my Aunt in Los Angeles who needed some assistance in managing, booking and ghostwriting for musical talent. It was then that I also found out that Uncle “Tony” was the famous Grammy nominated rapper Tone Loc! I had never put the two and two together, and my family just never brought it up! So, I flew to LA to get closer to my Aunt and “Uncle” and through their connects, I was able to bring start working in ghostwriting and impersonating celebrities, not only lyrically, but also though social media, managing accounts and responding to their fans. (Surprise! Some of your favourites that you think responded to you is just a paid social media manager, haha). I’ve always been the one to look for the spotlight, so with the plethora of new networks I uncovered through ghostwriting, I was then able to connect with a producer who helped me take my finished songs and put them into polished instrumentals. Many folks believe that if you know someone in the industry it’s your ticket to fame — — which isn’t always the case. I’ve deliberately kept indie, maintaining my own networks here in Toronto and developing my own organic fanbase. To be taken seriously in the industry, you have to show and prove that you have what it takes to gain traction and momentum as an artist. The grind, drive and hustle are what defines my success. I want to know that I have landed my artist contract with one of the big 3’s (Sony, Universal, Warner) by my own ethic, pursuit of success, and what my artistry can bring to the industry. I want to be unique. Not a copy and paste replica.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
What I find the most interesting to me is how people process my music differently. For example, my biggest single “Good Vibes” is all about living in the moment, not taking life for granted, enjoying the day, the night, the hour, the minute and indulging in what makes you happy. For me, that is cannabis, hence the chorus of the song. While I’ve received messages from the cannabis community who have loved the track and embraced it with open arms, I’ve also received messages from folks who aren’t cannabis users, but still enjoyed the track so much that it has literally ‘saved them’. As an artist, its those pivotal moments that make you appreciate music and art for what it is. I am thankful that people listen to my music and take whatever they need from it. It’s an open passage into my soul and I share the journey with all those who want to walk with me. It’s also interesting to see how and which songs affect certain people, and why. My debut album has 7 tracks, yet there really is no clear frontrunner on people’s favourite track. Every time I ask people’s favourites, it’s constantly changing — which is good. It means their relationship with my music is evolving. I think Good Vibes did well because of the strong cannabis community support, but in all fairness, they are all equally as diverse and unique with their own respective fans.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Oh my god, yes. Never pretend like you know it all and never pretend like what you say on the internet won’t come back to bite you in some way. For example, as a ghostwriter I received a notification that one of my client’s songs was being used in a video after a press conference for the United States in regards to court proceedings in relation to Russia’s supposed interference in the US elections in 2016. I posted commentary on behalf of that artist which only polarized the public opinion, and ultimately created unnecessary drama which in actuality, I should have avoided, and perhaps maybe asked for help from their management team. Little did I know that my cute self would be tied indirectly to one of the biggest scandals in modern day history. Now, I know the importance of seeking advice before acting. Imagine if it triggered more tension!? Nuclear threats? War? Oh boy! Haha! Now I know better and have revised my strategies on ghostwriting.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on my sophomore album which will include some heavy-hitter artists. It’s all about building and maintaining relationships, trust and respect. As well, once we are able to congregate in larger crowds, I am working on a debut concert in downtown Toronto in support of Sick Kids Hospital and the LGBTQ — Trans Youth Clinic. With the pandemic, we had to postpone it. Looking forward to inviting Toronto based media, other influencers, broadcasters, LGBTQ networks and the like to support a great cause and to get them introduced to the fierceness of Count Klassy. As well, I’m working on a top-secret project with some other queer artists. Planning on a collaborative project which I’m sure will rock the media.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Representation is very important in the entertainment industry as we need to fill the void with role models for the younger generation that looks, talks, speaks and acts like them. You want the younger generation to look up to you and aspire to be that person in the movie or the television screen. As a queer artist, it was hard to find those role models on tv and film without it being a mockery of a character or a set up for a punch line of a joke. It’s important to accurate reflect society’s changing narrative. How can we challenge institutional and systemic racism if our own entertainment and media upholds the status quo on who is to be represented, favoured, and given storylines that garners success? Not only with representation on screen, but also off screen too. We should be hiring more marginalized BIPOC artists on set designs, costumes, directing, video editing, you name it! By diversifying your talent on and off screen you can learn so much more, and unlock the powerful essence of the artform. Our culture changes and shifts because of shared and borrowed knowledge from other cultures. If we were to constantly hire the same people on these projects, do you really unlock the full potential of the artistic project? I don’t think so.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Eat better. Drink Water. Take care of your body. You don’t know how many times I’ve simply skipped opportunities because I felt lethargic, burned out, tired etc. I’m still working on this, as I don’t drink water, so I’m constantly engaging with health practitioners to ensure I can do better little by little.
2) It’s okay to say no. In fact, saying no can sometimes save your relationship. For example, I had taken on 3 new ghostwriting clients, and was already to the max. A young up and coming artist from Texas reached out to help her write some tracks for her. I had incredible writer’s block. I couldn’t do it. I tried and tried to think of something to put onto paper but it just wasn’t clicking. I knew I should have said no to her, and perhaps followed up in a few months’ time when I had less on my plate. Now, I definitely lost a client because I couldn’t say no. But like Alanis Morrissette says, you live, you learn.
3) Don’t go broke trying to impress faceless people. Which means, don’t flex on social media to create a façade that you are something that you’re not. Most often than not, many artists that you may think are rich, loaded, and balling, are actually one royalty check away from being broke. Nobody wants to really admit it. The majority of money, outfits, cars, jewelry etc. you see these artists flexing are usually fake or borrowed by their labels, in which they have to give right back. You want to know where the money is? Look at the executives, not the artists. Focus your social media on your humility, personality, and things that make you relatable. You are guaranteed to build a better rapport with your fans than with your “fake lifestyle” because once that gets exposed, you’re done. Why would fans want to trust you? I’m now realizing the importance of being completely genuine to fans in a predominately fake industry.
4) Never burn bridges. I’ve always been the one to try my best to maintain honourable relationships with everyone. Like for example, when my ex-manager and myself cut ties because of artistic differences. There really weren’t any hard feelings, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Even though he isn’t my manager anymore, I still credit him in my success and work, and still go to him to shop around for beats and productions. That million-dollar beat could very well come from him, and had I burned that bridge, I could potentially be losing that million-dollar sound.
5) Know your worth. When you start out as an artist, you’re extremely susceptible to criticisms and feedback. Don’t let it deter you, and use it as motivation to do better, be stronger, and more fierce! Before I released my track “Good Vibes” I had some industry folks not really vibing to it, calling it “too repetitive” or “a sleeper” when in fact it turned out to be my biggest and most successful hit. Know your worth. Value yourself. There’s a reason why you’re creating this art. You have the right to share it with the world, whether the world likes it or not. What they think is none of your business in the end, as art is completely subjective. If you like it, and it makes you happy — that’s art to its fundamental core.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s funny because I have just recently gone through this myself. The biggest tip I can give is take a moment and forget all that is in front of you — your goals, future aspirations, the fame, the fortune — and look behind you. Look at all of the things you have accomplished. You wrote original lyrics, you created a beautiful melody out of nothing, you’ve collaborated with top talent, you’ve made people smile, you’ve changed the way someone perceives the world through your music. Be proud of everything you have accomplished. It’s so easy to feel burn out because of all the things you may not have accomplished yet, but relish in the small joys and success of what you have achieved. Look at a year ago and see how things have changed. For me, I have writing credits with Stevie Nicks. I would have never of dreamed that would have been a thing a year ago. Am I as famous as Stevie Nicks? No. But I am proud of what I did accomplish. Especially if you’re an indie artist doing it all on your own or with your small team. Small ripples can make big waves and you won’t even know it, because you’re too fixated on those small ripples.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Engage with purpose and make your default energy positive. Even if you have to fake it. I feel like the world is slowly getting busier, ruder, abrupt and folks are having a tough time embracing unity, love and collectiveness. We must remember that we are all bits and pieces of one whole. Instead of a snarky response on a social media thread, engage with purpose — try to understand other people’s thoughts and narratives and realize if we set the default mode of communication to kindness, the world would be that much more cohesive. It’s okay to be kind to others who have opposing opinions. It’s okay to find the positive in a situation of negativity. Help out in your local community. I challenge other influencers to do the same, and stop glorifying bullying, hatred, divisiveness and unkind intentions. Also — money isn’t everything. Love is. If you got love, you’re richer by far.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are just so many people! My family of course who have been supportive ever since they realized I can actually write a good hit! Haha! Of course, Tone Loc and George Brown of Kool and the Gang who have been my mentors in the industry, but truly I must give a shout out to my auntie Suzan, who pretty much propelled me into this whole lifestyle. I would have never been able to get backstage and network with some amazing influential people without her assistance and help. I remember I was with my cousin, and my auntie and we were VIP backstage at the Kool and the Gang show at the Pechanga Resort in California. We watched the show, and were in awe at the natural energy they all brought to the whole stadium. It was George Brown’s (one of the founding members) birthday, so we went backstage after the show to enjoy some of the delicious Le Kool champagne and celebrate his 71st birthday with some vegan cupcakes that we picked up prior to the show. To be in the presence of some legendary musicians and artists as we all sang and wished him a happy birthday — I cannot even describe the chills. You can actually see some of that footage on my Instagram!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The beautiful Maya Angelou said it best: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” I believe this is applicable to everyone but especially celebrities who are in the public eye. As we all know ‘cancel culture’ can completely change a celebrity’s image, their paychecks, their teams and managements paychecks, and everyone that depends on their livelihood completely overnight just from social media digging up past posts or videos etc. While I believe it’s important to keep them accountable, we must also realize that they are humans too, and will fault. Hopefully they have the ability to learn from their mistakes, apologize and do better — as a person and/or as a brand. We must allow each other the ability to grow and become better versions of ourselves. It’s incredibly difficult being scrutinized in the public eye, but we must determine the difference between blissful ignorance and willful ignorance when we lay down the rules of cancel culture. Either way, its important to reflect on that quote, as you make your own decision of that person before one casts the first stone.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Definitely Smokey Robinson. The amount of knowledge, culture, class! He has been there since the forefront of mainstream music with his work in Motown and decades of producing successful talent and overall being a pop cultural icon. Just to get 30 minutes with him would provide me a lifetime worth of knowledge from such a distinguishable and well accomplished man from the industry.
How can our readers follow you online?
I worked hard on my SEO! I’m @countklassy everywhere!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you and keep safe! Peace and blessings to you.