Brent Faiyaz is all about honesty. In the country for a run of dates this month, here he speaks to Cyclone about why Australia be poppin', embracing life in LA and making global music.
The rising avant'n'b star Brent Faiyaz (aka Christopher Brent Wood) is touring Australia – and, with the announcement generating major buzz, his shows have already been upgraded to larger venues. But it won't be Wood's first Antipodean trip. Indeed, the singer-songwriter "vacationed" here in 2017. "Nobody knew who I was and they still fucked with me," he says elatedly.
Wood has epic memories of simultaneously celebrating the festive season and summer – a novelty for an American accustomed to a wintry Christmas. "I was in Melbourne for a little bit and them clubs was poppin' 'til five in the morning, and I was out in Sydney and them clubs was poppin' 'til five in the morning – I'm like, 'What the hell?' It's crazy out there!" As such, Wood is "hype" to be returning to what he considers "a second home". "It's gonna be lit," he rhapsodises. "I've never performed live in Australia, so I'm excited just to see how the crowd receives this, honestly."
The charismatic Wood spent his formative years in Columbia, Maryland, learning to play keys and vocalise. After moving to Charlotte, North Carolina with his family, the teen pursued a career as a SoundCloud rapper. However, one time, a dude messaged him, suggesting he focus on singing. Initially flummoxed, Wood heeded that advice – and the stranger, Ty Baisden, became his manager. Wood developed a layered sound that, while paying homage to the spectrum of '90s R&B and neo-soul, remains modishly experimental. In 2016, he premiered with the EP AM Paradox, evoking a sumptuous Prince on the cult single Poison.
Along the way, Wood relocated to Los Angeles, embracing its dramatic change of pace. "I'm out on Fairfax [Avenue] right now and you have things out here like [people] wildin' on the motorcycles, doing shit – just a lotta stories busting out here," he hollers down the line. "Honestly, I love it, though. I like the fact it's so hectic. I guess the fact that it's so active, on the day-to-day, on the business end, got me so inspired on the creative end. Anytime where it's really active, I'm really inspired creatively."
The mainstream latched on to Wood when in 2016 he connected with GoldLink, another prodigy from the so-called DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) axis, for the hit Crew (alongside Shy Glizzy). "My manager knew GoldLink's manager and I knew about GoldLink around the way. He was poppin' in my area, so we just kinda did the record like that. It was smooth – like, we're from the same area, we're gonna do a record and see where it goes. And it went crazy." Wood joined GoldLink on stage at Coachella and Crew was nominated for a Grammy (Best Rap/Sung Performance). The soulster also quietly contributed to Syd's solo record, Fin.
Late in 2017, Wood released his debut album, Sonder Son, independently. Partly prepped in the Dominican Republic, the LP charts his artistic evolution and personal journey (the transportive, sax-laden LA is a mood). "I think, more than anything, I learned to keep the music that you create true to yourself, because that's what people are gonna identify with," Wood, newly 23, reflects. "It's like, the more honest that you are about who you really are, and what you come from, is how people are gonna receive you. So I learned that you've gotta be the most honest you are about where you come from and what you do and the shit you be on – and that's what people are gonna gravitate towards." Recently, the balladeer followed with the Lost EP, capturing the vibe of hanging out. "I think honestly it was just as true to life as it could possibly get," he observes. "I was going to the studio later that night and just recording based off what I was experiencing that day – and I think that's exactly what that project came out as."
Wood is industrious. On the side, he fronts the group Sonder with studio-types Dpat (noted for helming Wiz Khalifa's Remember You, featuring The Weeknd) and Atu. Then he's a member of Lost Kids, a label collective of divergent creatives. "It's a whole wave," Wood says. Today, the grassroots auteur cites as his primary influence DMV hip hoppers like Maryland's Q Da Fool, signed to Roc Nation. He's fascinated by how regional musical phenomena "translates" worldwide. "I'm on some local, everyday shit, with the people that I grew up with, and I'll take that and I'll make a song and then it'll go crazy on some global shit – like people that are in Europe and London and Australia. They'll listen to it and they'll hear something completely different from how I felt when I was making it. But I'm just realising the impact that it has, more than anything."