It’s one thing to have a lot of lucky breaks, but it’s another thing entirely to deliver on them. In his brief career, Bazzi — aka 21-year-old Michigan native Andrew Bazzi — has made the most of his chances.
Bazzi’s father, a Lebanese immigrant, supported his son’s artistic leanings, and in 2014 moved the two of them to Los Angeles so that the young musician, then still in high school, could focus on his career. The gambit paid off: The management team of Jared Cotter and Jeremy Skaller of The Heavy Group heard Bazzi’s music and quickly signed him, supporting him for two years as he developed his songs. Days after he first posted “Mine,” the moody pop song that would become his breakthrough, an A&R executive at the Warner Music-affiliated Artist Partners Group brought him into the studio and inked him to a deal. He’d barely performed live before he had an offer to play before thousands, opening for Camila Cabello. A solo tour soon followed, then a month in Europe opening for Justin Timberlake.
In short, Bazzi moved from obscurity to the big time in a matter of months. But he shrugs off any anxiety with the sort of easygoing confidence he brings to seemingly everything. “I’m not a nervous guy because I don’t think too far ahead,” he says. “Fear is just thinking about what’s going to happen next, right? So if you’re not thinking, you can’t be scared of anything.”
Call it the power of positive nonthinking, but that attitude — combined with his talent — is what convinced the management team to essentially float the young artist for two years while he honed his craft. “What struck me most, and right away, was his confidence,” Cotter recalls. “He made you believe that he’s the best, and I think he still does.”
That same self-assurance led Bazzi to abandon a career on-ramp that had vaulted both Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes to stardom: building a following by performing covers on YouTube and Vine. He’d compiled a sizable number of such covers by the time he was 16, along with a “decent amount” base of followers. “But I realized pretty quickly that it would hurt me in the long term, because producing and writing is so much bigger than singing other people’s music,” he says. “So I took down every cover and deleted all the channels because I knew I had to rebrand myself.” He spent three years in the studio reinventing himself.
Those years of work paid off quickly: He posted “Alone,” his first original song as Bazzi in November 2016. Adding more songs every few months, he built an audience along the way. In October of last year came the breakout “Mine,” with its stop-start staccato. Powered by a Snapchat filter featuring the track, it reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. (It is also the only song in Variety’s year-end Top 30 that was written entirely by one person — Bazzi — a rarity in this collaboration-focused era.) April saw the release of his debut album, “Cosmic,” a low-key fusion of R&B-flavored pop reminiscent of The Weeknd and Khalid, which reached No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart. He was also learning to be a frontman, some of which was the result of intuition, but a lot came from watching Timberlake during that month in Europe.
“It was like college, getting to see someone like that onstage,” Bazzi says. “I learned so much about saving moments and holding back: Like, he would start his set and not look to either side for the whole first song, and then when he finally goes [he looks left], the whole side of the arena just explodes. He’s so willing to give knowledge if you want it; on the last night of the tour, he invited me out for drinks and laid so much onto me. I think he felt how badly I wanted to learn.”
However, Bazzi admits innate confidence took him only so far on the first night of the Timberlake tour. “Dude, that first show was brutal,” he winces. “I was coming off of my solo tour, so it was like going from pandemonium to open-mic night. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to do this every day?’ But then the shows gradually got much better.” He leans back, finding the positive in the growing pains. “It was healthy. I’m so grateful for it.”
Yet instead of committing to any major tours, Bazzi is back in the studio working on album No. 2. “He’s in creative mode,” Skaller says. “A lot of artists feel pressure to chase their hits and make as much money as possible, but he really wants to focus on the album.”
Skaller says Bazzi has turned down a lot of opportunities that could have made an album that has already spawned two gold-certified singles even bigger. But there are “no regrets,” he explains. “The music comes first.”