At the time of our transatlantic Zoom call, Indianapolis-hailing artist midwxst was in joyous spirits. He was gearing up for the release of his highly anticipated debut album, E3, which was released on September 1st. Meanwhile, he’d just performed at Reading & Leeds, marking his first festival performances overseas. It’s safe to say that midwxst isn’t your typical 20-year-old, and after my conversation with him, that assessment only seems more accurate. He’s assured in his answers, barely stuttering, and his words ooze with passion.
Some may find the idea of releasing your most ambitious, important and personal album to date incredibly nerve-inducing, but this is a moment midwxst has been clamouring for, and nerves are nothing but an afterthought. “I’m just on a little high, per se – life’s pretty good right now,” he tells me with a sense of calmness that’s contagious.
midwxst, like many young artists today, found popularity during the pandemic back in 2020. At the time, the rapper/singer was just 17 years old but made a name for himself thanks to his openness about his mental health struggles, alongside his boundary-pushing sound mixing rap, rock and hyperpop tendencies. Since then, midwxst has slowly risen from Soundcloud obscurity to one of music’s brightest young talents, collaborating with the likes of Denzel Curry along the way.
Now, three years on from when he first made his name, midwxst’s debut album has finally arrived – an exploration of everything he’s gone through over the past year and a half. The musician pours his heart over the project’s 12 tracks, touching on struggles with depression, anxiety, relationship issues and personal development with unrelenting honesty. The opening track ‘lost’ is an indication of the introspection to come, with midwxst singing: “I’ve been tryna find some clarity, but nothing in my life clear”. Tracks like ‘heartache blues’ and ‘ball and chain’ deal with matters of the heart, whilst ‘old me’ sees him denounce the person he once was. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom, and there’s a sense of optimism and a hope for better days that run parallel to the album’s darker themes.
E3 is clearly just the beginning for midwxst. He’s an artist who adores crafting relatable, full-on musical experiences, as opposed to just something to throw on in the background, and on his debut, he’s managed to do just that. And at such a young age, there’s still clearly much more for this rising star to offer.
Here, midwxst sits down with HUNGER to discuss the intricacies behind E3, why he loves the UK, battling misconceptions and more.
So, starting on the topic of E3, how long has this album been in the works overall?
midwxst: I’d say like a year and some change, maybe a little bit more. This is the longest I’ve ever taken to make a body of work or put out music. Usually, I’m a pretty fast person, and it’s easy for me to make music or come up with ideas at least. But to sit down and have a project that I’ve been planning or having bits and pieces of ready since I was 17, It’s just cool to see everything come together, and it definitely took some time.
It feels like you’re going for a really cohesive cinematic experience on the album. Is that something you always envisioned for your debut album?
midwxst: It’s always been a goal of mine to make something that’s a complete body of work more than just an album or music. I really enjoy ‘bodies of work’. I don’t really enjoy really long projects. Instead of it being just a compilation of songs, the albums I really like are ones like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Rodeo and even IGOR and Wolf. I like taking those in more than, say, a Gangsta Grillz mixtape. There’s nothing wrong with a Gangsta Grillz tape or the old Gucci Mane and Future mixtapes back in the day, but I’m more based around bodies of work and creating experiences sonically more than anything.
The album is pretty short by today’s standards, at only 12 tracks. Was that a conscious decision to keep things concise, or did it just turn out that way?
midwxst: Yeah, each song is so unique, but there are similar aspects to them. I wanted each song to transition into the next, and that was something I went in with the intent to do so the album flowed together. It just helps build the universe and the world of E3. It transports you into that world much more easily. Another big thing for me was sequencing, which a lot of people overlook nowadays. To me, that’s such a vital part of the album and one of the most important parts of music. You can have a bunch of good songs, but what really matters and what actually is the problem is how you sequence them and how you put them together.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is ‘Heartache Blues’, which wasn’t originally going to be on the project until your friends persuaded you. How important is it to have people around you who aren’t afraid to give their opinion as a musician?
midwxst: Oh yeah, I definitely needed them to tell me. If I’m being honest, It’s nice to have my friends of course, but a pivotal part of who I can fall back upon and that support system for me is my family. My mum and dad are both very present in my music and even on the industry side of things, they’re in meetings with me and have been with me from the jump.
Speaking of family, you have the track ‘grandpa’s interlude’ on your album, which features a message from him. What impact has he had on you as a person?
midwxst: He’s very important to me. All my family means so much to me because I have so many of them, and it’s rare to have so many family members who are still alive. And we’ve dealt with a lot of loss in our family, like last year and when I graduated in 2021. But this whole music stuff, as much as it’s been busy and a little stressful, has helped out my parents, and our relationship has improved. I feel more comfortable, and we’ve been spending so much more time together, and it’s just been so nice to have that.
My grandpa came up for my first Indiana hometown show, too. He got to see me perform, and those are the things that I live for, and those are the people who constantly have pushed me to become a better person and the people I’m improving myself every day for.
I can imagine it was a very therapeutic process, making the project. You’re talking about mental health issues, relationship issues, and those kinds of things in a lot of detail. How did it feel to get all of that off your chest?
midwxst: I cried a lot while making this project. I broke down during a couple of these songs because I had a lot of relationship issues and mental and emotional issues going into it. The main session started in October last year, I wanna say. And I was just not in the best space mentally and relationship-wise. Music has always been therapy for me, but there was just something about being in these rooms and letting everything out. I’ve always had to semi-restrain myself because sometimes my mind goes to dark places. I think about death a lot because I’m a very existential person, and I like having long conversations about the universe and what happens after death. I’m just a very introspective person.
Was the making of this project a big part of being able to move on from some of these issues?
midwxst: Yeah, because all of these feelings were recent. I wouldn’t have been able to talk about this a year ago, and that’s something I’m very proud of. It’s definitely something I’m starting to get more comfortable with, like being that person or being that person for other people to feel they can go to and they can relate to, regardless of what I’m saying.
You recently performed at Reading & Leeds Festivals. What was that experience like?
midwxst: That had to be my first festival in the UK, and to have that energy was amazing. I got to bring my friend Skaiwater out. That’s like my brother. We’ve known each other for around five years now, and the energy was just so fire. I got to stick around, talk to some fans afterwards, and I met this one fan who was just one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He told me that my music saved him, and having those conversations and talking about those things was so cool to me because I never expected to be in these positions.
What’s your opinion on the UK in comparison to back home?
midwxst: I really like just how calm it is, if that makes sense. I like going out more towards Nottingham in the grasslands. You have all that farmland, and that is so beautiful to me. I wouldn’t mind posting up in a barn or some shit and making my next album there. That’s the type of vibe I like. I also like a lot of the nightlife. I have a lot of friends there, too, and there’s a cool music scene there that I’m getting more accustomed to as time goes on. I’m learning about new artists literally every day, and it’s just a really unique place. It’s not like anywhere in the US, and it’s not like anywhere else in Europe.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have of midwxst?
midwxst: That I’m just a hyper-pop artist. Or that I’m just this person or this artist or categorised to this or that. Like, bro, please just be quiet. I’m an artist straight up point blank, period. That hyper-pop label and all of those terms, all of those things got thrown at us. Like all of us quote-unquote, hyper-pop pioneers, each and every one of us had that label thrown on us when that Spotify playlist [hyperpop] got made. And that’s the thing that I don’t like. Because people will try to use that to discredit the stuff that you’re doing now and be like, “Oh, you need to go back to this sound”. I’m just not a fan of that. I love seeing artists evolve. I love seeing artists grow. It’s part of being an artist. It’s the best part. The artist will do what they want to do at the end of the day, and early on, there was this misconception of me.
What would you say if you could have a conversation with your younger self?
midwxst: I would tell him to stop overthinking shit and be proud of yourself because I was really self-conscious, especially coming up. I would let the smallest things get to my head, and the smallest things get to me and impact how I even view my own music and myself. I haven’t felt that way in so long, but I would never want myself to feel that way again because I never want anybody to feel like they can say they got to me or feel like they’ve had the last word or last say towards me. That’s the only thing that I would tell him. Just don’t let anyone convince you that you’re not doing great.
Do you have an overarching goal in music?
midwxst: I have ideas, and I’ve had the next idea for whatever album I want to make planned out. But I’m definitely taking the time away from music and stuff for a minute. My life has been really congested recently. I haven’t been this busy in damn near ever, and I definitely took downtime for granted. I’m just super excited ’cause there are so many new opportunities that will come from this album.
This album is gonna open so many new horizons for me, and it wouldn’t have been anything without everybody that was around me. I didn’t even highlight Sophie Gray, who was my executive producer, and Drew Ducker, who’s my engineer. They were two of the key people who helped make and steer the soundscape of this album in the direction that it’s in.