“I was always called that when I was younger. Like when I was little, I always called that, since kindergarten. My friend, Miles, was like, ‘I’m gonna call you Ebz,’ and I was like, ‘Okay’.”
21-year old, Durham-based artist, Ebony Nicholson, aka, Ebz the Artist is a multi-talented vocalist and producer with her eyes set on the top of the top, and with her overwhelming amount of talented, it is essentially her birthright. Ebz’s release of EP, The Feel, placed a bright yellow highlight on her dreamy voice, diverse ability to go from sweet and innocent R&B melodies, to quick-spitting, raunchy rap lyrics, along with her wide ranges of vocal pitch.
The Feel consists of Ebz starting off with a slow, sultry sound, though she quickly changes the mood to a rhythmic, sensual vibe with “Don’t Shy Away”. Ebz closes the EP out with a slowed down, melancholic wave, as she flawlessly depicts the desperation one feels when a person can’t be saved from themselves and their own problems in “I Can’t Save You“. It is reminiscent of Erykah Badu and Rhapsody’s stylings. Both her voice and deep hitting beats make The Feel an EP that you just HAVE to listen to on repeat, over and over, and over and over, and over, and over, and over, and over— well, you get the point. Being such a huge fan myself, there was no way that I was going to miss out on speaking with Ebz. There were so many questions that I, and other fellow fans were curious about. Well, you know what they say about curiosity: it killed the cat, but, satisfaction brought it back, so be prepared to be satisfied.
Give me a little background on yourself and your upbringing: Where were you born, and when did music become a serious passion for you?
I was born in Durham, North Carolina, and my family that I lived with, they weren’t really that religious, but my real mother in Chappel Hill was, so like, my parents weren’t together all the time, so I would go from Durham, to Chappel Hill, to visit my dad, but I was always in Church. That’s basically what brought me in to singing, because I would always sing with my older brother, like, just playing around, and singing around the house, like Gospel songs and R&B, and my mom’s side of the family in her household she’d always play R&B; 90’s R&B and Neo Soul, like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Musiq Soul Child ,Maxwell, like, all the above [played in that household].
I’m pretty sure I know how, but humor the readers, where did you come up with the name “Ebz the Artist”?
I was always called that when I was younger. Like when I was little, I always called that, since kindergarten. My friend, Miles, was like, ‘I’m gonna call you Ebz,’ and I was like, ‘Okay,’ and then I just left it at that, and ever since then, everybody’s been calling me Ebz, and I just went with it, as Ebz, the Artist, since I do art. Yeah, it was simple. I sing, rap, write, produce, and I mix a little. My main thing that I started doing is Visual Arts, like painting, drawing, and sculpting.
If I was to look at your iTunes right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
Frank Ocean, Snoh Aalegra, and Marco McKinnis.
Some of my personal inspirations, in relation to music and artists who I would love to work with (limiting myself to only three) would be Miguel, J. Cole, and Masego. With that being said, who would you most want to collaborate with alive and dead?
Alive: Frank Ocean, Brent Faiyaz, and Masego
Deceased: Whitney Houston, Prince, and Michael Jackson
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Frank Ocean, because I like to challenge with writing, Whitney Houston, because I like to challenge my vocals, and, a lot of people don’t say this, but Brandy. I’ve always rocked with her sound, and it’s like, she’s so, I’m not going to say underrated, because a lot of people know about her, but she doesn’t get enough recognition. Her sound opened a lot of doors for a lot of artists. Of course, Kid Cudi, because sometimes I like to make weird music, and Kanye. I think that’s about it. I might be missing some people, but that’s all I can think of right now.
When do ideas and inspiration for songs typically come to you?
Sometimes Ii like to either, write lyrics first, and then come up with a harmony, or sing a harmony, and come up with the lyrics, but a lot of times, my ideas will come from me doing something, like, let’s say, I’m at work, moving around, an idea will pop in my head, and I have to write it down, on like, a sticky note, and continue to make more sticky notes. I always keep sticky notes and pieces of paper in my pocket with lyrics, for me to work on beats and stuff, and I would just piece them together, like a puzzle, and whatever works, works. A lot of times too, I like to watch visual stimulation things, like movies on mute, and I place a beat to it, like Spirited Away, and Anime that’s far out there like a dream world. I also do that to 90’s love movies.
Ok, so, “OMW” and “Say it” and “Don’t Shy Away” are my top three songs that you’ve released. Which of the songs you’ve released is your favorite? What was the inspiration behind that particular track?
I would have to say, ‘Say it’. Basically, one night, I stayed up really, really late, making a beat in my mom’s bedroom, while I was watching Black Swan, and I had it turned down like really low, so the tv wouldn’t be so loud. An I was adding horns, and bells, to make it sound cinematic, like it would be in a movie. I didn’t know what I was going to do it, but that night I just closed my laptop. One day I came back to it, and was like, ‘Oh yeah!” and I just decided to freestyle on it, and record it, just to see how it would sound, and then I decided, ‘Hmmm, this could be something’. I released it on SoundClud,and it got a lot of views.
For our readers who have yet to hear your music, explain your sound for them in 5 different words:
What was the inspiration behind ‘I Can’t Save You’?
I had this situation with this girl that I was talking to, where it was just like, she basically was constantly calling me late nights, crying, and drunk. She just had a lot of baggage; like A LOT of baggage, and she would look to me to make her feel better, and stuff, and I was like, ‘I can’t really help you in these situations that you keep getting yourself into,’ so then I started writing that, and one night in my dorm room, I started recording.
So you opened for Professor Toon at Motorco? How was that?
That was really cool. He hit me up randomly because he already had the lineup for the show. At first it was just him and Deniro Ferrar and I saw the flyer and I was like, ‘Oh, he already has the lineup,’ because my plan was just to go to the show and he randomly messaged me and was like, ‘So what are you doing December 2nd’ AND Ii was just like, ‘Um…nothing, why?’ and he asked, ‘You trying to do a thirty minute set?’ It was Monday when he asked me, and the show was on Friday, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is stressful’ because that was my first thirty minute set and I was panicking, and he was just like, ‘Yeah, don’t worry about anything, just let me know if you can do it or not,’ and I was like, ‘Yes! Of course I want to do it,’ because I’s always wanted to perform at Motorco. I think that really broke me from being nervous so much with performing, because it was such a huge venue and I just saw everyone’s face looking at me. Ever since then, I’ve been able to perform in front of crowds without getting jitters. That was pretty much my breakthrough performance.
How do you balance your music with other obligations?
Whoo, I’m still trying to do it. I try to make it a priority to save some time out of the week to make time for my music, and if I don’t, then I’m just going to flip out, and throw stuff, honestly, because I just love music, to where I have to work on something at least once a week, at least. Because I have a job, where I work at night, and I try to make time to work on music afterwards, or before. I’m still trying to balance thing. My main focus is to make sure this music thing becomes my career, and not having any other job.
I’ve let plenty of people hear your music, and we all agree that we can’t wait for more! Are there any plans for new singles, or an EP on the way? What’s next for Ebz the Artist?
Both! I plan on dropping more music in January. The name of the mixtape will be called 1997, and it’ll consist of 90’s sounding R&B songs. I keep adding to the tracklist. Right now, it’s 6 songs, but I probably will add more.