Nitti Gritti on Making Every Genre and Collaborating With Shaq [Interview]

Known for making any kind of EDM he wants, we talked to Nitti Gritti about his diverse catalog of EDM and the next phase of his career.

One of the most unique artists in the EDM scene is Nitti Gritti. With a production history that includes dubstep, house music, hardcore, dance pop, and more, he’s never been afraid to experiment with any style of music he wants.

First starting his career making melodic dubstep as Ricky Mears and collaborating with Seven Lions, his first release as Nitti Gritti came in 2016. He has since become a widely recognized name for both his production skills and his live sets at festivals across the country. In 2019, he was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the Grammys for “On My Mind” with Diplo, a track he created with Party Favor as SIDEPIECE.

Mears has released an extensive amount of new music over the past few years as both Nitti Gritti and SIDEPIECE. He’s also produced tracks for the likes of SAINT JHN and Enrique Iglesias. One of the hardest working and most talented artists in the game, we talked to Nitti about DJ Diesel, what he has planned for the future, and his advice for upcoming artists.

Over the past year, you played several festivals including HARD Summer, Beyond Wonderland, Spring Awakening, and EDC Las Vegas. Looking back to 2021 – the year that live music came back – what are some of your favorite memories that you made?

All of those festivals were insane. HARD Summer was great because I got to do a b2b with Wuki, and it’s always fun to be on stage with someone else. Beyond was really dope too. I felt like that was one of my best sets of the year, actually. It just flowed really well for me and I had a good time. And seeing everybody that I hadn’t seen in like two years was awesome.

You’ve always been an artist that creates all different kinds of music. Some of your recent collaborations are with Martin Horger, Blunts & Blondes, and Marshmello & Megan Thee Stallion. You even have a hardcore track with Lil Texas. What’s your secret to finding success in such a wide range of music and still succeeding with the Nitti Gritti brand?

I don’t really have any secret for my success thus far. I just naturally want to make as much music as possible. If I think I can, I’ll learn how to do it. When people try to say “oh, I make every genre”, I can’t think of many other people besides me that actually do it. Or maybe they don’t actually release it.

Sometimes, it can be frustrating because people don’t know what to expect from me. Like, I won’t get the bass fans, or I won’t get the house fans. Over time, I’m just trying to build it in a slow way so I can have that freedom. I want that option to do whatever I want. It’s a personal thing…to prove to myself I can enjoy my production and play a set of everything I like. 

That’s kinda where it comes from – wanting to play everything at my shows. I had to make an original in like every BPM to make edits and play stuff live. Then, when I started to produce for other people, it established me being able to make a lot of other genres. This week, I’m in K-Pop studio sessions producing pop music for Korean artists. It’s very different than what I would release, but it teaches you to use different sounds and different techniques for your own production.

Can you explain the strategy of consistently releasing several 2-track singles, rather than releasing everything together on an EP or album?

I usually make two or three songs in a certain genre at a time. It was kinda an experiment: instead of doing one single at a time, let’s have a tiny bit of context and have two that feel like they make sense together. 

It bridges the gap between just a single and an EP. I don’t want to make four songs every time, but I also don’t want to only release one. It’s a bit more in-depth; it’s basically two attempts I took at creating a style. Like, “The Loud” with Blunts & Blondes and ”Losing Count” was when I was creating stuff with a reggae influence. I made most of those records during quarantine. 

In your experience, what are some of the most effective ways of getting your play counts up on Spotify? Nearly all of those single releases have a track with 500K+ plays.

For me, it’s all about the relationships that we’ve developed over the years. From all the years of sending tracks over, we’ve had a pretty high success rate of them liking our songs. I think it takes consistency and making sure it comes organic and natural over time. I just try to be consistent and release good music constantly, so then they have to notice it. 

One thing that works well for me is that I don’t fit in any single playlist. Like, for an artist that only makes dubstep, Spotify isn’t really going to put five of your tracks on the same playlist unless it’s a huge EP. Most of the time, they’ll pick one or two songs per artist.

You’ve now collaborated with Shaquille O’Neal multiple times on “Takin’ Over” and “Moshpit”. What do you think DJ Diesel adds to the EDM scene as a whole?

He’s just a genuine dude. When you think about it, he has the same story as anybody else.

I was a fan of electronic music before I made anything. I went to a Skrillex show and I had the best time of my life. That’s not the full story, but that was one of the shows that started it all. I had only been to like six shows before I started making music. After those shows, it all clicked for me. I feel like Shaq has the exact same story. He heard this stuff at festivals and wanted to make it himself.

He’s very genuine when you meet him and see how he reacts to the music. You really can’t say anything bad about the guy. All he’s doing is putting people on and allowing other artists to flourish. People in the music scene aren’t even that cool sometimes. Excision would be an exception – he does it well and brings people together. Shaq is one of those guys.

Before you created Nitti Gritti, you were making melodic dubstep under your real name, Ricky Mears. You collaborated with Seven Lions in 2016 on a remix of “Coming Home”. You started Nitti Gritti later that same year. Take us through that time period of your career and how you ultimately started Nitti Gritti.

I always loved rock music and that type of vibe. I’m really good with melodies, so when I started making dubstep, I started to make more melodic stuff. 

It’s funny to me how melodic dubstep got so big again. Back then, it was popular, but they really weren’t touring that much. There wasn’t Illenium or Said The Sky. Seven Lions was the only one. The genre didn’t have that mass appeal yet, but if you liked him, that was your niche. 

It was tough for me. I started making heavy music again. And that’s when I started releasing a multitude of genres. I had released heavy shit and trap shit before, but I didn’t put that much time into it. I started making some house music too. And that’s when I made Nitti Gritti. I started to transition out of that melodic dubstep style and make everything instead.

So it kinda started with more opportunities to play live shows as Nitti Gritti?

Yeah, 100%. And back then, I hadn’t DJed a lot and would watch guys like Seven Lions play both house music and Skrillex.  When you’re a DJ, you can play a lot more records than when you’re in a band and only have a guitar. That’s the beauty of DJing. 

It never really hit me until I went to more shows again after staying in and producing for a while. I kinda realized that I could have a ton of fun and create a lot of different sounds instead of just sticking to one. I still have a lot of love for melodic stuff, and some of my future bass remixes are some of the biggest tracks I’ve done. But it’s just a lot of fun for me to play heavy music and fly around to different genres.

You’re literally one of the most diverse artists in the scene. Was it always your goal to pave your own lane in the music industry and do it your way? What comes next?

Definitely. I’m kinda leaning in a new direction with a more mainstream and pop style. I want to make these big sing-a-long records. I kinda miss progressive house and that era. I got into the scene when everyone was singing “Don’t You Worry Child” together. 

I got some new stuff that’s a lot more vocal-driven. Not that I won’t continue to release bangers, but it’s another new direction for me that I’m excited about.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2022 in terms of new music?

We’re slowing it down a bit. It was different last year post-quarantine, but these last few months, I’ve been taking my time and trying to write good songs with other songwriters. I’m trying to make pop/dance records that are really cool and not just a drop.

We have about six confirmed for this year. There’ll be a lot more promos, music videos, and some collaborations with big singers I’m working with. It’s really exciting – first, I was only making melodic dubstep, then I made a little bit of everything, and now I’m focused more on one genre again.

What’s your best advice for passionate young producers that dream of your level of success one day?

I would say have a realistic expectation. In that sense, you can take two lanes: either stick to one thing and be driven to be one of the best in that genre, or you can have that overall broad spectrum and just be a good producer.

Either you can be someone like Marauda or Svdden Death where you focus on that style for several years until you’re amazing at it. Or, you have a broad producer spectrum like Skrillex or Diplo. They have their hand in a lot of things, and that teaches them all the mistakes other people make. They learn and put that experience into their own music.

I think you’re either working with a lot of people, helping each other, and collaborating, or you’re that one single mind. Both 100% work, but some people can’t choose one or the other and get in this middle ground without any real progress. It’s a bit of an odd answer, but you’re going to have to choose one or the other. Being lukewarm is the worst thing in the industry…that’s my best advice. You gotta be all in.

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