I think it’s safe to say that we get and develop many musical influences from our parents. It’s undoubtedly true for Matthew Borley, AKA viisi, whose dad introduced him to Hip-Hop and a certain Marshall Mathers and whose mom introduced him to more radio-friendly, pop genre artists. Growing up with such a wide-ranging music catalogue playing in his home, it’s not surprising that, as he got older, he discovered his passion for the craft and has since forged his own path in the ever-competitive industry.
His latest single, “god damn!” highlights how viisi can brilliantly blend genres; with its heavy-hitting rap verses, lyrics you won’t be able to stop nodding your head in agreement to and a powerhouse vocal, it’s a song that will likely linger with you long after you’ve heard it. With another new track set for release soon, XS Noize caught up with viisi to discuss his musical and artistic evolution and what inspires him to write songs.
viisi is an unusual moniker – is there a story or meaning behind it?
viisi is the Finnish word for five, and when I originally decided to change my artist name, I was coming up on my first five years as an artist. There’s this saying that: “Life goes in 5-year cycles,” – meaning that if you look at your life in 5-year increments, it will look majorly different in each chunk of time, and I thought that was beautiful. Around that time, I was about to sign my first management deal – with my manager that I still work with today – so I looked at it like, “This is the next five years of making music.”
Would I be right in thinking you first got into music through your father? Can you talk briefly about how he introduced you to music and the artists he brought into your life?
Musically, there are two sides to me. My father introduced me to Hip-Hop, which was the first genre of music I fell in love with. My mom introduced me to pop music at a young age, and it influenced me heavily throughout my life, and it was the reason why I started singing. My father would always be playing Tupac, Naughty By Nature, Ice Cube, Eminem, and Lauryn Hill around the house. I remember one time he pulled me aside to show me one lyric from an Eminem song, but because I was so young, he wouldn’t let me listen to the entire song. However, I do remember going on my mom’s old laptop that night and going through Eminem’s entire catalogue just obsessing over this thing.
What impact did your dad introducing you to music as a young teen have on you and, taking into account where you are now in your life, professionally?
Music has always been a large part of my life – all the way back to my great grandma being a performer and my grandfather being part of a band, playing piano and guitar and singing. Though my dad can’t play any instruments, he has a very unique taste in music, and it rubbed off on me earlier in my life. I was 13, listening to music like Naughty By Nature, Eeka Mouse and Propagandi. Although Hip-Hop is mainly what my dad listened to and was definitely what caught my ear, many types of genres were played around the house.
What would you say makes you stand out from the many other artists and musicians around today?
Sonically, I am very polarizing, and I’m no longer afraid to show that. There are artists that sing and rap, but they do it in a way where it makes sense listening back-to-back; I make two totally different genres of music.
Who or what inspires the music you make? Is the song-writing music-making process something that comes easy to you, or can it depend on what it is you want to say?
What I write depends heavily on what I feel I need to say. If I feel like there’s nothing for me to say, I couldn’t write a verse to save my life. I need to really feel it. I think the thing that inspires me the most is being able to hold a finished project that was once just an idea and share it with my friends and see their reactions to what I’ve created.
Tell me about “god damn!” – where did the idea come from, aside from the fact that so many of us say it so often?
I was in the studio one day, and we were brainstorming on what to write and where to begin. I remember someone put on this crazy guitar loop, and I started rapping the first verse, which was a verse I had written almost two years before that studio session. I wrote it and just never went back to it. It was clear at that point that the vibe was there, and we should continue with that. Then I remember going into the booth to record it, and when it came to the hook, I didn’t have anything written. So, I freestyled some melodies to scratch something down, and that’s when “GOD DAMN, tell me what you want do” came out. It was perfect, so we kept it in.
You dropped two EP’s fairly recently – does that mean there’s an album in the pipeline?
Right now, I’m just focusing on making music and releasing it in ways that are easily digestible for new listeners. I don’t want anyone new to find me and feel overwhelmed when they want to hear more but don’t know where to start. I definitely have enough music stocked up to release a few albums if I wanted to, but for right now, I’m cherry-picking the best of the best and releasing a few at a time.
Festival season has pretty much just drawn to a close, and artists are back out on the road after the pandemic shut everything down – are there any tour or performance plans you can share?
At this time, there is nothing planned; my main focus is writing and recording to release music for people to listen to. Once that takes off, I would love to start performing again next year.
With ‘god damn!’ out now and helping to introduce you to a whole new number of fans, have you started thinking about your next release? What have you got lined up for the coming weeks and months?
‘hate u’ is my next single release, and I believe that it’s going to be my biggest one yet – it’s just so good and something everyone can relate to. If I ever had a song blow, I hope it’s this one.