Denver alternative R&B musician Zach Ardente, 25, who goes by Doze, says going through a quarter-life crisis allowed him to create his soon-to-drop album, Outside.
"I literally feel like I’m outside of my body and full years are passing by in front of me in the window, and I wake up at the other end of it, wondering what has happened," he says. "A lot of people my age feel that way. I'm lost as fuck. I've got these student loans. I don't know if I'll have health care. This project is the epitome of this outside feeling."
He plans to play his coming-of-age album in its entirety for the first time when he performs at the Underground Music Showcase on the Odyssey stage, at 4:20 p.m. Sunday, July 27.
He produced, recorded, mixed and even designed the album art in his home studio. "I'm a hermit; I can only work alone," he says. "I am a very empathetic person, so when I’m working with people, my head isn’t on my music, because I want them to be having fun, too. If I’m working, I think they are not involved; then I feel like an asshole."
Doze has been producing and writing since eighth grade, after listening to Atmosphere inspired him to use money he'd been saving to buy a beat pad.
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"I bought that thing, an interface, and my parents have been pissed ever since," he laughs. "The little studio I had was in an attic above their bedroom in our house, and my mom would be like, please, stop."
Apparently, not much has changed, because his next-door neighbor regularly calls the cops on him to complain about his music-making. Doze just shrugs it off.
"I'm trying to create music that speaks to people and connects with them. That's real," he says. "What's scary about that, for a lot of artists, is that if [listeners] don't like the music, that must mean they don't like me. But that's okay. Not everyone's going to like me."
For being a self-proclaimed hermit, he's been pretty busy in the Denver music scene, especially within the last year. He opened for YaSi's sold-out show at Larimar Lounge, released a few singles, including the recent danceable hit "Get Over It," and finished Outside.
Doze moved to Denver from Rhode Island almost eight years ago, and never considered moving back. He originally came here to study visual arts at CU Boulder, and says his background as a painter taught him to slow down and not rush the process of creating music.
"My teacher would say, 'Trust the process, enjoy the process, art is the process.' I hated that shit," he says. "But then I learned it's meditating. When I make music, I’m meditating. It helps my mental health endlessly. It's a form of being present."
The songs on the album include smooth beats, playful synths and emotional lyrics. It's a concept album, so each song transitions seamlessly to the next, and together, they all tell the larger story of Doze's struggle with growing older.
"My proficiency as a producer is putting feeling into music," he says. "I obviously love the electric pianos, drums, but I think the most important thing is about being honest with yourself in what you want to make at that moment and to make that to the best of your ability with the tools you’re given."
A song he shares from his home studio is "Lake Views," which he wrote and recorded within the same day — the day Mac Miller died.
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"You could be Mac Miller. You could achieve the goal you set out to achieve, have people love you, make incredible music that is critically acclaimed, but still be addicted to drugs and depressed," Doze says about the inspiration for the song.
After Miller's death, and seeing his own friends from his home state struggle with drugs and depression, Doze began to re-evaluate what success meant to him and how it affected his approach to the album.
"This project, for me, was to work on changing my idea of 'making it.' What is making it? I do want to go on tour and be in a space where all I do is make music, but if that doesn’t happen, I need to be comfortable with me under all of that," he says. "You can’t just stack shit on top of you not loving yourself and hope it makes it better. Self-love, to me, is success."
Underground Music Showcase, July 26 to 28, South Broadway.