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GRiZ keeps the giving spirit of GRiZMAS alive for another season

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Tuesday, December 3, 2019

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A peaceful afternoon with a warm drink at Great Lakes Coffee on Woodward Avenue is a rare respite for GRiZ at this time of year.

The Southfield-raised Birmingham Groves High School grad (real name Grant Kwiecinski) has had what can best be described as a frenetic year. He's released his sixth studio album ("Ride Waves") and four EPs. He performed at major festivals such as Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Austin City Limits in Texas and Movement during Memorial Day weekend in Detroit. He also played headlining dates at Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver, where GRiZ resides, and in Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But now he's back home for his sixth annual GRiZMAS, 12 days of concert and special events designed to raise money for youth music programs -- via the nonprofit Seven Mile organization -- and foster a spirt of community inclusion, whether it's peaceful yoga at the Fisher Theatre or raucous dodgeball at Duffee Elementary School.

"Every year we learn more about what our strengths are and how to get the community involved," GRiZ, who's received a Spirit of Detroit award from the city council for his efforts, says while sampling this year's GRiZmas blend. "Every year we learn to create more strength around the project.

"We're a grass roots organization," he adds. "It's fueled by the people that participate, and we're talking about blue collar, white collar, waiters, people that work in corporate offices...Every single year I'm learning more about how to expanded that influence in a different way and make more of a difference here."

Hooking up with Seven Mile -- which runs music, arts and computer coding programs not available to Detroit public school students -- has been a boon for GRiZMAS, which previously worked with the national organization Little Kids Rock. GRiZmas events have channeled more than $100,000 into Seven Mile during the past two years, and the results have been concrete.

"They're able to keep their lights on," notes GRiZ, 29, a public school music product himself who started playing saxophone while in elementary school in order to impress a classmate he had a crush on. "They're able to purchase instruments and give instruments to kids who have a proficiency and have interesting. They're able to expand their hours. They're able to increase their intake. So we're talking about more kids, more instruments, more time.

"Of course the great goal here would be 'Let's put it back in the schools,' but that's more complex. With (Seven Mile) we can insert ourselves and help create a band aid...and we're constantly looking at how do we grow into becoming a piece of the solution? We're learning how to grow. We're doing the research and meeting with people and having conversations to understand how we can help."

GRiZ and his GRiZMAS team are also having plenty of fun -- and making sure others do as well. This year's events kicked off Dec. 3 with the opening of the GRiZMAS Workshop pop-up store in Downton Detroit, which will be open through the event. This year's GRiZMAS adds a dodgeball tournament on Dec. 8 and swaps previous year's caroling outings for a Holiday Jazz concert on Dec. 10 at Aretha's Jazz Cafe in the Music Hall Center. "It's always so cold that we sing a song and then try to hurry into the warming tent," GRiZ, who will be performing at the jazz show, says with a laugh.

Yoga and Roller Disco events are returning this year, while GRiZMAS' musical offerings including a Night Before GRiZMAS show Dec. 12 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre and two different concerts Dec. 13-14 at Masonic Temple Theatre, with after parties at the Magic Stick and Majestic Theatre, respectively. The first night at Masonic will feature material from 2010-17, while the Dec. 14 "The Imaginarium" will showcase the present and future.

"When I'm doing two nights of music I really want to be able to play through all the feelings I have musically," GRiZ says. "Something a lot of the die-hard fans love is just all the old music, so one night will be throwback jams and that'll be fun, and so will the next night."

After his busy 2019, in fact, GRiZ's attention is already touring to 2020 and his 10th anniversary as an artist -- with no desire to take his foot off the proverbial pedal.

"I'm feeling like another LP, a few EPS next year for sure," he predicts. "I'm sitting on tons of unreleased music that's really, really cool, so we'll see. I guess the inspiration now is not to try so hard to be a 'thing' but just do what I want and what comes naturally and go after it. Don't try -- just do it, and flow with stuff. I've gotten super into Daoism and Zen Buddhism this year, which has created a bunch of awesome headspace that's really exciting."

GRiZMAS runs through Dec. 14 with a variety of events in Detroit and Royal Oak. The full schedule and other details are available via 12daysofgrizmas.com.

Web Site: www.12daysofgrizmas.com

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