How Bryce Vine Found His Voice—and His Team—at Berklee
Bryce Vine ’10 says you need to knock on a lot of doors to make it in the music business. He means that literally.
The emerging rapper and singer, whose hit song “Drew Barrymore” recently surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify, met key collaborators after hearing their music through dorm room doors.
“I met Nick [Shanholtz B.M. ’11 of DJ duo Lost Kings] and starting making music with him my freshman year because I heard cool beats coming out of his room,” Vine said. “A couple months later, the two of us put out songs on MySpace and suddenly DJ Carnage reaches out and says he has this rapper we need to work with. That was G-Eazy. All of that came from just knocking on someone’s door.”
From the minute Vine (a.k.a. Bryce Ross-Johnson) arrived at Berklee’s five-week summer program to the day he packed up and moved to Los Angeles, he amassed a Rolodex of talented friends.
The first person he met at Berklee, Lvcky Dave (Dave Sack B.M. ’12), is still his DJ. Shanholtz and Nolan Lambroza B.M. ’11 were in Crush Club, Vine’s band in college. Lambroza, now known as Sir Nolan—a producer and writer who has worked with Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, Rita Ora, and more—became aware of Vine at the summer program and the two have remained collaborators through “Drew Barrymore” and the new single, “La La Land.”
“Bryce and Nick [Shanholtz] formed Crush Club here at Berklee and I played guitar with them and we all ended up dorming together,” Lambroza said. “Then we both moved to L.A. and kept making music together.”
Believing Vine would be a star, Lambroza funded Vine’s early recordings, tours, and music videos. But after four years, Vine didn’t have a hit. Then Berklee connections kicked in again.
“I introduced him to Matt Maltese [B.M. ’05], who is now Vine’s manager and is another Berklee guy (who used to manage Karmin, a band who also came from Berklee),” Lambroza said. “I know, it gets a little incestuous.”
“It’s funny how you keep running into people in the industry who started there,” Vine said. “The college is such a breeding ground for people who are going to make a splash in music some day. That’s something I didn’t really know I would get from the school.”
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got to Berklee. So I worked with anyone in any style that I liked. That’s how I found my voice. By connecting with every part of the community around me that I could connect with.”
—Bryce Vine '10
The first time they sat down with Maltese, Lambroza and Vine played him a recently-finished track. Maltese interrupted halfway into the tune and asked them to shut it off, remembers Vine.
“Then Matt said, ‘Can you play this again from the start because I absolutely love this?’ I was new to the industry, he was new to management, and we were both figuring it out as we went. But if you are looking for a manager, you have to pick someone that is down for the ride with you, someone that truly believes in you, and that was Matt.”
Major labels started to show interest but deals kept evaporating. Then Rani Hancock B.M. ’91 took over a revamped Sire Records and asked Lambroza for recommendations. Turns out Lambroza knew just the artist to help relaunch Sire.
“We had just released ‘Drew Barrymore’ and his sound had really developed by then,” Lambroza said. “Rani loved ‘Drew Barrymore’ and believed in the record.”
For Vine, the key to success is making the most of every interaction, every jam session, every friendship.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got to Berklee,” he said. “So I worked with anyone in any style that I liked. That’s how I found my voice. By connecting with every part of the community around me that I could connect with.”
“You don’t know what future you will be into, but you think you do, because you’re arrogant and young,” he added with a laugh. “You have to be open, willing to learn and change. And the people you meet at Berklee can help you with that.”
Watch the lyric video for Bryce Vine’s new single, “La La Land”: