What sets Rozzi Crane and Derik Nelson apart from the dozens of other performers at the University of Southern California? Just ask their thousands of followers. They might both have their own individuals bands (respectively Rozzi Crane and The Derik Nelson Band), but those two handsome prodigies with unique voices have four elements in common: talent, determination, an incredible stage presence, and humility. Nineteen-year-old Rozzi Crane exudes confidence as she sings her heart out, and Derik Nelson’s colorful ballads and energetic pop songs will instantly make you want to hum along. Those two self-made performers and songwriters with EPs and CDs already on sale were bound to meet, and while they’ve only started to collaborate, you can expect to see (or hear) a lot more of them in the future.
You guys are so young and already making it in the music industry. What makes you different from other artists?
Rozzi: I generally say yes to everything…. on campus, that is. [laughs] Any performance is publicity, and I figure that USC students who know me are going to be more interested in seeing me perform than strangers.
Derik: Totally. Rozzi and I have adopted the mentality that any chance to perform should be taken. That mentality and that constant strive to be humble has set us apart. There aren’t a lot of people in the music industry who understand that personal relationships are important.
That said, the music industry is very hard to break into. How have your experiences as undergraduates been so far?
Derik: I walked in to USC’s Music Industry program my first day and was told that you’re seven times more likely to get struck by lightning than make it in the music business. The chair of the department said, “Anyone who wants to leave, there’s the door.” A lot of people walked out. That’s the moment I knew I wanted to be here, and nowhere else.
Rozzi: As fun as it has been, it’s also hard… especially since we both have to be our own managers. When I’m promoting myself and my shows, I try to put my feelings aside.
Had you guys heard of each other before collaborating?
Rozzi: Of course. The Derik Nelson Band is huge on campus! They had played during my orientation at the popular music program, and set the bar quite high for us freshmen. That was the first time I heard you. I was so impressed.
Derik: As for me, I had heard in different social circles about this girl Rozzi Crane who was apparently very talented, so I went to one of her shows. Let me tell you: she just got up there and rocked it away. Gorgeous energy…
Rozzi: [embarrassed] Oh my God…
Can each of you talk about your favorite live experience over the past years?
Rozzi: I got to open for Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons over the summer. It was a real honor to meet him. He’s such a cool guy. This desert windstorm was coming in, which added drama to the stage.
Derik: The Derik Nelson Band played at Troubadour a year ago, which is a very famous Los Angeles club where James Taylor, Coldplay, and a bunch of great bands and artists have played. The entire room was packed. It was standing room only. You don’t get that kind of energy from every show.
So are the stereotypes about the Los Angeles live audiences true?
Rozzi: Oh my god. [laughs] Sometimes audiences are really vocal and you know they like what they’re hearing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what they’re thinking… that’s something I’ve just learned how to deal with.
Derik, you’ve written a song for Rozzi called “How Does It Feel?” No bad wordplay intended, how does it feel to see your song performed by someone else?
Derik: I’m so proud! She’s got attitude when she sings it, and it’s such a compliment to have someone with her talent get up there and sing something that I’ve written. I am nothing but proud.
What’s in the future for you guys? What are your short-term and long-term goals?
Rozzi: I will always be writing and performing. I want to perform, perform, record, record, write, write, and work with the best people I can work with in order to reach the most people out there.
Derik: I am just finishing my degree this semester, and I am looking into four main career focuses that will combine to create my living: performing, writing, recording, producing.
Rozzi: And you have your album coming out, Derik!
Derik: That’s right. The Derik Nelson Band is coming out with its debut album as a band on October 20th. The eleven-song album has been a labor of love for the past year.
Rozzi: It’s amazing. [laughs] It’s going to be huge.
What is the image that you are both trying to portray on stage?
Rozzi: When I’m on stage, I’m kind of an exaggerated version of myself. A lot of the time when I write a song about my life, I write it in the heat of the moment. It’s what works best. So when I’m playing live, I try to revisit those intense emotions.
Derik: I want to portray the overall best image of myself on stage, which I hope comes across as confident, kind of a goofball, and someone that people can relate to. I don’t want to be a larger than life guy that shuts people out. I want to be relatable person that people can feel like they can talk to at the end of the show. The wall should be knocked down between the audience and the performer.
What is the song that you never get tired of?
Derik: “When We Dance,” by Sting.
Rozzi: “Irreplaceable,” by Beyoncé. Favorite pop song of the past eight years. Beyoncé is the ultimate woman. She kills it in everything she does.
The one song you can’t stand but that everyone seems to like?
Derik: “Waiting On The World To Change,” by John Mayer.
Rozzi: “California Gurls,” by Katy Perry.
The song you wish you would have written?
Rozzi: “Everything,” by Lauryn Hill.
Derik: “Empty,” by Ray LaMontagne.
The song you’ve been listening to on repeat recently?
Rozzi: “F—k You,” the Cee-Lo song. [laughs]
Derik: “Break Even,” by The Script.
Rozzi: I hate that song! [laughs]
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Both: Come to our shows!
Derik: Visit our respective websites, and either sign up for the mailing list or tell your friends about the music.
Rozzi: Pass it on if you like the music.
Derik: Rozzi and I feel the same about people hearing our music rather than paying for our music. It would be a compliment enough if you listened and were interested.