Q&A: Poet turned rapper Watsky talks fans, touring and politics

Davis Bonner

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  • Slam poet turned professional rapper Watsky performs for a packed house Saturday night at the Ogden theater in downtown Denver as part of his “Low Visibility Tour” featuring the band Invisible Inc. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

    Collegian | Davis

  • Slam poet turned professional rapper Watsky performs for a packed house Saturday night at the Ogden theater in downtown Denver as part of his “Low Visibility Tour” featuring the band Invisible Inc. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

    Collegian | Davis

  • Slam poet turned professional rapper Watsky performs for a packed house Saturday night at the Ogden theater in downtown Denver as part of his “Low Visibility Tour” featuring the band Invisible Inc. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

    Collegian | Davis

  • Slam poet turned professional rapper Watsky performs for a packed house Saturday night at the Ogden theater in downtown Denver as part of his “Low Visibility Tour” featuring the band Invisible Inc. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

    Collegian | Davis

  • Slam poet turned professional rapper Watsky performs for a packed house Saturday night at the Ogden theater in downtown Denver as part of his “Low Visibility Tour” featuring the band Invisible Inc. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

    Collegian | Davis

  • Slam poet turned professional rapper Watsky performs for a packed house Saturday night at the Ogden theater in downtown Denver as part of his “Low Visibility Tour” featuring the band Invisible Inc. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

    Collegian | Davis

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From humble beginnings performing spoken word poetry in coffee shops and college campuses to packing theaters across the country and around the world, Watsky has always performed from the heart and remained close to his fan base.

Watsky, the slam poet turned professional rapper, returned to Denver April 21 for the first time since election night in 2016.

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Watsky’s performance at the Ogden marked the third stop on Watsky’s “Low Visibility Tour” with his band Invisible Inc. and guest star Raquel Rodriquez who performed her new single, “Mile High.” The band performed several songs off their new album, “Fine Print.” Watsky also performed crowd favorites including “Sloppy Seconds,” “Brave New World,” Wounded Healer” and “Talking to Myself.”

The show concluded with an encore that spanned all three “Tiny Glowing Screens” renditions. Afterward, Watsky visited with every fan individually who stayed after the show to take pictures and sign autographs.

The Collegian: What was the highlight of your show tonight

Watsky: Denver has had an interesting arc for us because the last time we played Denver was election night in 2016. So I feel like we have this energy arc from us processing something that was hard for us to deal with in 2016 and trying to do our best with it to tonight, which felt like we had our feet under us a little more had a little bit less baggage a little more purely joyful. But the crowd energy was amazing tonight, there were a couple kids named Mason and Aiden that requested “Cardboard Castles,” so getting to perform and seeing these young kids still in the balcony that were really appreciative that we played a song we rarely play in our set for them was a highlight.

The Collegian: Obviously you have a close relationship with your fans, where did that relationship stem from?

Watsky: I don’t know, you know I’ve been touring for years now and I’ve gone from rookie to veteran in a way. When I was playing college campuses doing my spoken word poetry, which I did for about five years from the time that I was maybe 20 years old to 24, 25. I would play for like 15, 20, 30, 40 people and I would always stay afterward. I had a little box of CD’s I would drive myself. I’d play at a coffee house and I just always stayed after, I mean that’s what I did. I was playing for so few people it wasn’t hard to do. So as the shows got bigger I just never stopped doing it and never felt appropriate to stop and so you know, it’s important I think to connect with the people who connect with your music. They’re the reason that I get to live my dream and I’m very grateful for that.

The Collegian: What do you want to say to those who look up to you and your music?

Watsky: One thing I would say is that idol worship is never super productive. I love being on stage and people cheering for me and stuff, but at the end of the day I’m a flawed human being and I try to put that out there in my music. The other thing I would say is that art is a feedback loop. I’m making art because I was inspired by other artists that were awesome and that gave me the inspiration to want to do what I do and so that’s how it works, you pay it forward. I hope there’s people in the crowd that are the next big thing that are seeing my show and that are going to make great art themselves and, you know, take it to the next level and move it along. So if anything comes of my career besides that I’ve gotten to live out this dream I hope that its, you know, a new crop of awesome artists pops up and they inspire another generation and so on and so forth, and you know, that’s how art grows.

The Collegian: Are you working anything for the future, stuff we can look forward to?

Watsky: Yeah, I’m working on new material. So I’m planning on hopefully touring next fall and doing a real tour. And my goal for the next few years and what I’ve kind of been doing now is not stopping releasing music but scaling it back a little bit so that in between my traditional music album releases I can experiment with other forums because I studied screenwriting and playwriting in school. So I’ve always wanted to be a multi-disciplinary writer. I did an essay collection in 2016 in between my albums and I’m working on a novel in between my next albums. So my goal is to just keep doing the music, keep touring but also take enough time off that I can do some writing experimentation and try and keep growing as a writer.

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Collegian photographer Davis Bonner can be reached at photo@collegian.com or on Twitter @backhaul.photo