No matter what your FYP looks like, if you’ve ever opened TikTok and let your smooth brain scroll through its offerings this year, you’ve likely come across the song “Stunnin'” by Curtis Waters. A ten second excerpt of the song’s catchy chorus hook—”Ice on my neck, that’s incoming (‘coming) I’m a pretty boy, I’m stunning (stunning)”—blew up earlier this year. Soon after, it became The TikTok Song, the soundtrack to 1.4 million videos, used by fashionistas like Nava Rose, celebrities like KJ Apa and Debby Ryan, and streamed over 340 million times—y’know, no big deal.
So naturally, with such a big breakout hit, you’d think that Waters would be riding that viral wave and performing his hit track live to a huge audience, capitalising off his success as much as any other person with a viral thing on a social media platform would do. But, he isn’t, and no, it’s not because the COVID-19 pandemic has indefinitely delayed festival seasons and live music. Curtis Waters is an “internet artist” who wants to escape the internet.
Syrup recently (virtually) sat down with the 20-year-old Nepalese-Canadian artist-producer to celebrate the release of his self-described “eclectic, personal, honest and cringeworthy at times” debut LP, Pity Party. In a time where we’re all having more bad brain days than usual, feeling guilty for our feelings during this pandemic and scared of our future, Pity Party comes as “an album for coping.”
“I got diagnosed as bipolar and I came home and I dropped out [of university],” Waters told us. “And for me, [making Pity Party] was just a way for me to put all those emotions in an album in a positive manner. So when I listened to it now, I think I made it past that point. I’ve done good. I’ve healed, I guess. I’m healing.”
Having lived on the internet and not so in much the world around him his entire life, Waters says that quarantine and lockdown didn’t interfere too much with his everyday routine. “Stunnin’”, which appears on the album, came about casually while hanging out with his brother, “playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild all day in our underwear. We’re just like, ‘dude, we need to do something, we need to blog, like, this is a waste of time.’”
“I wish I could party with my friends but other than that, everything for me in my whole life has always been so internet,” he said. “I learned how to make music on the internet. I released music on the internet.”
“Most of this stuff [on the album] is so based within internet subculture,” he added. “Even the beats sound like I spend too much time on Twitter. I think of [Pity Party] as an internet album, so I don’t think it’s that bad to be quarantined during the process.”
“My influences for the album aren’t because I live in North Carolina or because I live in Canada,” he continued. “I don’t even know what North Carolina artists sound like.”
Instead, Waters says he was inspired by things he heard on YouTube—”a random Joy Division song… a random pop song… Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR”—sounds, hooks and feelings he discovered online and as a product of internet culture in the 2010s.
“[Tyler’s] one of the reasons I even started making music,” he explained. “When I was 14[-years-old], I saw him and Odd Future, just these kids making their own music and doing their own little weird thing, and I thought, ‘Oh, I can do this too. I don’t need big support or anything.’
And, as an internet person—and like us internet people—Waters knows the pressures and anxieties that come from being online. Ofc, the internet is a wonderful resource for practically any DIY trick, fashion tip and beauty tutorial, but it can also be “overwhelming and toxic and just make me anxious sometimes,” he said.
“Even my name, I’m being perceived by the entire world now. It’s kind of like, ‘oh, man, it’s not fun anymore.’ It’s more fun when nobody knows you and you just go on the internet, and you say a bunch of dumb shit.”
“I’m actually trying to move away from the internet. After this album comes out, and I do my promotion thing, I’m probably going to disappear for a bit. I’m gonna live in a farm and learn guitar and make folk music. And I’m gonna come back and I’m gonna be the next Phoebe Bridges or something.”
“I just want to go back to feeling like nobody is watching me. Being on the internet all the time kind of makes me feel like so many people are aware of me. It’s kind of weird. And I haven’t come to terms with it at all.”
In that sense, his next big decision to “move away from the internet” isn’t just out of his wellbeing and mental health (which we here at Syrup 100 percent stan), it’s a bold move that he hopes will push him and his creative identity down new and interesting paths.
Header image: @imcurtiswaters.