Casey Veggies on Collaborations, Branding, and Touring

Casey Veggies is tall. He resembles a spear of broccoli. Perhaps a stick of celery.

I am short. I resemble a potato. Perhaps an onion.

Veggies is on the verge of his first studio release, and has built up an audience with his mixtapes. He first gained public exposure alongside Tyler, the Creator and Odd Future. He had barely started high school when he released his first mixtape, Customized Greatly Vol. 1. By the time he graduated high school, musician Mac Miller offered Veggies an opening spot on the national, 66-show, Blue Slide Park Tour.

"I really salute Mac for bringing me along, and giving me that opportunity to hit the ground running," says Veggies. "That was a veteran's tour. That's not a tour for a new artist... But I had to just jump into it and learn everything very fast."

The tour wasn't easy. Veggies would frequently lose his voice or end up sick, and still have to perform at a show that same day.

"My voice probably never recovered from that tour," he laughs. "My voice is probably permanently raspy from that tour. But nah, it was dope, man."

It sounds like hell. I travelled to Beijing earlier this year, where I caught a cough and realized they didn't sell Cold-FX there. I couldn't wait to get back home. I could only imagine how that felt for Veggies, who had to perform almost every evening. With 66 shows, it probably seemed never-ending.

"Those are the moments, where it shows whether you can handle it or not," Veggies says. He built his resilience through the tour. "You gotta be strong in your mind. Tell yourself, 'This is nothing.'"

Miller's performances also put things into perspective for Veggies. "Mac was killing shows, and his set was longer than mine. So if he can do it with a longer set, how can I complain?" He credits watching Miller for pushing him further. It's as the classic Jim Rohn quote goes, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with."

Because of Veggies' experience working with other artists, and brands, I ask him about his worst experiences and advice to younger artists. He points out that most terrible collaborations happen when artists let their egos drive them.

"Thinking you need more than what you actually need," says Veggies. "I think a lot of times, artists get caught up thinking they need this big name, or they need this reassurance, or they need this cosign.

"Those are probably the whackest 'collaborations', or the whackest things I could ever think that I thought in my head. Realistically, just be yourself. Do you. You don't need those people to make you cool. Those are one of the things that I have to remind myself of. Like, I tell myself, 'You're good where you're at Casey, you don't need to align yourself with things you think in your head you do.'"

Veggies' insight into brands piques my interest as well. For one thing, he and his peers came up with vegetable names at a young age (e.g., Casey Veggies, Anwar Carrots, and Josh Peas originally started Peas & Carrots International together). I think that was awesome. (I must have a soft spot for minerals and health, because I also love Protein's name and branding.)

He describes his movement, PNC INTL, as a lifestyle brand. "It's just organic," he says. "Give somebody something natural that they can attach to."

But Veggies says you don't need a brand to connect with your audience.

"I would advise you to have your own movement," says Veggies. A movement doesn't have to be a brand, and vice versa. Rather, Veggies recommends embodying something that's greater than yourself and your personal brand. People will want to be a part of what you're a part of.

Amidst all these experiences and movements, Veggies is launching his new album Live & Grow, September 25. He describes it as a nostalgic album, one where he appreciates where he's at while enjoying the past. Makes sense. Veggies is 21, and not very far away from his youth and childhood.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. I still feel like a kid a lot of times (who in their right mind starts off an article with vegetable comparisons?), so I'm excited to give it a listen.

Yet as Veggies moves forward with his journey, I'm reminded of something designer Karl Lagerfeld once said. Lagerfeld is one of Kanye West's heroes. West is one of Casey Veggies' heroes. "I'm very much against [nostalgia]," Lagerfeld says to the Financial Times. "I'm always into the next step. I'm interested in what's going on, not what has happened. I never look at the archives. I hate archives!"

Special thanks to NXNE for hosting this conversation.