G.C. native Grooms earns spotlight through music competition.
By ANGIE HAFLICH
A dream recently came true for Garden City native Nicholas Grooms.
The 28-year-old hip-hop artist was one of only four acts chosen to perform at a regional venue of the 2013 Vans Warped Tour, which consists of 40 venues nationwide. Grooms said he owes much of the achievement to friends and family from Garden City
"Every person I ever met at shows, or every person I went to school with — teachers, family, friends — just everybody kind of came out of the woodwork and was like, 'Hey, we're rooting for you. We really want you to do this.' And for it to actually happen was insane," Grooms said.
The Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands competition draws thousands of regional musicians from Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas to compete for a spot on the tour. To try to win a spot, Grooms first had to create the most "buzz" on the profile he created for the website, www.battleofthebands.com, which includes MP3 files of his songs. His Buzz Rating was determined by the number of fans who voted for him, liked him on Facebook, and tweeted about him. During that initial process, Grooms said there were around 1,000 other acts. After completing the Buzz Rating portion of the contest, the field was narrowed down to Grooms and 99 other entrants. From that group, industry professionals chose the final four acts, one of which was Grooms, to perform at the Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in Bonner Springs on July 23.
"I'm really, really proud I won because when I was looking through it, it just seemed so hopeless because it was just all bands," he said. "There were quite a few hip-hop artists, but I think a lot of them were, I don't want to say stereotypical, but they kind of put off that 'get money, go to the clubs, smoke weed' (vibe)."
This is not a category that Grooms will allow himself to ever fall into.
"I'm not that kind of rapper. I mean, I can't be anything other than myself, and I think putting anything like that into your music, if it's not who you are, it's just fake, it's plastic. I can't run around and act like I have money. The thing is, most of the rappers during the contest who rapped about money — I have more money than they do — but it's because I have a full-time job," he said and then laughed.
Grooms works at the Ramada Inn in Mountain Home, Ark., doing front desk work, maintenance and customer service, among other things.
Grooms said he has dreamed about getting a spot on the tour since he was 14, and that he spent much of that time helping with the tour any way he could.
"Anything to be involved in the tour when I was growing up, I did," he said.
When he received the news that he won, he reacted calmly at first, but later, in private, he cried tears of joy.
Grooms remains down to earth about his music and his recent successes, one of which came on the heels of the Wichita State Shockers men's basketball team making the NCAA's Final Four.
"I've gotten a lot of love from players on the Wichita State Shockers team and the Kansas City Chiefs for my song, 'Blacklist Kansas,'" he said. "It's basically just a song about anytime I go anywhere else, people always say stuff like, 'You're from Kansas. Where's Dorothy,' and 'There are just a bunch of hicks there.'"
Those kinds of comments prompted Grooms to write the song, in which he defends the state.
"The song just happened to come out about the time the Shockers made the Final Four. There is a line in there about the Shockers, so on the Internet, the buzz for it just went crazy at that time. That's kind of how I was able to launch everything, was just on the back of that song," he said.
Formerly a member of Garden City metal bands, such as The Girl Fight and The Answer is Never, Grooms began doing hip-hop after his last band split up.
"I always had a love for poetry and stuff. I started getting into underground hip-hop music, (about five or six years ago) and I kind of just started using my poetry background and moving it to hip-hop, and slowly but surely, I got better and better and better, and this year, everything's just kind of blown up," he said.
Grooms' mother, Vita Perez, still lives in Garden City, and his father, Douglas Grooms, lives in Arkansas. He said both his parents have always been supportive of his music.
"They were always on me about school, but they never grounded me from my bands or stopped me from playing music. I think they knew that would be like ripping my heart out," he said.
Perez said her son has come a long way and that she enjoys listening to his music.
"He has always been good with words, and when he puts it to music, it's great," she said. "It's something he has always wanted, and he seems to get better and better."
Grooms gives a lot of the credit for his recent success to his friend, Chad Weston of Garden City.
"He's the one who said, 'Dude, you need to step up and really do this because you have a lot of good things to say,'" Grooms said. "He just kind of stayed with me and helped me get better, overall. I owe this dude everything that's happened this year."
Grooms is still in the running to win several other prizes being awarded through the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands contest.
"The tour is over, but we're still in a battle for $50,000. We're still battling for other prizes, like recording equipment, sponsorship or more tour time," he said. "And a little birdy has told me I might be back in the tour next year."
To hear Grooms' music, visit www.battleofthebands/com/u/nicholasgrooms, or soundcloud.com/nicholasgrooms.