No Grammy but I’m grateful for Bermuda’s support, says 8 Track
As a music producer Rian “8 Track” Williams made history in Bermuda when the reggae album he worked on was nominated for a Grammy.
The news set him up as a local celebrity, with wellwishers congratulating him at every step. Hopeful of the win, Williams had plans of staging the prestigious award at City Hall and giving inspirational talks to help local artists to move forward.
“That experience was just amazing. And for me, it really felt like I made my country proud — to make it to that point of just being Grammy-nominated,” he said.
“But it did get a little overwhelming because what happened, I took on the gratitude, I took on the well wishes as, ‘I can't disappoint now. I have to win’.”
Kabaka Pyramid’s The Kalling was named Best Reggae Album of 2023 at the Cyrptyo.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 5.
Williams produced Hills, the lead song on Third Time’s The Charm, the sixth studio album by Protoje, a Jamaican singer and songwriter.
“Honestly I was looking at the other artists and I was sizing them up. I was like, OK, well, Shaggy, he’s on this list; another big artist was Sean Paul. And I was like, OK, these are very well-known artists but I feel like there'll be a high chance of winning due to relevancy. I didn't think about how I should prepare myself if I don't win,” said Williams.
US health regulations prevented him from attending the prestigious ceremony as he has not been vaccinated against Covid-19. Williams, the operations supervisor for Magic 102.7 and Hott 107.5, watched on his phone while he worked.
“When it came down to the result and we didn't win, my heart dropped. My instant thought was, ‘Whoa, I let my country down’.”
Focusing on the bigger picture helped him to recover from the tremendous disappointment.
“Being Grammy-nominated is still historical, still a big deal and I have made history in Bermuda and so I’m really, really happy with that.”
Williams left Bermuda for the United States in 2012 to build his music career. He had little money and often had nowhere to stay but in 2014 was signed to rapper 2 Chainz. Work with 50 Cent and other big names followed.
A year after he signed, he got sick.
He believes it was brought on by his struggles when he first moved to the US. With no money, he didn’t have a healthy diet; sleep was similarly put on the back burner.
“I would go weeks just being up 22 hours a day, working in the studios just trying to take every opportunity. I was doing that possibly for almost a year.”
Back in Bermuda for a visit in 2014, he got food poisoning.
“This was the worst I've ever gotten sick in my life. I went to see three doctors and they were telling me that I had kidney issues, stomach issues, my heart was weak, I was malnourished.”
Williams weighed about 200lb when he left Bermuda in 2012. By 2014 he had dropped to 120lb.
“Once I dropped all that weight and got sick from the food poisoning, and then I guess as the lifestyle just caught up to me as well, my body just shut down,” he said.
“There was so much opportunity thrown at me but I couldn't take it.”
A missed meeting with Kanye West still stings. Called to the studio for the opportunity, the Bermudian producer was unable to get off his couch.
“I was so sick and my body was in so much pain. And I was also suffering from anxiety at that time as well ... I had panic attacks just from travelling short distances.
“I was trying to put aside the pain that I had physically and also trying to put aside the anxieties that I had just to go meet Kanye West and I just couldn't do it. I just physically couldn't do it.”
It took him three years to recover. Williams challenged himself by confronting his fears.
“Whenever something brought me anxiety, I just took it on. If I was scared to get in my car and drive a long distance, I did it until I got a panic attack and then I came back. Or I would walk five steps and if I felt a panic attack, I would go back home and the next day I would take six steps, seven steps — literally doing that for like three years.”
He moved back to Bermuda, where he had to find “inspiration and purpose” to continue his career.
“There was a lot of personal rebuilding to get myself back into a groove of making music consistently. And once I did, I ended up producing for the reggae artist Protoje and [his] production company too.”
His hope is that his story inspires local artists to push forward as “there’s not so many opportunities for the arts to thrive in Bermuda”.
“I just wanted to let people know how I even got to this place [and how they could do the same] just through persistence and consistency and not giving up on your dreams. Being the biggest believer in yourself. Not looking for other people to validate you and things like that,” Williams said.
“I think there's a lot of people that go through life thinking the woulda, coulda, shouldas; there’s people out there whose parents might not support their dreams because they might feel like their dreams are not realistic enough.”
He continued: “I was hoping that with my nomination that I could change the mindsets of people [so they realise] that accomplishing something that could seem so far-fetched, is actually realistic. But it is all to do with the work that you put in and just taking yourself seriously. If you say that you want to do something, then do it and stay committed to it because you're never going to see the full potential in anything you give up on.”