Good luck at this year’s INDY 500!
Cover photo by Andrea Mead Cross on location in Indianapolis with IndyCar driver, Graham Rahal and top Funny Car driver, Courtney Force.
THIRD S g+c
He’s an emerging country singer and song writer and stirring it up in Nashville! His confident sound is marked by relatable storytelling and the sonic flair of electric loops and pop rock chords alongside traditional acoustics.
He fought all odds to become one of the best 400 meter runners in the world and won a Olympic gold medal in Rio. And with a heart of gold saved a turtle, started a rescue and ended up on the Ellen DeGeneres Show!
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GRAHAM RAHAL + COURTNEY FORCE
He is one of IndyCar’s top drivers and she is the winningest female Funny Car driver. They got married merging two of racing’s most prestigious families. They talk about love, life, racing and a new baby!
k it out!
123 Thank you.
Raised in a multi-generational musical family, he began playing the violin at the age of three! He’s an LA-based musician who challenges genre norms by combining classical violin melodies with beats and vocal cues taken from hip-hop/trap music!
What is it about an up and coming country singer-songwriter who has that classic American wholesome look, an infectious smile and a killer instinct for storytelling and pop rock chords that tugs at the heartstrings? No one knows for sure, but Chase Wright has millions of streams that prove he’s onto something. Just four years ago Wright was an economics major and college track star at Depauw University winning 100-meter and 200-meter races. Sometime between his studies and time at the track, he picked up a guitar, taught himself to play John Legend’s “All Of Me” and “Vandalizer,” a track from Sam Hunt. Channeling his athletic discipline to his creative muse, Wright gave himself a project and a deadline— he would post a music performance video every day to his Instagram page for 90 days. It worked. An agent from Morris Higham Management saw a few of his videos and recognized his raw talent. Soon he was traveling to Nashville and immersing himself in songwriting circles. A week after graduation, he made the fulltime move to Music City. “My greenness when it comes to the writing process works to my benefit,” Wright says. “I don’t fall into what everybody else is doing.” It wasn’t long before Wright secured a management deal at Morris Higham Management, as well as a publishing deal at the company’s publishing arm Toby & Molly Music. Known for his high energy songs and relatable storytelling, with a flair of electric loops and pop rock chords along with traditional acoustics, the rising country star’s music is a natural offshoot of Keith Urban, Matchbox Twenty, The Fray, 3 Doors Down and Goo Goo Dolls. “You can hear pop, rock and country, all the genres I love, in my music,” says Wright. Since his debut “My Kinda Morning” last August, including the TikTok hit “Wish You’d Miss Me,” “Why Should We” and recent “Drive,” Wright has been churning out track after track, accumulating over 30 million streams in the last nine months. While Wright never went down the athletic path, he now sees the natural crossover between his experience playing sports and the discipline involved in being a singer-songwriter. “Writing music has so many of those same elements of my time playing sports. I’ve really enjoyed the collaboration throughout it all from the melody to lyrics, to the instrumentation to the mixing.”
NowVIZ: How has music been involved in your life and what led you to Nashville? Chase: I have been around music pretty much all my life. My mom majored in music education and taught music for a bit, and her mother sang professionally when she was young. I picked up the trumpet at a young age, as that was my mom’s instrument of choice, but soon after gave it up and didn’t pick up music again until my freshman year of college when I began to learn guitar. NowVIZ: As an emerging artist and writer what do you draw from when you’re writing music? Chase: I always find myself drawing inspiration from what has happened in my life. Whether it’s my relationships, my friends’ relationships, or general life occurrences. NowVIZ: What musician do you listen to most and find to be an inspiration? Chase: Growing up I listened to a TON of 3 Doors Down and Keith Urban. Recently it’s been pop/EDM artists like Justin Bieber, MGK, Tate McRae, and ILLINIUM.
On set in Nashville with photographer Andrea Mead Cross and Chase Wright.
NowVIZ: You have an extensive athletic background. You were a track sprinter at Depaw University running the 100 and 200 meter. What was that like? What other sports did you play? Chase: When I was younger, soccer was my life. I have been playing soccer since I was 5 years old, and began to play year-round starting in 4th grade. I played soccer all through high school as a 3-year varsity starter, but gave up the goal of playing soccer when I got to college to focus on track and field.
NowVIZ: As a top athlete you had to fuel your body to race and train your mind to compete. How has that knowledge transferred to your work as an artist? Chase: I think the discipline I had to have in my athletics, and the work ethic it took to reach my peak performance translates directly to being an artist. The natural competitiveness and willingness to do what’s necessary to reach your goals when no one is looking is what distinguishes me as an artist.
NowVIZ: You’re starting to collaborate with other talented artists and people in the industry. What do you learn most from these experiences? Chase: My biggest takeaway from collaborating with industry veterans is to make music YOU love, regardless of what’s trending in the industry, and not be afraid to take risks. NowVIZ: Who has been your biggest influence in music? Chase: That is such a tough question because I have had so many things factor into how I create music. Sonically, acts like: Keith Urban, 3 Doors Down, The Chainsmokers, ILLINIUM, The Fray, and Sam Hunt all have a huge influence on my music. Hearing Sam Hunt’s story about how he started playing guitar his freshman year in college gave me the nudge I needed. If he could do it and rise to the top of country music, why couldn’t I? NowVIZ: Country music has changed so much over the years. Did you grow up listening to the traditional or the more pop country that is popular now? Chase: I grew up listening to a little bit of everything. Definitely a lot of 90’s country, but also a lot of artists that are still at the top of the charts like Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bently, Billy Currington, and many more.
NowVIZ: You have amassed over 30 million streams over the songs released “My Kinda Morning,” “Wish You’d Miss Me,” “Why Should We,” and “Drive.” Congratulations! What kind of motivation is that for you? Chase: It is an unreal feeling to think that people have listened to my music over 30 million times. It’s still hard to wrap my head around, but it is also incredibly motivating. I had a goal of amassing 100 million streams, and to think that we have already accomplished 1/5th of that in the first eight months is baffling. I am the type of person who is always looking ahead. But even I could never have imagined the response and genuine connection people have had to my music.
realized with the pinnacle of a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in the 4×400 meter relay, David Verburg’s athletic journey remains a source of fascination. Currently sponsored by Diadora, the alum of George Mason University, earning a degree in Sports Management, along with numerous All-America honors, has remained active in numerous sporting functions. Sharing his competitive acumen as a personal trainer and speed coach, the sense of drive has never wavered. Aspiring for a place on the United States national rugby team, Verburg’s impressive combination of self-discipline, determination, along with naturally scintillating speed, represent the promise of further achievements in his athletic ethos. Running parallel to such endeavors, Verburg has enjoyed acclaim as a sporting humanitarian. Rescuing a turtle at an intersection in Clermont, Florida, bravely running into traffic to retrieve the stranded creature, he brought it to his vehicle. Captured on video, the empathic act quickly became a viral phenomenon on social media. Going the extra mile, he would drive to a safer environment, releasing the turtle. Following the heroics, an appearance on the popular Ellen DeGeneres Show proved to be a defining moment. With the kind-hearted host presenting Verburg with a gold-plated turtle, a perfect accoutrement to his collection of IAAF and Olympic gold medals, another remarkable gift followed. The recipient of a generous donation of $10,000 from Cheerios, in partnership with Ellen, part of a campaign to encourage “One Million Acts of Good,” it allowed a gracious Verburg an opportunity to expand his compassionate efforts. Launching the Golden Tortoise Rescue Foundation, the cause held an emotional component. Verburg’s home state of Florida has five species of sea turtle (Green, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback and Loggerhead), classified as either endangered or threatened. With the hope to find safe habitats for wildlife, the Foundation also encourages residents to clean up a beach, and reduce their use of plastics. As plastics in water can be confused for a food source, such initiatives simultaneously benefit the environment. Equally important, Verburg’s advocacy for animal rights has brought a philosophical change, adopting a vegan diet. Citing more energy, enjoying the increased health benefits, with oatmeal, apples and peanut butter as key staples of his diet, the shift signifies a stirring social statement. Validating his compassion for animals, enriching an admirable legacy, his positive example stands as the greatest achievement, demonstrating how an act of kindness provides rewards of mutual benefits.
NowVIZ Q+ +A
NowVIZ: You’ve won Olympic gold in the 4 × 400m relay 2016 Rio; and in the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, as well as in the 2014 Indoor World Championships. These are defining career moments. What has your journey been like? David: For a skinny kid from Kentucky who had very few offers coming out of high school, it was more than I could have dreamed. One of the hardest things about striving to be in the top 1% of your sport is that nobody but you understands what it takes to make your dreams become a reality. It was a hard journey with plenty of ups and downs. I have been blessed to be able to compete well when it comes to championships. Being able to handle stressful situations with a clear mind is something that will stick with me for life. NowVIZ: As a world-class track and field athlete specializing in the 400 meters, you don’t have the typical physical build of a 400 meter runner. What challenges did you have to overcome throughout your career? David: It’s wild seeing “world class” next to your name. I always joke around and say “I’m tall for my height.” I am almost always the shortest guy on the track when it comes to the 400m. Working on things like form, stride length and frequency helped me run as if I was 6 feet tall. At my peak I was ranked in the top five 400m runners in the world. I would like to think it’s an example of when hard work and attention to detail beats talent. NowVIZ: How did switching to a vegan diet work with your training and performance? David: I grew up on a farm in Kentucky. Everything from draft horses to peacocks. We even had a llama. I was telling a story a few years ago about how I was bottle feeding a cow, and how much I loved animals. Their response was “Oh you must be vegan.” When I told them I wasn’t, it really made me think. How can I say I love animals then go home and fry one up? So I stopped eating meat. I turn 30 this May 14th and have been vegan 3 years now and in the best shape I have ever been in. NowVIZ: How do you mentally prepare for race day? David: All day long I go through mental reps of my race, going over and over how I want to execute it. I also like to give myself a fun distraction. One year before nationals I played laser tag as my warm up. I know what I need to do. I have put in the hard hours. On race day I just need to stay focused and relaxed.
Photographer Andrea Mead Cross with gold medalist David Verburg in Atlanta.
“It’s wild seeing “world class” next to your name. I always joke around and say “I’m tall for my height.” I am almost always the shortest guy on the track when it comes to the 400m. Working on things like form, stride length and frequency helped me run as if I was 6 feet tall. At my peak I was ranked in the top five 400m runners in the world. I would like to think it’s an example of when hard work and attention to detail beats talent.”
NowVIZ: You have the nickname, “Davy Crockett.” What’s the story?! David: When I was younger I was called “Davy” by friends and family, just to piss me off, really. I hated the name. So naturally they used it even more. Being that I was from the countryside, somewhere along the line someone threw in the “Crockett King of the wild frontier“ and it stuck. NowVIZ: How do you currently train to maintain and stay in the best shape possible? David: I do a lot of speed and agility work. I am currently playing rugby and working on signing with a pro team. My training has changed from just strict sprint training. I train six days a week with one day where I don’t do anything. And I mean anything. NowVIZ: Could you discuss what type of strength training you use the most and what goals you focus on? David: I do a lot of Olympic lifts. Clean, Snatch and Deadlift are some of my favorite lifts. My focus now is to put on weight and be explosive in my first steps. NowVIZ: As a top personal trainer what are some of the motivating factors you use to keep your clients on a successful path? David: Nobody is going to work harder for your dreams than you. What are you doing daily to make those 1% gains? At the end of the day no matter what anyone tells you, until you make the effort and change your mentality and lifestyle, no coach or trainer has the magical workout.
David Verburg Ambassador Olympian for @diadoraofficial.
NowVIZ: Growing up, did you have a mentor that helped you get through tough times? What effect did they have on your track career? David: My father is my biggest influence. He was a track coach at one point. He once said, “You have no idea how fast you can be.” Seems like simple enough advice, but that really stuck with me. NowVIZ: You recently began a new journey and new sport called Rugby. Could you talk about how this evolved and what your plans might be for the future? David: After track ran its course (no pun intended), I needed an outlet. In some ways I am in the best shape of my life. So, I started thinking about what’s next. I have always loved watching the game and respected the players. So I decided to give it a go. I started emailing people; sending DM’s and bought a rugby ball. A few months later I’m playing for a pro-development team and getting ready to head to some combines over the summer. I have big plans when it comes to rugby. I don’t know of anyone that has made a USA team for both sports. But I’m making it my mission to be the first. I’ve had terrible asthma my whole life and almost died from it when I was 12. Doctors said sports wouldn’t really be in my future. I took that personally. NowVIZ: You were asked to appear on the Ellen Show after rescuing a turtle?! And you then started the Golden Turtle Rescue Foundation. How did this come about and why did you start the foundation? David: I rescue turtles from roadways whenever I can. One day I came to an intersection to save a tortoise. It was recorded and the video went viral after I posted it. After talking to others, I realized there are people who do the same thing. They’re called Turtle Toteters. So, I started the foundation to encourage people to stop and help our slow-moving friends. I also help people adopt turtles and tortoises. A lot of the time when they go unwanted as pets, people let them go. This messes up the local habitat.
Imagine driving 0 to 1,000 feet in under 4 seconds and over 330 miles per hour. 10,000 horsepower. Graham Rahal and Courtney Force both have that special thing that separates the rookies from the pros. Guts. “There are only a handful of people in the world who could understand the pressure I have,” says NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Graham Rahal, son of IndyCar legend Bobby Rahal, the three-time Indy car champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner. Courtney Force is one of them. The youngest daughter of 16-time Funny Car champ and thirty-year drag racing veteran, John Force, is now retired, but had her time in the spotlight as the winningest female Funny Car driver with 12 wins. “I have four seconds to do the best I can to keep that car straight and center of that groove,” she says. What Force fails to mention is what powers those 4 seconds—nitromethane, a dangerous and explosive fuel so toxic it takes your breath away and makes your eyes water so pit crews have to wear gas masks. To heighten the intensity, the engines of Funny Cars are in front. “When it blows up the explosion is in your lap,” Force says. Luckily, Force has been unscathed as witnessed by the cover shoot she did for ESPN’s 2018 Body Issue. Now a mother to six month-old Harlan, Force’s role is more support than racer, helping grow Graham’s business, Graham Rahal Performance, a custom tuning and performance parts company where they modify high end cars like Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini and supporting his team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, co-owned by Bobby Rahal, former Late Show host David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Mike Lanigan. For the Rahal-Force family, it’s all about keeping the love in the family. And racing cars fuel the love.
On location in Indianapolis with Graham and Courtney.
Graham: It all began via twitter! Courtney wrote to me, asking if I knew any local places in Indianapolis to eat since she was visiting. I ended up sending her my cell and asked her to reach out. A few months later I went to see her race in Joliet, Illinois. A few months after that we began dating. But it was after the first time I met her at the race track in Joliet with my brother, that I told him “I’m going to marry that girl one day.” The rest is history!
NowVIZ: Who can tell us the best story of how you both met?
NowVIZ: Racing in 2020 was definitely a challenging year for all sports, can you describe how you handled the diverse conditions? And as 2021 gets underway you’ve started the season strong. What’s your overall mindset? Graham: It was definitely unique, the biggest aspect of course being the fans. When we were in the season, which did start late, the racing was somewhat business as usual. The biggest difference was the lack of atmosphere at most events. Racing was one of the first sports to introduce fans back into the events, but the fans did not get the usual close up access they traditionally had. We are glad to have them back now in full force, and just had the largest crowd worldwide since the pandemic started at the 2021 Indy 500! NowVIZ: What is it like racing for Rahal Letterman Lanigan? What is special about the relationship and your crew? Graham: It’s been great to compete with my dad, Mike and Dave. It’s always difficult at times being in a family business, but in our sport we exist and thrive on sponsorship and that’s where our combination is most successful. I am proud to see the gains we’ve made, and the competitiveness of our team only getting stronger. We are a tight knit group and we love that. It’s the only way we would want to go and compete, as one.
Graham Rahal drives the #15 for Rahal, Letterman and Lanigan Racing.
NowVIZ: You’re racing sometimes every weekend under extreme conditions and traveling much of the week. How do you fuel your body day in and day out to perform at an optimum level? Graham: The biggest thing in IndyCar is your hydration and keeping your stamina strong. The muscular endurance it demands, and intensity, is incredible. The key is making sure you get rehydrated between races and ready for the next event. Sometimes with the double headers you can lose 5-10 lbs in a weekend, so gaining that back and being ready is critical to your success. NowVIZ: Can you give us an overview of what your training looks like in-season vs. off-season? Graham: Both are similar for me. But the biggest difference is during off-season I do longer cardio training sessions. Those are blended with routine lifting, core work, and flexibility work to make sure I am limber and ready. In season, I do those things but spend more time with therapy and getting my body feeling right. Being the tallest guy, there are always aches and pains. Overcoming that in season is critical. NowVIZ: What motivates you day in and day out to get behind the wheel? Graham: Now, my family. Initially it’s the competitive fire within to go out and beat everyone else. But now it’s really both. I have the fire, I have the dedication, but I also want to make my family proud. It drives me to be better every single day. NowVIZ: Could you please tell us about The Graham and Courtney Rahal Foundation? Graham: The Foundation began in 2009, as my boss at the time, Paul Newman, had passed away. I wanted to continue his legacy, but also build upon the contributions my parents always made to kids’ charities. When we got married we renamed the Foundation. We both take pride in raising money and giving back to the charitable organizations with whom we are proud to be partnered. Our annual golf tournament before the Indy 500 has been a massive success, and we look forward to expanding to new events.
Courtney Force winningest female NHRA Funny Car driver of all time.
Courtney: My win in Topeka, Kansas in 2014 was a big win for me. I was the #1 qualifier, along with my sister Brittany in Top Fuel. I went on to win the race, becoming the 100th female to earn a win in the NHRA. It was a milestone moment in that it shows how many females over the years have had success in the NHRA. It showed that even in a male-dominated sport, females are driving these race cars and winning. I hope that it inspires little girls, showing them that they’re capable of doing and being anything they want.
Photo by Gary Nastase / Auto Imagery
NowVIZ: Was there one race during your career that became the milestone for you?
NowVIZ: You have the most Funny Car wins on record by a female driver in NHRA. What was the ingredient for your success? Courtney: I do have 12 Funny Car wins to make me the winningest female Funny Car driver, which is pretty cool. My sister Ashley held the record before me. I think the biggest ingredient to success is the commitment to my craft and teamwork. There have been plenty of hurdles throughout my career. Good races; bad races. But it’s how you come back and make yourself better, learning and building from mistakes that makes you a successful driver. Plus having the support of my amazing team both on and off the track, as well as my family, always makes me push myself that much harder. NowVIZ: Your father, John Force, and sister Brittany are both still racing and your other sister Ashley, who is now retired from racing, has dominated the Funny Car scene for over three decades. What was it like to grow up in the Force family and to race each other throughout your career? Courtney: I loved growing up watching my dad compete in Funny Car. I was at the race track in a diaper and grew up at the track covered in grease trying to help my dad’s team clean the Funny Car body and anything else I could get my hands on. I love the sport. But even more, I loved being a part of the family business. It was amazing to be able to compete against my dad in the Funny Car category. I will never forget my first win against him. At the same time, I was following in my sister Ashley’s footsteps, trying to be as successful as she was in the Funny Car category. Then Brittany came along, but in the Top Fuel Dragster category. She is still having success and even won a Championship, which few females have done. I’m proud of my sisters and their accomplishments and am lucky that I have been able to learn from them as well as my dad, who is still kicking butt in Funny Car and more recently just picked up a win! We are all very competitive. Having my dad to compete against...just pushed me to be a better of a driver. They always say you have to beat the best to be the best. NowVIZ: What motivated you day in and out to get behind the wheel? Courtney: I loved driving my race car and getting that adrenaline rush on every run, especially after a win. I love the physical and mental challenge every time I get behind the wheel. But it was always the energy of the fans and getting to meet young girls at the ropes who said they wanted to grow up and be like me. That really gave me the fire to succeed.
N o w V I Z : We ’ v e w a t c h e d y o u b u i l d Graham Rahal Performance (GRP) from the ground up. Tell us about this passion of yours. Graham: I have always been a big car guy. But ultimately, in any sport, we need life after the athlete phase ends. For me, working with cars and having fun with that business has always been a dream. We added in the Ducati dealership which is another big passion. I have built it into a well known national car/motorcycle store for people who love all types of performance. NowVIZ: What have been some of the more unique projects you’ve completed at GRP? Graham: We work on it all, but working on some of the high end Ferrari’s and building custom projects for fellow athletes are what inspire us to keep pushing the limits.
NowVIZ: The newest member of your family, Harlan, is just precious! Do you think she might follow in her mom and dad’s footsteps and race one day?! Courtney: Harlan is our first born and the light of our life. She loves waving hi to people and is always smiling. Going from being a Funny Car driver to a new mom was a big adjustment, and she has made it so much fun. I love taking her out to the NHRA track to cheer on her grandpa and her aunt, as well as bringing her out to the INDYCAR races to cheer on Graham. She travels everywhere with us and has made every day a new adventure as we learn the ins and outs of parenting. I would be shocked if Harlan didn’t have the need for speed but we will see. I would love to see her competing in either sport... or who knows, maybe both!
If there was a poster child for every young violinist who secretly wishes they could forgo Bach for Eminem, Clejan is their man. The classically trained violinist is breaking down barriers to become one of the premier violinists in the hip hop/Trap space. Like a good boy, he did what his parents wanted and played what was placed in his hands at the age of 3. But 16 years later while living in Atlanta, Clejan got a taste of a musical genre he couldn’t shake. Trap music— born out of Southern hip hop and gangsta rap. The name refers to a place where drugs are illegally sold and was as far from Mozart as could possibly be. He loved it. Fueled with a desire to create, backed by years of rigorous discipline, Clejan started to blend what he learned as a classically trained violinist with hip-hop. Calling himself ‘The Trap Violinist,” Clejan, who began writing his own original songs at the age of 10 and released his first hip-hop project at 17, now has over 3 million views on TikTok for his violin cover of Trick Daddy and Lil Jon’s “Let’s Go.” But covers are just one aspect of what Clejan does. His original songs have an intense rhythm and power all on their own. It’s not surprising that his stage name comes from the family name “Clejani,” a small town in Romania known for being home to the world-renowned gypsy musical group, Taraf de Haïdouks, which has produced several famed violinists. Clejan’s own genre of ‘Trap violin,’ takes inspiration from artists like Lindsey Stirling and Travis Scott. But the source of his talent goes deeper. His energy, passion and sheer talent is in his blood, much like the musically-inspired Balkan gypsies. Listen carefully. It will stir your inner fire.
NowVIZ: You have an incredibly complex background. You have four generations of music in your family, you’re a classically trained violinist, having trained with 2nd chair in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, pursued a double majored (with a minor in Chinese) from University of Georgia, graduated Cum Laude, worked at Dun and Bradstreet and now you’re back to the violin playing hip-hop and Trap! Tell us about this journey! Clejan: Haha, you really did your research! Being from a musical family really shaped my life, When I was a boy, I watched my dad, an immigrant from Israel, play the fiddle (he called it a fiddle rather than a violin because he played mostly Celtic and Folk music). I started violin lessons at the ripe age of 2. I spent the next 16 years taking neo/modern classical lessons (8 of those years with Jay Christy of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), then school, city and state orchestras, and every orchestral summer camp you can imagine. My mom called my lessons and practices ‘brain food,’ and I think she was onto something. Learning the violin at such a young age taught me skills that helped me in school and in life. I learned the importance of discipline over time when trying to achieve a goal, how to read and write music, which helped my cognitive and written skills, and most importantly, playing violin introduced me to the thing that made me feel most alive: creating. NowVIZ: Can you tell us how you discovered Trap music? Clejan: Growing up in the 1990’s and 2000’s in Atlanta, Georgia, I quickly fell in love with the burgeoning music scene, which was mostly filled with hip-hop. In my teens I saw the rise of a new brand of music in Atlanta called ‘Trap.’ Named after the dead-end cul de sacs in the low-income area of Atlanta where drugs were often sold, Trap music soon became a global phenomenon. T.I and Gucci Mane rose as kings of Trap music in Atlanta, and though I wasn’t raised in the Trap, I fell in love with the style of music and resonated with the swaggy defiance, and the underlying message of overcoming struggle to find success. My home life had never been great, but especially during my teens it took a hard turn for the worse. Listening to Trap music and writing about my experiences became a way to cope, and performing my original music filled my soul in a way I had never experienced before. I am not sure how, but I realized I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
NowVIZ Q+ +A
NowVIZ: Being from Atltanta, how did you make your way to Los Angeles? Clejan: I was actually born in Boston. I moved to Atlanta after my parents split when I was almost 6 years old. Being a transfer from Massachusetts, going to a private school on financial aid (and eventually getting kicked out), then going to a traditional southern university filled with people who I often didn’t see eye to eye with. I never felt like I fully belonged in Georgia, though I will forever have an immense love for it. Los Angeles became a dream destination. At a young age I read Anthony Keitis’, “Scar Tissue,” and was inspired by his story. As my love and purpose for music grew, so did my longing to move out West to pursue my dreams. But I didn’t have the means or interest to just move without a plan. So I did what a lot of people do when they don’t know what to do… I got a marketing degree. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I finally got my chance. A friend told me about a company in Malibu, California. She encouraged me to apply for an internship in the marketing department, and I got it. California was everything I dreamed of. I fell in love with it and worked my ass off to prove myself at my job, securing a position at the company after graduating. I made the final move and haven’t looked back. NowVIZ: What artists did you gravitate to most and how did they influence your current style? Clejan: T.I., Gucci Mane, Eminem, and Young Jeezy influenced me a lot growing up. I found my love for prose and Trap music through them. I loved their production, cadences, wordplay and the influence they had on my city and me and my friends. We would spend hours, day and night, just freestyling and writing to their instrumental beats. Each one had their own style and carved their own lane, which was inspiring. It’s always been a fun puzzle trying to get a message across while coming up with the most creative way to make it rhyme, flow and dance over the hard-hitting beats.
NowVIZ: What musician or group would you most like to collaborate with and why? Clejan: Lindsey Stirling would be a dream. She inspired me to pursue this path and continues to inspire me. She was the first violinist to envision the realm of “Trap violin” that I’m pushing, though she focused more on the EDM side. The way she tells a story with her violin over cinematic production, and the emphasis she puts in her music videos...we’re the only ones I see doing that with the violin over bass music. Obviously, she’s the veteran and I’m a newcomer, but...can you just imagine if we did a song together? On the rap side, It would be amazing to work with Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, or Eminem. Each has their own unique style and skill that a lead-violin melody would be epic with. NowVIZ: Throughout 2020 many artists used the down time in different ways. You put out eight new songs including, “Drive Fast,” “WYWH” and “Let’s Go” (with over 3 million views) to name a few. What was your motivation and inspiration? Clejan: 2019 was the year I quit my corporate job to pursue music full-time. You can imagine how it felt when in my second year as an artist, the world shut down. Live gigs, how I was making a living, ceased to exist. Like many other people in the world, I had to go on unemployment and government-welfare programs. Things were looking dark externally, but at the same time, musically I was going through some positive changes. Right before the pandemic I finished building a home studio. My goal for 2020 was to make and release 30 pieces of music. When the pandemic hit, and we were all stuck inside, I took it as a sign. With no distractions, and no place to be, I was able to sit in my studio for 16 hours a day and finish teaching myself how to engineer, mix and master my music. Within months the floodgates opened and I was able to release 24 pieces of music that year including collaborations with my Trap-producer roommate, Ohd Beats. Learning to do everything on my own was really motivating. What had been a dream my whole life was becoming a reality.
NowVIZ: In what ways have you benefited from challenging situations? Clejan: My challenges started when I was 3 when my parents split. My mom got custody and raised me as a single working parent. My dad headed to North Carolina and remarried. I didn’t see him much growing up, and at home, I began to experience different forms of abuse. I had a chip on my shoulder, was having ongoing problems with authority, depression, and anger. With my dad mostly absent; my relationship with my mom was getting unhealthier by the day. With no siblings to lean on, I kind of raised myself. But to be honest? I’m thankful. My independence pushed me to believe in myself and take risks. The struggles I have had growing up have given me the drive to go after everything I want in life. NowVIZ: Musically how did you evolve from violin to Trap? Clejan: Musically, there were a lot of challenges. I actually hated the violin growing up. It was a chore, a task that had to be done before I could do something fun. Sometimes, if I didn’t pass an audition, I wasn’t allowed to see my friends. The stakes were always high and I never seemed to resonate with the classical music my mom and teacher were pushing me to play. When I started releasing hip hop music in high school, I was ridiculed by most of the people I showed my writing to. No matter how hard I tried, it seemed like I was fighting an uphill battle for credibility and recognition, and I had no idea how to break through. I set music aside and went to college. I learned business and marketing and discovered more about myself. When I moved to Los Angeles, I tried to shift my perspective and think outside the box. I looked at the skills I had compiled over my life and what gave me the most passion in work. My music, Trap violin, came out of all of these challenges. The rough and lonely years at home, the 10,000 hours playing, the backlash I received from trying to do a genre of music that most people scoffed at, yet always filled my soul. It took years, but I was finally able to take all my challenges and apply what I learned to get closer to my goals. NowVIZ: In two short years you’ve rocked the Mint in LA, you’re putting out original work, producing music videos, pushing the limits! What’s currently in the works?! Clejan: So much! I’ve got the biggest and best music video I’ve ever done for my song “Way That I Fiddle” coming out mid-July, a deep-house collaboration with an up and coming artist named “Laki” in late-July, one of my original singles comes out in August, and my third studio album with Ohd Beats in September. I’m working on a few albums with a Universal-signed artist (I can’t say who right now) and just got added to the virtual symphony to be part of the soundtrack for All Elite Wrestling (AEW). I also just got my first commission to write the theme song for a nonprofit organization and potential film, so I’m excited to keep growing creatively and continue to release original music and music videos.
On location in LA with Clejan.
NowVIZ: In terms of marketing yourself, how has your college education helped you? Clejan: Getting a dual marketing degree in International Business and Marketing with an emphasis in Digital Marketing has definitely helped me market and run my brand and music on my own. As an independent artist you have to treat your music as a business. You have to wear 20 different hats and marketing is just one of them. In school we were taught how to market brands and products, how to read and predict consumer behavior, and h o w t o ide nt if y and tar get the r i g h t demographics all over the world. All these skills can be applied to music marketing, with subtle tweaks here and there. As a musician, I am very thankful to have a business degree. It’s helped me navigate each different “hat” as a CEO, making informed and data-driven decisions to further my business and music career. NowVIZ: What is your vision for your project? Clejan: I aim to be the premier violinist in the hip hop and Trap space. I’d like to continue inspiring children in band and orchestra and show them that the violin can be so much more than what we’re shown in school. I will continue to give back to the African American communities that created this genre of music and eventually expand the hip hop community by showing it in a different light to new audiences. When it’s all said and done, I want to be one of the greatest violinists of my generation, not just for my skills on the fiddle, but also for my business acumen, my story, and creative drive.
DAVID VERBERG, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST
My playlist is always all over the place. I’m currently listening to Slime Language 2, and a group called Black Violin. Oh, and Darius Rucker. You can’t be from Kentucky and live in Georgia and not like a little country Yee yee!
CHASE WRIGHT, SINGER / SONG WRITER
TONS of Machine Gun Kelly’s (MGK’s) newest record “Tickets To M I am obsessed with this record, and have listened to it front to bac times. I don’t think a day goes by where I am not playing somethin
COURTNEY FORCE, FUNNY CAR DRIVER
I am always on Pandora listening to “Today’s Top Hits” and “Today’s C but I also love throwing on the “Leon Bridges Channel.” My sister Brittan send each other new songs we find so we can create new race day an that keep us pumped up and motivated!
GRAHAM RAHAL, INDYCAR DRIVER
Recently, I’m on Pandora listening to country music. It’s peaceful and e Also, as a midwestern boy, a lot of the songs take me back to memories blasting down the backroads and enjoying life!
ZAC CLEJAN, THE HIP-HOP/TRAP VIOLINIS
Pop Smoke, because he’s a legend taken before his time and a the drill music scene. Lil baby, because he’s one of, if not the b rapper from Atlanta right now and is only getting bigger. Token, finally getting the recognition he deserves. And Quail P, an up rapper/singer from Florida who I think is going to make wav
My Downfall.” ck numerous ng MGK.
Country Music,” ny and I always nd gym playlists
easy to sing to. s of being a kid,
a visionary in biggest solo , because he’s and coming ves.
behind the scenes
Country singer Chase Wright in Nashville.
On set photographer Andrea Mead Cross in Nashville with Chase Wright.
behind the scenes
behind the scenes
Olympic gold medalist David Verberg on location in Atlanta.
David and his rescue turtle, Munchie!
behind behindthe thescenes scenes
behind the scenes
On location in Indianapolis with IndyCar driver, Graham Rahal.
Graham and Courtney with baby Harlan watching on!
behind the scenes
On set with Zac Clejan.
behind the scenes
behind the scenes
Photographer Andrea Mead Cross working with Clejan.
CREDITS+COMMENTS This July/August 2021 issue is fresh and exciting! Our features include, Olympic gold medalist, David Verberg, Nashville rising country star, Chase Wright, Indianapolis power couple, Graham Rahal and Courtney Force, and out of LA the dynamicTrap violinist, Zac Clejan. This group is experienced at success and continues to grow and push new boundaries. Thank you for sharing a piece of your world with us! To our awesome editor and writer, Hilary Stunda, who continues to bring a wealth of creativity and mastery to our team we thank you! Her attention to detail keeps each issue looking fashionably fit and she incorporates a passionate perspective to each story she writes. And to note her seasoned background, having worked as producer for, Outdoor Life Network, Editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Aspen, writing for Lexus, Art in America, Interview, ARTnews, just to name a few adds to her incredible depth. She works this issue writing the feature intro’s for Graham Rahal + Courtney Force, and top musicians, Chase Wright and Zac Clejan. She is an incredible addition to every issue and we love her vision and originality! Also joining us this issue is writer, Mark Staffieri by way of Toronto, Canada who has been with our team since its inception. Having written for Bleacher Report, Hockey Canada and Legends Football League (Canada) he continues to infuse his talent into each assignment. For this issue he writes the feature intro for Olympic gold medalist, David Verberg who has continued to excel in new directions and is not finished writing his own story. We have a handful of people to thank. First to Graham Rahal Brands Manager, Britni Allen. Thank you for your tremendous efforts that made this project a success! Also a big thanks to Kathi Lauterbach, VP of Communications at Rahal, Letterman, and Lanigan Racing for your unwavering support! We’d like to thank Robert Filhart at Morris Higham Management in Nashville for his dynamic vision, passion and enthusiasm that made this project possible! And to Ebie McFarland at Essential Broadcast Media for her guidance. Additionally, a huge thank you to Kelly Walsh at SRO PR in LA. Her relentless support and confidence for her clients is incredible and the talent we’ve had the ability to work with has been incredible! And to photographer Andrea Mead Cross who has been essential in the continued growth and development of NowVIZ! Her vision and creativity exceed expectations and we’re excited she continues to be apart of NowVIZ! Design and layout for this issue by Kelley Kwiatkowski and team. Hope you enjoyed the ride!
All inquiries: NowVIZmag@gmail.com 2021 All Rights Reserved NowVIZ sports + beyond digital magazine and NowVIZ.com COPYRIGHT 2021 No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written permission. This magazine is viewed with the understanding that the information present is from varied sources for which there can be no warranty or respondsibility by NowVIZ.com as to the accuracy or completeness.
July/August 2021 ISSUE -Emily Dickerson
dwell in possibility