At the top of 2020, rising artist Pricie was staying with her A&R in Hollywood. While out on the balcony, she overhead someone playing the piano to Beyoncé’s “Halo” from a rooftop below. She decided to sing along.
However, the keyboardist happened to be a social media star and was filming his latest gimmick, in which he plays songs blindfolded, for his 2.6 million TikTok followers.
“She just started singing a cappella over his piano, literally from rooftop to rooftop,” recalls Matt Handley, director of A&R at Sydney-based indie label Sweat It Out. “It was pretty sick.” It also demonstrated that he had, in fact, recently signed a star in the making.
Handley first came across Pricie three years prior when her demo landed in his inbox. The gospel-infused funk-pop tracks were “completely left” of the dance-based demos he typically received. “Instantly it ticked everybody’s boxes,” says Sweat It Out director Jamie Raeburn. “It was one of the easiest, ‘Yes, we want to sign you’ conversations we’ve had.”
That said, he admits there were concerns over if the label was the best fit for Pricie, because of its storied past with breaking and supporting dance acts, from A-Trak to Rüfüs Du Sol. “But one of our founders, [dance legend] Ajax, who has sadly passed away — he always used to refer to records with shtick, and that’s exactly what this [demo] had. It had shtick — and she had shtick. It didn’t really matter what style it was.”
Pricie’s debut single, “Too Dang Good” — a sassy, soulful song with rapped vocals and glimmering pop production that she wrote just as COVID-19 hit — had so much shtick that before it was even properly released, Australia’s government-funded alternative radio station, Triple J, added it to the rotation. (The release date had moved at least four times due to the pandemic, before the team finally decided to start fresh in the new year with a new rollout plan). By early February, as the song officially arrived, Triple J’s sister station, Unearthed, named Pricie as a featured artist. Over on Spotify, the track was added to a wide-range of genre-based playlists, from Front Left to House Party.
Beyond her music, Pricie had the look and feel of a star, too. Sweat It Out’s head of publicity, Amanda Jenkins, says from the first time the team met her she came in with “these really strong ideas about visuals and photo shoots. It just felt straight away like she was going to be the whole package. We’re not trying to create any story — we’re just facilitating hers. I think that’s when you get the absolute best results of any artist, when they really know themselves.”
Pricie, 26, was raised on gospel music while growing up in Nigeria, particularly CeCe Winans, and would often dance and harmonize with her sisters at countless Nigerian weddings (current favorites include Anderson .Paak, Cardi B, Saweetie and SZA). “Rhythm, grooves, vibes, it’s always just been there,” the singer says. She asserts there was never that moment where she was like, “Oh shit, I can really sing,” but rather a moment when she realized, by the age of 16, that she had the ability to tell stories through music that connected with people she didn’t even know.
Pricie soon started posting covers and original songs on YouTube and social media, and still remembers when two of her Facebook friends affirmed her path by direct-messaging her that she needed to pursue music more seriously. Not long after, her demo made its way to Handley and by Feb. 2018 she signed a recording contract with Sweat It Out. “We don’t have a lot of artists, and we tend to focus quite heavily on [the ones we do have] from quite an early stage,” says Raeburn. By the time Pricie visited L.A., she and the team agree the way in which everything else came together was, simply put, “God’s plan.”
While staying with Handley, Pricie bonded more with his girlfriend, Johanna Moonan. After watching, and being impressed, by how Moonan negotiated a new lease agreement with a nightmarish landlord, Pricie was intent on being managed by her. Though she herself had no managerial experience, her longtime friend, Logan Kearns, did — and had recently launched his own company, Camp Management.
Five years prior, Kearns had met Pat Corcoran, who was managing Chance the Rapper at the time. The two had since been eager to collaborate, and Pricie proved to be the perfect opportunity. Just as Pricie was gearing up to release “Too Dang Good,” Corcoran came on board and all the pieces fell into place: she had Australian and U.S. label representation through Sweat It Out and Corcoran’s Nice Work (which runs through Warner’s distribution company ADA), respectively, and a widespread management team with Moonan’s Working Holiday in L.A., Kearns’ Camp Management in Toronto and Corcoran’s Nice Work in Chicago.
“To be honest, we didn’t plan it that way,” says Raeburn of her team’s global reach. “We thought we’d start in Australia and build slowly. We always had international in mind for her — we thought she was going to break in the U.K., then the U.S. — but it snowballed really quickly. When people start asking you for records and you start to see momentum, you’ve got to be reactive.”
From the start, Jenkins formed a game plan to ensure Pricie would always be a step ahead. She says a key part of the team’s strategy was making sure that when they did finally drop “Too Dang Good” they had the following 6-12 months mapped out. As Corcoran says, it’s all about cadence and consistency — especially for a new artist.
“When we turn on a TV show, if there’s only one episode a year, how can we ever be interested in watching it?” he says. “Just logically thinking, we need to be consistent so that people tune in on a consistent basis. Pricie’s got a vault of amazing material, so we’re not worried about having a lack of music.”
Pricie’s next single, “Friendzone” — a booming, slinky song featuring Ghanaian-Australian hip-hop artist Genesis Owusu — will arrive May 14 (though Raeburn is quick to note that “Too Dang Good” is still “doing so bloody well at radio we don’t want to jump on its parade”).
While focusing on singles for now — Handley compares their strategy to DJing in that “you want to get the crowd’s trust by playing them a few songs that they really like, and then you can throw out a few that are left-of-center” — Pricie has been able to book support slots and label showcases since live music has returned to the country. As Kearns says, “that’s the great thing with her being in Australia, you can actually build an artist how we’ve historically been building artists for years.”
Handley says one of the biggest hurdles with the timing of forthcoming releases is that a handful of Pricie’s demos sample music and audio clips pulled from YouTube, which the team has since been working to retroactively clear or rerecord. But as everyone assures, there’s no rush — and above all else, they’re taking their cues from Pricie.
“It’s so fun for me, because I get to experience people’s mentality towards how they perceive females in the industry, or Black females in the industry,” she says. “When I was growing up, leadership for me meant I had to control everyone and everything and that’s it. But the older I got it was like, ‘My ideology on leadership as an artist is nobody owns me and I don’t own nobody.’”
“[I always heard] labels just want to push, push, push,” she continues, “and it’s been incredible to experience the opposite. They work with me, I work with them. For someone to see the value in something I did out of my own insecurity or my own joy or my own pain, you can’t manufacture that. It’s God connecting the dots.”
Cocoran, for his part, is familiar with that kind of serendipity in this industry. “I know how it feels to be strapped to a rocketship,” he says. “I’ve been prepared for it.”