In Conversation: Don’t Try to Box in Terry Presume

Words by Reece Hooker

Terry Presume may be the next big thing, but the Nashville-based rising star isn’t scared by the moment. Presume speaks to Lot’s Wife about improving his craft, repping his hometown and how his upcoming EP is another step forward.

Credit: Grant Spanier

In his music video for ‘ZaZa and Some Runtz (Smoke Break)’, Terry Presume sits shirtless on a closed toilet seat, pinching a lit blunt between his thumb and index finger. The camera zooms in on the musician’s face, highlighting his septum piercing and litany of face tattoos. He stares the camera down and flashes a grin, before the shot cuts to Presume dancing through a decrepit room, soaked in red light, as he brushes past crowds of women. It feels like a rap cypher on acid and serves as a delightfully surreal introduction to Presume, an enigmatic rising star out of Nashville.

To explain what a Terry Presume song sounds like is a futile endeavour. His sound encompasses ‘glum, bluegrass ballads’ (according to MTV), it’s timelessly authentic (via Complex) and ‘somewhere in between Raury and André 3000’ (courtesy of Sparky). Put alongside Presume’s early output as a rapper and his ‘country-inspired production’, you’ve got one of the most versatile up-and-comers in music today.

The diversity is, in part, a product of his environment, Presume explains.

 I listened to a little bit of everything [growing up], whatever my ears liked was what I gravitated towards,” he said. “I guess that kind of gave me freedom in my art now.”

Presume’s music is imbued with that sense of freedom and dare. On his forthcoming EP What Box?, releasing 29 July, Presume steamrolls traditional genre boundaries. The lead single ‘Did Me Wrong’ flips a crooning chorus and noodling guitar into confessional rap verses, whilst ‘ZaZa and Some Runtz’ is crunchy and funk-infused, feeling like a lovechild of Thundercat and Young Thug. 

Along with the range of music he grew up on, Presume has lived a nomadic lifestyle as an adult that has broadened his world view and given him a depth of lived experiences beyond his years.

Raised in Naples, Florida, Presume found his feet rapping ferociously alongside local titans like DC the Great and Backhouse, the rap collective that gave Dominic Fike a start back when he sounded more like an Eminem acolyte than a Sir Paul McCartney collaborator. Although the talent pool in Naples runs deep, the arts scene remains underappreciated beyond city limits.

“The scene never really feels like it’s thriving,” said Presume. “I sense it will soon, it’s honestly been long overdue.”

Presume left his hometown with $200, crossing the country to try his luck in Los Angeles. Although he didn’t make a long-term home there, Presume’s time in the City of Angels expanded his world view and gave him another network on the other side of the country. 

Then, spurred by his older brother, Presume moved to Nashville, where he’s based today. Living in the country music capital of the world has undeniably influenced Presume’s development as a young creative. Presume points to his improvement as a guitarist as a direct effect of living in Nashville, as well as learning “how to control [his] musical complexities”.

The journey thus far has helped make Presume a well-rounded artist whose confidence is growing in tandem with his popularity. In his view, the forthcoming EP will be his best quality release yet.

“I’m not recording and producing the majority of it all in my bedroom,” he said, explaining what differentiates this project from the rest of his discography.

The results speak for themselves: What Box? is an undeniable level up, a step into the spotlight for an artist who is starting to scratch the surface of his considerable potential. It’s a moment that Terry Presume seems more than ready for.

Oh, and as for Australia? Presume’s on his way.

“When society eases off COVID and I get to touring, I’ll be out there screaming into a mic.”

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