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Tucson natives finding success in LA music scene

Tucson natives finding success in LA music scene

Adrian Rice and Andy “VodkaGravas” Rodriguez are celebrating 10 years since they left their native Tucson to chase their rock-and-roll dreams.

And after years of eating ramen and working odd jobs including at call centers, the pair and their Jordan River Recordings studio is starting to make a name for themselves in LA’s competitive hip-hop and pop music production scene.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Rice and Rodriguez have seen an uptick in the number and caliber of artists that want to work with their studio, which they run out of their Los Angeles apartment.

They’ve worked with Gangsta Boo from the Memphis hip-hop powerhouse Three 6 Mafia, the New York City hip-hop duo Nice & Smooth, Cousin Stizz and Bizzy Bone from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.

“We’ve had some big names under our umbrella,” said Rodriguez, 30.

“We are still on the road to do what we want to do individually. We still have goals we haven’t hit yet, but we are successful so far,” added Rice, 31.

That success has included Rodriguez’s first-ever Billboard No. 1 certification last summer for his work producing Trevor Daniel’s single “Falling,” which topped the charts in June. He also was part of the team at LA’s star-making Chalice Studios that produced Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” that was nominated for a Grammy.

Rodriguez worked for Chalice for four years until COVID-19 shut down studios and venues last spring.

When Chalice regrouped this fall, the studio didn’t have enough work to keep Rodriguez full-time, so he shifted gears and turned his focus to freelance producing as well as projects with his and Rice’s Jordan River.

Rodriguez and Rice grew up on Tucson’s southwest side and met at Valencia Middle School when Rice was in eighth grade and Rodriguez was in seventh. They struck up a friendship over their shared loved of University of Arizona basketball that continued at Pueblo High School, Rice said.

At Pueblo, both boys migrated to the school’s student-run TV and radio stations, getting valuable experience on the production end. Both determined they were going to pursue music as a career, although Rice admits that he had a backup plan: “If music wasn’t going to work out, it was social work or counseling,” he said.

It was Rice who convinced Rodriguez in 2010 to change his plans from attending the UA — Rodriguez had just finished his associates degree at Pima and was headed to UA to pursue a teaching degree — to join him at Tempe’s Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, an intensive ninth-month program that led to studio internships in Los Angeles.

They haven’t looked back.

“It’s been really good,” Rodriguez said, even accounting for the pandemic setbacks. “The universe is telling me I’m kinda doing the right thing.”

“You take that leap of faith and move out of Tucson,” added Rice, who still has his day job at a LA studio in addition to Jordan River. “Tucson has a rich history of music, but it’s always like a pipe dream. Growing up on the southwest side of Tucson, people don’t encourage you to follow creative arts. ... I say embrace the creative side. Don’t be afraid to go for the arts. ... This is attainable.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at On Twitter @Starburch

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