The full soundtrack was revealed ahead of the worldwide release of EA Sports’ Madden 23 on Aug. 19.
Before Boslen was a genre-obliterating artist devoted to putting Vancouver on the map, he was a boy in the farmlands of Chilliwack, British Columbia, with oversized dreams.
Back then, Boslen dreamt of rugby, eventually earning an athletic scholarship to the University of Victoria. Shortly after arriving on campus, back-to-back ACL tears prematurely ended his aspirations on the playing field. In 2018, he dropped out of school and moved to North Vancouver, where he began channeling his misplaced determination and passion into music.
Now, Boslen’s two worlds collide.
“LEVELS,” a single off his seven-song June project GONZO, was the soundtrack to the latest Madden 23 trailer. (As he sings in the fellow GONZO track “SCARS,” “There’s a million paths towards the same goal.”) The song was later confirmed as part of the official Madden 23 soundtrack.
The frenetic hip-hop anthem was initially released in February following weeks of fan demand. Starting Aug. 19 upon Madden 23’s retail release, millions of gamers will now have a chance to get to know the rapper for the first time.
On the occasion, Boslen caught up with Boardroom during an off day in Vancouver to explain why the big-time sync-up is a particularly bright spot for him at this moment in his burgeoning career, as well as what it means for him on the road ahead.
MEGAN ARMSTRONG: Why is “LEVELS” the perfect song for the Madden 23 soundtrack?
BOSLEN: That song, out of my whole catalog so far, is the best representation of the type of energy I would want people to hear when they listen to Boslen music. It’s a seamless transition to the sports world because, when I was making it, I tapped into my athletic mentality of being from a sports background. Being in that locker room. And it was easy for me to actually put myself in a lot of players’ shoes of wanting a song or an anthem to get me pumped up before I go on the field.
I just tried to play that into the production, the things I’m saying, the chorus, and honestly, the mix itself. To make it feel big as possible. EA might have just seen the perspective that I saw, and I’m just very grateful for it.
MA: Does this feel like a full-circle moment from your days as a scholarship rugby player at the University of Victoria?
BOSLEN: It definitely adds to the circle, if that makes any sense. I think the full-circle moment was probably three or four months ago — I was on the explore page and randomly see a [rugby] player named Rieko Ioane in a barbershop. It was like on Instagram reels or something, and he was listening to my song “Eye For an Eye.”
Rieko Ioane, for those that don’t know, he’s like an All Blacks legend. He was around my age when he started his career for New Zealand, and I was looking up to him a lot throughout my rugby career. Seeing him play my music was a very big full-circle moment. And then, it was weird because two or three days prior to when Madden dropped [the soundtrack], the Bengals QB Joe Burrow’s [current playlist] was posted on TikTok, and “NIGHTFALL” was on it. So, that was pretty cool.
Anything athletic, honestly, I’m just so grateful to have people play my music and tap into that world because that’s all I could have ever asked for.
MA: Which NFL player’s pre-game playlist would you feel most geeked to be on?
MA: Athletes deal with injuries all the time. You suffered back-to-back ACL tears that ended your rugby career. It’s rarer for musicians, but you recently had to deal with the blown eardrum — what happened there?
BOSLEN: Oh, my word. It was funny because, like you just said, athletic injuries really took away my career, and it put me into a fight-or-flight mentality. So, when I directed my energy toward music, I was like, I couldn’t possibly get injured in music.
It was about eight months, I lost like 70% of my hearing in my right ear. That affected my whole creation process of GONZO and frequencies of how I attack songs, how I hear songs. It was very hard. I had to rely on the people around me to do the final mixing, EQing, and all those little minor details. That’s normally my favorite process.
The process of healing my eardrum was pretty treacherous. I couldn’t sleep on the right side of my head because the pressure would build up. I couldn’t be in the studio long because it hurt my ear. When I finally had surgery, it was a big relief. It was only 15 minutes long, but those 15 minutes felt like two hours because it was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever had in my life; they had to essentially cut open my eardrum. They had to clear out everything inside, patch it up, put a tube in. And when they’re going inside your ear, behind your eardrum, it’s so loud.
It was very painful, but it was crazy. Like, after those 15 minutes, I could hear wind for the first time in my right ear. I felt weird. I’d close the door on the right side in the passenger seat, and I’d get scared. When you lose something, it’s like, you don’t realize how much you’ve lost. Especially your senses.
MA: You didn’t have the opportunity to finish writing your athletic legacy, but what do you want your legacy to be as an artist?
BOSLEN: I just want to do what God gave me. I feel like everybody on this earth was given a gift, and I wanna fulfill my journey and really inspire and leave a legacy for kids where I’m from. I’m part-Indigenous, and I know kids on reserve lands and even in Vancouver in general, they don’t really have a voice. They don’t really have an outlet to express themselves. And I think especially with social media, a lot of these kids, there’s so much more mental health issues.
I just wanna prove to them that you can really trust yourself and do anything you put your mind to, and I’m not trying to make it sound like a cliche story, but I’ve seen people face-to-face almost fall to death because of those things, and I know how important it is.
I pray for it every night, but really just make sure that my team is expressing what they want to express as well. I see Boslen and as an outlet not just for me to be an artist, but for my creators around me to set their own careers and ventures. My photographer, Crrdo, my creative director, Natasha, and even Chaos Club Digital, the independent label we’re signed to, we’re all doing different things and expanding our legacy. It’s beautiful to see my friends succeed as well. The most important thing is just staying healthy and enjoying it and living in these moments.
MA: What does GONZO foreshadow about what’s to come for you musically?
BOSLEN: GONZO was the most experimental part of my career thus far. Especially with my blown eardrum, I really tried to push myself to limits where I know for a fact when I look back on my legacy, nobody can ever say, “Oh, he didn’t have artistic integrity; he didn’t try to experiment.” Every artist needs to go through different things in their career to really test themselves. So, if anything, I know where I’m going now.
I came up with this concept for my next project already. I have the name and everything, but my mother and I actually came up with it, and it’s gonna be opposite of GONZO. It’s gonna be less distortion, less long outros, but it’s always gonna be Boslen. It’s gonna be my sound and just unapologetically me. I just wanna prove to people I can make hits, honestly.
That’s my main goal: songs or earworms that they can’t get outta their head. And I think I made a couple already. I’m just getting really excited to just be back in the studio and attack it that way.
MA: Well, millions of people are going to be playing Madden and hearing “LEVELS” 500 times, so that’s bound to be an earworm based on repetition alone. Where did the title GONZO come from?
BOSLEN: I was researching [Salvador] Dalí, and he led me to gonzo journalism. I was looking at his painting, and there’s gonzo journalism and there’s gonzo art. I was just looking at it, and at the time, I was going through, you know, a lot of thoughts and self-doubt. I looked up the terminology of the name, and it just means bizarre. A lot of people use that terminology for witches and stuff in the past. I just thought it was really cool because of the idea of chasing these dreams.
I got inspired by Salvador Dalí because he would paint these amazing murals and stuff, but what he had to go through to do that was bizarre. It’s gonzo. That was true artistic integrity, and I think that’s what the project emulates when it comes to songs like “LEVELS” or “GONE” or “SCARS.” It just bleeds it from me.