THE brilliant Rayon Nelson has been telling me about...
his new track, Freedom, and what it concerns; how music came to him and the role his family played; if he has a standout career memory; what is still coming up in 2019 and the rising artists we need to get behind and spend some time with.
I ask Nelson whether there are gigs afoot and if there are any albums that stand out to him; whether there is more material coming along and the advice he’d give to approaching musicians – he selects a cool track to end things with.
Hi, Rayon. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, I’m good, thanks! My week’s been ok; somewhat intense but trying to chill out and enjoy moments!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a soulful singer and songwriter. I am self-produced so all my songs I produce but I am open to working with other producers. My music is a mainly Acoustic-Soul but I have some vibey tunes as well. I write about any and everything, but I try to be meaningful - i.e. Memories, Get Up and Freedom.
Freedom is your latest single. Is there a story behind it?
Yes, there is! So I found myself wanting to write about freedom and the issues with the killing of young youths in America i.e. the Ferguson killing. So, I started writing about that. Then, I performed at an inspiring event where I was then speaking to a friend who told me a story of a really young refugee girl who had fled a country because her father was killed. Her mother then died of starvation and she ended up travelling with strangers to Europe.
He then brought her story to Parliament as his way of doing something. I felt challenged by that conversation as I have always wanted to do things to help people in similar situations but my excuse was that I didn’t have money to donate etc. But then I realised that I may not be able to give financially but I could write a song and bring about some sort of awareness!
So that’s how the song came to be!
I understand you took some time off of music. Was there a reason behind that?
After I released my latest E.P. (independently), I had a lot of industry interests etc. which I realise I wasn’t ready for. I also felt I was compromising my sound for labels to satisfy their wants. So, I had to just chill out and get organised, clear my mind…try sort out a team. I was having label meetings with no management, no lawyer etc. It is good that I could handle myself - but having a strong team around you is better!
Are there any ambitions for the rest of 2019 in terms of music and plans?
I have a second single coming out 26th April and my E.P. on 31st May. So, hopefully these will do good. Then I will release a few more singles at the latter part of the year!
When you were growing up, which artists/records did you hold dear?
I had quite an array of artists that I liked and listened to but, to name a few: Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley; Smokie Norful, Usher; Donnell Jones, Mali music etc.
It seems you take inspiration from various different sources. How important are your family and upbringing to that?
Well. My family played a lot of Soul, Reggae and old-school Gospel music in the house so I grew to love people like Jimmy Cliff, Buju Banton and Sister Nancy. This is like my foundation in terms of influence, not only because of their sound but because they spoke about real things. I was born in Jamaica on a farm in a family who ate what they grew…there were great times but also some tuff (sic) times. In one of my songs on the new E.P. I talk about this a bit and I dedicated the song to my grandparents and aunties.
I remember this one Sunday we never had enough money come in that week so we had to drink ‘pumpkin soup’ on a Sunday instead of the typical full-plate chicken/rice and peas etc. So, I understand what it means to struggle and I sing for this reason: to help my family and people out there struggling alike.
Do you have a standout memory from your time in music so far?
Uhmm. Performing at the Isle of Wight Festival was great! It was my first major festival experience to both visit and gig. But, what makes me happy most is intimate gigs where I can connect with audience.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Ohh…this one is hard! Haha. I don’t usually listen to whole albums so this might not be an accurate answer…but here we go:
Confessions by Usher
Because this reminds of college days when I started to sing. There was a guy from my school who inspired me to sing. He was so dope at that time and the first song I heard him sing was from Usher - so that’s how I started to listen to Usher. Confessions is a vibe! I loved how the album was all a confession!
Freudian by Daniel Caesar
This was released in 2018 and it has been the only new artist album that I have had on-repeats for a while. The musicality and the vibe captured me. It’s just dope. I hope my album to come is as dope!
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill
Again, because of the vibe! It’s just a great album.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I would love to support D’Angelo! I also would love to jamm with him! That would be vocally epic! As long as I have a comfy dressing room with plenty of water (and lemon/honey-infused) then I am good. Also, no-phones policy! I want people to enjoy the moment and not caught up on their phones.
What does the rest of this year hold for you?
Pushing my E.P.; loads of gigs and collaborations.
Are you planning any gigs in the coming months?
I only plan to have one gig in April (details will be on social media). I am performing at Sofar Sounds at Orbit Sounds UK on 16th May and then at my E.P. launch on 30th May at The Finsbury.
How important is performing? Do you prefer it to life in the studio?
Performing is my favourite part of this music life. It’s never the same. I love intimate gigs. It allows me to connect with people, share myself and be authentic. It also allows moments to be created! Can you remember or imagine being in a crowd listening to your favourite artist and saying one day that this will be me!
It’s a space for dreamers to be inspired and motivated.
PHOTO CREDIT: TEEKS
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I have just discovered TEEKS! Love his voice and his sound is that old-school Soul sound.
Jackson Lundy - Calypso (recommended track). I just discovered this dude as well. Chilled, dreamy Soul. He is also up-and-coming!
Koffee - Toast (recommended track). It’s like a Dancehall-Pop-kinda style. I like her because her lyrics aren’t typical of Dancehall: she’s a really young artist from Spanish Town, Jamaica and she has unique sound.
Hablot Brown - She Said. They are just great! Great sound! They are still climbing the ladder!
Dayo Bello - Mine. Because he’s my friend. He is great and have so much potential!
IMAGE CREDIT: Jackson Lundy
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I still work full-time to pay rent so I don’t get enough time to really chill. I am trying though to chill! Haha. Hopefully, this year I will do music full-time! That’s the goal!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Home Again - Michael Kiwanuka
Follow Rayon Nelson