19-year-old Atlanta native Raury has been making waves since the release of his first mixtape, Indigo Child, last year. Hailed as an important new voice-of-a-generation, he’s quickly risen to prominence for his uniquely insightful mindset, his incredibly diverse musical range, He’s already amassed an international cult following, largely via social media and electrifying live performances – and we have a feeling this is only the beginning. The singer/songwriter/rapper/instrumentalist was last in town for 2015’s Laneway Festival, and returned this month to perform at Optus RockCorps in Sydney, as well as to promote his brand new album All We Need, which drops this Friday.
I interviewed Raury last September, not long after Indigo Child was released. It’s made for a really interesting comparison, gauging how much has changed and shifted for one artist in such a relatively small space of time. For a young artist, still so green to the music industry, his career progression, not to mention wisdom well beyond his years, is nothing short of remarkable.
We sat down in the gorgeous surrounds of Sydney’s Hyde Park for a chat about the new album, having a devil and an angel on his shoulders, being a messenger to the people, and why he wants to become a scientist.
I wanted to start by talking about the new album. I’ve given it a couple of listens now – I really wasn’t sure what would follow Indigo Child, as it tackles so many styles – but I think it’s such a strong release.
To tell you the truth I have no idea what I’m doing, haha. I just go into the studio and hope that it happens. Nah, I kinda know what I’m doing, but then again, making this album, I purposely got into a space where I’m not gonna worry about who I am or what this album’s gonna be, genre-wise. I’m gonna be completely fine with the fact that I don’t know who I am or what kind of artist I am, and just make stuff. So that’s what I kept doing. I realised that the connecting thread throughout everything in this album is gonna me and my voice, and how I see things and talk about it. I feel like it’s leaps and bounds from Indigo Child, man, it’s much better.
In what ways?
Everything. Writing, production, everything. When I finished Indigo Child, I was like 17, 18. I barely had the resources to record outside of a closet. But this time, instead of Justice [Baiden, manager] spending the last money from his paycheck, we’ve got Sony backing us, and we’ve got other artists who are fans, who I’ve talked with and learned from. The producers that I’ve been going in with, be it Jack Knife, Danger Mouse or Daytrip, I go in with them, and these people act like senseis that help me crystallise all this creativity that I have. I’m much closer to mastering it. I felt like with Indigo Child, I had way more creativity than I knew what to do with. It’s all about tapping into it, and mastering it.
I want to talk about Devil’s Whisper. Did you come up with that track at the same time as God’s Whisper, or was it in response to the track or even its reception?
I tried to name that song everything BUT Devil’s Whisper, I tried to think of a million other names, but it had to be named that. It wasn’t like, ‘I wrote a song called God’s Whisper, now I’ll write a song called Devil’s Whisper’ or anything like that. It just happened, because…. That’s what happened! Earlier in my career I had this voice in my head telling me, go chase your dreams, you can do this, you can shake the world – and that was god’s whisper, the angel on my right shoulder who believed in me. But I also have an antagonist within me, and I get conflicted within myself. I’ve been out here in the game, I’ve seen things and I’ve experienced stuff, and I could’ve fallen for so many pitfalls along the way, or taken so many of the wrong paths and not even realised it. There were times when I thought of making music for profit, vs. making music for the people. And that’s what inspired Devil’s Whisper: ‘Young boy, you’re trying to rule the world, I see… Well I can give you everything, diamonds, everything can be golden, if you do this and do that.’ And the second verse was that self-realisation: fuck that, I’m not making music for that reason, shit that I could easily market.
It’s so easy to be brash or to be rebellious and self-indulgent. It’s difficult to make music with a message and still have it be cool. It’s really difficult. It’s a whole other ball game. I can’t release a project every week, haha, I can’t release mad mixtapes, I’m not a person who’s here to do a club walk-through for $10 000, stuff like that, or to have foursomes all week! It all sounds so cool, right? It all sounds so dope! And Devil’s Whisper is like, you can have that, you can do that if you want to. But I decided not to, and that’s what that whole track was about: me almost changing, but choosing not to.
And what have you chosen to do instead? What path are you walking down?
Hmmm. I decided to continue to make music that people could find themselves in. This album, All We Need, and every other album will be made because one album changed my life. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to change lives in the way that Man on the Moon [by Kid Cudi] affected me. We’re all in crazy, transitional points in our lives. A lot of kids, including myself, are still somewhat lost. I’m successful right now, but I don’t know if I’m an artist. Sometimes I just feel like someone who wants to change the world, and happens to know how to make music. But a lot of us are lost, and finding ourselves, making a home in that negativity, darkness, resentment, ‘Fuck this’, ‘love doesn’t exist’ type thing. I wanted to release an album that helps that kind find themselves in self-belief. Belief in humanity around them – AND in questioning it, too.
It’s interesting that you’re releasing an album to help others find themselves, while you can still feel lost yourself.
Yeah, it’s up to someone to decide to say something. I feel like whenever it comes time for something to happen, everyone is waiting – on a bigger scale, obviously – for a Gandhi to come along or a Martin Luther King to come along, but then you realise that those people are just normal people, and they were lost themselves, in the middle of leading others. It’s up to you to decide to say something or to take a step, you know? So it’s never about completely knowing who you are, but it’s always about moving and keeping going.
And about knowing what you can be for other people.
So when you’re writing, are you writing to get your message out there or because you feel that you can be the voice that people want?
I just write completely from experiences. I know that as long as I keep it real and talk about things I’m thinking about, someone else is thinking the same thing. Like, I don’t need to make a song saying, ‘Yeah I’m Raury, I wear a hat, and I represent the conscious hippie community of Atlanta,’ and whatever, and make songs literally talking about incense and auras and all that – people already know what I’m about! I don’t have to be that voice for this group people and to claim that identity, because then it becomes inauthentic. I have to get into the mindset that, I don’t know who I am, so I’m just gonna make the song that’s in my brain right now – and still somehow be one thing. It’s not even really thought through, haha.
So are your songs and that identity more for yourself, or your fans?
Sometimes it is for the fan, if the situation I was in calls for it. For example Peace Prevail, it was a story about what it was like for me to grow up in Atlanta, and wondering why didn’t I fit in. I followed the rules in that era, I just wanted to fit in, but at the end of the day I didn’t. That’s me talking about me, but there’s someone in Australia here going through that right now, trying to follow a trend that they don’t fit in with.
I think the track that resonated the most with me was Forbidden Knowledge.
It’s about the nature of man.
What inspired that track?
I had a conversation with my friend, talking about this man who is in the 17th century in Florida. Or maybe it was France somewhere. This may be a completely skewed story, haha.
He had this technology. His house has like five-tonne doors, but with a touch he could move it. He built this castle by himself. People were always like, how the fuck did he do it, always spying on him, trying to figure out how he worked. And the next thing you know, you wake up one day in the castle, and it’s moved 30 miles over. How? And we were then talking about how there’s some things that people know and it could’ve been forbidden knowledge – things we shouldn’t know.
And I thought, yeah, you’re right. Like, the Internet. What if, for years, people were trying to hold it back, killing people, like ‘don’t you ever let this get out!” And now you have 14-year-olds who can access everything on the Internet. You know, it’s forbidden knowledge. We shouldn’t have learnt that.
So I was just tying it to a lot of things that are going on right now. What if psychic ability truly does exist? What if you could lift a car? We shouldn’t know it, because if someone knew it they’d use it to their advantage. Somewhere deep in the root of man there is good and evil. Maybe there’s some things we shouldn’t know.
So do you think ignorance is bliss?
I believe in disbelieving. I’m so sorry I’m so vague, but I just see both of those sides. I think it’s because I’m a Gemini, but I’m all about balance and understanding both sides. Are there any things that you think were forbidden knowledge that we know now?
Well, you say that 14-year-olds can access the Internet, and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. There is so much freedom to learn about anything and everything – I don’t think the good has to be roped in with the bad.
Yeah! That’s what I talk about. After Indigo Child, I could take the highway to success, which is what I chose to do. Or, I could learn all the wrong things and go completely downhill.
And that’s ignoring the devil’s whisper.
Yeah. It’s within me, but I want people to know, I’m not perfect. I want kids to know that I’m a normal kid too. Sometimes I try to fight against this separate thing, like I’m so special or some shit. But I don’t even know how I made the album! I take pride in saying stuff like that, because I really don’t. I’m comfortable enough to say that.
What do you want your fans to see you as? As a leader? A voice?
I don’t want them to see me as an artist, and only an artist. I want them to see me as a person who came to this world with a purpose. A purpose to push things forward for humanity. It may not come in one form throughout all of my life – I have dreams of becoming a scientist. I want to set things up so that I have enough time to just go and study for a while. I’m really into this type of stuff, I’m really curious about energy and environmental sciences. I want to read up on it, I want to learn about Thomas Edison and Tesla. I want to be seen as a mind, a human mind.
Raury’s debut album All We Need comes out this Friday October 16 via Sony. Order it here.