If you aren’t yet familiar with Raury, I guarantee that’s about to change. You most likely know him from his excellent collaboration with SBTRKT on Higher, but I implore you to listen to his own album Indigo Child. A phenomenal, blistering melting point of hip hop, electronic and rock music, it’s insane that this young man is only 18 years old. I posted about his single God’s Whisper a while back, click here for a little more on that one.
Set to visit Australia for the first time with Laneway Festival, I was lucky enough to have a chat to the man himself. We spoke on the phone while he was on tour in London; it was early morning there, and he was literally waking up as we spoke. But despite his young age, in between lethargic yawns and an occasionally fuzzy phone line, his passion, intelligence and poignant, carefully thought out answers were nothing short of astounding.
Raury didn’t grow up in a musical household, and he didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 11, “out of natural curiosity.” But he remembers writing his first melody at three years old, and his first rap at eight. He grew up listening to a vast array of artists from Michael Jackson and Outkast to Queen, David Bowie, System of a Down, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi and more. It’s no surprise that his talent lays outside the realm of any one style. “It wasn’t a conscious effort to sound different, I just started making it,” he says.
What impresses me most about Raury is that he’s got his eyes on a really big prize. He’s not just creating music, he’s starting a revolution, as he says. But first, he needed to do was find fans who were not willing, but able to join him. And he’s got that down. His marketing prowess is so on point, well beyond his years.
Raury first came to attention by putting on a set of guerilla gigs, or an “anti-tour” outside large concerts of other artists like Childish Gambino.
“We wanted to start capturing where we are right now,” he explains in a husky, Southern drawl. “We decided to get a ten foot U-Haul truck, paint it, show up at the shows of artists who we thought had fans with the capacity to understand what I was making.
“After the show there’d be people standing around, waiting on their ride or plan the next thing to do – and I was that next thing. We’d get outta there before the cops shut it down, but even if they did there were so many cameras and people filming it. And they’d tell their friends. I’d go there with a few fans, I’d get back with a few hundred more.”
Needless to say, it worked.
Indigo Child was written, recorded and produced over three years. Raury started the project at 15. “I wasn’t a producer, I wasn’t even a lyricist. Over time I figured out what I liked to do, but I was a perfectionist – it wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t ready to share it with the world when I was 15.”
Skip forward a few years. Raury was personally invited to open for OutKast at their homecoming show in Atlanta. Andre 3000 had been introduced to his music via his niece, and he was impressed – rightly so.
For Raury, going from his U-Haul truck to a mammoth show like that was one hell of a journey. “I’m a completely different person. My first anti-tour, I was still terrified of the crowd, but I’d steal the fear and do it anyway. Now it’s gone completely. It’s really crazy. Ever since I opened up for OutKast I can just say I’m not scared of anything.”
Fans love Raury, artists love Raury, the media loves Raury – and he knows it. “People meet me and talk to me and they have a genuine liking for me,” he says. “They just wanna help out. So getting that spot opening for OutKast? It’s like clockwork, y’know. They just took me in.”
It’s easy to understand why he’s so popular. This is a man who, at 18, is creating a movement and music so powerful, important and simply damn good, that he deserves every ounce of attention that he’s receiving.
“I’m not releasing music and dropping tracks to gain a Grammy, or to get the most money or to sell a million albums. My goal for the next five or ten years is to affect one to five million lives for the better. That’s the goal, that’s why I make music: to influence lives for the better. I’m really aware that what you listen to, if you want, it becomes who you are. And I wanna make really good music. Most of the songs are about self-determination and believing in yourself. A lot of people don’t feel that way. So if you’re trying to be the best, a gardener or whatever, keep pushing.
“I get tweets from my fans saying that going to school is so much easier, or work goes by so much faster, when they’re listening to my project. That’s what I want, that’s what I like to hear and see from my fans.”
Raury will be in town for Laneway Festival, alongside two special sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne
Saturday 31 January – BRISBANE – BRISBANE SHOWGROUNDS, BOWEN HILLS (16+)
Sunday 1 February – SYDNEY – SYDNEY COLLEGE OF THE ARTS (SCA), ROZELLE**
Friday 6 February – ADELAIDE – HART’S MILL, PORT ADELAIDE (16+)
Saturday 7 February – MELBOURNE – FOOTSCRAY COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE (FCAC) AND THE RIVER’S EDGE
Sunday 8 February – FREMANTLE – ESPLANADE RESERVE AND WEST END