R.LUM.R is more than just your traditional R&B artist – he is a musician who recognizes the impact of music and more importantly, its message. He understands how it can make a positive impact on others.
In addition, he has amassed a top hit single “Frustrated” on Spotify with over 50 million streams to date.
Recently signing with Island Records, he released a video for “How This Feels” this summer. The cinematic visuals help illuminate the story told.
While the Florida native has been releasing singles since 2015, he has had an impactful journey into becoming the “music ninja” he is now. Fortunately, we were able to discuss with him about his musical beginnings and what it has taken to reach where he is now.
Ryan Miller: What previous experiences have you had in the world of music?
R.LUM.R: I didn’t get into playing music until I was in high school. My musical journey has been very serendipitous … it was a lot of right place, right time. Mine specifically with the starting of my high school. It was either I go to Palmetto and play football or a school for the arts.
When I got there, they made us take one of each of the arts. For music, I chose classical guitar. My teachers saw that I had some acumen for classical and told me I needed a guitar to practice. So – I got a job and bought myself a Yamaha CG101, my first classical guitar ever. I was in high school with a bunch of girls that didn’t like me … so I decided to write about that.
From that point, I was encouraged by some friends to play some local venues and continued making music while working. I began to notice that it was starting to mean something to people. That’s when I started to get an inkling that it was a little larger than me and that I was sort of in service to the music.
So, I continued through high school, went to Florida State for classical guitar, but I was writing all the time. I was writing, let’s just say doing my best John Mayer impression, my best chords about life and love and loss and the perspective that a 19-year-old can have. I was putting that over the best jazz chords I learned off of Room for Squares.
Moving forward, I got involved in the studio with a couple of friends. They actually worked at T-Pain’s old studio in Tallahassee and were making beats. I was always interested in that, but all I could afford was the guitar that I bought myself, so I thought it was out of my reach.
It all fell into focus that I had a producer that I was working with. [We were working together] and what came of it were those first couple of tracks, that first tune particularly “Show Me.” We holed ourselves up in his studio for a weekend. Didn’t go home, didn’t shower, didn’t do anything but make music. We came out with ten tunes – four or five that I thought were good enough to release … we put together a plan and the rest is history.
RM: I heard you are a fan of anime and even studied Japanese in college. Can you tell me how that influenced your music?
R.R: Using animation and using imagination can be such a riveting medium for storytelling. If we can take away the context of, “Oh, you like anime. You’re weird,” you can begin to see it as an art form. It’s a very specific type of storytelling using fantasy and fiction to relate an overarching point … Just hope. There’s so many beautiful things that I think you can learn from Shōnen anime. Loyalty. Perseverance.
RM: Congratulations are in order because your single “Frustrated” has amassed over 50 million streams on Spotify. How do you, as an artist, try to navigate your next work after the first big single?
R.R: This is the thing that maybe sort of forced some development of me. There are certain things happening where it’s like, “Look, fam. You’re gonna sink or you’re gonna swim. And you better figure it out.” And for me, even when it was 10 million plays – which is an absurd number … I remember when “Show Me” came out and it still was New Music Tuesday – this was 2015 – and we got 800,000 plays and I was like, “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done and this is the biggest thing I’m ever going to do.” I was losing my mind over this and calling my mom. It’s an interesting thing.
A thing I’ve learned about scaling and tempering your expectations, but staying grateful is to stay present. My first tattoo I ever got on my left arm says the words, “Right now” in an effort to keep [me] in the present.
RM: I love your most recent single “Boys Should Never Cry.” It’s incredible to see artists become more vocal about taboo topics – such as addressing toxic masculinity. What drew you to writing that song?
R.R: I think the more honest you can be, the more you can connect … The music is there to absorb and wash over you. If you really want to dig deep into it, if you need something that this song can provide, then it’s there for you. My job, I think, is to facilitate those moments of revelation, of identity, of connection even when I’m not there. And what better way to try to honestly connect with someone than just to simply be honest with them?
For toxic masculinity, I feel like specifically, it’s definitely up to us as individuals to do better. But I also believe the conversation falls on the shoulders of men speaking to other men specifically about these things. Like making it apparent that, “I have definitely felt that way to you,” or “I have felt that same shame that you have, but I’m here still … maybe I should be nice. Not be an unrepentant misogynist.”
RM: What are you listening to right now?
- Flying Lotus’s Los Angeles
- Tycho and Saint Sinner’s “No Stress”
- Denzel Curry’s “Automatic”
- James Blake’s Assume Form – especially “Mile High” (feat. Travis Scott & Metro Boomin)
Photo by Jason Lee