Chicago-born Ravyn Lenae is a singer/songwriter that refuses to be put into a box. We talk to her about the intimacy of writing and the importance of slowing down.
A simple Google search of Ravyn Lenae will reveal to you a small snapshot of what the American singer is about. A cluster of adjectives describing the singer as a ‘modern fuse of neo-soul’. Sonically and visually, a lot of what’s said can be true for a change. However, it’s Ravyn’s spirit and soul that transcends her artistic compacity into another playing field. The release of her EP ‘Crush’ propelled the R&B singer beyond her already bubbling fame and critical acclaim back in 2018. A year later, while the singer is laying down the groundwork of her next album, we put on the brakes to talk about the in-between stages of ‘Crush’ and what’s next for Ravyn.
Upon calling Ravyn I’m already filled with a little bit of excitement to be speaking with the singer of some of my favourite tracks that I hold a lot of emotional sentiment with. I’m not surprised at all to hear a soft and tender “Hello, it’s Ravyn” like cool honey. Immediately, I’m intrigued to dive into the intimate and hazy world Ravyn has crafted. The parallels of Ravyn’s calming tone along with her immediate sense of self creates a quiet confidence. Human beings historically have the urge to find a label for everything – hence the ‘neo-soul’ label placed upon Ravyn. However, that doesn’t paint the full picture of her sound. “I try and stay away from labels”, Ravyn contends, “once they’ve got you in a box, it’s so much harder to break out of it and grow as an artist”.
It’s clear to see the 20-year-old has wisdom beyond her years – probably from navigating the music industry since her first SoundCloud upload when she was only 15.With her collective body of work gradually coming together, the visual representation Ravyn presents to the world is one of a time gone by. With a distinct nod to the 70s in particular, Ravyn is clear that it’s more than an aesthetic love for that era. “I’ve always been fascinated with the overall energy of that time,” Ravyn tells me. “The way black people ‘came out’ in a way. It was so dramatic. So loud. Full of glitter. I try to evoke that same energy within myself and my music.” However, this more avant-garde approach to her EP Crush with producer Steve Lacy gave Ravyn a feeling that her fans wouldn’t take it to as warmly. Obviously, this wasn’t the case as it garnered her more support behind the humble Shy Town artist.
It’s refreshing to hear about Ravyn’s approach to her work since her first introduction to the music industry in 2015. Despite her years, Ravyn’s mature and responsible approach to her craft is to “completely take the pressure of rushing the music off of me”.
Recognising that everyone’s approach is different, a lot of Ravyn’s writing “happens at home” she explains. “Songwriting is just very personal to me, and I feel more comfortable that way after having time to sit with the music.” Letting me in closer, Ravyn understands that in the age we live in, you can feel that if you’re not releasing work as quickly as everyone else then you’re behind. “That’s why I just don’t follow that process, and particularly with social media.” Ravyn begins. “For my own health and peace of mind, I take breaks from the internet as it can be so damaging to your confidence. That allows me to remember that everyone’s path is different”. It’s evident the 20-year-old singer has had to learn these values through trial and error of her own but remains positive through her bursts of infectious giggles throughout the conversation.
The conversation I’m having with Ravyn appears to be one of those strange occurrences in life where you appear to be doing exactly the right thing, or in this case, hearing the right thing. Ravyn hits the nail on the head when it comes to social media and creating art – “There’s no wrong way to do it, and removing that unnecessary pressure off myself of having to rush allows me to be in a better space to create.” If there’s one thing to take away from this article other than that Ravyn Lenae is full of warmth and light, it’s those words.
Continuing on with our chat about slowing down, Ravyn reveals that collaborating with other artists, especially her friends “is a completely different process” Ravyn reveals. “It’s actually really fun because I get to step out of my world for a moment, and it forces me to figure out where I fit in their world and allows me to come back to my work with fresh lenses” which shows Ravyn to be aware of her introspection, and the need to look outward for clarity. People may be patronising towards the young artist, but it’s crystal clear that Ravyn knows how to take care of herself and her creativity; which a lot of artists fail to do and follow a path of destruction.
When I try to hint about the next album, you can immediately hear the excitement in Ravyn’s tone fluctuate. “I’m just so excited for what’s next” Ravyn speeds up, ” I’ve been working on it for a little while and it’s always exciting to think ahead especially when my brain has been marinating over the course of the year.” That’s enough for me to feel content and slightly more patient for the new work and promised “elevation within the music and myself”.
If you’re a new listener to Ravyn Lenae, her technical ability to push her vibrato, thanks to her classical training, in quick waves divulges you in emotion with an appreciation for her skills. When I ask about what has been her most emotional or memorial moment on stage it’s interesting to hear it’s her London show. Ravyn reveals that “I think I speak for a lot of artists when I say the UK is just so receptive to people in my genre. Their ears are so sharp, whereas in America they often wait for everyone else to like it first”. Picking up an almost bittersweet tone, Ravyn explains, “Everyone wants that love from home you know. I want Chicago to be my number one, but I never felt that love on stage like I did in London.” It’s a unique energy that Ravyn radiates authentically, particularly in those moments of vulnerability. Making it easy to say this has been one of the most enjoyable and at ease interviews I’ve done. As we all wait patiently for the next stage of Ravyn Lenae’s career, it’s been so special to talk to an artist on the very brink of something special.