Following on from his season 14 appearance on American Idol and the release of his EP “Cycles” in 2014, Rayvon Owen is still going strong. Two years on and with a new EP due out later this year, Owen has worked tirelessly to fulfil his dreams of making music that inspires and moves people, and nowhere is this more evident than on his latest track “Can’t Fight It.”
With a vocal reminiscent of Sam Smith (by no means a bad thing!) and a beat that just begs you to get up and groove (I dare you to try and resist!), the track shows Owen’s continual progression throughout his career.
Having already received praise from the likes of Jamie Foxx who declared him to be “amazing”, 2016 is shaping up to be a huge year for this LA pop-R&B star and he kindly agreed to this interview to chat Idol, inspiration, social media and career success.
PW: When did you first realise that you wanted to make music a career?
Rayvon Owen: Well, I have always loved performing since the age or 6 or 7, but when I got my study musical theatre at a magnet high school, I realized that I couldn't live without the stage. I had no idea in what capacity at the time, but I knew that I wanted to go to college to study commercial music and learn about the music business and eventually do it professionally.
PW: What was the first record you bought and concert you attended and how did they impact/influence you?
RO: The first record I bought was a CD called Thankful by gospel duo Mary Mary. I was a church boy growing up and didn't listen to much secular music as a child. Mary Mary was the closest thing to it at the time. Ironically, the first big tour I ever attended was the Season 6 American Idol LIVE! Tour – the Jordin Sparks one. The feeling that I got when listening to that record and going to that concert were the same and I realised I wanted to make other feel what I felt when listening to my music. They inspired me and I knew I wanted to inspire others.
PW: Which bands and artists were you most influenced by growing up and have those influences changed over the years?
RO: As I mentioned, growing up I listened to a lot of gospel music - but I always leaned more toward the progressive Christian artists like Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Kierra Sheard, etc. The ones that kind of broke the mold of Christian music a bit. My mom also loved Lionel Richie so I listened to him and Luther Vandross, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder - these soulful vocalists that I wanted to be like. I still dig the classic vocalists, but I am definitely more influenced by more electronic, synth-driven, pop artists today like Troye Sivan, Betty Who, Nick Jonas and Sam Smith. I like to infuse the two sounds.
PW: How did relocating to Nashville to study at Belmont University help with your career plans?
RO: I always joke that, like a product, I was made in Richmond, assembled in Nashville and available in Los Angeles. It was one of the best decisions of my life. Nashville was my training ground and Belmont was home base. It was there that I learned the importance of song-writing and lyrics and being vulnerable in your performances and with your artistry. I began the journey to accepting myself and being more authentic while at Belmont. I didn't leave there having a solid plan, but knowing a bit more about who I was as an artist gave me the confidence to move to L.A. to broaden opportunities for myself and my music.
PW: What, in your opinion, makes a great song?
RO: In my opinion, a great song is the perfect combination of vulnerable, honest lyrics performed in an authentic way with the perfect music or track to accompany and accentuate that emotion. This is a hard combination to find sometimes. A great song doesn't just sound good - it makes people feel something.
PW: If you could have written any song, by any artist living or dead, which would it be and why?
RO: This is so hard because I say this about many songs, but I'll give you a few. I would've written "Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder. The musicality of that song is nothing less than genius. "Imagine" by John Lennon is extraordinarily moving. I also would've loved to have written "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt - there are rarely songs that can make me cry and that is one of them.
PW: Who or what inspires your song-writing?
RO: The biggest thing that inspires the content of my song-writing are my relationships. I love to sing about love and when I experience it, together with the experiences that come out of loving someone - good or bad - I like to write about it. That includes the love I have with God. I have become more in tune with that as I've gotten older.
PW: Do you find the song-writing process easy or does it depend on the subject matter?
RO: Most of the time, it doesn't come as easy to me as some might think. Occasionally, I'll have those days where I get into the studio with my producer and it just clicks and we have a great song done in a couple hours. Other time it may take two to three full day sessions to figure out what's right for the song. That's the good and hard thing about writing - there is no right or wrong. Whatever feels right is what makes a song good.
PW: How would you say your song-writing has evolved since you released your first EP "Cycles" in 2014?
RO: I'd like to think my song-writing has gotten stronger since Cycles. Over the past couple of years, I've worked with a lot of writers and producers that have challenged my lyrical ideas and phrasing and I've learned a lot from them. I'm also writing more honestly.
PW: While appearing on season 14 of American Idol, you got to perform with Jamie Foxx, Boy George and Ricky Martin among others. What were those experiences like and do you have any other favourite memories?
RO: Performing with those artists were incredible moments in my life. Moments I will never forget. Here are artists that are doing exactly what I want to do and are seasoned. They've gone through the challenges of "making it" in this business. It was cool to see that I could do the very same thing and I learned a lot from working with them. I had a lot of memorable moments on that show, but the biggest was dedicating "Believe" by Justin Bieber to my mom. That had everyone, included myself, in tears. It was a breakthrough moment for me on the show.
PW: Would you appear on a show like that again and would you encourage others to do so? What made you apply?
RO: Never say never, but I don't think I would ever appear on a show like that again as a contestant. Not because I didn't have a positive experience, but because I feel like I am at a place in my career now where I'm comfortable with the platform American Idol gave me to jump-start my career.
PW: Tell me about your new single "Can't Fight It." Is there a story behind it?
RO: I co-wrote "Can't Fight It" with a friend of mine who goes by the name of Mylen. We came together to write, but had no idea exactly what we were going to write about, but we were inspired by the track sent to us by producers Nate Merchant and Isaiah Tejada. I loved the vibe of it and I was in the mind-set, at the time, of accepting love for what it is - not mattering who it was. A lot of people don't jump into relationships because they're afraid of what others might think or because they've been hurt in the past. I wanted to capture that in this song.
PW: You've received support from People Magazine, USA Today and Billboard, but do you honestly care what outlets and critics think of you and your music or are the views of the fans more important?
RO: I have been so blessed and fortunate to get support from major outlets such as those, but it's definitely about the fans. Of course I want the critics to love and appreciate my work because they are the ones that help bring it to the fans and to potential fans. That's hugely important...but at the end of the day, it's primarily about the impact you make on the individuals who listen and follow you.
PW: How has social media impacted your career and would you agree it's a necessary tool for bands and artists today?
RO: Well, since going through all the "Twitter Saves" on Idol, I'd say I've been impacted by social media in a very interesting way! It's so important for an artists’ brand. Social media is the hand of feet of our music. It has allowed me the opportunity to reach people online who may or may not have ever discovered me. It won't break an artist or band if they aren't active on social media, but it definitely can make - and has made - an artist hugely successful.
PW: What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you? What are your tour/performance plans?
RO: There is a lot more in store for 2016 that I am super pumped about. I'm in the process of finishing up my second EP which will be released later this year. A second single will be coming in the very near future and I'm working on planning a small tour now which I'm super excited about! I'll also be doing some college touring during the fall semester!
PW: Finally then, where do you want to see yourself five years from now and whose career would you most like to emulate and why?
RO: Five years from now, I hope to have released and be touring my first full length album and probably already working on my second. I hope to expand into other countries and territories by then and get to travel the world doing what I love. I would most like to emulate Lionel Richie's career. He’s an artist who has broken the barriers of race, language and genre. He's used his gifts to make an impact on the world in a huge way and is so generous. I hope to be able to do the same with my music someday and make a difference.