I found Ravyn Lenae one day when my SoundCloud playlist was over and I was shuffling through the musical abyss of cyberspace. I stopped everything I was doing, dug through my infinite pile of browser tabs and immediately became enchanted by this 17-year-old Chicago native and her actually magical “future soul” sounds.
I want to talk to you about your newest releases. Can you tell me about what those mean to you?
It wasn’t super planned. It happened all organically, it just happened to be cohesive. I was going through a lot of stuff relationship-wise, so a lot of my inspiration came from there. Also, it was just me discovering myself as an artist. I’m super new; I’m brand new. There’s a lot of things you go through mentally when people recognize you, or people say “thank you” for making music. I was listening to it the other day, and I don’t listen to it that often, but when I do it feels like I’m going back in time or revisiting old mindsets or old situations I had. So it’s amazing how fast I’ve changed or evolved as an artist.
Where do you get your inspiration for your music?
When I first started writing, I was super into being poetic or metaphoric. As I did that project, I thought: How about saying super small stuff that holds a lot of weight? Just super subtle lines that hold a lot of meaning or a lot of weight. In my song “Everything Above,” I say,
“In this moment, there is no pull or tug.” It’s so simple, but people can perceive it differently and dissect it differently.
Where do you wanna take your music?
I definitely want to experiment with more genres. I feel like a lot of people are really used to the sound I’m doing and I’m super new so I guess I can still figure this out. I have a lot of tunes that are super different than what I’m doing now and I’m worried that if I put them out now people will get confused. I’m kinda holding them now, but I’m super interested in collaborating with artists you wouldn’t picture me with. As far as songwriting, I really, really want to travel because that’s when I write the most. I like to experience different cultures and meet new people.
When you’re in a city for the majority of your life, one city, you run out of things to even think about or talk about. You see the same people, the same stuff, over and over. And it gets to be… there’s no inspiration there. So when I’m in Chicago for a little too long, I get frustrated because I’m doing the same thing every day. There’s no spark. So when I do travel, I’m so excited.
How would you describe your style of music and creativity?
I was on SoundCloud the other day and I was scrolling through comments and someone said, “This is ‘future soul.’” That really spoke to me, because I’ve never heard anybody say that and I thought that was the closest thing that I could label my genre. People ask me all the time, “What’s your genre? Is it R&B?” I’m super hesitant to label myself, because then I feel obligated to stay in that line. But I think “future soul” is so broad, I can say that. Because I have a really soft voice, I tend to cling more to intricate production or super busy production, because it makes the writing process harder. Any real artist can write to a super simple beat, but when you have those super intricate beats where there’s key changes, it’s more challenging. I like a challenge. That song where I’m on a train was one of the most intricate beats I’ve ever worked with. It was so difficult at first because I was trying to overwrite. I decided to take out so many lines and just say the same thing over and over in the same melody. Sometimes saying less says way more. There’s no need to overdo it because the beat is doing so much itself. I think I would label myself as future soul because it is a modernized version of soul.
Any real artist can write to a super simple beat, but when you have those super intricate beats where there’s key changes, it’s more challenging. I like a challenge.
Do you usually start with a beat and then write?
The writing technique I like the most is sitting with the producer and building the beat together, it all works organically that way. When Monte [Booker] is making a beat, I’ll make a melody to it. But I try not to sit on a song, or write it all at once. I think it’s important not to overwhelm yourself with it because you’ll force yourself and you want it to come naturally. So when I feel compelled to go back to it, I go back to it. I don’t want to give myself a deadline unless it’s super serious and I have to.
Yeah, you want time to let your ideas grow.
Exactly. That way it’s more natural. It’s like I’m pulling stuff out of my head that’s not really there. I don’t know how to explain it.
How do you think the internet has influenced you as a creative person?
I guess I’ve never really experienced what it was like before it. I think social media is super huge for artists. That’s your main source of contact and interacting with people who support you. It can be a pain sometimes, too. I deleted Twitter and Instagram off my phone. It becomes a little too consuming, and I try to stay level-headed. I appreciate all the compliments, but sometimes it gets to be…not overwhelming, but I see why people take it to heart a lot. On the flip side, I think it’s amazing to just be able to get on your phone and connect with people. It’s cool that on Instagram, people are interested in me as a person and not just me as a singer. They’re interested in my daily life and who I’m hanging out with. That says a lot to me. I just don’t like when it infringes on other parts of my life. Sometimes it’s so accessible that it becomes a problem.
I saw you tweeting about how people need to think about what they say because the people they are commenting on are real.
People are behind screens all day and there’s no physical contact. You wouldn’t say those things to people to their face. And I’m an artist, so I’m really sensitive about everything I do. It scares me. It hurts me. And I guess people don’t see it that way. I think it’s important for people to know that your words have weight, even if they’re typed. Even for people who aren’t artists, it’s hurtful.
I don’t read the comments on my videos anymore because I know I’m going to cry. I stay away from that stuff. People bash what they don’t understand or they don’t relate to, and that’s okay if you don’t relate to it, but just keep it to yourself. They forget that we are people before artists. We have feelings, too.
People bash what they don’t understand or they don’t relate to, and that’s okay if you don’t relate to it, but just keep it to yourself. They forget that we are people before artists. We have feelings, too.
Have you been able to connect with people online in a more positive way?
Yeah! I think SoundCloud is the most amazing thing ever. I’ve met so many cool artists through SoundCloud. Most people I connect with are underground artists like me who aren’t really recognized yet. It’s so fun because we watch each other’s stuff. They’re my peers, they’re my contemporaries, so it’s so cool. I’m so excited to see this uproar. It’s a renaissance. It’s a new age of music. I’m so excited for the world to get hip. They’re not hip right now. But they will be.
SoundCloud is a great way to start.
That’s how I found you.
It’s amazing. Whenever I want new music, I go to SoundCloud. There’s no other site like that.