Kevin Ross is back with his new project “Audacity, Vol. 1” and we’re excited! The soulful singer made his mark back in 2017 when his single “Long Song Away” reached the top of Urban AC and his debut album “The Awakening” solidified him as one of the most musically talented in R&B today. After that album, Kevin took a huge risk and asked for his release from Motown to start his journey as an independent artist. The transition took two whole years, but judging from Kevin’s latest single “Thing Called Loved”, it was the right move for the soulful singer. YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to talk to Kevin Ross about his new project, his departure from Motown as well as his approach as an independent R&B artist.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Your single “Thing Called Love” was considered one of the best R&B songs of 2019 on our site. Talk about the creation of that song.
Kevin Ross: I was listening to a lot of Al Green, Prince and Bilal. I was musically in a place where I wanted to pay homage to my predecessors and I wanted to put more of a spin on it where I was able to tell a current story of how I feel inadequate as it pertains to loving a woman. Instead of me saying that I have a difficulty being in a relationship with someone, I let the relationship die. It wasn’t until being with someone who was patient with me in order for me to understand that, it’s okay to express yourself in that way and there is someone that can be equally matched with you, but you won’t know until you articulate it. For me it was from a man’s perspective but it can be applicable to both male and female when it comes to not being good in a relationship.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We talked to Troy Taylor and he told us that he helped you refine those vocals on that song. Talk about that process.
Kevin Ross: It’s a process of humility. When you feel like you have a great record and you play it for people that you trust like Troy who I consider my music mentor, he said “I like the record, but your vocals don’t sound good”. Part of the initial thing is your ego and then once you get past that, you realize who you’re talking to and you understand that Troy is one of the greatest vocal producers living and breathing. Also, he has nothing to gain or lose when he’s telling me this, so I was like “If you don’t think this is good, help me execute this record the right way”. It took time as far as putting the pieces together. Not only just vocals, but also the music for it. It started with my production and then I brought in a very talented friend of mine and we actually went on a journey with the record. We got amazing musicians and took time with it. We wanted people to feel the record and really enjoy a quality record. Shout out to Troy Taylor for making sure my vocals were right!
YouKnowIGotSoul: When you joined us on the SoulBack R&B podcast back in 2018, you were still signed to Motown. Talk about your transition from being on a major to going independent.
Kevin Ross: You know what the crazy thing is? When I did the podcast, I was in the process of asking for my release and no one knew. *Laughs* After “The Awakening” and “Drive”, I understood that my independence and ownership meant a lot more than the visibility of what a major could or couldn’t do for me. I had to sit with myself and really weigh all my options. I was like “When you make this decision, you’re going to lose a lot of momentum” because if you don’t put out music every quarter, your relevance starts to die down. I knew I had a battle ahead of me, but I didn’t know how long it was going to take. I was prepared to endure whatever I needed to in order for me to gain ownership. It’s a bad feeling when you write and produce a song like “Long Song Away” and even though I get the publishing for that, I still don’t own that record. For example if you wanted to pay me $5000 for the usage of the song, you couldn’t talk to me because I don’t own the record. You would have to talk to Motown. That wasn’t a good feeling especially when you talk about legacy and what you’re leaving behind. I don’t have kids yet, but when that happens, I want them to be proud of not only the record I created but also empower them in order to leverage my hard work so they can create this financial literacy and consistency in their lives. That was more important to me than anything else.
YouKnowIGotSoul: So what changes now that you’re an independent artist now?
Kevin Ross: Honestly nothing stays the same because everything falls on you. Not only as a creative, but as a business man and I think God was trying to push me in that direction of ownership and start the process. Even though I didn’t feel like I was ready. I was like “Maybe if I fulfill my obligations, I’ll be ready to start my own business”. God had other plans for me though. Being an independent artist having my own company, I had to go out there and shop not only me as an artist, but also the company and understand partnerships. I had to be very detailed about my expectations as it pertains to what I wanted. I went to a lot of distributors and I heard a lot of people saying no. We ended going to Empire and partnering them. Those guys really made it possible for me to release “Thing Called Love” and give it a home and space. They were attentive as I listed out my expectations and what I wanted from it. With the major, it’s different because there’s a whole machine behind it and financing wise, it’s a bigger budget as well. On an indie, you learn how to adjust and endure the ups and downs. The victories are sweeter because you did it with the manpower that you have. We’re still going at it and I’m looking forward to “Audacity, Vol. 1” as well as “Audacity, Vol. 2”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: “Long Song Away” was a number one record on Urban AC back in 2016, but that format has changed so much since then. A lot of the younger acts are also charting there now and it’s not necessarily traditional R&B. Do you have to bring some trendiness on the Urban AC charts now?
Kevin Ross: Truth doesn’t change with trend. I say that a lot when it comes to my music and brand. If it’s trendy, I think Where I’m at now, I have a vast array of experiences and creatively, I am in a space where you’ll get a plethora of not only contemporary but traditional stuff as well. It’s a nice hybrid and I’ve always considered myself that. I can satisfy my mom’s generation as well as my younger brother’s. When I look at Urban AC, I look at what they have and what don’t they have. I look at what will stand up to not only the charts, but my previous work. I don’t try to fit in because once I do that, I’ve already lost. When you try to fit in and when you really think about that the release and time of the music, by the time you’re on something and you’re trying to put it out, they are off of that! You might as well stick to what’s true to you. Collaborations are a beautiful thing and working with other writers and producers that are younger, it gives you a fresh sound. I think it’s corny to go for whatever is hot.
YouKnowIGotSoul: In the two years you’ve been gone, the one thing that has really helped kept your name afloat is the acapella mashups that you do on social media. How has that helped your career?
Kevin Ross: It’s actually super cool. Honestly I wanted to put myself in a position where I was willing to work harder. When I was signed to Motown, I remember them telling me “This is not what you’re supposed to do. This isn’t cool”. For me I knew it was an outlet for me to express my musicality as much as I could as far as harmonies and anything that I could play in the piano. I wanted to be able to execute that. People from the 90’s reached out to me and it helped me create relationships. It was people like Teddy Riley or Brian Alexander Morgan reaching out to me and they would have never known who I was if it weren’t for those mashups. It took a life of its own and over the two years that I wasn’t doing music, I still had the mashups to lean on. It was just finding good times to put them out because you don’t want people to think you’re a one trick pony. Even though it takes a lot of work and skill to do, it becomes novelty. For me it’s about keeping it fresh and using that space, so it wasn’t just a promotional tool but trying to contribute something to the culture that’s different than what my peers are doing.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about the new project “Audacity, Vol. 1”.
Kevin Ross: I’m so excited for people to hear Volume 1 and 2. It’s very different than “The Awakening”. I think that was a beautiful offering and really showed the essence of my heart and spirit. “Audacity” goes a little deeper and raw. We go into a more vulnerable and sensual sound than ever before. I think all sides of humanity need to celebrated and not hidden away. It’s just me digging deeper and not accepting mediocrity. We only got one shot to make a lasting impression on R&B lovers. I have a goal in mind and expectation of what I want to do within my genre and how I can be influential for the people coming up and being able to pave the way. I’m trying to carve different lanes by leaning on lanes that already exist. I’m not trying to follow them, but I’m carving one to be alongside them. “Audacity” is the beginning of re-establishing my relationship with R&B lovers and it lets people know good R&B still exists and it can still sell. It can still feel young and old because it is that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Anything you’d like to add?
Kevin Ross: Go check out “Audacity, Vol. 1”.