RaVaughn Interview

Fans may remember that RaVaughn was originally signed to Ne-Yo’s Compound University label back around 2011. During that time, RaVaughn was working towards the release of her debut album “Love Always”, and released the singles “Better Be Good” featuring Wale and “Best Friend”. Unfortunately the project never saw the light of day and R&B fans never got an explanation on why it didn’t come out. Behind the scenes though, RaVaughn was taking her time to figure out the next steps for career. Along with releasing some independent singles throughout the last few years, she also been hitting the road with some of today’s biggest stars. She put her solo career on pause for a brief moment and started picking up gigs as a backup singer for the likes of Tori Kelly, Lizzo and most recently Justin Timberlake. YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to talk to the talented singer about dealing with the label politics with being signed and her challenges after her debut album got shelved. We also talked about her new career ventures as a backup singer on tour and what that means for her career going forward as a solo artist.

YouKnowIGotSoul: We did our last interview together back in 2013. Your single “Better Be Good” had just came out and you were talking about your debut album “Love Always”. Obviously a lot has happened since our last conversation. Take us back to a young RaVaughn and being signed to a major label.

RaVaughn: It feels like it was ages ago. I feel like I was learning who I was not only as an artist, but as a young adult. I was living outside of home for the first time and it was an incredible experience. I got to work with Ne-Yo and just being around a bunch of men that were successful in the industry. I was getting to learn from a male’s perspective. It’s not an easy industry at all and I’m sure everyone knows that, but it was a great experience. My album actually never came out. My A&R Steve Ferrera, he got sick and passed away in the middle of us getting ready to put out the record. That wasn’t the reason that we didn’t put it out, but we didn’t get to put it out and I did have some really great songs on there that I still love and listen to now. That time was a whirlwind. Sometimes I don’t even remember half of the things that happened because there was so much going on and it happened so quickly. I started off doing demos, singing on Glee and doing backgrounds for so many other people. I met Ne-Yo while doing a demo for Loren Allred who used to be signed to him. Steve Ferrera heard my voice and was like “She needs to be signed too!”. It just happened out of nowhere. I wasn’t even looking to put out my own music at that point. I was making good money and still living at home at the time.

YouKnowIGotSoul: We always say that your era was the hardest time to be an R&B.

RaVaughn: You can put stuff on social media on your own now. It’s a lot easier. Sometimes when you’re working with labels, there are a lot of people that aren’t musicians so they don’t understand the artistry side of it. Of course it’s a business and that has to be taken care, but sometimes it’s a struggle. They would tell me to do something and it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I’m an artist and I want to do what I want to do. For me, I make and sing music because I love it. It’s not about fame. People have always asked me “What happened? Why are you singing backgrounds?”. I was like “Do you have bills that you have to pay?”. That’s how I started so I’m still doing what I love to do and that’s what makes me happy.

YouKnowIGotSoul: During that period while you were signed in the 2010’s, it was almost uncool to be an R&B artist. How tough was it for you to stay true to yourself as an artist during that time?

RaVaughn: It was difficult and it sucked because I wasn’t even trying to push to be an artist and now here I am. I was like “Are you making it more difficult than it needs to be?”. I just wanted to put out music and that’s what Steve Ferrera wanted to do. He was like “Let’s not worry about what’s going to be played on the radio and the numbers that it’s getting”. He just wanted to make classic music and that’s what Adele was doing at the time. Her songs aren’t being played in the clubs, but she was super successful. That’s what he wanted to do with me in the R&B lane. At the time, it just wasn’t a cool thing to be an R&B artist and now you just think about Kenyon Dixon, who is a good friend of mine, he’s taking off. Now he’s just doing his own thing and I’m super excited for him. To see all the work he’s been doing and the successful that he’s having now, his voice is incredible and he’s awesome. He went through the same thing.

YouKnowIGotSoul: We featured your single “Best Friend” on Instagram recently and that song got so much love even though it wasn’t a huge hit at radio. Were you surprised by that?

RaVaughn: I was super shocked. It was really awesome to see. I called my best friend like “This got way more response than what I thought it was going to get”. That song didn’t do as well as “Better Be Good” because it was at the end of when I was ready to leave Columbia. I had a session with Babyface and we were working on a completely different song. My sister came to the session and she was friends with The Rascals. They wrote “Best Friend” and it was something my sister had experienced at that point in her life. What was crazy is that Compound didn’t really want me to put the song because they didn’t think it was it. My sister and I actually paid for the video and then we took it to the label and then they put it out.

YouKnowIGotSoul: What was the time period like for you after you left Columbia?

RaVaughn: It was devastating because it was a strong build and we had all this momentum. We finished a whole bunch of songs and we were trying to figure out what songs were going to go on the album. It was finished and it was mixed and mastered. Nothing was happening so I took a break from music. I had a lot of friends in the industry that were still being successful. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for them, but I was like “Why isn’t my music connecting?”. I actually moved to Arizona and took a break for two years. I wasn’t doing any music and then a guy I was dating at the time, he slowly encouraged me to get back into it. I got called in by a really good friend of mine to do a couple of things for Tori Kelly and then he hit us like “Tori is ready to do a short tour and it’s her first time having singers, would you be interested?”. I went out to do that and at first, I had a conversation with Jade Novah because I was like “What are people going to think? I had a music out and now I’m singing backgrounds for someone else”. Jade was just like “Who cares what they think? Are you happy?”. That’s when I was like “I got bills to pay” and I’m getting paid to do what I love to do. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the front or not. Tori highlighted us singers on the tour as well so we got a lot of love. After that, I got called to audition for a Tyler Perry play. It was supposed to be his final stage play and we were out for five months and then we took a little break before going on a second leg. It was incredible to be on stage with him. Then the pandemic hit and it halted everything. I moved to Atlanta and I started writing with different producers. Then I got a call to go out with Lizzo and then things just started rolled right in after that. I was out with Lizzo for almost a year and I had an incredible experience being on that. I learned a lot from her and just being as positive as she is. Then I did a couple of things on The Voice and then Adam Blackstone called me and asked me to fill in for somebody to sing with Justin Timberlake. I was just filling in and then they asked if I would be available for six more shows. After that they asked if I would like to go on the tour and I was like “With Justin Timberlake? Absolutely”.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Are you working on new music?

RaVaughn: Lately I haven’t been focused on myself but I’ve gotten in the studio with Isael and Eric Dawkins. We wrote a couple of things. We haven’t put those songs out yet, but we wrote some stuff that I really love. Hopefully I’ll get to put that stuff out soon. I’m really excited about those songs and hopefully getting in soon. I know I’ll do a lot of stuff while I’m out on the road. I can write and record when we have days off. I don’t have a date of when I’m putting out new music. It might be next week! That’s the beauty of the industry now where you can just put some music out when you want to.