Entertainment & Arts

BBC Sound Of 2015: Raury interview

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Media caption"Indigo Child" Raury talks inspiration - and Neon lights (Video production by John Galliver)

Eighteen-year-old musical prodigy Raury has come fourth in the BBC's Sound Of 2015, which showcases emerging artists for the coming 12 months.

Born Raury Tullis in the suburb of Stone Mountain, East Atlanta, he's been rapping since he was eight, and taught himself to play guitar at 11 using YouTube videos.

He's been championed by rap veterans Outkast, toured with dance artist SBTRKT, and was commissioned by Lorde to write a song for the latest Hunger Games movie.

His EP The Indigo Child blends an eclectic mix of soul-tinged hip hop, r&b and funk with 80s guitar riffs and drumbeats - hardly surprising when he cites everyone from Bon Iver to Phil Collins as his influences.

But it's not just about making music for Raury - who is friendly, thoughtful, chatty and endearing when we meet. He says he wants "to make the world a better place".

Congratulations on making the Sound Of 2015 list! What does it mean to you?

It's pleasantly, overwhelmingly, honouring. I remember the time Frank Ocean was on it (2012). I was like "man, hopefully I can be an artist of that calibre".

It doesn't go to my head. It actually does the opposite and humbles me - these people out here believe in me, so I have to live up to that and make the most amazing music ever. Even if I hit number one, or just fifteen or whatever, it will set the standard for me to work even harder.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Not lacking in self-confidence, Raury has proclaimed he will be "one of the greatest lyricists out there"

Are the charts important to you?

I understand [their] value and I know that I would definitely enjoy being at the top of them. But it's nothing that I attach my worth to - I wouldn't beat myself up. I make music to affect lives and inspire my fans to become better versions of themselves.

How are you hoping to do that?

It's all honest music - everything comes from a real life experience, that's why it has so much depth. Kid Cudi [glum-faced US rapper] inspired me when I was in a really dark place to just chase my dreams, not be self-conscious and be comfortable in my own skin.

You'd be surprised by how many people out there just aren't comfortable in their own skin. I just want to give my fans that.

You might be 18 but you're practically a music veteran - you've been rapping since you were eight?

Yeah, I've been writing rap lyrics since I was eight. I made my first musical creation when I was three. It was a song called Oh Little Fishy.

Can you still play it?

I remember it very well - but I'm holding out. You'd be like, "yeah, he definitely wrote that when he was 3!"

Image copyright Record label
Image caption The 18-year-old describes his music as "genreless"

You are a self-proclaimed 'Indigo Child' - what does that phrase mean to you?

The Indigo Child, the "Millennials", the "kids of the internet age", or whatever you want to call it - there's a new era of youths coming up that have access to internet knowledge and we're finding out things a lot faster.

We're becoming a lot more advanced and we can use that to soar. I used it to soar; I used the internet to teach myself guitar. There's a different phase in humankind and I feel like we should be aware and take advantage of it.

It's fair to say your musical influences are pretty wide - you've cited Phil Collins and Freddie Mercury as well as Outkast and Kid Cudi. How did you discover Phil?

When I played sports at school, that was on the playlist. I remember the first time I heard In the Air Tonight - that was real dope.

Somebody told me it seemed like [my music] was channelling Pink Floyd but I've never actually really listened to them yet. This next project is going to be drawn from so many more inspirations. Now I listen to Leonard Cohen, I've been listening to Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind and Fire. I feel like I just discovered Marvin Gaye.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Raury wears his signature hat as a reminder of a life-changing two-week hike, throughout which he wore a sun hat

Can we expect an album anytime soon?

Definitely. I've been in LA for two months literally making music. Indigo Child was written from the viewpoint of a young kid who was looked down upon, was an underdog, and was uprising. It's a really youthful project, and the next will be about that same kid that found success and is happy about it.

How does writing music in LA compare to your home in Atlanta?

It hasn't changed at all because I gave myself a home environment. I sit there and let myself be bored, play video games. That's when I feel like a kid again, because now my life is just insane. I never thought I'd be able to fly my mom, my grandma, my sister over to LA for Thanksgiving because I'm working too much and I can't come back, you know?

Things are so hectic. Everything's good, the money's amazing and the fame is great, but you do miss out. You leave that whole world and go into a bubble.

Boredom is something you learn to appreciate, really just relish a moment where I can just sit here and be like [Raury sits very, very still]. Amazing! You learn the value of things like that.

Your mum features a lot on the Indigo Child project, mainly yelling at you to take your education seriously. Has she changed her mind about your career now you can fly her to LA?

I remember when I was 15 and I told her I didn't want to go to college, I wanted to be a revolutionary leader [laughs]!

Now that I'm older, in hindsight I definitely understand where she was coming from. Now with the music starting to come, she's really happy.

Tell me about your hat, because you wear that a lot...

It has a lot of sentimental value and I'm kind of insane about it. We actually had duplicates made but I don't wear those, it's been the same hat since day one. It definitely keeps me grounded and reminds me of where I came from. And I'm not used to having the sun in my face anymore!

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Not lacking in self-confidence, Raury has proclaimed he will be "one of the greatest lyricists out there"

How does it feel to have backing from fellow Atlanta artists Outkast, who booked you to open their festival?

They let me open and play for 20,000 people and I'd never even played for 5,000. It was insane! They really treat me like one of their own. Not even just Outkast, the whole [hip hop and soul music collective] Dungeon Family. Cee-Lo, Peaches - she's Andre 3000's sister and I can go to her house every Sunday and have dinner. It's like that, keeping the Atlanta heritage going.

What are you hoping to achieve in the next few years then?

Slowly but surely I really do want to rise to become among the greatest artists. I want to walk down a street in the most remote place and still give my autograph to somebody. I want to be able to get my music to that many people because I want to make the world a better place ultimately.

But it's just a very far-fetched thing - I have no idea how I'm going to do it! [laughs].

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