The ingredients of a perfect interview lies in the connectivity between journalist and subject, a conversation that is effortless and honesty and a sense of humility that resonates from the artist in focus. RL Huggar, R&B singer, songwriter, producer and founding member of super group Next provided an interview that was not only insightful and engaging, but honest, thought provoking and just effortless, much like his signature sound. This was not a mere question and answer prototype, this was a conversation with an artist that dares to speak the truth and share his world with his fans and critics alike.
RL is no stranger to the pitfalls of the music game as he opens up about the immature mistakes he made as a young artist on the rise in the heyday of Next’s infamy. What he shares is as he puts it, the truth and not the politically correct version of what actually happened when one of the late 90’s super groups disappeared off the charts, leaving a string of naysayers in their wake formulating their own theories on what caiused the divide. He talks very candidly about his experiences and how he has turned negativity in his life into one of the most positive, productive, busy and happiest times of his life. He finally talks about his songwriting talent, having penned hits for the likes of Ginuwine, Usher and Lloyd for many years to the upcoming release of his new album aptly titled (5:15) to the surprise EP he is doing with Naughty By Nature’s heavyweight Treach. Life is giving back to RL this time around as he finally takes the reins on the musically creative live he has always wanted to live.
As he heads down to Australia for a series of club shows and hosting obligations this weekend, RL takes time to talk to me about the music industry, music’s future and his music’s legacy. It’s all that matters at the end of the day and is one entity that always delivers. Looking forward to seeing his Aussie fans and extended Delta Bravo family, RL is bringing a show laced with surprises much like this interview. RL is an artist who isn’t afraid to live life on his terms, make music his way and continues to contribute his own legacy to the history of the R&B genre. Whilst the future of Next may be on hiatus right now with a view to re-invent their unified vision at a later date, RL the artist gets set to take his career to the next level and there is no looking back!
Thanks for your time RL – how are you? I believe you are heading down under this weekend for a series of shows again…. How does it feel to be coming back?
I really good thank you, looking forward to coming back down there and hanging out with you all, meeting some new people and of course kicking it with my boy Danny. I love Australia and am excited about the 3 days I will be down there. I am booked to appear in Melbourne twice and Sydney but then I gotta head back home after that. It may be short but anytime down there is great.
Good Luv – RL
What is it about Australia that keeps you coming back and what can we expect from your shows?
I’m really booked to host and do a few songs but Australia is one of my favorite places to visit so you know I can’t just do a couple of tracks and be done. I have something special in mind for both the Melbourne and Sydney fans, you know, like a little thank you for their love and support.
For me I’m really just into having fun and partying with my music rather than a straight showcase you know. I enjoy it when people sing along to the music and really feel the music that makes it a lot more fun and also shows me just how many people know my music, old or new. I just want people to enjoy themselves and have fun at the end of the day so I hope they are ready (laughs).
I also think that what will surprise a lot of people at my shows is that some of the music I perform has been written by myself for other artists that my fan base would have no idea I’ve done either – I’ve written for Jaheim, Usher, Ginwine, Lloyd and that always surprises a lot of people when they hear the tracks Ive written.
I believe you are working with an Aussie artist by the name of Merv Mac of Delta Bravo – what have you both been collaborating on and your thoughts on our talent?
You know I did a single last year with Merv Mac and it’s called Bad Girl. Basically laid down the vocals to my portion and made sure it was hot. I did the track for a number of reasons with the main two being support of a new artist that has great talent and building and solidifying relationships with a crew I regard as family. I’m looking forward to working with Merv again real soon.
The world still enjoys the music you created with your group Next – do you still see the guys much these days and do you still perform or do any projects together?
You want the politically correct response or you want the truth Ms Hennessey? Well for the first time in an interview when I have been asked the Next question I have always given the politically correct answer but I think I need to spit the truth for this and tell you what it is. The name Next, if you read up in previous interviews, I came up with it and on the majority of the records we recorded I say a lead vocalist too, not to take anything away from the two other members of the group. But for a long time I had this guilty feeling of always wanting more, I wanted to write for other artists and sing and arrange the music we were creating a little differently and felt I couldn’t do that as the images in my head just weren’t aligned with the images that Next were seeing. Taking into account that the other two members are biological brothers and I wasn’t, no matter how hard we tried to get the “ brotherhood connection” it just wasn’t meshing like it should have and that brought upon its own set of difficulties at times. I always felt like an outsider and even though at one stage we all took a little break to try and do our own thing when we got back together it just brought the same awkward feelings back. I want to be around people that are genuinely happy to see me succeed in all aspects of my life even when they’re not involved. It just never felt genuine and like the people around them felt I was trying to big note myself or something, which if you know me is so not who I am. So it just got too much at the end of the day. We were just in different places in life at the time and that if my success wasn’t contributing to the overall success of the group then it posed a problem and that just wore me down.
Next is my brand and rather than it grow organically and with dignity it started becoming a hustle, much like the music industry is in itself today. The other two members were and still are out there doing shows that I put together with music , most of which was written by me , but don’t include me. Now I happy for the guys if they are getting paid and doing their hustle but it’s like this at the end of the day ,l people think I left Next but I wasn’t really given a choice when these showcases were always done with just the brothers and not including myself. It was just a bunch of negativity going on and even though I love the other members and am happy for their success I just couldn’t create under that negativity. I gotta admit this is the happiest I have been in 15 years of my creative life. Do I want to do another do another Next album in the future? Yes of course, but we have to come together as a unified collective and leave the negativity and issues at the door – only then can we take it to the next level, you feel me.
What has RL been working on lately? How have you evolved musically and creatively as an artist?
I am getting ready to drop my new album called 5:15, which the debut single “Booed Up” is off. The album is called 5:15 as that was the time I was born, 5:15am and it’s a very special time, sequence in my life as I feel at me best at that time in morning. It’s the time I get ready to hit the gym, it’s the time of morning that just has a certain peace to it, so I felt that was the best title for this album. I went into this project like it was the beginning of a new life you know, like I never had any previous success. I have written and recorded over 70 songs just building up my catalogue and so when it came time to choose the tracks that were going to be on this album I have a huge lot to choose from, so now we just trying to get it down to the perfect combination of about 12 to 13 tracks.
In essence this album is like a re-introduction for me from my time with Next to the artist I am today. You know I always feel that some artists tend to go left and alienate their fan base trying to recreate themselves instead of just sticking to what works and what their fans respect and recognize. So this album is a chance for me to re-introduce myself with something new and fresh but that still gave you a “too close” familiarity where it’s a feel good album covering love, relationships and just good vibes you know.
I have so much I am working on now separate from this album. I am working on an EP with my boy Treach from Naughty By Nature and we have a hot new track coming soon called Ego featuring Jaheim, and I am on a single with Eric Sermon, Snoop and Method that is for the new Kevin Hart movie “ Let Me Explain” which is going to be huge!
Boo’d Up – RL feat Taylor J
Your thoughts on the R&B / Soul music industry these days compared to when you first emerged in the scene?
You know it’s become a hustle plain and simple. There is no more artist development like the labels used to provide back in the day so artists have no guidance, no cultivation, just thrown in there to do what they have to and I feel bad for them. Right now they want you ready, they want you already coming in with a following and most of the time these artists are being financed by a contact they made in the hood so then the videos start popping off and the buzz starts to happen. Meanwhile the artists that are hidden gems don’t get that opportunity to be financed and because of the instant gratification that labels are seeking with new artists today they are missing out on the hidden gems and just wanting the quick hits and misses.
My biggest fear for the artists right now is what will they be singing years from now with the music they are creating. For me I am still able to sing and connect with my audience on music I created 15 years ago but what will this generation sing about in their future?
Who would you say are your musical influences are and why?
My cousin Phillip Bailey from Earth Wind & Fire, I’m into Gospel so Jay Moss for sure. I love Brandy’s voice but I think sometimes her musical arrangements are too much and they over power her voice, which I truly think is one of the best voices in our industry. Kim Beral, Tank is amazing and Ive been listening to a lot mixtapes as well and this awesome new R&B guy out right now called Daley, oh my gosh this guy has an amazing voice, YouTube him like now. He is amazing. I’m a fan of Q Parker from 112, my brother and I just love music in general, country, jazz, and Robert Glasper is awesome too. I’m into a lot (laughs).
What is your blueprint in this life and why?
You know there are a lot of singers out there but there are very few artists and I want to known as the quintessential artist who writes, sings, producers, creates. I have always had the mind of a music executive and I think it stems from my training under Clive Davis tutelage and my boy Kay Gee who both taught me. I just want to be known as the Music Man and to be remembered about the music, my legacy is about the music and it always will be even after I am gone one day.
For more information on RL visit: @JustRL ( Twitter)
RL Show Dates in Australia:
Friday 21st June – RnB Superclub @ Crown – Melb
Saturday 22nd June – Boom Saturdays @ Rocksia Hotel – Sydney
Sunday 23rd June – Sunday Soul Sessions, Alumbra – Melb