Anybody whose had a dream has had obstacles in realizing it come to pass. That’s the deal, isn’t it? For all the glory, there’s sacrifice. For all the triumphs, there’s the long nights and internal questioning and anxiety. Imagine writing one of your best songs on the back of receipts. Imagine going to college at NYU, working in various internships, and bussing tables at night to make ends meet. Even with that, releasing and creating music on your own.
21-year old Rence has always been a sort of free spirit. He was born in D.C., raised in Seattle, but has lived in the never-ending cycle of hustle that is New York. With all his experiences where ever life may lead him next, is put into his music authentically. From the sticktoitiveness of “Ways To Go,” and finding self-love with “Expensive” ft. Noah Cyrus, these are snapshots of the pieces of his journey. Even with his recent signing to Epic Records, the work still continues as shown in our conversation.
You’re at a point of your life and career, you have graduation coming. Your lease is coming up in New York, and you just signed to Epic Records. There’s a feel of uncertainty, but there’s also a freedom to not quite knowing what’s next. How are you feeling with these new beginnings and ending colliding together?
I take it strides. I see it as such an opportunity because right now, I have time. That’s something that I won’t have forever. I have the strength of an amazing label and an amazing team around me. I always say that, and not that this is exactly comparable, but my highs always come with lows. For example, when one of my songs was up super high on new music Friday, even before the stuff with Epic, my bank account balance was like -$20. The world has balance.
The lease ending is a decision. I could live here for another year, but I don’t think I want to. I’m just making myself available for the opportunities as they come. I’m so blessed to be in a position where I have to worry, “oh, I have to be in this apartment in New York.” I do need to find a place to live. That’s super important. It’s also the 21st century. I have a storage unit in Manhattan. I’ll put all my stuff in there and we’ll send when the wind takes me.
Now, as a writer and talking to other writers, you should take some time to travel and live to fill the well, so to speak. Do you intend to travel and incorporate those experiences into future music?
Yeah! Super tied into my plans, but the way I do it is that those things are kind of connected. It’s not so much let me go travel for a few months and then think about the music. The stuff we played at Baby’s All Right was amazing. I think I’m going to do an after show at Lollapalooza. So it’s like “oh, great! I get to go to Chicago.” Then, I get to put that back into the music.
In another sense, absolutely. I already know that I’m doing my sophomore album in Japan. Then I’m going to go to the middle of Montana and make an album. Just continue to live my life in authentic ways that excite me so I can pour it back into the art.
You recently signed to Epic Records and I know that some artists today would prefer to keep going the indie route. However, it really sounds like there’s a creative partnership here where they let you be yourself. With your artistry, keeping your integrity is really important to you. How has this relationship grown as you’ve gotten acclimated with each other?
It started from the conception of the label conversations with a very clear mission statement for any partnership. I surround myself with only good people who I trust. So, when we started having conversations with different labels, the thing from our side was “If you want to do this, amazing. We’re not saying we don’t want to sign. ” I think it’s silly to say that all labels are terrible.
The point is, if we’re going to do this, we have a plan and we would love for you to be the gas on that fire. However, we’re not putting that fire out and starting a different one. If you like what we’re doing, the music we have coming, and believe in me and my process, let’s rock. That’s exactly what Epic did. They asked about my wants and needs and let’s make it happen. I seriously could not ask for more from everybody in the building.
We touched on the ups and downs. When you wrote “Ways To Go,” you were writing the lyrics on a receipt. Both the video and the song has that keep going attitude. When you were writing these songs, while doing their internships, restaurants and going to school, what keep you going? A lot of people would have quit. Your story is really inspiring.
I think a lot of it comes back to the people that I’ve been surrounded with. I’ve been super fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who always believed in me and convinced me that I could do what I wanted to do. Also, I have purposly tried to keep a certain perspective in mind. By that, I mean, nothing is promised and you are owed nothing. So, it’s really up to you.
I believe in the power of hard work and in my case, it’s good songs. With other people, it could be good photos, work at the office. I think you have to believe that if you are the best that you can be and work the hardest that you possibly can, you’ll get where you want to go. It doesn’t really do you any favors not to believe that. Then you’ve already lost the battle. That’s what I hope the song and video does for people. That’s what I hope I can do for people.
A lot of fans will message me now and ask, “do you have any advice for me? I’m trying to do this.” My advice, first, get your stuff as good as possible. Whatever it is you do. Get it where it’s so good that no one can deny it. From there, figure out how you can get it to the people so they can experience it. That’s all you can do. From there, it’s either going to work out or it’s not. If you’re doing the best that you can, then I have to believe you can do whatever you want to do.
Listening to your “Pink” EP, you definitely laid the groundwork for your own aesthetic. All the song titles correspond to a certain color. There’s layered vocals together with a minimalist electronic feel throughout. When you made the “Pink” EP, take us through the formulation of it. There’s some hint at early Drake music on here, too in terms of atmospheric and emotional tones, but you’re able to tailor it to you.
That project is super special to me. One, because I love it. Second, because it was a project that I wrote, produced, mixed, and made the artwork for. It was my introduction to the world. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about questions like this in terms of that music. It’s tricky because to me, it feels so natural. Why wouldn’t I make what came natural to me?
That artists that I’ve always looked up to. The T-Pain’s, the John Mayer’s and the Sade’s of the world. My idols were the artists that always did their thing regardless of what else was going on. When you do that thing well, the payoff is so much greater. It’s a risk/reward situation. The risk is definitely higher because it’s not a path that’s been walked before. At the same time, you just created that path.
Pink was in a word, honesty. The sounds you heard on Pink were the sounds of my life up until that point. The life experiences that I got in New York and being at NYU and just living my life, the EP was just being honest and authentic in my music. My biggest thing is that I’m trying to put the authenticity of living real life back into the art. I think people could really grab on to that.
What was your reaction to when everybody took to “Baby Blue?” I feel like that’s a real special song to you.
It’s one of my favorites. I kinda feel that it didn’t surprise me that it was the song that people gravitated towards. For me, I’m trying to have all the songs that I release and things that I put out be the best that they can be for me. I’m honored that that songs found a place in a lot of people’s lives.
You have the new single “Expenses” that you wrote a year ago. Then you let it sit and Noah Cyrus came when you revisited it again. I’m going to frame this in a different way. When you let it breathe and came back to it, does the meaning of the song feel any different to when you first wrote it? There’s a message of giving love to someone until you can’t give anymore and then self-love that’s replenishing.
I think it’s somewhere in a middle. It’s different because it’s finished now. The reason that I didn’t do anything with it at first was because it was missing something. I didn’t know what that thing was. Whether I record or when I’m performing live, I always look for that one small intangible thing that makes it. Those moments that you’re like “yes!”
For me, it just didn’t have it. I put so much love and hard work into that song with two amazing people in New York. We were working on that song for two months. Kept coming back to it. You pull up the workings of that song, there’s a 100 tracks of just instruments and all sorts of crazy little pieces. It didn’t give you enough to hold onto. The story was very one sided.
Then I was like, “ok, I think this song needs a strong female presence. Somebody that’s going to rock this shit and give it what it needs. The authenticity it needs.” I thought about who it would be and the person that popped in my mind was Noah Cyrus. I’m just a big fan of her voice and her music. We hit the song from every angle. We hit her people, she fell in love with the song, and we’ve been best friends ever since. It’s crazy.
With your forthcoming Presence EP, I know that you handle all aspects of your production, but you’re collaborating with more people. Does it feel any different being in these studios with other people than just tooling all the aspects of this music on your own?
There are people who don’t like to collaborate and I think that’s ridiculous. Even if you say you don’t collaborate, you do. Collaboration is how I found out everything in music so far. From what I love, what I hate, new tricks and influences. I’m always open to collaborate. I started as a producer, so I speak the language. I have some songs that are fully produced by other people, but we’re we are working on things, I’m in the production.
Being able to speak that language and get through to each other is so key for the quality of the overall song. I think it’s also super valuable to have that “Drake” mentality of I don’t need to do everything. I will benefit from those collaborations. I’m not going to say I’m not going to collaborate with someone because it’s cheating or it’s not “me.” You miss out on so many opportunities for greatness and success.