Not many people can say they stepped off the Hamilton stage at the Richard Rogers theater for two and a half years and immediately got to work on an empowering solo debut. But for New York based artist Anthony Ramos, that’s just something he did in between shooting the She’s Gotta Have It reboot on Netflix. Needless to say, he’s had a busy last few years. Keep on reading to hear all about his experience on stage and screen, his latest favorite songs and, of course, his debut EP, Freedom.
BTS: Introduce yourself!
Anthony Ramos: I’m Anthony Ramos! I was part of the original cast of Hamilton, I’m starring in She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix right now, and I’ve got a new EP coming out! The Freedom EP!
BTS: You’ve spent time on stage and screen – what are some of the differences in those settings?
AR: It’s a different world. On stage, you’ve got the crowd every night and you’ve got to find a way to make it different every night, doing the same joint every night. On screen, we might go every day but there’s no audience. The audience is the crew. You get takes, you get to do it over, you don’t have that adrenaline of only doing it one time. That’s something you can only get on stage. The cool thing about film, you know, is that if I don’t like a take I can just say “nah, let’s get that again”. So it’s kind of dope to get to do more than one, I get to flex both muscles. It kind of keeps you on your toes, creatively.
BTS: Who are some of your biggest influences?
AR: I was influenced just from the sake of being in Hamilton, being in a musical about being in a revolution for two and a half years. In these words that were written by someone else, I’m inspired by them so what am I going to do? I was like “I think I need to express how I feel individually. Take this inspiration and all of these feelings and actually put them into my own words. Lin inspired me, my business partner and friend WIlliam Wells [inspired me]. We took this journey together, making this record. A friend of mine, I was writing in his house. I was writing songs in his living room – it comes from everywhere. I’ve had teachers help me get to where I am… I don’t know, I just want to write a record for the people, like genuinely for the world…I got all of these people that were just kind of like, putting my dream on their backs. It is a blessing to get to live this life with them.
BTS: If you could collab with any artist right now, who would it be?
AR: I think Logic. I feel like, one hundred percent, if Logic called me tomorrow and said “yo let’s write a joint” I would be there right away.
BTS: Tell us a little bit about your EP coming out next week, Freedom!
AR: We started writing this, me and a small group of people, a little over a year ago. The day after the election. We just saw all the turmoil and it was just kind of like, there’s just so much going on right now in our society. So it was just like “yo, I can’t not write about this”. So we just started writing with a few homies and we started writing the title track “Freedom”. That song is just basically questioning what that is, for you individually. Are you free? In you mind? In your heart? What were you taught as a kid coming up, you know? Do you feel like that translates to your reality? And that’s the title track and after that – we were only supposed to do one song but we just kept going.
Then we wrote another song, “Common Ground”, which is just about having a relationship with this country that you know so much about, but you really don’t know anything. In spite of understanding that you didn’t know, you didn’t really know what was going on. Even feeling hurt, or betrayed or lied to in spite of that…the song is just about “I want to make my way back to that common ground because I love you so much, and we’ve had this relationship for so long. You have provided me a home and this is something that I’m not going to give up on”, you know? I’m not going to give up on my nation, I’m not going to give up on my country. So that song’s about finding our way back to common ground…The last song is called “All Right”, and it’s basically a call to all people – let’s link our arms together like the NFL players. You know, let’s do this and let’s march on. Let’s build. Let’s fight through this hard time because turbulence comes in a storm, but after the storm you know there’s sunshine, there’s rainbows, there’s something beautiful at the other end. We just have to get through the turbulence, so let’s just hold on to each other.
BTS: Talk a little bit about your upcoming show in Chicago – what can fans expect to see?
AR: In these shows, people are going to get songs they’ve never heard from me, songs that I’m gonna out on my album that’ll be out next year. I’m performing the EP, I’ve got special guests that I’m keeping to myself – you gotta come through to see who’s coming. It’s all original music and I’m pumped…finally people will get to hear these songs and it’s just like this electronic, soulful pop sound that we’re using to tell impactful stories.
BTS: What kind of songs could we find on your pre-show playlist?
AR: I have a playlist on Spotify, and I’ve got tons of songs on there. Logic’s album, I love Johnnyswim, I got Mali Music’s album. I love oldies so I’m listening to The Temptations. I’m just kind of pulling inspiration from everywhere. James Blake, Kevin Garrett and smaller groups like Broken Luxury, those guys are opening up for me.
BTS: What are you most excited about with releasing your first EP?
AR: It’s already happening! People hitting me up – I was doing a staged reading with this organization called “Arts in the Armed Forces”. Adam Driver, that’s his organization…we perform for veterans and people currently serving and their families, we give them entertainment. It was just so dope, this cadet from West Point came up to me and she said “I just want to let you know that there’s a lot of things that we can’t say in the army that you’re saying in your songs. And I just want to tell you and say thank you for being our voice. For speaking for us”. She threw me all the way off. I was taken aback, like wow. That’s why I do it. So I think what I’m most excited for is for that. I’m just excited for people to hopefully feel something and feel inspired and changed. I’m excited just for this record, I just want to make a difference. This record came from more than one heart and I just hope that those hearts can reach other hearts and it can just multiply and create this massive pulse that reverberates around the world.
Freedom is out everywhere January 20th, but if you can’t get enough of all of the new material then you can catch Anthony at The Peppermint Club in LA on February 7th and Lincoln Hall in Chicago on February 16th.
Photographs courtesy of Marzena Szymanska.