Reggie Williams, known by his stage name R.LUM.R, is a R&B artist that is currently based out of Nashville, TN. His genre-bending music has caught the attention of many, with his smooth vocals, vulnerable lyrics, and electro-R&B melodies there isn’t another artist out there like him. His highly anticipated debut album Surfacing was released on November 1st via Island Records, and we had the opportunity to sit down with him ahead of its release to discuss the process he went through while making the album.
BTS: How did you get started with making music?
R.LUM.R: I got started back in my grandmother’s church. I was just singing in the choir from when I was 9 to when I was 14-ish. If I could go back, I probably would of continued doing it, but at the time I hated it because I was 9 and I just wanted to play my PlayStation I didn’t want to be at church at 5:30 in the morning four days a week. That was formative when it came to me just making noises. My mother always played jazz around the house, so I remember trying to mimic those sounds and vibes. We listened to a lot of Jazz, a lot of Gospel, a lot of Anita Baker – stuff like that. Then fast forward to high school, I learned classical guitar in school so I still play with my fingernails and not a pick. When I started, I just happened to be good at it and my teacher encouraged me to keep playing and buy a guitar if I could. So I saved up my money and eventually got a Yamaha CG-101 for $212. But at the time, I was also listening to a lot of nu-metal and grungy Linkin Park-esque music. It really resonated with me at the time because I was mad emo. So I started writing songs about all the stuff I was feeling at the time – girls that didn’t like me back and such.
BTS: Describe your sound for someone who hasn’t heard it before?
R.LUM.R: I just tell them to listen to it. I don’t like describing the music to be honest. I don’t really believe it’s my place to do so. Just listen to it.
BTS: You’re releasing your debut album tomorrow – how does it feel to finally be releasing it?
R.LUM.R: I feel strongly ambivalent about it. I feel very zen. I feel like people often use that simile of releasing an album being like giving birth, and to me it’s more accurate to say that the thing was born a couple years ago. But the process of completing it is like raising it and releasing it is like sending it off to college. I know how I feel about it – I feel like it’s important. But, I have no idea how people are going to react to a lot of the things that I’ve said, because so much of what I talk about is important to me. What people say is out of my control, but I feel really excited to see what people react to and what they gravitate to. I think excited is the wrong word – maybe more morbidly curious.
BTS: So have you been sitting on some of these songs for a long time then?
R.LUM.R: Oh yeah. I write a lot of notes for song ideas on my phone, and I learned the other day that there’s a way for you to see the date that you started a note on your phone, so for example, I started the note for “Making a Choice” which is the first song on the album, on August 30th, 2018 at 4:59 AM. So I’ve been sitting on that song for over a year. “Middle of the Night” was probably the first song I wrote out of them all though – I wrote that in the winter of 2017. It was on the tail end of a long writing trip and I’m not very close with my family, so I don’t go home for the holidays usually. Everyone I was working with was on winter break essentially, so I was really in my feelings and was feeling very alone. That song and “Surfacing” kind of became the nucleus for what everything else kind of vibrated around over the course of writing this album.
BTS: What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
R.LUM.R: Overall, it was very good and formative. I was lucky to be able to work with these dudes in The Gifted, I think there’s six songs on the record that I did with them— “Surfacing, “Making a Choice,” “How This Feels,” “Middle of the Night,” and one more I’m forgetting. I was lucky to of found a space where I could say these things that I needed to get out and not feel weird. It was so nice to be able to have a safe space where I could dig as deep as I needed to about mental health, suicidal thoughts, anger, masculinity, and all these things I address on the record. That was my favorite part of it, to have a center and grounding element. I’m a Capricorn, I need grounding. To use the same metaphor from before, that was a huge part of the nucleus of creating this album.
BTS: How many songs did you write for the album?
R.LUM.R: Oh man. 80 maybe? Chris, who’s my manager and who’s been my best friend for 17 years, he sent me a folder earlier this year and at that point in time it was at least 80 songs.
BTS: That’s a lot of songs though.
R.LUM.R: Yeah, I don’t totally remember at this point though. I don’t think it’s productive for me to be bean counting. I should just be thinking about which ones stick out and which ones are the most important. I will scan them and be like “Did I forget anything?” But I feel like I pulled out everything that was the most important with no fluff songs or anything.
BTS: Why did you decide to title the album Surfacing?
R.LUM.R: The album was just the process of “surfacing.” From the start with “Making a Choice,” which is kind of like a prologue, it’s a narrating voice that’s presenting the two sides of yourself that you explore throughout the rest of the record. It’s the journey of going through all of those internal processes of letting people in, trying to figure things out, starting to except what or who that is. Then you get to “Surfacing” where one of the lyrics is literally “I spent so long underwater / Forgot how it feels to breathe / I used to be autonomic but something came over me / Maybe a tidal wave or the moon ant its gravity / Whatever it doesn’t matter I feel like I’m surfacing”. I just put all that shit aside and come up. The ending track is the last single that came out, “Lonely,” which is where you start to externalize. You’ve done all this internal work, now you can start to express everything you’ve processed externally. Surfacing just feels like a verb, because it is in a literal sense, but that action and the process of just listening to the record feels like that to me.
BTS: What was the most challenging part of recording this album?
R.LUM.R: It was probably figuring out what songs to pick and figuring out which pieces were necessary to complete the puzzle but not overload it. I remember buying records when I was 13 or 14 for $15 at F.Y.E. or Hot Topic or whatever and getting a record that I liked the singles from and everything else on the record was trash. It always mad me so mad because $15 for me at 14 was a lot of money. I really didn’t want to have any filler. It was more about thinking about what each song was saying and thinking about what I need and what the record needs – which is ultimately what made the decision. I’m very utilitarian with putting records together.
BTS: That’s good though.
R.LUM.R: I know it’s not the sexy, artist-y “Oh I just wait for the songs to call me or fall into place.”
BTS: That’s great though, there’s a method that works for everyone. Everyone is looking to do something different with their music, so it’s more about what works for you and not everyone else.
R.LUM.R: Yes absolutely. It’s more important to me for it to be like putting a puzzle together rather then waiting for something to speak to me.
BTS: A lot of the visuals that you pair with your music (like your album cover) are really stunning – are visuals important to you as an artist?
R.LUM.R: I’m a big fan of animation and anime. I visual arts like that because you’re not bound to limits. That’s why I love video games so much, I don’t have to say no. I feel like visual story telling can be the same way for me because I’ve been taking in so much of that media and so much of that style like the editing. I was a video editor in college for a little while, I lived many lives in college as I feel like most people do, especially in the arts. But it was something I got really into, specially through Satoshi Kon, who only put out three feature films in his life time he died far too young. He was a big inspiration for me to leave the physical plain sometimes. But, I do like telling really human stories too. “Lonely” was a big accomplishment for me, that was my first co-directed video as well.
BTS: What can fans expect from you in 2020?
R.LUM.R: We are very excited to get this record out, just as a team. Kind of like I said before, I feel very ambivalent and zen about releasing it to the world, but as a team I feel very excited. There are a lot of people that have worked on this release and that it effects, and seeing that external excitement is invigorating for me. It helps me focus and understand that I’m a part of the thing and that it’s not just the Reggie Williams show. I have discrete input and output periods, I finished the output period for this cycle when I finished the record. I am certainly looking forward to going through another input period and finding some more inspiration. I’m excited to go to some museums, visit some cities that I’ve been to but haven’t had the opportunity to explore. I just want to take some time to live my life a little bit and kind of digest everything. I also need to find a new apartment in Nashville, maybe I’ll finally get a cat too.
Steam R.LUM.R’s debut album Surfacing below.
Follow Beyond The Stage to stay up-to-date on all of your favorite artists.