Raury's Slice of 'Heaven'
The R&B singer takes a literal leap of faith while recording 'NEVERALONE,' a song inspired by upcoming 'Heaven Sent' skydive
Jumping out of a plane without a parachute might code as lunacy for most people — but not Raury. In fact, the Atlanta-born genre-blender, whose expansive debut full-length All We Need courted critical praise upon release in 2015, sees part of himself in skydiver Luke Aikins, the daredevil who will fall 25,000 feet from the sky with nothing but the clothes on his back as part of Stride Gum Presents Heaven Sent, which airs live on Fox on July 30.
“What he’s doing is a metaphor for life in general,” says Raury (born Raury Deshawn Tullis), who penned “NEVERALONE,” the theme song for the historic stunt, during his recent stay at the Hollywood Patch in Los Angeles — one of two houses developed by SOUR PATCH KIDS to support touring artists. “He knows something that nobody else knows.”
In the track, Raury channels a life-shifting dream that he experienced while in the Midwest to perform at the Electric Forest festival in Rothbury, Mich., in June. “An essential part I tell a lot of people to look out for in this song is when I say, ‘Where is my shadow?’” he explains, referring to a vision in which he was locked in a gated community with a key that he assumed led to his escape. After it didn’t work, two women appeared to tell him that freedom was acquired through knowledge, not keys, and to instead “live through what you know.”
“When I woke up,” he remembers, “it inspired me to meditate and set a routine for myself.”
While exploring his newfound sense of inner complacency, Raury made a spiritual connection with “these really dope kids” he met at the festival. One of his new friends gave him a statue of a wolf made out of hematite, which Raury claims is “very grounding [and] great for your chakra.” Raury has carried the figurine, which he named Shadow, with him ever since. Every time it’s misplaced, it has appeared in a location he hadn’t left it, prompting him to confect the song’s closing refrain.
“NEVERALONE,” the empowering anthem that resulted from this experience of personal growth, tries to make sense of the human experience while operating within it: “I’ma be alright, I’m beaming for the skies, and if I kiss the clouds, then I might be alright,” he raps, leading into a sung chorus over thwacking drums: “You are never alone, no you are never alone, no matter where you go/From L.A. to Tokyo, that you are never alone.”
Opening his mind and taking chances is nothing new for Raury, who previously has put himself in challenging situations. When he was 15, he joined with the C5 Youth Foundation to hike a 50-mile trail through Yellowstone National Park, which inspired songs like his 2014 single “God’s Whisper.” He trekked for days through the forest, followed by coyotes and passing the time by coming up with new ways to entertain himself — mainly reflecting on his experience in the world and processing them through song.
Even though he has taken divisive and bold chances in life, Raury draws parallels between he and Aikins, despite their professional discrepancies. “Me and the skydiver, we’re the same person, the same being, with the same intentions and thoughts,” he says. “I just happen to be born in Atlanta, and had access to music and this happened to me. I’m a musical daredevil. He was born where he was born and he had access to skydiving. The differences between being a musician or being a skydiver ... it’s all honestly the same. We’re all people who believe something [and] try to show the world what’s in our head, our dreams.”