At age 17, London Richards can’t vote nor drink. What he can do, however, is conquer the world of R&B, a goal which the singer has his sights set on.
Richards, who moved to the United States from London six years ago, released his debut single, “Will You Wait,” on Wednesday, Sept. 10. In less than 24 hours, the single’s buzz has drove the single to No. 6 on the Billboard Twitter Emerging Artists chart.
Following the release of “Will You Wait,” Billboard caught up with Richards to talk early influences, upcoming EP love, London, and dream collaborations
You inherited a set of turntables from your father when you were 9 years old, which sparked your interest in music. Can you retrace that journey from then to today?
At a young age, music was my dad’s passion. He also played a lot of 70s and 80s music – Shalamar, Lakeside, old school. That gave me a nice foundation of appreciating music with a lot of elements — sevent trumpet players and seven-minute long songs.
When I was 9, he asked me to DJ one of the parties at the house. I took the turntables and studied them. I’d play them, scratch them and probably broke a few. I [then] took interest in creating. I wrote a lot of poems. I remember I would go in my dad’s phone, go on the ‘Notes’ application and start writing. When I was about 13, I created my first song. Ever since, I’ve been in love with the art, which led me to the today, where I have my first single out.
There’s a YouTube recording of you covering Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around… Comes Around.” Does Timberlake influence you? Who else?
Yeah, definitely; I love Justin’s work. I watched a lot of James Brown and Michael Jackson videos – the ultimate performers; I was into them a lot. But really, [my influences are] diverse. I just listen to whatever I’m feeling. It could be Frank Ocean one day [or] Ed Sheeran the next.
Justin Timberlake, James Brown, Michael Jackson – they’re all known for their dancing as well. Are you into the dance?
I am. I do dance. It’s very, very solo at the moment. I love movement onstage. I love moving however it hits me. But definitely, I could see some choreography [for] the next few singles.
Is “Will You Wait” an indication of how the rest of your forthcoming EP, love, London, will sound?
I think “Will You Wait” is a perfect introduction. There’s definitely a lot more instruments [on the EP], but not as much guitar. As soon as I moved to L.A. a year ago, I had the ability to be free; the studio is readily available. I wrote this song about three weeks into being here. It came out beautifully.
“Will You Wait” has always been the song that you wanted to start with…
Yeah; it was the best creative step forward. I wanted to get comfortable with my sound; “Will You Wait” [is] that. The reception [has been] just incredible. I have so many friends, family and people that just found me on Twitter congratulating me.
Your manager is Michael Weiss. How did you guys first start working together?
Me and Michael met in January of this year, through a friend who went to college with him. His artist produced a song and I was on the vocals, and Michael really took interest. He met me the day after he heard the song, and he’s been on-board ever since. It was great that someone with amazing ears was interested, and that was just really nice to have that acknowledgment.
Like most 17 year olds, you’re very active on social media, and you’re friends with other rising artists, like Madison Beer. How do those friendships help you navigate through the industry?
It’s amazing to be surrounded by people who are willing to work hard. It’s all positive. Being in the industry, it’s nice to have people you can vibe with on a creative level and as friends. It’s great to support each other, but still have that little rivalry of wanting to be the best.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
Production-wise, Kanye [West] and Diplo. I was completely amazed when I heard Usher‘s “Climax,” which was produced by Diplo. He has an ear for sound that invokes a lot of feeling.
[Also,] Frank Ocean and Sia. Sia is an amazing writer. I love how she can paint a picture using every color in the palette. You listen to those songs, and it’s like watching a movie.
Now that the single is out, what’s next?
The main focus right now is to get the “Will You Wait” out there. We recently just wrapped up the EP. We’re sending it through the mixing process, so I’ll be back and forth with my engineers to make sure it sounds right. And then as an artist, performing is my heart and soul. I just want to get in front of the people, let them hear the song live and give them a performance to remember.