Virginia artist REECE is posturing to step from behind the veil of mystery surrounding his underground alternative R&B records. The virally-praised singer-songwriter premieres his debut EP’s atmospheric single, “3AM” via Billboard today (Oct. 18).
To the production of Jazz Feezy, REECE croons over the trap-tinged beat about life post-breakup on “3AM.” The poetic follows the heartbreak penned through ethereal tracks, “Alone,” and “Don’t Go.” Although most REECE listeners couldn’t point him out in a festival line-up, his music resonates with millions on Spotify.
Inspired by the likes of Frank Ocean, Lana Del Rey, and Imogen Heap, REECE’s first chapter with I’m Not Sure Yet appears promising.
Billboard chatted with the musician following his LA studio sessions to get a feel for his haunting ballads’ influences, how his Urban Outfitters “Lost in Translation” vinyl came about, and why all he’s ever wanted was “to make people feel okay.”
Listen to “3AM” below, and check out our conversation after the jump.
You began making music in high school. What has your ascension following the release of the song “Ghost” been like?
After “Ghost” came out, it got picked up by blogs. So, that was really weird because I had just graduated. Then, I met my manager through a blog. We just started creating music more frequently. That was the point where music went from being a hobby of mine to an actual career I could pursue. So, I spent the last four years [recording]. I have been dedicated and focused [on] making music. I have not released a lot previously but now have so much [music] that it is finally going to pay off.
Where are you from?
I was originally born in California. When I was about two years old, we moved to Woodbridge, Virginia. It is about thirty minutes outside of Washington D.C. I have been here ever since, for the most part.
Your breakthrough record, “Don’t Go,” is known for its memorable chorus, “Cause baby I don’t wanna go/Cause if I lose you, I lose me too.” How did that track’s studio session go?
“Don’t Go” was one of those tracks where I had a melody for before I ever had an instrumental. That was one of those [poetics] that had been in my head for months and months. A lot of times when I write, I will begin from nothing. I create melodies in my head. After “Ghost” dropped, the producer reached out and sent me a bunch of tracks. He said, “Hey, I would like to work with you sometime. If you are down, [let’s record].”
I listened to that track and thought, “That fits this melody perfectly.” That is kind of how “Don’t Go” came out. It was all done in my bedroom. All the writing and everything else was [completed there]. I was by myself when I wrote it. I went to the studio I visit when I am in Virginia following.
It was a simple procedure. I wrote the song in my room. [Laughs] At that time, a lot was going on in my life. Also, there [was a situation] in my friend’s life. I write about things that are personal to all of my friends and I. So, that song is about a relationship ending. It was a sad time. That track is what came out of that situation.
Your music thus far has been melancholy. You’ve said, “My biggest goal is to make [listeners] feel like they’re not alone.” Why is this so important to you?
When I started making music, I started at age 15. So, the albums that had come out at the time were Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and Adele’s 21. Those were albums that made me feel something, you know?
I loved listening to music my whole life, still, those albums just resonated and connected with me at a deeper level. I love singing, but if I am going to make music, I am going to create music that I find important, and that actually helps people. This isn’t just fluff. I need to make music that will make people feel things and think.
It is OK to feel sad and to know that you are not alone. That is the whole goal, to help the world feel a little bit better in any way I can. Sometimes the objective is to let people know that they have somebody there, that is going through it with them.
How do you feel your alternative R&B sound makes itself recognizable today?
I think it because it is just me; my music is authentic. [My] musical influences helped shape me. I think every artist is different and creative in their own way. It is not to say other artists are not authentic, it is just that my music has always been from a very personal place. I think, hopefully, that comes across when you listen to it. It’s real. I am not making up stuff. What you get from me is me.
In your opinion, who is dominating the genre at this moment?
I do not know if you’d categorize her music as alternative R&B, but someone who dominates in the space that I love is SZA. Frank Ocean will always be one of the top artists, just because he is so amazing. The same goes for The Weeknd. Those are the main people that are dominating in the mainstream. There are a lot of up-and-comers that I am very excited for, too.
You recently had a single “Lost in Translation” featured as an exclusive Urban Outfitters vinyl alongside Billie Eilish, WET, Lany, and other artists. How did that opportunity come about?
It was very random. We got an email saying, “Connor Franta wanted to do this on the vinyl.” He was the one that put it all together and curated [Best of Common Culture]. I was just very excited because at that point I was going through a weird time.
So, little things like that vinyl made me feel like I was on the right path. It was entirely out of the blue. I was just in Urban Outfitters a couple of days ago, and it is still there. I thought, “Oh, this is so weird to see my name on vinyl.” [That exclusive] is still so shocking.
What is the story behind “3AM,” which is your EP’s lead single?
It’s about being in a relationship with somebody, and you give your all, but you realize that even though you have given it your all, your all is not enough. That is a tough pill to swallow. It is about that moment where you are still holding on to a person, but they are moving on and living their life without you. The song is about that weird state of perpetual uncertainty you have after a relationship ends. “3AM” is kind of a reflective song. It is looking at everything in the relationship, and what went wrong.
“3AM” was produced by Jazz Feezy and written/recorded by you in Los Angeles. How has this mainstream backing enhanced your artistry?
I think it was a matter of meeting people and getting to work with people that has enhanced my artistry. At the time I wrote the song, I did not have a lot of sessions with people, in person. Again, [there was] a lot of recording in my bedroom. People like Jazz [Feezy] believe in the music, and me. I think “3AM” has given me a lot more confidence. It has made me feel more secure in my talent and secured in the music I create.
This helped me grow as an artist because it makes me realize I am my own biggest critic. It is [rewarding] if people who do well, and work with some of the best talents see something in me.
What can listeners anticipate on your debut EP, I’m Not Sure Yet, in 2019?
Growth. It has been a little while since I released music. A lot has changed. I have grown up. In just getting older, I meet new people, and a lot of [life] experiences happened for me.
It is going to be very exciting, this music. I am hoping that people like it, as much as I do. I really put my heart and soul into every single song. I think they can anticipate things that they might not have expected from me, in regards to lyrics and melodies. I try to go outside of my comfort zone, a bit.