Meet Rhys Rich, the New Zealand Artist With an Infectious and Soothing Sound [Q&A]

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Connor Henare Dion Rhys Richard, more commonly known as Rhys Rich, is the definition of a self-made artist, making his mark in the music scene one track at a time. Starting in Australia before moving to New Zealand, Rhys Rich has garnered traction through tracks like "Family of Solace," "Red Rover," and more recently, "No Confetti."

It's a world bursting with colour, passion, tones, and synths, and Rhys doesn't shy away from experimenting with new sounds, taking inspiration from artists as diverse as Swedish House Mafia and Tyler, the Creator. Listening to his tracks, his sound is a blend of soothing beats with punchy, yet syncopated accents heard in his raps, seamlessly tied together by baselines inspired by contemporary R&B and hip-hop.

We caught up with Rhys to investigate who he really is. Alongside a live performance from MEOW in New Zealand, we take a closer look at his earlier days, how he ended up in the music industry, his time in lockdown, and teased out a glimpse of his future works.

Ones to Watch: So first off, introduce yourself. Tell us who you are and what you are about?

Rhys Rich: Yeah so, my name is Rhys Rich, well my real name is Connor. The name Rhys Rich comes from my middle name, "Henare Dion Rhys Richard," I stole it from myself, I guess. I grew up in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia and moved to New Zealand when I was sixteen years old. I've been in Wellington for the past four years and that's kind of where Rhys Rich was born and developed his music career. Other than that, I'm working full-time outside of music, but I'm trying to change that.

What is the history behind your character and how did you get into music?

Well, I was kind of a sports fanatic when I was a lot younger up until I was about thirteen when I broke my ankle, which put me out of sport for a couple of years. I started making EDM when I was in Australia, because rap was pretty much just Hilltop Hoods and 360 - you know stuff like that.

It was only when I moved to New Zealand and was shut off from most things when living with my grandparents. I didn't know anyone and a new school, so I stayed home a lot and just started singing and rapping. Funny thing is I couldn't [sing and rap] at first. You know, having a microphone and some headphones you kind of feel what you like about yourself and what you don't, which eventually grew into what it is now.

So true, I think it's a matter of whether you're willing to learn.

Oh yeah 100%. Every time someone would come up to me saying "OMG I wish I could sing like that," I just think, you literally can hahaha.

How about your music in general. How would you describe your sound?

It's a blend of everything. I don't consider genres too much when I'm creating. But when I'm making a song, it's completely inspired by not only real-life situations but designs I like, experiences I've had, and conversations I've had. I'm not restricted to the point where I'm like "I'm trying to make a R&B song." I do think, which I say a lot, love songs are the easiest thing to work with and especially having a partner I love makes it a lot easier

So out of your whole discography, which song represents you the best? Where should someone who doesn't know Rhys Rich start?

I would probably say "Red Rover." That would be the one that represents me the best because it kind of sounds like a very complex song but it's literally about my girlfriend working and I'm just waiting for her to get home hahaha. It's so simple, but I just made it sound so complicated.

What do you love about creating music? 

I think when I was younger it was just an outlet to feel achievement and motivated to do something. Though, now that I've grown older it's more of a career and not a hobby, I think that the main thing for me is working with artists and helping artists as well, which is something I'm getting into. Developing artists who don't have a producer or don't have anyone to write for them, is so cool. Especially being able to work on not just Rhys Rich but work on other artists

Yeah, you're going along with them on this career journey, and you understand how they feel.

Yeah! Especially like, I'm still so hungry, so seeing the younger artists say yes to studio sessions or working together, like I know exactly what they're feeling since I still have it.

Did lockdown affect anything? Did it challenge you or was it a blessing in disguise?

Well, it was a bit of both. The first lockdown [in New Zealand] I was kind of confused, but I made a couple songs. But besides that, I kind of got a little lost in and just didn't know where I stood in terms of music, work, and everything like that. I kind of felt like I was prepared for [New Zealand's second] lockdown even though it was unexpected. As soon as it happened, I thought "Yes! Yeah."

What is your formula to putting on a good show?

Oh, that's a good one! I mean I wasn't always good at it; you know in 2016 I was a nervous wreck. As of lately, I've been given a lot of tips from industry professionals for my performances but a lot of it feels uncomfortable to do what they suggest. I've battered down shows in the last few years and that's kind of helped me to feel like everyone can perform or stand on the stage, you just need to be confident.

It's more so, I'm on the stage and there's people down there, but I don't want them to feel any different from me. So yeah, for example, if I know someone in the crowd, I'll joke with them. You know simple shit to keep the crowd going.

Who has influenced you in your music career and what would you say to them right now if you were face to face?

Since I was 13-14, I saw Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator and how he's grown from that. I think it's self-explanatory and the whole world knows that he does everything himself, from his own festivals, his own label, clothes, pretty much everything.

Independence is something I learnt that along the way, especially from him. I mean I've been approached by labels and things would start off smooth, but sometimes it would feel wrong. Which I think is because of Tyler's influence, where it's like if he can do it man, then I can fucking do it!

What are you up to right now musically?

I can say that I'm putting out two projects - a single soon and something very, well hopefully, big after that. So, yeah hahaha.

What's your favourite lyric you have written?

I say this a lot but it's "Take a breath, be in tune, you were air, and I was fumes" from "London Eye" which is coming out sometime.

Do you have a dream collaboration? 

Any Dreamville artists. It's the one label I think I would sign to as well.

Anything else you want to say or let us know?

After a long time, I've gone through a lot of mishaps in the industry in terms of almost getting support and not feeling comfortable. So, for the audience who have been listening, I feel horrible since I haven't been putting out anything this year. But that's all going to change before the end of the year. Going to be a lot of music out and have a lot of shows and festivals lined up as well, so I'm excited for that. It's only up from here!

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