Photo Courtesy of Interscope Records
Gaining popularity as a teenager is a complex experience. Emerging R&B singer Arin Ray experienced this when he auditioned and made it onto the reality talent show, X Factor. Even though he didn't win, he won over audiences across the country with his wise-beyond-his-years personality and alluring singing voice. Moving out of the shadow of X Factor, Arin spent the last few years in the studio honing his craft, staying out of the LA party scene, becoming a father, and working on his debut album.
Arin released his debut album, Platinum Fire, on March 9th (RIP Biggie). We caught up with him after the release to discuss the cultural and professional transition of moving from Cincinnati to Los Angeles, fatherhood, must-hear songs on Platinum Fire, and what you can expect from his live shows. Read the full interview below.
OTW: A lot of people move to LA and lose themselves. How did you stay on track?
Arin Ray: I stayed in the studio. I was there every day. There was a point where I used to go to all the little parties in Hollywood. I was trying to be cool, trying to be seen, and trying to fit in. But I always felt uncomfortable there. I couldn't figure out why I was trying to be cool with all these people I didn't know. It just seemed like that was the way to get to know people in LA but I'm just not that kind of person. So when I realized that I didn't really need to do that and it was better for me to stay in the studio, everything started moving. A month later, I got my first Chris Brown placement. It was crazy. After that, I decided to stay on my hustle in the studio.
Do you think that's a misconception about LA - That you have to be out all the time to really make things happen?
It just depends on why you're out. Going out a lot just to drink and have a good time gets old. A lot of successful people that are really working aren't out partying all the time. For me, I don't really like going out that much. If I'm hanging with people, I'd rather bring them into my world in the studio. That's really what I like to do.
You're a long way from your hometown of Cincinnati. Do you miss it?
Of Course. I really wish I could live there. I wish I could just take Cincinnati and place it here. I miss my family so much. I really don't have anybody but my brother and a new family that I built out here. I miss the food, culture, and the sports. It's cool though; I plan on going back to the city and giving back whenever I can.
How has fatherhood changed you?
I feel like when he started baking in the oven, he gave me super powers (laughs). But seriously, everything really went into warp speed after he was born. Everything I do now is for him. I enjoy being a father, I really do. I didn't have my father around all the time so I'm really trying to do my best to be there and teach him as much as I can.
Let's talk about your debut project, Platinum Fire. Where did the name come from?
It was something we were passing around the studio. We didn't really think twice about it. When we were thinking of names, somebody said "Platinum Fire" and it sounded cool and fit into the vision I had at the time. Once we decided on that, it affected the music that I made and it helped shape the overall sound of the album.
You worked a lot with Nez & Rio. How did that relationship develop?
I met Nez and Rio in the studio working for The Underdogs. They're good friends with my homie Mike Daley, who was one of the first producers to really give me a shot. He introduced me to Nez. I loved Nez & Rio beats because they were always unique. One day, Nez and I were chopping it up in the studio and the next day he sent me a folder with hella ideas. Nez was one of the first people to help me find a sound. I was really able to develop a sound with their records.
What is your favorite song off the project?
It has to be "Schemin". I'm not going to say it's the greatest song but I really love the story. I'm really into 80's stadium music - Groovy but very soulful. Everything I said on that song is real. It's very dear to me.
What's one song you don't want your fans to skip over?
The first song that comes to mind is "HMU". I think it's a sleeper. It has a dope summer vibe and it's a song everyone can relate to. It's the feeling of knowing "I really shouldn't be talking to you right now but I can't help it."
"Communication" was the first song I heard of yours. Do you feel like that song gave you the most exposure?
It's crazy man because I did that one after the album was pretty much done. I finished the track listing and then Childish Major said he just HAD to play me his beat. I heard it and went crazy. I was going to put it on the next project and then DRAM came through and took it to a new level. Shout out to DRAM. That record did a lot for me.
Photo Courtesy of Interscope Records
Now that the project is out, what else do you have coming up this year?
We have a lot of shows and we have some videos dropping. I'm working with my team to figure out the best business moves.
What can people expect from your live shows?
A lot of energy. I give it my all. I go hard. I don't like to sit there and give you some boring show. I feel like an R&B show should be trumpets, keys, guitars, and full experience so I love bringing a band for the most part. One thing I'm really going to do is perform songs that people won't get to hear online. I really want to get intimate with my fans and I have songs that you will only hear at shows. I want to build that type of experience.
Watch Arin's brand new video for "Stressin" below.