R.LUM.R on Vulnerability, ‘The Last of Us 2,’ and His Debut Album ‘Surfacing’ [Q&A]

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Budding R&B singer-songwriter Reginald Lamar Williams, Jr., popularly known as R.LUM.R, takes listeners through a transformative journey in his album Surfacing. The album is an empowering palette of emotions, exploring themes of vulnerability, self-awareness, and mental health, all having to do with a personal voyage of his renewal of self. 

His first album ALTERIMAGE dropped in 2017 with the track “Frustrated” gaining the Florida native 50 million streams on Spotify alone and the spot as the face of Spotify’s Alt R&B playlist for six months straight. From then on, R.LUM.R has been releasing singles that have amassed a large crowd of supporters and esteemed praise from the likes of Billboard, NPR, Clash Magazine, and Vibe Magazine.

We had the pleasure to speak to R.LUM.R. in-depth about the creation of Surfacing, his gameplay walkthrough videos on YouTube, and his future as an artist.

OTW: Powerful isn’t even the proper word to describe your voice and the emotions that arise when listening to your music. I think a lot of that power comes from the sheer vulnerability we hear in your voice. Vulnerability can be a scary thing, but you seem unafraid to lay yourself out in your music. Is it difficult for you?

R.LUM.R: Well, It certainly can be challenging, just the idea of facing yourself candidly. But for me, the idea that someone may really need to hear what is laid out in the music is more important than whether or not I’m scared to say or express whatever I’m feeling. It becomes less about the story being tied to me, and more about the story itself. Then you’re just a facilitator.  

OTW: Do you think your vulnerability plays an important role in dictating your path as an artist? For example, do you believe because you are in touch with your vulnerability that it would prevent you from creating music that strays from that?

R.LUM.R: I believe that vulnerability comes in many forms and it’s not really that productive for me to compare one version of what it looks like to another version, especially when it comes to the output that it creates. I think it’s probably better to just follow the intuition and leave it that. Let it be what it is.

OTW: Your debut album Surfacing is here. Creating anything to showcase to the world can be a nerve-wracking experience. How would you describe your creative process during the making of this upcoming album? What helped springboard the creation of Surfacing?

R.LUM.R: I could safely say that Surfacing was a transformative time for me, and I think you hear that in the music. I think I got to process a lot about things like guilt, shame, depression, anxiety and all that. I hope it helps someone else do the same, honestly.

As for a springboard: I still have the note on my phone from August 30, 2018 at 3:59am that I wrote after having spent a somber few hours on the phone with someone I was with. The note was basically the beginning of “Making A Choice,” which became the first song on the record. It’s wild to have a memento of the exact moment you started to make a record you now have, even before you know you were gonna do it.

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OTW: For me personally, before I write something I like to take time to meditate before beginning. Did you have any rituals or small actions that were “must-haves” in order to write, sing, or produce any part of this album? 

R.LUM.R: Honestly, I’m such a creature of habit that you would think I’d have some specific superstition or process or something, but I can’t say I do. I wish.

OTW: Can you expand on the themes that you incorporated in this album? What were some of the struggles or internalized emotions that you explored during the creation of the album that you’d hope fans—especially those of us who also struggle with internalized emotions or mental health struggles—could make a deeper connection to?  

R.LUM.R: Well, I don’t want to tell anyone they have to feel a certain way about anything in particular on the record but I know for me a lot of this was surrounding my experiences with anxiety, loneliness, and the general malaise I think a lot of us feel but maybe don’t know how to process. I’m hoping maybe if I invite people into my efforts to process this stuff with something as tangible and real-time as a record, maybe that stream of consciousness will help them in their own processes. I think we all just want connection.

OTW: “Lonely” is a very beautiful song that showcases such a great amount of self-awareness and emotional depth. What inspired this track?

R.LUM.R: Thanks for being so complimentary. I recall walking into the studio that day with Scott Hoffman and Daniel Wilson, and feeling quite heavy that day. None of us had ever met at that point, but I think that energy I was emanating was probably pretty palpable. I was getting near the end of the writing of the record, and I was frankly exhausted, so I was much less in control of how I was feeling and reacting to things. I recall after me being awkwardly quiet (and probably standoffish) for a while, Daniel asked what was going on, and I feel like I just told them everything: the problems I was having with my mother vs my sisters at the time, how who I was dating at the time was upset about me being gone so frequently, the strain on other relationships around me, and etc.

Based on that we could’ve easily written something that seemed like nothing was gonna get any better, because that’s how it felt at the time, but I’m glad we decided to take a view that was more big picture and optimistic. Instead of writing a “You’ll always be alone” song, I wanted it to become “You’ll never be left alone because someone is always here for you and can understand what you’re going through.” I think that’s a lot more helpful contribution.

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OTW: If you could describe each song in your upcoming album with one word, what would it be?

R.LUM.R: Necessary.

OTW: What is your favorite lyric or verse from this upcoming album? What does it mean to you?

R.LUM.R: There’s a lot I really love on the record, but the section I come back to the most recently is from “Making A Choice:”

“I don’t want to spend my 20’s tired, drunk, and alone
Justifying why I keep you up all night on the phone
I know say it’s cause I love to hear the sound of your voice
But it’s more accurate to say it’s just more clear than the noise
That I can always kinda hear in spite of all that I do
It’s television static playing loud from another room
To which I’ve never found the door to go and “just turn it off”
but I can never stop looking for it…
I’m making a choice”

OTW: It’s clear that you are a truly unique artist. Your impressive voice, your powerful visuals, your willingness to open up and discuss mental health so openly. But, I also saw that you also delve into matters outside of music such as gaming. How did your gaming walkthroughs first start out?

R.LUM.R: I love that y’all watch those! I enjoy watching playthroughs of stuff that I may not have the time to experience for myself. There’s a full video explanation on my youtube as to why I do that, but Suffice it to say Resident Evil 2 is a storied game for me, so when I say they were remaking it I had to do something with it.

OTW: When I saw that you had a walkthrough of the Resident Evil 2 remake, I instantly subscribed. You’re such a character! Do we have any future gameplay walkthroughs to look forward to tuning into?

R.LUM.R: Thanks for watching! I’m definitely looking forward to The Last Of Us 2, for sure. Big fan of Naughty Dog.  

OTW: What do you hope to manifest in the next couple of months in regards to your career?

R.LUM.R: I just want people to find themselves in the record, and to talk to them about it on tour, which is also coming soon.

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