ASBO Meets: River Nelson

River press shot 1.jpg

Native New Yorker, River Nelson has carved out a respectable following for himself in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the globe. Following the release of his EP Navigation in 2017. He is back with an upcoming brand new album ‘Power, Resilience and Joy’ and the first single of that singe is ‘Today’ we caught up with River to chat all things and more.

How did you first get into music?

From being a fan.Then I began to study the artists that I loved, which inspired me to make my own music.

What sort of music did you grow up listening to?

I was a rap nerd coming up and listened to just about anything hip-hop related. I loved, and still love, combing through rapper’s verses and lyrics.

Was there any particular artist or sound that has influenced the type of music you make?

So many. Rakim, Bob Marley, A Tribe Called Quest, Gil Scott-Heron, Sade, Stevie Wonder, The Doors, De La Soul. I can probably go on for days.

River press shot 1.jpg

What would you describe the type of music you make as?

Heartfelt, honest, hip-hop music with substance that’s motivational and has a positive spin to it.

Have you developed your sound through any particular influences or has it been experimental?

I would say a combination of both. I started making my first songs after being inspired by my favourites, and that motivation led me to experiment.

What inspires your music?

Simply living life, in terms of enjoying it, learning from it, having triumphs and failures, listening to other people’s stories. All of those things inspire me to create music and document my experiences as well as others.

River press shot 3.jpg

How do you approach making music?

It happens in various ways, but it usually starts with a feeling, almost like an internal itch that I want to block everything out and start a song. I often write early in the morning too. There’s something about the early sun and a new day that inspires me. Everything seems quieter in the morning as well.

When you are working on a song are you more about lyrics or melody?

It really depends what hits me first. A lot of times I have something I want to convey and I take the time to word it the best way. So in that case I’m more about the lyrics. But then other times, I have a melody in my head for a hook that I can’t stop whistling or humming. So I record it without any words and think about what I want to say later. So it really goes back and forth.

What can you tell us about the new single ‘Today’?

It’s a song about someone who’s been striving towards something for a long period of time and they’re eager, almost desperate to see some results or at least a sign that their hard work will soon pay off. I think it’s something that a lot of us experience when we’re trying to achieve something. The song was also produced by Giacomo Trivelli from the UK, who’ve I’ve worked with for a few years now.

In terms of your upcoming album ‘Power, Resilience and Joy’ and this song, why did you feel this was the first song you wanted to put out?

I felt it has enough of a lyrical approach for rap lovers, in terms of the delivery and wordplay. But is relatable enough so anyone can get into it. And that’s always been one of my goals with my music: To reach and communicate with as many people as I can, and all different kinds of people too.

How do you feel the single represents the album?

I think it follows a theme throughout the album. Because ‘Today’ and the other songs on the album are hopeful, upbeat but they don’t ignore the challenges that we face. But outside of that, ‘Today’ feels good to me when I play it just like the other songs. So it’s representative of the album in that way as well.

What else can we can expect from the album?

There’s catchy, sing-along hooks that are easy to remember. You’ll hear concepts that aren’t usually covered in rap songs and there’s honesty without a lot of posturing. It also has production by some of the most talented people I’ve worked with.

Was there a particular sound or creative vision you have for the album?

Not an overall vision, but I wanted it to flow so that one song makes you want to listen to the next. I also wanted the songs to really stay with people when they go on about their day.

What do you want people to get from the album?

Just a positive feeling, whether it’s a feeling of hope, optimism, motivation. You know, just a feeling of goodness.

Is there something across your music that you want people to get out, when they listen to you?

That we’re all more alike than we are different from each other and most of us have something that we have to overcome. And music is one of the best ways to communicate and help each other through that process.

What are your thoughts on the current landscape of music and where do you think it is going?

Definitely more in the hands of the artist instead of record labels. I also think technology will allow artists to create music even easier and faster than now.

What can we expect from you next?

We’re currently working on a tour for ‘Power, Resilience & Joy,’ shooting videos for songs on the album and going everywhere we can to get it heard. I’ll also be announcing the second single from the LP soon. Plus, I’ve already started jotting a few ideas down for the next project.

Words: Seneo Mwamba

james may