A Conversation With R&B Sensation Trey Songz
9 Oct 2020
Influencing R&B in unimaginable ways, Trey Songz is a staple figure within music culturally. Journeying back to his debut in 2005, the Grammy-nominated singer, actor and entrepreneur, has since constructed timeless and highly acclaimed R&B classics, paving the lane for a large portion of our modern-day talent. With a boast-worthy catalog of work behind him including ‘I Gotta Make It’, ‘Trey Day’, ‘Passion, Pain & Pleasure’ to ‘Anticipation I’ and ‘Trigga Reloaded’ – the list really does go on! Known for his un-blemished and butter-like vocals, seductive and sensual sound, Trey Songz aka “Mr Steal Your Girl”, has today released his highly awaited eighth studio album titled, ‘Back Home’. 15 years deep in the game, the star has returned to his roots with this 22-track body of work, with the intention to create the sound that originally made him fall in love with music; delivering his signature seductive vibes and intertwining them with heart-warming tracks dedicated to his son as well as political statements – the R&B sensation has covered it all! We caught up with Trey Songz ahead of the release and asked him a few questions…
Firstly , how have you been?! How have you found this whole pandemic?
It’s been interesting! Different layers and textures for each month I’d say, I actually tested positive for Covid the other day, so I had been good up until then! *laughs* Luckily, the worst of it is done, so I have been quarantining, and I think quarantining helped me finish this album. I’m not sure it would have come out the way it is now, had I not been quarantining. I’ve had the time to focus at home, so much of the album was done through Covid, as soon as it hit I wanted to make more music and came up with some good stuff
“The analogy I always use is fast food verses a home-cooked meal. There’s a lot of fast food out here that’s available and will fix your hunger for a little bit but you need something for your soul and that sticks – that’s when I come in.”– Trey Songz
You definitely did! Being 15 years deep in the game, do you find it difficult staying relevant in a sense that there’s a constant flow of new artists and sounds arising, or do you think that the authenticity and nostalgia within your music speaks for itself?
You stated that perfectly actually. Young artists always ask me what’s the key to longevity, I think the key to longevity is staying true to yourself, because if you are always true to yourself, you won’t have to transform when the times change or when a new trend comes in. Being grounded in Soul and R&B and understanding what my music means to the culture, it’s not been about staying “relevant” for me, it’s never been something I chase, I’ve always wanted to be the best version of myself and make music so that I didn’t have to put a costume on of someone I’m not, in order to pull it off. If you are not from this era and you chase this era of music that’s being made; the analogy I always use is fast food verses a home-cooked meal. There’s a lot of fast food out here that’s available and will fix your hunger for a little bit but you need something for your soul and that sticks – that’s when I come in.
When you talk about fast food verses a home cooked meal, I think that comes into play with artists nowadays who sometimes tend to lose the quality and tend to run with quantity, and sometimes it can come out rubbish…! *laughs*
*laughs* Some people do a great job with it, and the consumption level of fans is intoxicating as a young artist. Like me, I went through artist development and sat for hours and hours listening to other artists that came before me, what there background is and who sung falsetto etc – we had to study music! Nowadays, a lot of people are becoming successful musically and not studying those that came before them or know the art form they have stepped inside is about, so when it’s asked of them to recreate what they have already created, they don’t know how they did it in the first place.
What made you feel like now was the right time to return home sonically to the “classic Trey” we all grew to love at the very beginning of your journey, having experimented with your sound throughout the years?
I feel like there has always been reminiscence of my first album in every album, but as an artist you also want to spread your tentacles and show them that you can do this and that – it’s human nature. When I look at the world right now, with everything that is going on with the whole pandemic, we are living in crazy times! For me, music is the soundtrack to so many peoples lives, it’s the one universal language and it’s the one thing that everybody loves! You never hear anybody say they hate music, they might not like a certain type of music, but everybody loves music!
My fans have been begging me relentlessly saying “Album, album, album!”, I’m like yeah but I don’t want to put out an album because it’s time for me to put out an album, I want to put an album and it be the best I ever made. I want it to be true to what I grew up loving about R&B, what made me want to sing. When we started this album 3 years ago, it’s taken so many different turns since then and I really just wanted to feed the soul; whether you need to cry, dance, whether you want to make love or need a hug – that’s what R&B always was, food music. I wanted to take you through all of those emotions and feed the soul; even today, I know all the new music and hot new shit but I’m still listening to the 90’s and 2000’s because it’s a feeling that comes along with it. I like a lot of artists today, but with the music that’ll stick to you, with the bass-lines, the warmth and the notes – I just want to create what it is that made me fall in love with music!
You called on one of the new faces of R&B, Summer Walker for “Back Home” – Looking back at R&B in what I like to refer to as its ‘prime’ in 90’s and 2000’s, and comparing it with how it sounds now, are there ever any elements sonically or even overall that you miss? Like you said, I find that a lot of the younger generation now, often go back to that nostalgic and pure sound of R&B…
I miss the separation and the unity of Hip-Hop and R&B, I remember when they were two separate things. With Hip-Hop now, you have some great artists but now it’s one big sound whereas it used to be diversified; not to say the music being made isn’t in diversity but the spotlight is shined on this one sound. In the time of Hip-Hop and R&B where you had Boyz 2 Men, Jodeci, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, 112 and Jagged Edge, everything wasn’t on the same trap beat with 808’s, it was different songs and instruments being used, every producer wasn’t trying to sound like the next producer. It was so much more about individuality verses everybody sounding like this. That’s what I miss the most about those eras. If you think, you had Ashanti and J-Lo but you also had India Arie and Jill Scott, you had Luther Vandross but you also had Barry White – it was just so much more differentiating and everyone was a star! In today’s day and age of music, it’s almost like you have to come in with a certain sound to be accepted and then you are allowed to grow, which is not what creativity and individuality is.
Do you feel like it’s over-saturated now?
I feel like it is a lot of music! I don’t know if over-saturated is really a thing because it’s on demand and you chose what it is you want to listen to as a fan, it’s your choice. It’s like when you go on Netflix and there’s a million movies, but you still find what you want to watch!
You’re sat there for longest time just to trying to figure out what you want to watch! *laughs*
Yeah! Damn! *laughs* What do I wanna see?! Then you click on some shit and it’s in another language! *laughs*
Yeah! That always happens?! And they always seem to be the better ones and you’re like why?! *laughs*
It’s like damn you look good as shit but man, you want me to read the whole movie?! *laughs*
I know! It’s a nightmare! So, ‘Back Home’ is an album that fans have been waiting for, for a long time! Did you find this project challenging in any way? Probably not, because I feel like you’re slick with it now, but I find that when artists have been in the game for so long, it can be quite hard to tap in to that original sound having experimented for so long…
It was initially hard to be inspired to make something that wasn’t just another album. That’s what took me so long, I didn’t just want to put something out because I had a bunch of good songs. It’s not difficult to make good songs at all, but a body of work is always what I concentrate on when making an album.
I would say the challenge was really tapping into where I am now, as a man with a son and what that means to me musically, what it means for my fans and listening to them as well; paying attention to the songs they would ask about, uploading ‘Anticipation I’ and ‘Anticipation II’ to DSP’s and seeing people react to that. I was sitting back and taking a step back from myself. I don’t listen to myself a lot, if I put a song out I don’t listen to it, if I put an album out I don’t listen to it because I have lived with it for so long. Over the course of the last couple years, I have taken time to go back and listen to songs that I love and maybe the ones I didn’t love so much and see why fans love it so much, just tap into the musical journey that I have taken. I used to do that with every album but I probably stopped after ‘Ready’; just listening myself and seeing where I have come from, and seeing where it is I want to go whilst still remaining true to myself, seeing the evolution of sound and still staying in it.
What was the biggest drive for this album?
The biggest drive was making an album that I was extremely, extremely proud of and an album that I would want to listen to after I put it out.
Okay, so you would listen to this one.
Yeah, I would. Once I give it to the people it’s there, so I let go after I put it out but it’s something about this album, it’s an album that I would like as a fan; if I wasn’t me, I would like this album a lot, it would be my favourite album!
Over here in the UK, more recently, there has been more open discussions surrounding the lack of representation for Black love and relationships in mainstream media. Black love is something you delve into throughout the album in tracks like “Circles”, what to you is the true meaning and representation of Black love and relationships?
Black love is a different kind of love, especially here in America where racism is so prevalent and in your face.Just as a Black man, a Black woman or as a Black adolescent teenager – whatever age you’re at, there are so many underlying issues that you face that only one can understand if they face them as well. When the world is against you separately, then they are definitely against you together.
There is actual history of the Black family being pulled apart and it’s written in history that the Black man is taken away from the family so that the woman could be weakened and the boy would be raised to be soft. It’s much deeper than right now in the present moment. When you have so many of a population either dead or in jail, it’s important that you see this because you see white love, you see Spanish love, you see so much of this depicted often, so if you don’t have representation of yourself first and foremost, just of yourself, and if you don’t have representation of that love, how do you know that it’s real. For me, it’s to encourage and let my people know that this is a factual thing, this is something that we all need and something that we all embrace and that I’m happy to showcase.
At the end of the album there is a really beautiful and warming moment with your son when “I Know A Love” and “Noahs Love” transition. Has having a son changed how you write or deliver your music; it’s obviously going to change your perspective because you have a child. Has it in anyway influenced how you make your music now?
Most definitely. As a grown man, I will always continue to make music for adults but when I think of my son and songs like “How Many Times”, “I Know A Love” and “All This Love”, just thinking of being a child and being able to listen to R&B in the car and my mother not having to mute things or cover my ears; the music today, you can’t listen to many songs without having to have the clean version. I feel like in R&B, I was one of the people that made that a thing, with the raunchiness and so me having a son and thinking of the music he listens to like his lullabies and things of that nature, it makes me want to make music that he can listen to that’s mine. With this album, it may not be exactly that to the fullest extent, but it does trigger something in my mind that says – you know what I mean? You know what I mean.. *laughs*
*laughs* Yeah! I’m not sure how well acquainted you are with the British side of things, in terms of R&B and Rap…
Put me on baby! Who would you have me work with?
Jaz Karis! She has a beautiful voice!
Got it! *scrolls through phone* I’ll check her out! I’m going to follow her! My favourite voice from the UK is Jorja’s!
Ahh Jorja! You can’t go wrong with Jorja!
I think just because the way I met her, I met her when I was out there on promo or something, and I saw her sing and just to see her trajectory and see how she has done over the past years, I think it’s fire! Just to see somebody from a certain point in their career and see them excel is dope to me!
You can listen to Trey Songz’s brand new album ‘Back Home’ below and on Apple Music here.