Five Questions With… Ruben Young
Having made his mark over the past two years through a string of successful independent singles that have racked up over five million streams, Canadian R&B artist Ruben Young releases his debut
By Jason Schneider
Having made his mark over the past two years through a string of successful independent singles that have racked up over five million streams, Canadian R&B artist Ruben Young releases his debut EP, Dreamstate, on Sept. 27. The seven-track collection provides an introduction to the Calgary-born singer-songwriter and showcases the creative partnerships he has forged with T-Minus (Drake, Justin Bieber), Chin Injeti (Eminem, P!NK), Kuya Productions (Alessia Cara, JRDN), Classified, Slakah The Beatchild and others.
Much of the material on Dreamstate was written and produced over a year that saw Young travelling across North America to work with his collaborators. Dreamstate eventually took shape out of these trips, as Young’s diverse palette of influences—from classic soul to post-Frank Ocean R&B—was woven together with strong melodies, contagious hooks, and soulful crooning.
Along with new material, Dreamstate also includes Young’s most recent hit single, Rachel Green, a tribute to Jennifer Aniston’s Friends character, featuring Odd Future rapper Hodgy Beats. That track followed in the wake of the song Young was best known for until then, Bad Habits, which helped him earn a nomination in the Urban Artist of the Year category at the 2018 Western Canadian Music Awards.
With a vocal style that’s been compared to Marvin Gaye and Anderson Paak, Young is a true crossover artist who has made iTunes’ R&B, Pop and Electronic charts, all while releasing music through his own Young And Lucky label. He has maintained a tireless work ethic since founding Calgary’s 50 Days YYC Music Festival in 2015, consisting of 50 consecutive days of pop-up style performances, showcasing close to 70 different local artists and local brands. From there, Young has gone on to share stages with The Chainsmokers, Nelly, Akon and others, offering definitive proof that he is on the road to something special with his distinctive sound.
What was the process like making Dreamstate?
It was the creative process of my lifetime. Last year I spent January until June travelling from city to city writing with as many artists and producers as I could. I slept on friends’ couches, and every weekend I would fly back to Calgary to bartend and make my money for the week, then fly out and do it all again. I realized that I hadn’t reached my potential yet, and I wanted to grow as an artist and a writer. I also became dedicated to working in the genre I’m most passionate about, R&B, versus the pop music I had grown up writing. During that time, I created over 100 songs with writers and producers in Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, Nashville, Vancouver, and London, and it changed my music career forever. Dreamstate was born during that writing trip, and I’m so proud of the work, and process that went into creating it. Shout out to the amazing producers on this record—Spencer Cheyne, The Lost Boys, The Kuya Brothers, Lord Quest and Losh.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
I would say I’m most proud of Vienna. I love all of the songs on Dreamstate, but Vienna is such an accurate translation of how I felt in a moment, and I think that’s what we all strive for. I was up at 4 a.m. thinking about how I was falling for someone but felt myself building walls to protect myself. Then this melody popped into my head so I ran over to my keyboard in my boxers, and I wrote this song in a few minutes. I love that it’s not a typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus arrangement, and most of all, it feels like I was in a dream when I wrote it. Through it I feel like I tapped into a variety of my influences, which I’m also really proud of, and I think that’s a true testament to how I grew through my writing trip last year.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
I would say I’ve come a very long way. I started as a kid writing pop songs in my mom’s basement, and Dreamstate features Grammy-nominated producers, platinum-selling songwriters, and most importantly it’s my first step toward creating my version of the sound that is closest to the music that I love and have always wanted to make. I’m proud that this EP feels and sounds different than other music that’s out there right now. At least to me, Dreamstate is its own thing.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
There are so many, honestly. The thing is, I’m such a big music fan that I love and envy so many songs. For now, I’ll say I wish I wrote Street Lights by Kanye West. It’s just another smooth, simple track that means so much and feels so good, yet it’s so simple.
What's your best touring story?
This year I had the chance to go on tour with Kiesza, which was very special considering she’s one of the biggest artists to ever come out of Calgary, where I’m from as well. Funny enough, she asked me to open for her in San Francisco, which was not only my first American show but ironically is where I grew up as a little boy. Half of my family is from the Bay Area, so that show was really, really special—and almost surreal. Some of my family, including my Dad, who I hadn’t seen in three years, came to that show. I’ll never forget it.
PR: Strut Entertainment