In an age when an auto-tune generated melody will damn near guarantee you a radio smash, and an artists image is waaaaay more important than quality talent and content, Kevin Ross is like a tall glass of water to the parched and dried out mouth of today’s R&B. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of mainstream and local R&B dons and divas gettin’ it in right now! But most of us would agree that by and large right now the industry is devoid of solidand consistent new talent; especially in the R&B game. I guess that’s exactly why the game needs Kevin.
If you ask Kevin, he’ll tell you that he is a “bridge artist” – one who through his music, connects the sounds and legacy of R&B’s past to the future that it’s helping to mold. He quotes his biggest musical influences as being Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway, all soulful masters of their craft. With mellow ballads like “Winner” to the touching and inspirational “Yes We Can”, Ross is a well-balanced and rounded artist. “The industry is not at its greatest right now. There’s a lot of talent out there–signed and unsigned. The hip-hop demographic is taking over right now. We just haven’t fully figured out how to capitalize on that yet” says Ross. The recent college graduate of Berkeley College of Music and Washington DC native is a vocalist with formal training, though he admits that the biggest advantage of being trained has been a heightened sense of how to produce, package and market his sound. “It’s enabled me to be able to say ‘I know that I am good at this and I am weak at this’” says Kevin. One thing Kevin knows that he is good at, is songwriting.
When Barack H. Obama garnered the Democratic Party’s official nomination as candidate for Presidency of the United States of America, Kevin seized the feeling of the moment and wrote ‘Yes We Can’, a song that pays homage to the historically momentous occasion. Flossing his writing skills and almost predicting the future Kevin pens the powerful line “with our voices we learned to speak, in numbers”, which we did and lead Obama to win the election and become the first Black President of the U.S.. On another one of my favorite tracks ‘So Incredible’, Kevin boasts not only his lyrical skills but also his rich melodic ear. With awesome conceptualization and perfect execution he uses a jazzy melody to accent the feel of the chords the keys are holding down in the background. His gift is being able to perfectly match the right lyrics, and melody with the right track. Being a pianist also helps Kevin when it comes to crafting hits. Since he is a trained musician, he usually sketches out his ideas for the track itself on digital production software, which is then utilized by the producers he works with in the creation of the final track. This gives Kevin a large amount of control over his work and his sonic identity.
Being able to write, play and sing is just a piece of the man that is Kevin Ross. A self described shy-guy, Kevin is naturally a chill person that doesn’t really take long to warm up to people. He says that his personal disposition has actually played a large role in his success. “You have to make sure that you don’t do too much. Ego is complimentary to swag. But swag ain’t something you buy in a bottle… Nobody wants you on a label when you act like an ass” says Kevin. The swagga-jackin fad has created in many a ‘false sense of ego’ , as I heard Kevin put it. “Swag is about your personality. You can’t help or change of that. And good personality is what helps you create good rapport” says a Ross that sounds wiser than his twenty two years.
Kevin definitely knows a thing or two about relationship building. That particular skill set helped enable him to gain recognition and respect by Producer extraordinaire and Songbook Entertainment founder Troy Taylor. After seeing one of Kevin’s performances on BET, Troy contacted Kevin via Myspace.com and they quickly began building a working relationship. “Troy understands my musical vision and my direction… he’s not trying to change that” says Kevin of why he respects Taylor so much. “ Even if it’s not with Songbook, I see me working with Troy for a while” he goes on to say. All artists know that the executive production of an album has a great deal to do with the success or failure of a project. Ross says that he’s learned from Taylor how to make “sense” of the album as whole and put it together accordingly.
When I asked Kevin what his biggest hurdle was in getting to where he has to go, he told me: himself. I hear a lot of artists say that. But what he said next I don’t hear very often, but was glad that he said. “I am a vessel for God. I have to believe that all my dreams are possible if they are going to be.” Maybe that self-realization of unique identity and purpose is what has kept Kevin able to keep going despite the fact that he is still unsigned. Hard to believe listening to the quality of music that he delivers. However, all things happen in time and realizing his higher commission Kevin Ross has kept improving his craft, getting his sound into the iPods and mp3 players of the public and delivering great live entertainment to audiences all around the country while on his way to landing an over due deal.
Now that he’s a college graduate, Kevin says that he is ready to focus completely on his project, which he hopes to drop later on this year. “I have a great team around, I just graduated and it’s the perfect time for me to work out the kinks and release the project” is what Kevin told me when I asked him what can we expect next from the R&B star in the making.
“I love what I do and people see that. And when you enjoy what you do people respect your passion.”
Much respect Kevin. Much respect indeed.
Visit Kevin Ross’ Myspace page at : www:myspace.com/kevinrossmusic or get at him on twitter: @krossonline