New & Next: Ravyn Lenae Is a New Voice Out Of Chicago That You Have To Hear
Courtesy of Atlantic

Ravyn Lenae is the latest Chicago artist making a splash in the music scene. With her genre-blending R&B and dreamy vocals, Lenae is one of the year’s most buzz-worthy artists. ESSENCE spoke to the singer about he new EP, what she learned from touring, and how her music comes together.

You just released a new EP, Midnight Moonlight, which is a blend of different genres. It’s still rooted in R&B, but there are so many other sounds. Where did the sound for the new EP come from? What was inspiring you at the time?

The idea for Midnight Moonlight was mostly inspired by the moon herself. Advancing from my previous EP Moon Shoes, I felt it necessary to dig a little deeper into who I am and the relationship between my music and the moon. While creating the project, I initially felt each song carried blue/purple hues. These colors represent a sense of depth and high emotion. While listening to the songs, I would visualize sitting underneath the stars staring at the moon, which is where the name of the project was derived. 

Your songwriting is great and you always seem to find the right tone for each song. How do songs come together for you? What’s your process like?

My songwriting process is based on a formula: Color, tone, words. When I hear production, I initially identify the color that resonates with me. From there I am able to translate the color into tone or emotion, which may depend on a number of things. For instance, red may trigger a sense of slight aggression, passion and swagger, while pink may take me to a place of innocence, youth and femininity. With these emotions, I am able to jot-down words or lines that capture the hue of the song.

Your first EP Moon Shoes came out last year. What would you say the common thread, if there is one, is between the two EPs?

The common thread between Moon Shoes and Midnight Moonlight would definitely be their connection to the moon. However, I feel they both capture a very different quality of the moon. Perhaps “Moon Shoes” epitomizes the moon during the summer, while “Midnight Moonlight” the winter. 

You’ve recently wrapped a tour with Noname, was that your first time on tour? Did you enjoy it? What is it about it that you enjoy or dislike?

The Telephone Tour with Noname was a beautiful experience. Because this was only my second tour, I was not quite prepared for the small details that touring entails. I quickly realized how imperative it is to to sleep, eat healthily, and rest my voice. I think it’s very easy to get lost in the idea of touring and forget that your body is not a machine and can only function if you treat it with love.

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I mainly enjoyed touring because I was able to connect with my supporters on a much deeper level. It is one thing to read encouraging comments online, but another to actually experience such beautiful people in-person. I was constantly reminded that music is much bigger than me, and there are real people with pulses and emotions that stand in the cold for hours to experience my music. I am truly humbled and grateful to have joined Noname on a wonderful tour. 

You’re a member of Chicago’s Zero Fatigue, can you tell us how you joined the collective and what it’s all about? Is it just a music-focused collective or are there other ventures?

Zero Fatigue is simply a group of talented musicians who love each other. A major part of making beautiful music is bonding with beautiful people. We all met through Classick Studios, in Humboldt Park. There, we were all able to develop artistically while building life-long friendships. I am so proud of my friends and how much they have grown as artists and people. I am so happy that the world is recognizing their talent! 

How has Chicago’s music scene and community changed now that the city’s artists are getting more and more attention?

The music scene of Chicago has played an integral role in my evolution as an artist. Unlike anywhere I have ever been, Chicago has a unique sense of unity that encourages all artists to be their true selves. Artists like Chance the Rapper serve as a constant reminder of the power and influence of music, reminding all of us of our roots and dedication to our city.

You’re 18, so you have a long career ahead of you. What are the things on your bucket list right now?

Honestly, I try not to create a bucket list or timeline for my life, mainly because I’d rather it flow naturally and organically without the stress of my expectations. However, I would really like to travel the world a few times. Music has taken me to heights I couldn’t imagine and would love to see how far it is able to stretch. 

What are your plans for 2017?

My plan for 2017 is to begin working on my debut album!