Lee Mcintosh
Lee Mcintosh
28 May 2020

“It’s crazy because about fifteen months ago, I was a server at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. To come from that, to where I am now was just amazing to see.

-Giveon

The journey to becoming a musician can be something that can be very difficult to venture. There are many aspects to consider when you start with that initial thought or dream. What will your sound be? Who are you inspired by? What do you hope to leave the fans with? These questions and many more are some of the things that come to the minds of artists all around the world who may be sitting in their car on their lunch break-trying to find a way out of their hard times. One of the most important questions of all, is how will I be differentiated from my peers? Giveon, the rising star out of Long Beach, California has asked himself each and every one of these questions and then some. What we are witnessing right before our eyes, is the blossoming if the next music sensation that will begin to take over the industry, one harmony at a time. 

Giveon’s initial burst into the musical realm came from a feature on Drake’s “Chicago Freestyle” released earlier this year. It was then noted that the song would then be featured on Drake’s surprise project Dark Lane Demo Tapes just a few short months after. While greatly enthused and super grateful for the opportunity he landed upon, Giveon is here to let the world know that he has way more in store and his journey is far from being over. Inspired by many of the baritone singers from the Jazz era, Giveon has learned how to master his unique voice, in which he describes that he was not a big fan of his deeper voice coming up. Nonetheless, his amazing artistry, vocal range, and immaculate story telling has thrusted him into the limelight, and proves that his sound is so original and unheard of. Rest assured, we will not stop hearing the name Giveon for years and years to follow. 

I was ecstatic to be able to hop on the phone with Giveon to learn more about his musical upbringing, his creative process, the success of his EP Take Time, future plans in his career, and more! Read our full conversation below!


 

In this culture, we hear and see more from the rappers due to the fact that they are more vocal and visible with everything they’re doing. As far as R&B singers, they tend to navigate with a sense of mystique. Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into music?

GIVEON: From the very beginning, I give credit to my Mom for being the first person to notice that I can sing. I used to always sing around the house to the songs that she would play while she was cleaning. On from that point, it got to a point to where I had to figure out who I was as an artist. There’s a big difference between people who can sing, and people who are artists. There are people who are better singers than they are artists. I’m a fan of my voice and I think I’m a talented singer, but I think my strongpoint comes from my abilities as an artist. So that process begun around high school. I also did a program at the Grammy Museum at LA Live, and that was a real shifting point in my life and career wise. I learned a lot from there. I learned who Frank Sinatra was, and I learned a lot about the timeless acts that came before me. From there, I just began to work on perfecting my craft and just being prepared for whatever opportunity that may arise.

We have begun to grow accustomed to the artists that have a certain sound or a certain type of voice, but your voice is very unique and sounds much different than everyone else’s. How did you manage to cope with your voice being so different?

GIVEON: A lot of my singing growing up came like pre-puberty. Then once I hit puberty, my voice got really deep, like way deeper than I knew how to sing with. That was the point when I lost all my confidence. The best way I learned how to work with my voice was discovering other baritone singers and learning that that’s still a world. While it’s a lot older, so many of the greats still have that tone. Instead of me trying to conform to traditional soprano singers, I just dove into the baritone world and embraced it. I also learned how to not be one-dimensional. I have this tone, but I try to move up and down tones. I’m still taking vocal lessons as well to improve my range vocally.

Alongside your voice, your music also sounds very different. So much so, that you can’t really put a label on it or box it in. Is that something that you had in mind when you first started signing as far as wanting to be as different as possible?

GIVEON: My main goal in music was always to be an original act and to stand out. On Spotify, there are about 30,000 songs being uploaded every single week. At that point, it isn’t even about being good anymore. Being “good” isn’t good enough. So you have to be good and be unique in your own way. Luckily enough, I was born in a time where there aren’t many acts like this, opposed to being in an era where there were tons of singers like Barry White and Jazz singers. The timing just lined up perfectly. Whenever my name becomes a household name, the next baritone singer isn’t gonna be as simple as it was for me because I’m probably going to inspire the NEXT generation of baritone singers. I see tweets about it all the time like “I heard Giveon’s voice, so now I’m gonna be confident in mine”.

Back when I first seen your name, I saw that you were opening up for Snoh Aalegra, and whenever I hear about a new artist, I like to go back and look for their older music. When I went back, I saw that you didn’t have too much music out. Are you very particular with your work and take more time with it opposed to flooding the market with tons of songs?

GIVEON: I’m actually very particular. It can even be particular to a fault sometimes too. I have an amazing team around me that wants to see me win and wants me to succeed. Traditionally, there’s certain things you gotta do and sometimes I’m like “nah I wanna chill and take my time” and be super particular. I can’t really articulate to them sometimes why, but I really like to quality control. I don’t really like to oversaturate the market because there’s always gonna be music around. I always ask myself how the music is gonna age in like 10 to 20 years, opposed to just getting as much out as possible. Even the way D’Angelo or Frank Ocean do it, like they’ll drop a project and dip. I’m really inspired by that ideology. It’s tricky sometimes having people around me that tell me that I have to have some quantity as well, so it’s gonna be interesting to see how I’m gonna find the middle ground. I can’t do the Frank Ocean and drop an album once every four years or so just yet.

I read that you signed with Epic about a year or so ago, and your EP Take Time just came out this year. I think it’s amazing to see that you took the artist development route opposed to coming fresh out of the gate with tons of music. How has the past year been for you during the artist development phase?

GIVEON: That was a huge learning process for me. It’s not like I got with them and then I started working on music, though. I had music that I was holding onto for about a year or so. One of my faorite songs on the project “Vanish”, I had that song even before I really started taking music seriously. It was really interesting being in that artist development stage and creating. I’m a fast learner too and I learned very quickly that patience and taking your time with it is what’s gonna give you the best results from it. It’s all about making music that’s gonna be aging well at this point. I’m not really thinking about how people are gonna take in my EP Take Time now, I’m more so concerned about how it will hold up 5 years from now when people are having those cult classic conversations- like will this project get brought up then.

Speaking of Take Time, it’s an amazing body of work that I’ve been listening to over and over again since it came out. I have an idea of the story of the project, but can you expound upon the story of Take Time?

GIVEON: There are little Easter eggs in there that we [my team] have amongst ourselves like as far as why we had certain things in there, like the waves crashing on certain songs. But the overall story is about a relationship that just didn’t work out. The story is in three parts. The first couple of songs represent the infatuation stage. Then you get to the middle with “Favorite Mistake” and “This Ain’t Love” and that’s when the conflicts start to happen. When you get to “Heartbreak Anniversary”, “Like I Want You” and “Vanish”, that’s the heartbreak stages and the thoughts that happen after the fact. You can hear that story lyrically, but even in the production, the songs become more somber as the project progresses.

That’s exactly what I took from it. Another thing I noticed about the project is the length of it, and that can be related to the story just showing how fast relationships can come and go. Is that another thing you had in mind when making the project?

GIVEON: Yeah, absolutely. It’s like a short thought as well, like you don’t wanna put out something too long. There’s a lot of other hidden things in there as well where we just wanted to let you know that it can go by really fast. Just the title of it Take Time– you can try a lot of remedies to fix or prevent a heartbreak, but one of the main things you need to do is take time. Another Easter egg as well-I’m from east side Long Beach, so that’s LA County. The project’s runtime is 24 minutes, 8 tracks long as a reference to Kobe Bryant. It’s just one of those sneaky things we wanted to do.

I want to dive deeper into “Heartbreak Anniversary”, as that’s one of my favorite songs on the project. I joke with my girlfriend all the time about how that’s her favorite song as well even though the song is about a heartbreak. Why do you think emotional and sad music hits the most with the audience even if they aren’t sad at the time?

GIVEON: Something I’ve learned from Frank Ocean, is that he takes everything from a film’s aspect. If you were to go on Netflix, watch a movie about love and everyone is happy and in love and everything is lit for the whole movie, and then it goes off, people are gonna look at that like “what the hell was that?”. I think the ability to be able to turn pain into beauty, there’s just something warming about that. I see couples dancing to “Heartbreak Anniversary” all the time and I’m like “y’all know that’s a song about a breakup, right?”. There’s just something comforting about that. It just lets you know that it’s okay to go through certain things like that.

Every artist tends to have a favorite moment that they had while making their first body of work-what was one of the best moments you had while you were putting together Take Time?

GIVEON: I’m still fairly new, but I was fortunate enough to have a songwriting camp with some of the biggest producers. I never would have thought on my first project that I would be able to work with Boi-1da, Wondagurl, Sevn Thomas, etc. We had a three-day writing camp just producing stuff and just vibing honestly. Also, I realized that a lot of producers don’t really like doing that, but they enjoyed doing that with me. They said that mine was one of the best camps they’ve ever done. That was a real dope moment. Luckily, we were able to document it-that was one of the best moments for real. I’m sure I’ll have camps again, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget that one. It’s crazy because about fifteen months ago, I was a server at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. To come from that, to where I am now was just amazing to see.

Who handled most of the production on the project?

GIVEON: It was executive produced by Sevn Thomas, but we had a handful of producers like Boi-1da, Los Hendrix, Sevn Thomas did “World We Created”. The interlude was an acapella, so that was just me. That interlude actually came from a voice note that I made while I was walking to Bubba Gump for work one day. “Favorite Mistake” that was one of the first songs that I produced with my engineer and co-producer. I’m a little bias, but that’s another one of my favorite songs too cause it was one of the first songs that I ever played keys on. Jahaan Sweet as well-he’s amazing. Wondagurl to- she did “This Ain’t Love” with Jahaan. It was an all-star squad, so hopefully they come back for next time.

Are you always very hands-on when it comes to the creation of your work?

GIVEON: As far as production, I wouldn’t say I’m a producer. Actually, I’m not a producer-but I’m learning and growing. I was more so on the songwriting side this time since it’s my first project. I’m taking piano lessons right now. There’s one joint we made during the quarantine that I produced on. For now, I’m not super involved production wise, but by the time I get to my second project I’ll probably be producing on a lot of them.

What was that experience like opening up for Snoh Aalegra last year on her tour?

GIVEON: It was amazing. It honestly went way better than I thought it would. It went almost too perfect. I had a few songs out at the time, but they were older songs. I was like I’m not sure how this is gonna play out. I dropped “Like I Want You” about a week before the very first day of the tour. I was like they not even gonna know who I am. I go to a lot of rap shows, like Playboi Carti and all that. I know at those shows, people really don’t care about the opener at all. I was expecting that, but when I got on, people didn’t want me to leave. It’s crazy being an opener, like I remember Daniel Caesar opened up for Anderson .Paak one time, and I wonder if people knew that he was Daniel Caesar. I remember Lil Baby used to open up for Cardi B too.

Her fans are really amazing though, and she’s a great headliner. Everyone gets their time and she always shows love to everybody. I was wondering if every tour would be like this. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to drive anywhere.  My manager EK is just a master at planning the logistics and all, so I never had a show the same day that I landed. I literally would have like two days to chill, then I would be like “oh I got a show today”. I was literally traveling the world eating, and then I would have a show.

What city was your favorite to perform in?

GIVEON: I think the New York crowd was amazing. I almost forgot that I was an opener in New York, I’m not gonna lie. I was like “this feels like my show, I might not leave”. DC was really nice too. Toronto was amazing as well. The city was amazing in Toronto too and I had a lot of fun over there.

 Seeing that you only had a few songs out at the time, how did the tour all come about?

GIVEON: She has a guy named Marcus Semaj who writes a lot with her, and he also wrote on my song “Like I Want You”. She heard about me through him, and she has a really good relationship with Sevn as well. Me and Sevn work together all the time, like that’s my brother at this point. So he was putting her on like “yo, you gotta check out this kid” and she heard me and was like wow. Her tour was an amazing lineup, being herself, Baby Rose and me. She has an ear for originality and unique music. Coming off the tour, it inspired me to not only create more music, but to learn an instrument. It inspired me to add things into my set.

You just landed your first debut on the Billboard Charts on “Chicago Freestyle” with Drake, and the EP has racked up over 2 million streams so far. How does it feel getting so many huge looks at such an early point in your career?

GIVEON: It feels amazing. At first, it was like “dang, how am I gonna follow this up?”, but all the compliments I see are great. I see people saying they love my voice and they love the stories I tell. So if you like that, then you’re gonna love Giveon. I did feel a lot of pressure at first, but now I have more eyes on me. Now when I post something on Twitter, it would get like a million views in two days, but it’s not anyting that I haven’t been doing. So now, if I make another body of work at the level of Take Time, now more people are gonna see it. I’m very confident in the formula that we have going right now. Everything is based on a true story and I’m not really an experimental type of artist. I’ll go through something one day, and then write a song about it the next day. It kind of shows the proof of concept and just being relatable and being myself, but also growing and evolving at the same time.

Seeing as you already worked with Drake, and tons of legendary producers, who are some of the other musicians you are looking forward to working with?

GIVEON: Drake is one of my GOATs, and I feel like it’s too early to say, but I feel like my dreams have already come true. Anything that happens past this point, happens. This year, I just feel like my dreams came true, so now I’m gonna go with the flow. I’m very simple and easy to please. I would say Frank Ocean, but part of me feels like that’s literally impossible. Maybe if I keep saying it and speaking it out loud, maybe he will come across this interview and be like “who is this?”. We have a lot of people that are reaching out to us right now, so it’s gonna be wild.

Your video for the acoustic version of “The Beach” was shot during this pandemic, and now you released another visual for the acoustic version of “Favorite Mistake”. Has the pandemic affected your creative process in a negative way, or have you been able to cope and adapt with it?

GIVEON: I always like to try and find the silver lining in all things. If something happens that could be looked at as a bad thing, I just try to put it into perspective. Like yeah all of this is happening, but I’m at home cookin’ up for a living. I have friends who are now unemployed and some that have to get their degree online. For me, it hasn’t really negatively affected me if I put it into perspective. It actually really benefitted me because now I’m forced to learn other crafts. I’m becoming a lot more efficient on piano, and my songwriting is becoming stronger. I could say with press, I would be going more places, but now I don’t have to fly anywhere as much as I would have had to. Now I can just hop on a zoom call and handle my business. I do wish that all of this wasn’t going on, but I do just try to find the good in it all. Time is one of the most valuable things for me, so now I have nothing but time.

Has it been easy or hard for you having to adjust to the industry and becoming an artist? Like having fans, getting crazy DMs, doing press, etc?

GIVEON: I feel like it should have been a more challenging process, but I’m lucky enough to have cool people around me and people who make this feel kind of normal. My managers have been around this world before, so it’s kind of an everyday thing for them, so they’re showing me the ropes. I still have one of my best friends that I used to work at Bubba Gump with, and we play Call of Duty every day. I’m not really a party person either, so I don’t get lost in the sauce of LA or anything. It’s been pretty smooth, just more eyeballs and more DMs for sure.

What can the fans, and those who have yet to become fans, look forward to next from Giveon?

GIVEON: Just more music really. I don’t have any dates on anything next, but more music is coming for sure. I just want them to sit with Take Time an keep listening to that. I feel like it gets better the more and more you listen to it. I think by the fifth  or sixth listen, it hits harder than the first or the second. I want them to just sit with that body of work, and more music will come at the right time. Take Time is a really good glimpse into the world of Giveon as far as story telling, sonics and tone. I’m gonna evolve and tell more stories, but I think that world is gonna be where it’s at for me.