When I first started working in the music industry, one of the first artists who I came across was someone who goes by the name of Rence. If you keep up with popular music, then odds are you’ve come across his music in one way or another. The well-known talent has quickly made a name for himself for his catchy songs and infectious energy that he displays throughout his music and on social media. Rence’s rise to fame was spectacular to watch, but what’s most encouraging is the fact that he’s still young and has so much more room to grow and so many achievements to cross off. If you’re an up and coming artist and you want some insight on what it takes to make it in this industry, I advise you to cut off the TV and read this conversation that I had with Rence! Welcome to this installment of our beloved interview series, Early Talks. Enjoy!
Sam: So what’s your story brother? Where are you originally from and what was your very first encounter with music?
Rence: I was born and originally raised in Washington, D.C. and I think I always naturally gravitated towards music. I begged my parents to let me play the Violin when I was like 4 or 5 and I did that for a few years and then I just hopped around on instruments. I did a little bit of time with the drums a little bass + a little guitar; anything that I could get my hands on. But it was really the move to Seattle that put me in the music world that I’m currently in now. I got really lucky. I ended up in a really great musical school in Seattle, Washington that was really robust. It wasn’t just technical music either. I was learning from my music teacher who was a touring musician during her life so we were learning about production and EQ and mixing and all these sorts of things in 9th grade, so I got really lucky; and those are my mentors to this day. I started taking music more seriously as time went on…
I was also doing many other things. I was playing Varsity Sports all year and caring about school and my social life and all that stuff and then I basically had a decision to make. I had applied to some music programs and arts programs and some other non specified majors; so I had to figure out if I really wanted to take this leap into a career in the arts. I didn’t know man. I honestly wasn’t that good at all. I applied to a program at NYU but I didn’t get in, so I was frustrated and at the time, I was really hurt and I thought it wasn’t for me; but I got lucky…there was a new department at NYU that was more geared towards performance theory and I ended up getting into that one…So I took the leap and went to New York.
Sam: So when you got to New York, tell me about the first moment that you realized that you could do this music stuff. I like to call them, little wins. When was your first little win and how did that feel?
Rence: New York was a lot of learning. I put out some songs and I put out an EP which I have since taken down, so it’s been a lot of learning to say the least. I didn’t have a lot of resources. It was just me and a few friends that I was around at the time and I was just trying shit out and seeing what felt good, And then I made this EP called “Pink” and I think this was the little win that showed me that this was possible. I released that and it had “Baby Blue” on it and for the first time, people starting picking it up. We got a little bit of blog coverage which was big since it was just me and my manager Mike cold emailing everyone. It got picked up by some blogs that industry people keep and eye on and so we started getting all of the calls from labels and publishers and it was crazy walking into those buildings and realizing that I’m not the only one who cares about this stuff.
Sam: Tell me about yours and Mikes relationship. Tell me about how the two of you have gone from best friends to him eventually becoming your manager.
Rence: Absolutely. Yeah so we have been best friends from like ages 4-12 and I moved to Seattle and he moved to the midwest so we lost touch for a bit. We were both doing our thing and I was lucky enough to go and visit some of the schools that I was applying to and I stayed with him and mentioned to him off handedly that I was doing music stuff and he was like, “no way, I want to get into management.” So we just started working and haven’t looked back since. We work 365 days a year and we’re in constant communication and I feel so grateful to have someone on my team who cares so much and honestly someone who has cared before anyone else has cared. Like when my music was really bad, I know people were telling him not to waste him to with me, but he didn’t listen obviously…And then, Andrew Keller is another one of my managers and I met him during label meetings. After we met with him he called us and just said how much he loved the music and he wanted to be involved and we decided to bring him on and the rest was history.
Sam: That’s amazing man; Tell me about the process and experience of signing a deal. Not the logistics of it, but just how it felt.
Rence: You know. it was mixed because, I was very fortunate to have a music industry education. I worked at a music publishing company in New York, I worked at a music branding agency, I worked at studios, so I had a working knowledge; Obviously not everything but keep in mind, this was the wave of DIY, so I was kind of torn a little bit. It was an honor to be considered and wanted and to be valued at a high level from people who know what they’re doing, but I was mixed because I really respected the DIY energy of people like Russ, so when it came down to it, we talked to a few labels and at the end, it came down to me saying, “look, I don’t really want to sign a deal right now. I don’t think I’m necessarily ready for that, so if you want to sign me, I need the deal that I would get in 8-12 months in an upward trajectory. I want it to be under the terms that I want to sign.” It was exciting because I didn’t want to drop out so I finished up school as fast as possible because I wanted to finish up. So I did it fast but also flew to LA a lot so it was exciting. At the end of the day, I signed with Epic because they laid out the best path forward for a great career. They were just realistic and fair when it came to how we set it up.
Sam: How has it been making music and being an artist during this last year of 2020 with Corona Virus and all of these things that have been going on?
Rence: Wow, it’s been an adjustment, oh my gosh. I mean, I did two tours before the pandemic. I literally did my last show with Christian French and the next day everything got cancelled, so I felt really grateful that I was able to do that , but I had a lot of festival dates lined up and great events lined up; But honestly, I needed this time. It was definitely a blessing in disguise. Before the pandemic, I was always moving and always running around which was great but it didn’t give me a lot of time to be present and introspective so thats what a lot of this time was for me...
I asked myself some hard questions like “Why am I doing this?” The tricky thing about being a musician is that it’s exciting, but there are so many moments that test your will to continue doing it. The highs are really high but the lows are really low, so I had to figure out why I was doing this. I also took some time to evaluate the people I was working with. When I signed, I was given so many amazing opportunities to work with so many different people, but it pulled my sense of self and music in many different directions because I didn’t have enough of an anchor in me to keep the music how I wanted to be; So to be honest, I strayed a little bit and I can say that as I look back now. I was a producer before anything else, so I spent the quarantine really just getting back to my first love.
Sam: Okay so last question: If you could give some advice to a young kid who has their hearts set on doing what you get to do now, what would that advice be?
Rence: I think that if you can have a certain long sightedness, it does you wonders. So obviously, I know the feeling so well and I still experience this, but sometimes an artist will make something and you think, because I made it, it’s fantastic. Art is such a interesting product that when you make something, you’re like “this is fucking incredible and no one can tell me otherwise because I made it and thats sick.” But in reality, even when you’re just starting out, the 300th song that you make will in all likelihood be better than all of the others and if you can have that awareness its very helpful. So my advice for anyone who wants to do this as a career, understand why you’re getting into it and then put in the hours. You need to make sure that the quality of what you’re making is undeniable. That way, when you’re going so hard and blasting it to the world, no one can knock its quality. It might not be their favorite song as far as taste but if you remove that from the equation and its undeniably good, then you can start moving forward. And then after that show it to people who don’t have a reason to lie to you and take the criticism to heart.
Rence will always be one of my favorite artists to keep an eye out on. From himself, to his team, these guys are doing some amazing stuff and it’s always great to show love to people who truly deserve it. If you enjoyed this interview, make sure you check out the brand new song that Rence just dropped today! I’ve attached the Spotify link down below, so give it a listen and make sure you don’t miss a moment of this rising stars career!