Interview – Ruben Young

Photo credit: Jonathan Jacobs

Today marks the day that electro, R&B/pop artist, Ruben Young is to release his debut single, “Bad Habits” which was produced by none other than JUNO Award winning hip hop artist, Classified. We sat down with Ruben recently to discuss all the details of the new single and what fans might expect in the near future from this Calgary based artist.

How would you describe your sound for someone who has never heard your music?

It’s moody, catchy electronic R&B/pop. I love too much music, and worked with so many producers on this project that it’s hard to describe it in once sentence. I’m pulling influence from Marvin Gaye to The Fugees to Kanye West to RL Grime. I idolized the way Justin Timberlake could be ‘low-key deep’, and turn a ballad into something that genuinely felt cool as hell to sing along to whether you were a guy or a girl. #goals

Your debut single, “Bad Habits” was released on August 4th via iTunes and Spotify. It was produced by Classified. What was it like working with such a legend?

I won’t lie to you. I genuinely felt ill the entire flight out to Halifax. I was so nervous to get into the studio with someone who has gone platinum, what – 10 times? You never know what you’re going to get when you step into the studio with someone new. You may not click stylistically, or creatively, or even as people. But from the moment I walked in the door, the vibe just felt right. Luke (Class) is a true collaborator. He genuinely cared about the story I wanted to tell, and he worked with me on every sample, to the melody, to the hook. He pushed it – even when we were in hour 3 of stuck on one damn part, he didn’t get stressed, frustrated or give up. We stayed in that room for legitimately 13 hours on our first day because that’s what it took to have the breakthrough we were looking for. By the time I left Nova Scotia, I felt like I had more than a dope new track. I had real buddy, and a new big brother to learn from. I am so thankful for that experience and the relationship we’ve built since.

What Canadian artists do you draw inspiration from when creating your music?

Drake is our guy – he took his city (and country) to a new level. Looking at all of the things he’s built, I look up to him as an entrepreneur more than anything. I’m a moody, sad boy R&B artist in 2017, so naturally The Weekend has had a big influence. I’m also a pop artist from Calgary, so I grew up watching Jocelyn Alice grind, grow and blow up. Her process has inspired me as much as anyone, because she’s gone through it all, stayed the course and now she is winning (and will continue to). We’ve written together a few times and she is an absolute FREAK (I mean that as the biggest compliment). She pulls the most amazing lines and melodies out of nowhere. So much talent – I’m very proud of her. When I’m writing, I often look back at watching her work, and pull motivation from it. Then there’s Classified – obviously.

Now that you have released your single, what does the rest of 2017 look like?

2017 has been insane so far. I’ve gotten to open for The Chainsmokers, Akon and perform with Classified. But releasing “Bad Habits” is definitely the highlight. It’s my first radio single, so I am going to work my ass off until I reach the goals I have set for this song – and they are high. I have tons more music and an EP that I can’t wait to release, and so, so much more left on my to do list for 2017.

Honestly, I’m just going to stay the course and keep doing what I already do every day, and take the opportunities as they come. My goals are to create, perform and release music with the artists I look up to. It’s crazy to think about how far things have come in one year, so I can’t wait to see where the next takes me.

What is your favourite song lyric from your music and why?

“I’m in a time warp cuz’ this girl won’t leave me alone” from “Running For You”– it’s low key deep, and that one little line that sums up the entire story behind this project.

You have been an important member of the Calgary music scene as the founder of the city’s “50 Days YYC” music festival. Why is it important to you to give back to your community in this fashion?

I don’t know if I would call myself an ‘important’ member of our scene, because there are people who’s lives are dedicated to building opportunities for artists and the scene.

But I love my city. And I have made a commitment to build my community as my career grows, because that’s what my idols have done, and it is a big core value of mine. My big brother was the best college basketball player in Canada, and now he’s built one of the top youth basketball programs in the country. Maybe it’s just the way I was raised (shout out to momma Jenny). 50 Days was just one summer-long glimpse into how I hope to collaborate with great people to create great experiences, opportunities and business for Calgary as I grow.

How has being the founder of this festival helped to advance your own music career?

50 Days YYC was like my bar mitzvah. Haha. Seriously – I grew some chest hair that summer. I learned what it meant to take one of my crazy ideas, truly dedicate myself to it, and build my own reality out of it. It taught me the difference between people who ‘talk’ and people who ‘do’. It taught me the struggles of running a small business – managing a team, and everything from raising capital, to accounting, to running my own tech, to making posters and promoting a show. It also taught me to never throw an expensive outdoor party in Calgary #JulyHailStorms.

Most of all, it taught me to genuinely believe in myself. 50 Days YYC and our entire team got absolutely shit on when the festival was first announced. I don’t talk about it very often, but A TON of people really, really hated on it. They thought it was a stupid, pointless idea that invaded on the cities pre-existing scene. I took a ton of heat – (seriously, I’m talking hate mail haha). Even though that was a truly tough stretch for me, I put my head down, I worked, and we legitimately threw a 50 day-long music festival; which was a special experience for a ton of local artists, venues and music fans. Through that experience, I learned that the only thing that matters is who I chose to be in the face of my own mistakes, the noise, and the hurdles. I will never be able to (or want to) make everyone happy, but I so long as I’m hustling to become the best version of myself possible, care for the people who matter most to me, and stick to my vision – the rest will fall into place. By the end, all the noise vanished. It was the best training ground for the career ahead of me.

What is your favourite summertime hobby?

Water fights with my niece and nephew, outdoor hoops and having a casual soda at the Cowboys Tent during the Calgary Stampede.

With it being the 150th anniversary of Canada, where is your favourite Canadian place to visit?

Calgary in the summer time is the greatest city on earth. Otherwise, I’ve only been to Montreal twice, but I love it there. I can’t wait to get back over there.

What three words best describe Ruben Young?

Hustle. Hustle. Cuddle?

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