'I would call my style 'fluid soul' because the soundscape can take any form and still maintain its integrity.'
Evan Dale // May 21, 2019
Born in and permanently inspired by Houston, Bobby Earth finds heavier inspiration only at the crossroads of soul music and love. A multitalented creative that not only produces and provides the vocals and penmanship to his own work, but oversees his burgeoning label, Milky Wayv, Earth is a young creative, a young businessman without a ceiling.
His vision is broad, drawing influence from jazz, hip-hop, and Stevie Wonder, twisting his own brand of post-genre fluid soul into one of the more modern, wide-ranging, and refreshing sounds on the market. And with so much on his horizon and so much to come from his network of talented and dedicated experimentalists, his future is certainly bright and definably uncertain.
RNGLDR: As a Houston artist, your hometown – which boasts such an illustrious and key music past – must have had serious influence in the direction of your career’s foundation to this point. Can you speak a little bit to the creative inspirations that accompany a life growing up in Houston?
Earth: There were so many sources of inspiration to pull from growing up in Houston. A lot of people don’t know it, but Houston has always been a hot bed for great jazz musicians, like Robert Glasper, Jason Moran, and Chris Dave. Then you’ve got classic Houston rap like the Geto Boys, Fat Pat, and Big Moe, a lot of which is largely influenced by funk and soul by way of sampling. And of course, chopped and screwed music was very prevalent; I remember late nights tuning into 97.9 The Boxx and hearing Michael Watts’ slowed down mixes of all the hits they played earlier in the day. I didn’t realize then that all of these elements would somehow become infused into my art later, but I always find myself now utilizing half-time, pitched down vocals, and jazz chord shapes.
RNGLDR: In a lot of ways, Houston has survived under the radar when compared to other key cultural hubs of the US – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans. What about Houston makes it hard for the mainstream to place emphasis on it? And is that a good thing?
Earth: Well, Houston definitely had its time in the limelight with the era of Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Chamillionaire… After that time period however, our music scene went under the radar for a while. I can’t fully explain the science behind it, but I think it’s just the nature of pop culture in general. Everything is trend based, and trends tend to fade to background whenever new ones surface. With the advent of Internet and social media, consumers’ attention spans are at an all-time low, but I will say that the perception of Houston is starting to shift back with buzzing artists like Travis Scott, Solange, Meg Thee Stallion, and Young Deji, to name a few.
RNGLDR: Travis Scott has perhaps permanently reversed that feeling of an underground cultural haven. What does he mean for the city of Houston?
Bobby: Travis Scott is our hometown superhero right now. The spirit of Houston is currently omnipresent thanks to him. I love that even though I live in LA now, I can walk outside and hear kids singing about “Mo City” and “DJ Screw”. It’s super surreal.
RNGLDR: Having a superstar of his magnitude representing your city is sure to have some incredible repercussions down the line. Consider what Lil Wayne did for New Orleans and the slew of hip-hop artists that followed in his wake; what Drake did for Toronto that opened the door for so many other experimental modernists. What do you think will change for the artists of Houston now that Travis Scott has quite frankly become one of the most famous musicians in the world and so steadily represents his hometown?
Bobby: Travis’s creative journey and hometown pride has propelled Houston back into the light as a hub for great musicianship and artistry. It’s an awesome time right now, and I think we’re definitely going to see a lot more risk-takers like Travis emerging onto the scene. His influence has awakened a creative spirit in the city.
RNGLDR: Back to you, your work as a solo artist is unique and fun to say the least. Who have you been particularly inspired by, and what drives your music?
Bobby: Lately I’ve been really inspired by the new Flying Lotus, Anderson .Paak’s last two records, and Shafiq Husayn’s “The Loop” project. Outside of the music I’m listening to, my work is ultimately driven by love and all the experiences and emotions that surround it.
RNGLDR: Your work as a creative goes far beyond your solo career. What has it been like developing the Milky Wayv label, and what inspired you to get it going in the first place?
Earth: It’s been an interesting ride. I was inspired to create my own label early on by two of my most prominent influences, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, both of whom established highly successful imprints of their own, each shifting culture in their own rites. Running Milky Wayv has lead to a lot of discovery, from my outlook on music and art in general, all the way to discovery of self through interactions with others.
RNGLDR: We keep a pretty close eye on Milky Wayv – being a label that we consider to be one of the most experimentally groundbreaking in the digital scene – so naturally, some of Milky Wayv’s recent projects have been some of our favorites in music. Let’s start with Trey Graves and his project, drft. What was the process of developing such a smooth, undertone neo-soul project like and how do you feel that it turned out?
Earth: That was all trey. I had let him know I wanted to release his next EP with us because I love what he does musically, but the sound and execution of it was entirely up to him. I think it turned out amazing.
RNGLDR: Solace’s thesis is also a Silky, R&B nuanced project – is that the vibe that your trying to encapsulate with Milky Wayv?
Earth: The Milky Wayv sound is ever-changing. The only constant is soul.
RNGLDR: Onto Cloudy McSunshine, your solo album. What was it like to finally release the project after so much buildup and time spent balancing work between so many other artists and yourself?
Earth: I think of an album like a listener’s introduction to the most current version of yourself; you can only put it out once, so while you naturally want to get it out as soon as possible, you also want to make sure you get it right. When I finally released Cloudy McSunshine, it was like hitting the reset button because I was able to revert back to a clean slate in terms of crafting my next intro.
RNGLDR: Do you find yourself having trouble focusing on your own creative direction when constantly producing and working for the other artists on your label? Or do you find that their creativity inspires your own?
Earth: When you’re working with multiple artists, you collect different energies that inevitably affect your own work without even realizing it. I’ve picked up a lot of different creative methods over the years that I would’ve never used if it weren’t for collaboration.
RNGLDR: Cloudy McSunshine is a project pretty much undefined by any sort of consistent stylistic milieu. There is a clear inspiration from hip-hop music on Rain, a raunchy R&B influence on Galactic Booty, Mood, and Up From Here, more of a Boys ll Men end of the R&B spectrum with Comfortable, and something altogether different and undertone with stardust. So, if you had describe your take on music with the made-up name of a genre, what would you call it, and what/who would be its inspirations?
Earth: I would call it “fluid soul” because the soundscape can take any form and still maintain its integrity. Kanye West, The Neptunes, Daft Punk, Frank Ocean, Robert Glasper, and Michael Franks, would all be early inspirations to this style.
RNGLDR: For us, Blue Collar Poppin’ boasts a fervent Mac Miller influence. Was he an inspiration to your music, or are we off base in imagining his sound’s influence on your own?
Earth: I never thought of him as a big influence, but I’ve always respected his artistry. Mac wrote some of my favorite songs, like Objects in the Mirror, In the Morning, and SDS.
RNGLDR: As fans – students even – of R&B, Mood hit us in all the right places and really turned us onto your music in the first place. As your most popular release to date, what was the magic behind that track and are you planning on making some more slow jam baby makers in the future?
Earth: With Cloudy McSunshine, I wanted to explore soundscapes and concepts I hadn’t previously tapped into. For me, Mood was my first “sexy” song; I have a lot of songs about pursuit but not about intimacy. My experience with love has grown, and Mood is a reflection of that. As long as I continue to love, I will continue to create songs similar to Mood.
RNGLDR: We were really surprised by your versatility when Gnarly came out a month or so after Mood. The fun-loving, bouncy, party-anthem vibe that it came with was addicting, but so different from what we had heard before. Now that Cloudy McSunshine has been released, the two tracks really lie at opposite ends of your varied and vast stylistic spectrum. So, does one of those two ends come more naturally? Or are they both just two different takes on your creative personality?
Earth: Both ends of the spectrum come just as naturally as the other; they’re just two different takes like you said. It’s usually a mix of both to be honest. On this project, I really wanted to demonstrate my range and versatility as an artist and producer. I wanted to show all the different ways I like to express myself sonically.
RNGLDR: As an up and coming artist, we’re not sure how much experience you’ve had with live performance. Is it something that intrigues you and that you enjoy, or do you prefer the digital release of music and the steady growth of your SoundCloud empire to the live scene?
Earth: I love to perform live. I feel like it’s a necessary element for every great artist. Your live show is how you gain new fans, and it’s a sacred way to connect with your listeners on a higher level. It’s a chance to give your music a new dimension and to create a lasting impression that will make your music sound even better after the show.
RNGLDR: On the subject of concerts, we run a narrative series called Dream venue that takes the reader on a journey culminating in the ultimate live show. So, if you could have one day ending in the concert of your dreams, how would it unfold, and who would you see perform?
Earth: The concert of my dreams would take place in my hometown, Houston, TX. It would be a space themed event at a secret location with interactive art installations, star projections, and multiple stages that look like planets. There would be live performances by Kanye West, N.E.R.D., Daft Punk, Stevie Wonder, and Ty Dolla $ign (to name a few), and hologram performances by Dilla and Michael.
RNGLDR: How about in the opposite direction – as the artists performing, what is your Dream Venue?
Earth: As a performer, my Dream Venue would be a sold out Warehouse Live, the big room specifically.
RNGLDR: We also run a series called Collab Elation where we explore hypothetical collaborations that we want to see in the music industry. If you could have two artists work together, who would you choose and why?
Earth: Stevie Wonder and Thundercat. As far as vocal melodies, harmonic sensibility, and overall musicianship goes, they both are leaders in their respective “eras” for soul music. This might be cheating, but if Flying Lotus did the drums for this record, then it would truly be groundbreaking.
RNGLDR: And as for yourself, if you could collaborate with any artist – past or present – who would you choose to work with and why?
Earth: I would collaborate with Stevie Wonder, but it wouldn’t just be him merely playing the harmonica on one of my tracks. I would want him to produce, write, and arrange on the tune, like I Can’t Help it by Michael Jackson. I want an I Can’t Help It from Stevie Wonder.
RNGLDR: With so much going on – so much to oversee artistically in terms of yourself and your talented friends – how can you sum up what you’ve got coming up?
Earth: I will be releasing multiple albums this year, some solo and some collaborative.
RNGLDR: What do you envision for the future of Milky Wayv, and for Bobby Earth?
Earth: I envision more innovative art, money, and respect.
RNGLDR: What would you like the greater music scene to take away from you and your label’s journey so far?
Earth: You don’t have to emulate what’s currently popular to be successful. Embrace new trends and ideas, but don’t lose sight of expressing your individuality.
RNGLDR: And what do you want your fans to take away from your music specifically?
Earth: I want them to take away the importance of love because love is the coolest thing you can ever do and experience.
Photo Credit: M4RZ
Photo Credit: M4RZ