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Interviews / Rated NEXT

Rated Next: Kevin Ross Talks Signing to Motown Records and Debut Album ‘The Awakening’

Kevin Ross has a voice that any R&B music enthusiast can appreciate. Hailing from Washington, D.C., the classically trained singer studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Not too long after graduating with a degree in songwriting, and landing writing placements for artists such as Trey Songz, Ross inked a deal with Motown Records/Universal Music Group.

“It’s such a prestigious label so I’m very honored to contribute what I have towards the legacy,” Ross told Rated R&B over a phone conversation. “It’s all about the new definition of soul. There’s a string of new artists who signed to the roster that has something different to offer than what people know Motown as. It’s really about redefining it in our generation.”

Ross most recently released his EP, Long Song Away, which is gaining a lot of buzz online — especially the title track. The project is just a taste of what fans can expect on his forthcoming debut album, The Awakening, which is slated to release in March.

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Check out our interview with Kevin Ross below.

RATED R&B: How did you get into singing professionally?

KEVIN ROSS: The training started in high school at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. I didn’t realize I wanted to sing professionally until my sophomore year of high school. I wanted to figure what I wanted out of the music business. I knew that I was very creative, had a lot of ideas and a lot of music stored up in my heart and my soul. I needed a place where I could facilitate it, so I found Berklee College of Music in Boston. I honed my craft there. Once I graduated, I moved out to Atlanta and I started writing — that was back in 2009. That was really the beginning of my career in the music business as a professional. That was eight years of schooling and really just being in that shed and working on my craft.

You landed a recording contract with the legendary Motown Records. How did that come about?

It was a very natural progression for me. When Ethiopia [Habtemariam] — who is president of Motown now — was just stepping into that position, I did a showcase in LA around that same time. It just made sense for us to figure out a situation for me and a great situation ever since.

You may be young but you have an old soul. Who are some artists you look up to?

Stevie Wonder is my all-time favorite…Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Maxwell, Babyface, Usher, Smokey Robinson. I grew up around a lot of that music.

Your single “Long Song Away” reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Chart. Tell us your inspiration behind that track.

I wanted to do a song that felt like what you heard on [the D.C. radio station] WHUR. My parents always played WHUR, so I wanted to feel like home. Of course, the subject matter on top of that was something that I was experiencing as far as patience — understanding that everything that you desire in life takes time. There’s no exception with love and that’s what I kind of wanted to infuse with “Long Song Away.” I wrote it and I produced it, so that’s my baby. I’m very proud of it and I’m just truly humbled. This is my first single out the gate that was sent to radio and for it to be in the Top 10, God is truly the source of it and truly the source for what’s going on.

OK. So let’s talk about the Long Song Away EP…

Long Song Away, the EP, is kind of the prequel to the album. I wanted to create a body of work that reflected on [2016]. It feels good. It vibes really well and gets me really excited to show people the album — let people listen to it and for them to go in and take it in for themselves.

Your debut album The Awakening is set to release this year. What do you hope fans take away from this project?

It comes out around March. I really look forward to people listening to the inspiration that’s on there. This is my first album so I really touched on a lot of things. You have songs like “Be Great,” which is pretty much the introduction. We released that through Grey’s Anatomy earlier last year, so you’ll get a lot more of the “Be Great” and the “Long Song Away” side. It’s a very vulnerable and transparent record that speaks on a lot of issues that’s going on now.

Kevin Ross

What does The Awakening represent?

It’s me waking up as a man. Me waking up as an artist and understanding that my platform means something. I’m held accountable for the things that I say and the things that I think. You never know who’s listening. I think for me it was waking up for that. It was waking up for the God-given responsibilities that I have to the business, to the field of entertainment and to the world — in that I’m necessary, God told me I’m necessary and everybody else is necessary because we’re all made one of one. I just want to spread that message so that everybody can reach their full potential. The world could be a better place because of that.

Who did you work with on the album?

I worked with Babyface on one of the records. That was an awesome experience. I worked with Lecrae, he’s an incredible lyricist. I worked with BJ The Chicago Kid on “Be Great (Remix).” I also worked with a lot of up and coming producers.

Since this is your first album, what would you say you learned about yourself while creating the project?

I learned a lot. One of the biggest things I learned was how necessary I was — not just to the fabric of music but in my life, my family and my community and the world. I think once you understand your purpose and how important you are in the fabric of life in general, you walk with more confidence, pride and reassurance. I don’t believe that people are just here to exist and fill in the blanks.

Follow Kevin Ross on Twitter/Instagram @KevinRossMusic. Download/stream Long Song Away (EP) here.

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