rin Ray is turning over a new leaf. “I don’t want to be stressed about too much of anything. What I can’t control, I can’t control. I’m in a place where I’m trying not to be so caught up in self and wound up on what I gotta do all the time,” Ray tells Rated R&B over a video call.
The talented singer and songwriter is reflecting on his approach to Phases III, the third installment of his EP series, which began in 2016. The project, out now on Interscope Records, is the follow-up to his 2022 sophomore album, Hello Poison.
For Phases III, Ray was intentional about allowing himself to go with the flow and not overthink.
“It was just like, ‘Alright, when I’m making this music, stop trying to do everything. Stop trying to do too much. Just settle down, relax, and have fun in the studio. [If] you make something you like, you like it. If you don’t like it, go to the next one,'” he shares. “[With] this project, I ain’t force nothing. All these songs were just vibes. We like them.”
Sprawling over 11 tracks, Ray’s Phases III is double the length of the other two installments. But the project’s duration is not the only thing that sets it apart. Each installment takes on a different sonic. “Phases I was more alternative [with] the different abstract beats I was using,” explains Ray. “I was rap-singing more, too. I didn’t really use my vocals because I never really liked my voice. I had to grow into that.”
Then, there’s Phases III, which is more free-spirited. “I wanted to have fun, be creative and see what we could do,” Ray states of his mindset for the project. “The biggest thing we tried to do was be a bit more intentional with the records. I wasn’t trying to be as progressive, like trying to push the sound and be super musical. But I still got to play with some cool vibes and give you some new feels.”
Phases III includes the lead single “Wait So Long,” produced by legendary producer Tricky Stewart (Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Rihanna). “From the jump, we were like, ‘Okay, this might be single material,” Ray reveals. “I haven’t really had that sonic in a while — that type of song [or] that energy. It’s something about that record. It just spoke to us.”
The EP includes additional writing and production by James Fauntleroy, Tane Runo, Theron Thomas, K. Roosevelt and more.
In Rated R&B’s interview with Arin Ray, the talented singer/songwriter and producer talks more about Phases III and unpacks a few tracks from the project.
How do you approach a Phases project versus an album?
With this one, the team and I had the thought of doing an EP in between an album. It didn’t end up being Phases until really late in the process. But it made sense with the songs, where I’m at [and] what I’m talking about. Connecting the new music to the Phases story and timeline worked. I’m proud of it. I’m grateful to give this spin on it because it’s definitely a little different from [Phases I] and Phases II, for sure.
You previously noted that your song “This Is Nice” from your album Hello Poison was made during Phases II but it didn’t fit that project. Are there any songs from Phases III that were made during Hello Poison sessions?
Yeah, for sure. “Good Evening” was supposed to be on the song “The Mood.” That was the first half of the video to “The Mood.” I cut it. I just felt like it wasn’t the time. I was like, “Man, I don’t know if I want to give this one yet.” It proved to work in our favor.
Has your process of making a Phases EP changed over the years?
For sure. When I first started, nobody was writing for me or with me. I was doing all that, and I was producing a lot more. The first [Phases] was a lot of Nez and Rio. The second one was more of Khris Riddick-Tynes. It definitely has its moments as far as sonics. It’s just different — different producers, different writing process. But [Phases III] was just fun. I was just trying to get some records in and finish some records we thought were cool that we had, and just put them together. I made some new ones along the way. It was dope.
“Wait So Long” is the first song shared from Phases III. What’s the backstory?
We went down to Atlanta to work with Tricky Stewart. My A&R Jen Drake is the one who put us together. I went down to work with a few different producers who were based in Atlanta. The sessions with Tricky came out with some really dope music. “Wait So Long” was one of them. It was actually like one out of eight beats I wrote to. I had Theron [Thomas] around. We were just in the studio trying to knock out ideas to get to other ones. It turned out to be a great song. It ties well with the project and what I was going through, whether it was me being the one waiting so long to tell somebody how I felt or vice versa. It’s just something relatable, something easy. From the jump, we caught the energy and were like, “Yeah, this might be one of the ones we should put out there first.”
Do you have a favorite song on the project?
It’s like two records because I got flavors, man. People get caught up in this R&B world with me, and I love it. It’s my thing. It’s in my soul, but I like to do a lot. So you might get the “Wet Dream” record that’s nothing like R&B at all, but it’s fun. I’m talking my — I don’t wanna cuss, but you know what I’m saying. Then you got what I think really is my favorite, “Save It All,” because it’s the way I’m sliding. It’s the sample. It’s new, but it’s still got the old vibe to it. It’s slick. I’m using range. I got some wordplay in there. It sounds like 2024, 2025 vibes. I’m excited for that one because it’s fun. It is exactly what I wanted the project to be.
Since “Save It All” is one of your favorites, tell the story behind creating that record.
I’ve been working with a producer named Tane Runo. He makes some very cool, eclectic, wavy tracks. He’s cool with the sample flip game. With that record, he sampled [Sylvia Striplin’s “You Can’t Turn Me Away“], and the way the cadence is, the way he flipped it, I just was able to slide on it in such a way that I was like, “Man, this is soulful. This is kind of on some hip-hop wave, too.” It’s a cross between a lot of genres. I found a way to sing on it, too, in certain places. This is one of them ones. Tane Runo and myself got a lot of music on the way. It was just a chance to showcase the progressiveness and what we could do to take it up a notch. It was combining everything and giving you a wave of everything I do in one song.
You teamed with James Fauntleroy for “Psychic.” How did that song come together?
“Psychic” was another solid one I think will be the sleeper of the project. [It was] written and produced by James Fauntleroy. It’s one of the ones I really can’t take credit for. I was in the studio. I was present there working with him [and] gave my two cents. James really put his foot on that record. It was a cool thing because I’ve been waiting for that session for years, and we finally got it. He told me he had something for me when we were at the Diddy camps, and I guess he did (laughs). It was a beautiful thing for that to turn out the way it did. Shoutout to James Fauntleroy. I hope we can do some more. It was good vibes, good energy, and [we] made a really dope song.
What’s the inspiration for your current focus track, “Moonlight”?
“Moonlight” is one of the ones that was supposed to be on another project. It didn’t make Hello Poison. I didn’t finish it either, so that is also a reason it wasn’t on there. “Moonlight” is something you could really ride to. It is kind of a fun song, but it sounds a little dark and lo-fi, in a certain way. Shout out to Sal Dali. He produced it. I was very excited to get my brother from Cincinnati on that. He just won a Grammy with Beyoncé [Renaissance], so I’m very grateful. “Moonlight” [has] been one of my favorite songs I’ve made over the last two and a half years I’ve had it. I’m grateful to get it out.
You’ve mentioned having a lot of fun creating Phases III. Do you think this energy will inform your next album?
That’s a good question, man. I honestly don’t know what this next album [is] gonna sound like. I’ve got records upon records. But I plan to approach my album in a different way than I’ve ever done before. I want a certain level of songs, sonically. I want to be in a conversation with the best. I am grateful where I am right now, but there ain’t a lot of people who can do what I do the way I do it. So, for this next one, I’m going in for it.
What impression do you want to leave on listeners after they receive Phases III?
I think people should always take away that I put time into my work. I’m here to stay. I’m here to make music for the world so they can always enjoy it and have something to listen to that’s not like somebody else.
With this being Phases III, does this mark the end of the series?
I would hope so. EPs are great, but I’m definitely big on getting albums out. But to say I wouldn’t ever do another Phases [project]? I can’t say that now. We’ll see what it looks like down the line. The biggest thing for me is to get more people listening, stay consistent [and] stop taking so many breaks in between dropping projects.
Stream Arin Ray’s Phases III EP below.