Photo Credit: Brooke DiDonato
We had an interesting chat with Brooklyn based R&B/Soul Artist 'rum.gold' on the heels of his new track, "Fix Me." Released against the backdrop of COVID and the BLM movement, the video does a great job of capturing his feelings of self-isolation and reflection. Our interview touches upon influences, collaborations & how to navigate some of the issues that plague us as a society in 2020.
We're big fans of 2019's "yaRn" and your more recent "aiMless" EP. While some of us here know and love your music, for those that haven't had the chance, could tell us who Rum.gold is?
So I'm a twenty-six-year-old singer-songwriter (Alternative Soul, R&b) based out of Brooklyn, New York. I've been making music for as long as I can remember. I started out as a jazz trumpet player in college. After I graduated, I did odd jobs here and there while trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do. I always loved to sing and write music but never had the confidence to put myself out there. In the beginning, I made a Soundcloud called "Anon" and uploaded random covers for a year or two. I never put my name or face on it, so no one knew anything about it. I just wanted to test the waters and see if I actually had something worthwhile that people wanted to listen to. The response was really nice, people sent me messages about how they loved my voice and enjoyed what I put out. After I built confidence through Soundcloud, I felt I was ready to branch out and do my own thing. I wrote six songs, and with the help of James Chatburn, who I also met through Soundcloud, we released "yaRn." After "yaRn," things just picked up, and I've been riding the wave ever since. I just put something out, and the response I've received since has been more than I could have asked for, so thank you!
What is the story behind the name "Rum.gold"?
The name is actually just my last name, Drumgold. I just dropped the "D" because I didn't want people to think I was a drummer.
You've been doing an excellent job of hiding your identity because we don't know your first name.
Haha, my first name is Delonte. So it's Delonte Drumgold, also known as rum.gold.
Growing up in the DMV, whom or what would you say has had a major influence on what you listened to?
The thing about the DMV is that it is really diverse. Throughout the day, I'd listen to so many different styles of music. On the way to school, my mum would play R&B, Usher's Confessions album, a lot of Mariah Carey. Kids at school would listen to anything between Bon Iver and Go- go music, which is a staple in DC. At jazz rehearsals, we'd listen to Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Chet Baker, and Louis Armstrong. It's just a lot of music that got into my ear that influenced me.
When did you decide that New York was the right choice for you, and how's it been so far?
Moving to New York was a very last-minute decision. I was doing college in Boston before I got here. I left Boston because a relationship of mine had ended very badly, and I had bad feelings about the city at that point. It was a little bit after Christmas, and I told myself I just want to leave. A few days later, I found a place in Brooklyn through Craigslist. I didn't even go to see it; I just sent them the deposit, and two days later, I got a U-haul and ended up driving to New York. I really needed this change and a fresh start. After I moved, that's when I wrote "yaRn." The first two months living in my new apartment, I was just writing songs, so that time was very much needed.
Coming to your recent EP, "aiMless," what drew you to put together that project?
After yaRn came out, many good things were happening, and I started to write more music. I didn't want to write more about my love life and relationships necessarily because I was still figuring all that stuff out. I tried to shift gears and write more about things that were easy to wrap around, like my immediate family, so I started digging into that. That was where the idea behind "aiMless" stemmed from; it was me writing about something I hadn't before, which was family. I wanted to write about where I come from, why I am the way I am, how I treat people, and how my upbringing affected me.
What's the feeling you want to leave listeners with after listening to aiMless? I hold no expectations for people listening to my work, I'm just very grateful that people are enjoying the music. I made it for me as a reaffirmation to myself that it's OK to not know everything and not know why you are the way you are. It's OK to not be understood all the time. It's OK to be on the journey and to be able to look back and not know why certain things worked the way they did. When people listen to aiMless, I would love for them to understand that it’s OK to not have all the answers and not know where you're going.
On the EP, you feature Jamila Woods. How did you two meet up, and what was the experience like to record with each other?
I love Jamila, she's dope! We met through a very serendipitous situation, and I'm blessed that it happened. Spotify was having a three-day writing camp in New York City, so they grouped together a lot of artists within the same genre of music. They put us all into different rooms at Jungle City studios in New York, and every day we'd switch rooms to work with a different artist. On the first day, I was in a session with a producer, so it was just the both of us. At the same time, Jamila's session was right across the hall, and no one ended up going for her session. She walked out of her studio and said, "No one's come for my session, do you mind if I sit in with you?" And we were just like, "Absolutely." So the two of us had already got the track together instrumentally and were playing it on a loop. After listening to it, she was just like, "This is really cool." I said that if she had anything to contribute to the song, that would be great. After we spoke, the song happened so quickly. All the verses were done, the background vocals were done, and everything just fell into place.
Any takeaways from that experience and how you're looking to address your upcoming projects?
Thinking back on it now, she is an incredible writer. How quickly she came up with her lyrics and how intricate/poetic they were was incredibly intimidating and very impressive. I was lucky to be in that room with her, to be honest. Jamila puts in so much detail into her songwriting, and I've been trying to emulate a similar approach. Generally, I write, let it happen and move on. Now, I write, sit with it, think about it, really pick it apart and try to get the minute details she got.
Talking about upcoming projects, we got the chance to listen to "Fix Me" and checked out the music video as well. The video beautifully captures the essence of your lyricism, and there's a vulnerability that comes through with that beautiful falsetto. How did it all come together, and what was the inspiration behind it?
It came together with a lot of self-isolation. I was alone during the conception of the song. When we tried to do the live version of it, the main goal was to capture that essence of isolation; I didn't want it to be flared, I just wanted it all to be simple, intimate, and quiet. As for the inspiration behind the track, Its essentially the realization that the very thing that’s oppressing and or causing you pain will never be able to uplift and or bring you happiness. “You can’t be my northern star, when you’re the reason home seems so far”. That line really sums it up for me I think.
How would you say your sound has changed or evolved from "yaRn" to aiMless"?
I think "yaRn" was a lot of me and my producer James Chatburn just listening to a lot of playlists and figuring out what sound we want it to be, whereas "aiMless" was much more of the moment and organic. For example, the track “Save You’... producer George Moore started playing keys and within seconds I started singing the main melody. That's the evolution, it's more organic and less premeditated.
There's one letter in upper case in both EPs, does that symbolize anything in particular?
I've been asked this question before and chose not to answer it, but I will say that it does symbolize something, but its mainly for me. I feel if the audience knew, it wouldn't change much for them, but for me, it does have a deeper meaning, that's all I'll say.
In an interview with Complex, you mentioned how you found yourself feeling burdened with the effects of Capitalism, what advice do you have for artists who continue to face a similar predicament?
Honestly, I'm still just grappling with those feelings. Im not gonna sit here and say you should just blindly follow your dreams. A backup plan is always a good thing to have. However its very easy to lose sight once you start doing other things and working a 9 to 5 etc. I think the reason I’ve been kinda able to find some sort of balance or am able to not get too distracted is because one, im not really good at much else, and two, Everything I do in terms of work and jobs was and is to further my music. I worked odd jobs to pay for studio time. I worked in PR so that I could learn hoe to start pitching myself to publications properly and grow my contact list. So I guess my advice is to try your best not to lose sight, and never just bank on being lucky.
With the pandemic, the entire music industry has been affected, and many artists have had to forego a substantial amount of their income. As gatekeepers, what do you think the industry can do at a time like this to better the conditions of those who are affected by all that's been going on?
It's funny because I feel like industry heads and gatekeepers can do a lot of things that they could have been doing before this hit. What this pandemic has done has highlight what is wrong with the music industry. Now that its highlighted, industry heads and gatekeepers are running around trying to figure it out. I think that the answers won't be as easy as one simple solution. The music industry is always changing, so I guess there are always ways to adapt to the music industry around us. Now that this is a thing, how are we going to adapt to it and help the people who have been hurt the most.
How do you see the lives of young black kids changing after the wave of agitations in the US and Europe?
The one thing I feel like as a younger black person, is that a lot of the issues that are being highlighted now aren't necessarily new issues; however, I do feel that there's a newfound sense of urgency which has brought about a shift that I've never felt before. I'm more excited to see where this leads. I feel positive about what this could bring.
Music and art have always made an impact on socio-political issues. Personally, which artists have given you solace and comfort during this time?
There's a bunch of artists I find solace in, such as Jamila Woods, for instance. Her album “LEGACY, LEGACY” gives me a sense of pride and reminds me that there are and have been artists of color who've changed the world and changed history before us. It makes me feel like I can do it as well, and it makes me feel like we can as a community.
Thank you Delonte.