Grown Folks Music caught up with R&B vocalist and Top Notch Entertainment artist L. Young. L. chopped it up about his super tight, five-part harmony videos he posts on his Facebook page, his re-packaged album that is picking up steam, ReVerb, his musical influences (the usual suspects and one you may not ever have guessed) and singing with passion and emotion as an R&B male vocalist.

GFM: Before we talk about the album… you have been killin’ us with those five-part harmony videos on your Facebook page. They are phenomenal and I noticed you take suggestions. How did those come about?

LY: I saw a couple of artists kinda doing little snippets of it. I was wondering what they were doing… what app they were doing. I wanted to figure it out. Nobody would tell me, so because they wouldn’t tell me it just kinda fueled my fire to kinda figure out what was going on. I had this notion to do one one day and I did one… like a 15-second one for Instagram. It was okay. It was cool, I didn’t get that many likes or whatever and then I was like, ‘you know what? I wanna make these longer. I wanna do a full song.’ I was riding down the street one day and the song “Lean On Me” was on the radio and it reminded me of the movie Lean On Me, and then I thought about the group Riff’s song in that movie. The Eastside High School Song. I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to do that as one of the harmony videos. That’s a cool song. It’s very catchy. I think a lot of people would like that. It’s something that reminds us of the ’90s and being kids and stuff and that movie is just nostalgic.’ I did that… not putting too much effort into it… not too much time and then I wake up the next morning and it’s got like a thousand shares. I’m like, ‘Okay… wow… okay… alright… something’s going on here.’ Then I go to sleep, and the next day I wake up and it’s like ten-thousand shares. It’s like, ‘Wow… okay.’ (laughing) So it just kinda took off from there. I just kept doing more and more and more.

GFM: Well they’re awesome. We enjoy them. That’s how I got to you… through some of the five-part harmony videos and then (I) came to find your original material. Many of the Grown Folks don’t know who you are, so I’d like to just let you tell your story about your musical journey and introduce yourself to the Grown Folks audience. Tell us your musical story.

LY: I was born and raised in Louisville, KY. I grew up in the church. (I’ve) been singing and playing music ever since before I could talk.  Music runs in my family. Everybody in my family is either a musician or a singer or a preacher. So we were in church all day– honing the musical skills and all that. Later on in life… probably about 11 years old… I started performing professionally in professional theater– regional theater around the city of Louisville and Indiana. I eventually went to the performing arts high school in Louisville called the Youth Performing Arts School, which is one of the top… well it was at that time… top performing arts schools in the nation. From there, I caught that bug. I was like, ‘This is what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life definitely.’ I always knew that music was what I wanted to do, but it was solidified once I started traveling outside of the state and then outside of the country with the high school performing in other countries. I went to Wright State University– studied acting for a little while, but soon got a record deal so I left college to pursue music that way. That record deal didn’t turn out too good, but I ended up moving to LA a couple years after that and (I’ve) just been running full steam ahead ever since. I’ve worked with R. Kelly. I’ve worked with B2K when they were hot and together (laughs). I’ve worked with KeKe Wyatt. I’ve worked with a number of artists and producers out here in LA as a writer and producer and as a performer myself and here we are today on my third album, ReVerb.

GFM: Let’s talk about the third album– ReVerb.  Let’s talk about the writing and the production. We have a few singles. Am I correct that ReVerb came out in 2013? Has it been repackaged this year? It seems like it’s picking up steam this year. Tell us about the album ReVerb.

LY: I wrote and produced the whole record. It’s funny… technically this could be called my fourth record because I had a record in 2011/2012 called Love Is A Verb. Most of the records that are on ReVerb are those records, but because I didn’t have any push behind it– I didn’t have any promotion or anything– most of those songs went unheard. “Love Is A Verb” got a little bit of airplay in the DC area on WHUR. Shout out to WHUR for being the first to play it, but other than that it didn’t go very far. So when I hooked up with my current management, Top Notch, my manager Marvyn was like, “Man we gotta put this album back out. People haven’t heard it.” But at that time, I was already recording a new record. I was about four songs into a new record and my mind was on to the new music. I was like, ‘I don’t wanna do that… that’s old.’  But you know, he made the valid point that it was only old to me,’cause you know no one else has heard it. So, what we did was we took a couple of the joints off of the Love Is A Verb record and I replaced them with some of the new ones I was working on and we repackaged it and I called it ReVerb— like a reissue of Love is A Verb— and we put that out. It had a little traction– especially in the UK and Japan and other places. But, every since the videos on Facebook have taken off it’s starting to get a lot of momentum now. We’re starting to see the sales really pick up and people are starting to connect the dots with who I am as an artist.

GFM: Is “Fairytales” one of those songs you were gonna leave behind?

LY: (Laughter) Yes. I was doing a whole ‘nother album… I was in a whole ‘nother place you know?

GFM: Well shout out to Marv Mack, Top Notch, for having the vision to repackage the album so that we could hear “Love Is A Verb” and so that we could hear “Fairytales”. I don’t think life would be complete without us having heard that material, so shout out to Marv and Top Notch.

GFM: Who are some of your vocal influences?

LY: Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson are probably the two most obvious. Also, I listened a lot… a lot, a lot… to Hall and Oates when I was little. Daryl Hall really influenced me a lot in my writing style and my approach to the energy I put behind singing a lyric– with a lot of emotion– believe or not.  I still hear him come out sometimes. When I’m singing I can hear it all day. I’m like, ‘Daryl Hall would’ve done that.’ Those are my three major vocal influences. I had a bunch of influences musically– music wise growing up in the Midwest. Of course Zapp and Roger were very big. I really loved his stuff growing up. (I) loved Earth Wind and Fire of course, Lionel Richie, and we even had some country thrown up in there. I even listened to George Straight and stuff like that.

GFM: Interesting. Perhaps we can get Daryl Hall this interview and you can get on Live From Daryl’s House. That would be awesome. We’re gonna put that out right now in the atmosphere.

GFM: I was watching one of your live performances on YouTube. During that performance… I think you were singing “Fairytales”… I heard you say you were trying to bring the old school back. I’ve heard other artists make similar statements like that. What does that mean to you… bringing the old school back? What is so significant about old school music and why is it so important for you and other artists who make the same claim to be on that mission?

LY: Music… well I should say art in general… has the ability to kinda shape and not only reflect, but actually shape and drive ideas and revolutions and change the direction of a society. So it’s important that we get back to some of the things that we used to do as a society. Not actually as a whole in America, but particularly in the black community, where we’ve lost that sense of what love really is. You know I used to complain a lot… or I used to hear my friends complain a lot.. about songs today. (They’d say) “They’re all about sex. They’re all about going to the club and picking up this girl and that girl and what kind of whip you got.’ I had to examine it from a deeper issue, and I’m like, ‘Well it’s not that they’re not singing about love, it’s just that’s what they equate love to.’ A lot of them have not grown up in two-parent households or seen a real, real representation of a loving relationship between a man a woman and a loving family. We had love songs come out in our days in the ’70s, ’80s and the early ’90s because that’s what we were used to.  But now, the whole dynamic has changed and the music is reflecting in our kids in the younger generation. So we’re trying to get back to singing those songs about what it means to actually find real love, or what it means to get with a girl a first time but it’s not all about taking her back to the hotel, but trying to build a future with her. Or, how you talk to a woman metaphorically about saying what you wanna do, but not actually coming right out and being foul and vulgar with it. It’s songs that you can use in times of sorrow… in times of hurt… when you wanna escape… in times of joy… times of just having fun and partying. All of that. It needs to be well rounded. We need to get back to that balance… is what I like to call it… in urban music.

GFM: Along those lines, it seems that the R&B male vocalist has become a bit of an endangered species. I’ll say the R&B male vocalist who has been put out in front. There are a lot of strong vocalists, but a lot of them are independent artists like yourself… people who have not been put in front.  We don’t hear them on the radio or see them on the television. We do have some veterans who have persevered like Joe, Brian McKnight and Eric Benet, but my question to you as a younger artist is what does it mean to carry the mantle of the R&B male vocalist?

LY: I mean a woman… a woman… loves to hear a man sing to her. I mean sing like cry his heart out… put his foot into it… put his whole body into what he’s trying to say to her. There’s nothing like those kinds of records. I don’t know what the generation up under me… (what) they’ve been listening to… who they’ve been listening to, but they definitely have not gone back and listened to the greats like David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks from The Temptations. Or, James Brown, or Jackie Wilson… anybody that knows how to really sing a song and to put that umph in it (like) Bobby Womack.  I don’t know what they’ve grown up listening to. It seems they’ve grown up listening to each other. Everybody sounds like Chris Brown. It may sound good. That’s what the industry is into to now, they’re into selling sounds. ‘Cause long as it sounds a certain way, they’ll put auto tune on something and don’t care about it because it sounds good. But they’re not making music that feels good. There’s no emotion behind it. I was trying to be PC here, but the guys are singing like women. They’re singing like women now and you can’t approach a woman like that. You’ve gotta be a man when you come to a woman. It’s very important for me… it’s kinda like in a way a big brother teaching his little brother how to be a man… how to sing to a woman. You’ve gotta sing from a man’s place, not from this feminine place where you’re approaching her. I don’t know man, I just gotta do my small part in bringing back what I call those real emotions on a record and I’m glad Eric Benet and all those cats that are still doing it. We don’t know any other way,’cause that’s how we grew up. We grew up listening to people like Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. That’s how we learned to sing. It’s natural for us.

And one other point, not to be long-winded on this, but when you go back and you listen to those records of Marvin Gaye and The Temptations and Stevie and (what) all those cats were doing, looking back we tend to think that because they’re older now that they were older then. But when they made these records… when David Ruffin was like, (singing) “I know you wanna leave me…” when he was in all that passion he was in his twenties. That wasn’t no old man singing that. But, you could tell that he’d been in love… that he had been in some kind of pain. He was putting it all out on record. Heck, even little bitty Michael Jackson… when he was eleven… was singing like that. So, it’s not just about the age. It’s just about who you’re trying to emulate, who you’re (listening to) growing up, who you’re studying and then actually going through something in life and putting it on record as emotion. We’ve gotta bring that back.

GFM: What’s next for L. Young? I also saw in my research and you were mentioning (it) also earlier in the interview that you just don’t sing, but you perform… so you’re an actor as well. Is that something that you also will be pursuing in the future?

LY: Yes definitely, but you know I have a couple more albums that I think that are in me that I want to put out so I’m concentrating on the music right now, but that is definitely something for the long term that I plan to get back into. I studied it for a year. I’m probably really rusty right now, but that’s something that you can always pick back up and get into. There’s always a role for a 60-year-old, 70-year-old actor, but you don’t see a 60-year-old R&B star out on the stage… not too often… if they didn’t already have hits back from when they were in their twenties and they just happen to be touring still. Trying to get the music to resonate and connect is really something I’m working on now while I’m young enough to still do that. We’re shooting another video at the end of this month (August) for the next single off the record, “Facetime”. We’re gonna work on getting another full album out probably early next year. I’m also releasing probably in about a week another free EP I’m just gonna give away to the people.  I’m doing a remake album of all those people that we talked about earlier that influenced me… remaking some of their songs, but I’m putting a twist on it and not just like straight remakes. It’s like totally different. (I) flip the songs around. We’re doing that as well and just trying to stay as busy and as in your face as much as possible. That’s it.

ReVerb is available NOW on iTunes

Check out the video for “Love Is A Verb”

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Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.