Atlanta’s alt-everything Raury Tullis has been heralded as a “next big thing” – and he has epic ambitions. In early 2014 the teen singer/rapper/guitarist/producer aired the psych-urban single God’s Whisper – a Cody ChestnuTTy variant on Jesus Walks – and, come August, followed with the album Indigo Child, available for free download. Imagine if Theophilus London was down with the Dungeon Family…
Tullis was born in suburban Stone Mountain and raised with older siblings by a single mother, who loved blasting 2Pac. He penned his first song (called, um, Oh Little Fishy) at three, began rapping at eight, and by 11 was teaching himself guitar with the help of YouTube tutorials, eventually gigging in a school covers band. The precocious Tullis participated in a Coca-Cola-funded leadership program for “high-potential teens”, and took to wearing his now-iconic sun hat on hikes.
He started prepping Indigo Child at 15, having already secured management. Indeed, long before circulating any music, Tullis was networking – and profile-building. He conceived his outrageous #AntiTour, performing on a van for punters leaving other acts’ shows, like a guerrilla busker (the police shut him down outside Tyler, The Creator’s show). To celebrate his 18th birthday in June, Tullis headlined his official premiere, Raurfest.
Indigo Child‘s theme is self-empowered youth in the digital era. But, beyond not being obviously ‘hip-hop’, it’s tricky to classify. Tullis has namedropped KiD CuDi and Bon Iver as influences, while expressing an affinity with that “genre-less” pop star Lorde. The ATLien has himself attracted important fans. He was a surprise guest on SBTRKT’s Wonder Where We Land stand-out Higher. Kanye West, enamoured of the God’s Whisper video, summoned Tullis to a meeting, even covering his flight. Whether the pair discussed their eccentric mutual admiration of Phil Collins remains a mystery.
Tullis appeared at OutKast’s homecoming fest #ATLast. Meanwhile, God’s Whisper was synced for the end credits of Luc Besson’s movie Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, and Lorde invited Tullis to contribute a song (the country-esque Lost Souls) to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 OST. Now the recent high school grad has been nominated for the tastemaker BBC Sound Of 2015 poll – and, with a largely obscure shortlist, excepting Wolf Alice – he has a good chance of winning it.
Aussie “Indigos” can scope out Tullis when his band joins Laneway. The social media playa will no doubt be hoping to meet up with his Superfly collaborator, Brisbane illwaver Vancouver Sleep Clinic (AKA Tim Bettinson), Down Under. “That’s one of my really good friends,” Tullis says.
Watch: Raury – God’s Whisper
Music Feeds: You’re coming down to Australia over summer. What have you heard about us?
Raury Tullis: All kinds of things, man… I’m really astounded by most of all just the history and the geographical features of Australia that I really want to see. Musically I know it’s just crazy – they know what good music is out there. It’s like a whole other world as far as how things go and I’m really interested to see about that.
So, really, I’m just excited to come to Australia. I’ve been kind of obsessed about this country.
MF: You’ve been nominated for the BBC Sound Of 2015 poll. How did you feel when you heard?
RT: It was crazy – like, being on the BBC Sound Of whatever-year-my-year-came was always just wishful thinking for me. You know, it was like, “This would be something cool.” And it just happened. I just can’t wait to hear the final result.
MF: Indigo Child has captured the imaginations of music fans. How do you feel about the record now you have some perspective on it?
RT: Um, well, hindsight is so playing 20, man. It’s very reflective on my life – like where I was at that point in my life. It’s kinda like a time capsule, a flashback on it all. If it flashes back and it all hits me, it just shows me how much I’ve grown up – like even from being really crazy… My music thing to just how I feel about a lot of things are so different now – ’cause it’s written from the perspective of a young, rebellious teen seeking to just find and follow his fate. And that’s literally what happened. But, yeah, I still love it – I still listen [to it] and everything.
MF: There are ‘skits’ of you arguing with your mom on there. What does she think of it?
RT: Yeah, she’s all fine about it now, right (laughs). Everything’s been all fine between us. It’s like any other relationship between a child and their mom – any argument can take place and you guys just go out to eat two hours later and it’s all over, you know what I mean?
I had to tell her a week before the project dropped – like the week before the release, I had to let her know [I’d recorded the arguments]. And then she was fine with it. “All right.” She’s fine with it.
MF: You have said that the album came out of a sense of frustration and being undervalued, and that you felt like “an outcast”. Has this project been validating?
RT: Well, the project pretty much just proved to me the fact that I wasn’t like the only kid out in the world… Ever since then, I’ve never felt like an outcast – not necessarily an ‘outcast’, but a person who is aware that I am different, like the oddball in some way, shape, or form.
I was born with the name ‘Raury’ – nobody around me ever had that name. It’s crazy how something so small, that seems so small, can have such a great effect on you and how your life goes. Literally ’cause the fact that my real name is Raury, I grew up just feeling different.
MF: You’ve made some amazing alliances in the music industry. You reportedly cut several songs with SBTRKT, including Higher. How did you meet up with him?
RT: My management knows that I was a really big fan of SBTRKT’s and I guess somehow they set it up at a point where we were both in America and we got to meet each other. They know I just really prefer to work with people who are actually my friends – [and] who I actually know. So I got to meet him, and we talked for a long time in that meeting. Yeah, we hit it off. We’ve been good friends ever since.
MF: Another SBTRKT song, Forgotten, is on his deluxe album. What will happen to the other tracks you did? Will you release them?
RT: Possibly, yeah!
Watch: SBTRKT – Higher ft. Raury
MF: You’ve also had an exchange with Kanye West. Has anything come out of that? Are you guys recording together?
RT: Um, well, not as of yet, but I definitely hope to create with him!
MF: There was talk you might even sign to his GOOD Music, but I believe you’re now with Columbia Records?
RT: Yeah, I’m definitely with Columbia.
MF: Was there ever any chance of you signing to GOOD?
RT: Um, no, not really – not really.
MF: You’ve got the most diverse influences. What are you feeling at the moment? Have you discovered any artists in 2014?
RT: I created Indigo Child with the influences [of], and the ears that were listening to, artists like Michael Jackson, Queen, Bon Iver, André 3000, KiD CuDi and all other kinds of things – you know, Sade and TheWeeknd and Frank Ocean and what not…
I’ve been going deeper into some really old school stuff. I’ve just now discovered Marvin Gaye I feel like this year, for one. Leonard Cohen… It’s just all other kinda cool stuff like that, along with what I’ve always been listening to. So, yeah, that’s been really inspiring. Lauryn Hill’s project [The Miseducation Of…] and going deeper into that, too. It’s really soulful and just still amazing music.
MF: RZA got into Queen through Russell Crowe on the set of American Gangster. Do you have a favourite song?
RT: Hmmm. It’d definitely be Bohemian Rhapsody – it means the most to me.
MF: Do you have any new music planned? Will you release an album in 2015?
RT: In 2015 I definitely plan to release the best album of the year – that’s what I hope to do! I have a feature on Joey Bada$$’ album [B4.DA.$$], just releasing in January – that’s something to look forward to in 2015. Other than that, man, it’s just more magic coming!
MF: What can we expect when you hit Laneway?
RT: Tell everyone who’s coming to my show to just really expect a slew of emotions and twists and turns throughout the set. It’s a very dynamic thing – it’s really cool. It’s gonna be really shocking to what you would even expect just from listening to the music.
MF: Is there any possibility of you doing Higher?
RT: Of course!
Raury tours Australia in January and February as part of Laneway Festival, with two headline sideshows also locked in. Details below.
Watch: Raury – Cigarette Song
Raury Australian Headline Shows
Monday, 2nd February 2015
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Tuesday, 3rd February 2015