Great news for fans of R&B/soul music: Kitchener-based mega talent Rufus John is making a stop in Ottawa this week while on tour to promote his sophomore album “Gone But Not Forgotten”, as well as a docu-series of the same name about the making of the upcoming release.
“I felt that this was a way to introduce myself to audiences around Ontario,” Rufus John told Bytown Sound in a recent interview.
“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to get to know me and the stories/influences behind the songs that I’ve written. I want to really feel the energy in the room and be able to connect with the audiences.”
Having grown up listening to a lot of gospel music like Tramaine Hawkins and Richard Smallwood, along with “secular” artists such as Tina Turner, Lionel Richie and Patti Labelle, Rufus naturally gravitated toward a career in R&B. While he’s thrived in this scene, it’s a genre with some specific challenges, he says.
“With my career, there was never a doubt about what genre I was going to do. My concern was more to do with how I was going to make it work in Canada,” says John. He points to the international success of Canadian artists like Drake, The Weeknd and Jessie Reyez as a sign of the incredible potential of the scene, but adds that there are precious few opportunities for other R&B artists to be heard at the national level. He specifically points to Toronto as being home to some “crazy talented artists,” such as Tanika Charles, Slakah the Beatchild and Jully Black, who he counts as inspirations.
“I just wish that one day there will be room for more opportunities for R&B acts within Canada, whether it be on bigger stages or radio play. We have so much talent that needs to be heard but there aren’t many (if any) avenues for our music to pierce through.”
Still, it’s not as though Rufus hasn’t been striving to push the limits of what’s possible since discovering at the age of six that he could sing. He soon went from belting it out in his local church to winning talent competitions after moving to Kitchener at 10 years old, and by the age of 14 he was already penning his own songs and touring as the frontman of a funk/soul cover band while still in high school. Clearly, he is no stranger to hard work or paying his dues when it comes to his craft and his career.
Those experiences culminated in his first album, “Growing Pains,” a 2014 release which he describes as a “compilation of [his] youth”, summing up his life from the age of 9 to the age of 33. His upcoming album, “Gone But Not Forgotten,” marks a continuation of that release; he refers to it as an “honest album,” catching up on his intervening years while blending gospel, R&B, hip-hop, go go, soul, pop and jazz.
“My life experiences are infused with almost every song written on every album I have put out,” he says.
Wanting to provide fans with an even better glimpse behind the curtain, John decided to offer a much more personal live experience as well, and the idea behind “Soulful and Intimate” tour was born.
“I tell my audience that the two safest places for me are my living room and the stage. When I am home alone I will crank my system and sing, dance, laugh and cry. I will let it all out unapologetically – because I am safe and comfortable in my home. On the stage, I do the same. I always show the real me, and these shows will be no different. People will laugh, cry, dance and let it all out! When it’s all said and done, I hope that experience will be enough for people to want to continue to follow my musical journey.”
It’s in that same spirit of openness that Rufus has chosen to reveal his process even further with the shared debut of his docu-series, which shares not only the name of the “Gone But Not Forgotten” album but also development. What started as a simple whim of setting up a camera later revealed footage that he says provided him something tangible that helped him to reflect and learn about his own experience in creating this upcoming release.
“I decided to do the docu-series because I wanted to show people that an anybody can pursue their dreams. Also, I wanted to show people (especially independent artists) the potential struggles and process so that they can see that it is possible to overcome obstacles – don’t give up!”
You can indulge in Rufus’s honest and mesmerizing upcoming performance this Thursday, April 19 at Pressed, alongside Ottawa’s neo-soul group No Fancy Parts and live looping project Already, Already, for only $7 at 8 p.m.
Follow Rufus on his website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to keep an eye out for his new album “Gone But Not Forgotten”, which is due to be released in June 2018, as well as his engaging docu-series of the same name, which comes out April 29.