Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Illustration courtesy Ruben Young

Calgary-based artist Ruben Young on new single ‘TNT’ and making it in the industry

By Rachneet Randhawa, June 28 2021—

Calgary-based R&B Pop artist Ruben Young, recently released his new single “TNT” featuring Los Angeles Hip-Hop star, Buddy, on June 11.

Young’s vocal style has been compared to Marvin Gaye, John Legend and Anderson Paak and has made it on the iTunes R&B, Pop and electronic charts throughout the last couple of years. Young emerged as an artist in 2017 with his most known single “Rachel Green,” and later released his debut EP Dreamscape which has been featured on Beats 1 Radio, BBC Radio One Extra, CBC, FM and satellite radio across Canada.

The new single showcases Young’s distinctive sounds alongside Buddy’s infectious soul-pop tune about living life to the fullest with the one who makes you feel like your heart could explode. The track also features live brass performed by Canadian funk band, Busty and The Bass. The Gauntlet sat down for an interview to learn more about this up-and-coming artist. 

Young’s single, “TNT,” is the most exciting release of Young’s career so far as it features a collaboration with one of his favourite artists on earth — Buddy. Young said that one of his biggest inspirations behind this track is his love for the ‘70s soul genre.

“I mean, ‘TNT’ is really like a summer vibe, summer love type of song,” said Young. “But more than anything, the inspiration behind it is just my love for classic ‘70s soul music. I grew up in a house that played Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Raphael Saadiq — he’s not from the 70s but just this whole era of soul.”

Young was raised around music by his mother, who always played incredible artists such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder and The Spinners around the house. This sparked an interest in Young that made him want to create his own 70’s soul-funk music. 

“As a biracial kid growing up in southwest Calgary with a very colourful home, it was generally hard to fit in across the board, you’re always kind of in-between worlds,” said Young. “And one place in my life that I always found home was soul music. And it’s just like I said, it’s a part of my identity.” 

“TNT” was originally titled “Liquid Peppermint,” and a demo of it was accidentally pitched to be used in a toothpaste commercial. Young said that at times when rewriting, he struggled with writer’s block.

“It was hard to kind of get over the hump of turning [“TNT”] into what it is now,” said Young. “And actually, what made it even harder was we got offered, like 10-grand to use the song in a commercial — we ended up saying no, just because we believed in the song and knew that it could be something more.” 

Some key takeaways Young hopes fans gain from this hot new single, is being inspired to listen to more authentic R&B. 

“I hope that people feel lifted in their day and in their lives in the same way that listening to Earth, Wind and Fire and James Brown and all of those guys made me feel and have always made me feel,” said Young. “That’s really the essence of that era of soul music, and I just want ‘TNT’ to feel the same.”

Young also mentioned that he hopes his followers truly understand his niche sound. 

“I hope they feel my energy, and like my spirit in it through the music,” he said. “It took me a long time as an artist to kind of get to this point where I’m making this sound of music that actually made me fall in love with music in the first place.” 

Initially, when launching his career as a musician, Young said he began playing in bands on the side, never considering a career in music, until he started writing his own songs.

“I think when I started, I kind of made this transition from a dude that loved making music and played shows for fun to a songwriter and into an artist gradually over time,” said Young. “And I think that I just fell in love with the process of being an artist, of taking risks, of getting on planes, going places to meet people because being from Calgary —which is a smaller market especially for R&B — you have to get out in the world and expose yourself to the people that you look up to, and to the environment that you look up to. And so when I got out and did it, it was addictive. And I fell in love with it. And I guess I just haven’t stopped.”

Photo of Ruben Young // courtesy Joyce Charat.

Let’s face it — Calgary isn’t exactly known for its vibing arts and culture scene unlike other cities such as Vancouver and Toronto. But Young chooses to challenge the status quo. Recently he was featured as Apple Music artists of the week as one of the very few R&B artists representing Calgary in the genre.

As a University of Calgary alumni graduating from the Haskayne School of Business a handful of years ago, he’s proud to represent his hometown as a musician. 

“I think Calgary is amazing for local artists — there’s music venues, there’s festivals, there’s community,” said Young. He mentioned the 10 at 10 festival for Black art, music and culture in the city where Young was able to hone his craft as a performer.

“Coming up in Calgary, 10 at 10 was that scene for me, they created shows that I could perform to a sold-out crowd, they wrote about me, they were a great place for me to go and learn as an artist,” said Young. He’s even opened for headliner artists like The Chainsmokers, Akon, Nelly and Kiesza. 

He admits though that coming to his decision to commit to being a musician did not happen overnight  — because of social pressure, expectations, fear and anxiety it took him time to muster up the courage and just go for it. At the end of the day, to do something you love, you have to learn how to fail forward and learn how to trust yourself. 

“You’re not going to get anywhere until you start and you fail, and you learn and you get better,” said Young. “So I would just say, less fear, more love. If you’re hungry, don’t be afraid to go and eat.”

At the end of the day there are multiple avenues to earn your stripes as a musician but the one piece of advice that Young mentions is to develop “valuable and genuine relationships,” as this is the strongest currency in the music industry.

When asked if there are unique qualities or abilities to become a budding musician who is starting, Young notes that hard work is a major factor. 

“I think the only mentality you can have is outworking everybody, that’s mine anyways,” he said. “You’re not always going to have an agent and a manager and a team to do things for you. And you’re not always going to have awards and streams and money coming your way.”

For those of you who are artists and hope to reach for the stars, some imparting advice Young gave to youth and students is to get more involved in the creative arts. 

“We’re in the era of pursuing happiness, more than ever in history,” he said. “And, you know, really we all have to be grateful that we’re there. And if we’re lucky enough to go and chase that, then why not?” 

On the last note, Young enthusiastically expressed that his new single is for the dreamer in all of us.

“It’s a song for the dreamers — all of the kids in Calgary who dream about going out in the world making music with their favourite artists with some of the biggest artists, and it feels unreachable.”

Check out “TNT,” Ruben Young’s first single of 2021, on iTunes and Spotify. As a local artist who is setting the precedent representing marginalized and underrepresented voices and as a Canadian musician for the genre of R&B, we guarantee his nouveau approach has something for everyone.


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