Just three short years into his R&B career, GIVEŌN is already going through a rebirth.
The soul crooner gained popularity for his unique vocals singing tales of love, loss, and longing, and gained multiple Grammy nominations for his freshman effort When It’s All Said And Done…Take Time. But he’s giving fans a look at him from a new angle, complete with an elevated sound, on his latest album, Give or Take.
“I think the first notable difference is [that] my voice has grown so much,” GIVEŌN told ESSENCE exclusively. “I’ve learned how to use it more. I’ve learned when to invoke certain emotions and when to just show the proper emotion. And I think that changed the whole dynamic of the project because this story feels more authentic and more vulnerable. Some of the words cut deeper.”
Fresh out of a public relationship (with a lot of social media buzz attached), GIVEŌN has channeled his lived experience and newly acquired perspectives into 15 featureless tracks, exploring life as a single man in conversation with the first woman he ever loved – his mother.
“The concept of this whole album is really just me having a conversation with my mom,” he said. “That’s why I have no features because I just wanted to feel like you’re immersed in this conversation.”
The conversation finds the singer moving from love lost to new romantic possibilities, but residual hurt to grapple with, to which his mother wisely advises, “love will give you what you need, but also take what you don’t appreciate.”
“This is the first project I have where I kind of start the project off, and I’m single,” he added. “The last everything everyone’s heard from me, I was in something. So this is really just me post heartbreak, just my thought process going through it.”
While the 27-year-old soul crooner has spent his mid-20’s learning the big lessons of navigating love and relationships, he’s also been in the unique position of navigating newfound fame. Before GIVEŌN became the beloved voice accompanying Drake on his “Chicago Freestyle” and soundtracking cool-giril social clips and date nights, he was a server at Bubba Gump Shirmp in Long Beach, CA with big dreams and golden vocals. Needless to say, fame has been an adjustment. But thankfully, it hasn’t been as difficult as he envisioned.
“I think it was tricky at first because I would try to just stay out the way and hide, because I made assumptions about how it would look or how it would feel,” he told ESSENCE. “I would think that I would go outside and it’d just be uncomfortable interactions. But once I actually stepped outside and just lived my normal life, everyone is extremely respectful. And it makes life just so much easier knowing that I could just still just live my actual life.”
But when real life gets messy for stars, everyone becomes privy to the fallout. With his name and reputation swirling on social media “tea” pages in December of last year, the singer was confronted with personal matters becoming public conversation starters. But it comes with the territory. He took it in stride.
“I think it’s not even really different,” he says of having his name in online drama. “If you’re in high school, it’s the same thing that’s happening. If you’re even middle school level or college level, it’s all the same thing. I think it’s just, yes, there’s more eyeballs, but it’s really just the same thing. And me personally, I just ignore it. I just ignore all of it.”
As always, GIVEŌN’s focus remains on his craft. With a new album also comes a new tour. Kicking off July 8 in London and traveling across the U.S. and Canada for the rest of the summer, the singer plans to bring a new show to his fans to compliment his new vocal style.
“I think my movement in the way I try to float across the stage is constantly evolving, just because I watch so much footage of Teddy Pendergrass or Frank Sinatra or Luther Vandross,” he said of his performance inspiration. “They’re just there and they take up the space without too much going on in the background. That’s one thing I try to really emulate.”
He specifies that his new album, now a week old, is also best enjoyed without too much going on in the background. As an artist who focuses more on the body of work as a whole rather than a la carte singles, GIVEŌN urges listeners to tackle it straight through, at least once.
“I’m aware that sometimes people just kind of click through, but I’m personally a project artist. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t release any singles at all. I just would drop it all at once,” he revealed to ESSENCE. “The sequence is extremely important. It opens up with my mom’s voice and it ends with my mom’s voice.”
Telling stories this personal and specific and featuring only his mother, he says you’ll get the full experience and message if you truly let Give or Take play in its totality.
“If you can, please just listen all the way through, no shuffles, no none of that, just try to have a seat. Even if you can’t find this time until a week from now, I would rather you listen to it full focus straight through in a week than you listen to it just quickly Friday night.”