K. Roosevelt

Interviewed by Sean Lyles  /  Photography by Sean Lyles

Kevin Roosevelt is somewhat of an enigma. A rare and extreme talent of humble character, but private. As a friend, neighbor and collaborator, I’m pleased to conduct Kevin’s first interview in many years. Alongside his girlfriend and two dogs, Phoenix and Lucy, we chat in his famous “tree house”, tucked away in the greenery of the Hollywood Hills, where his home studio resides. Coming off his third project, Neon Haze, he plays me some new music not yet heard before, off his currently untitled project.

 

Neither Kevin nor myself can recall where we first met, but I can count the years on one hand since we first met each other. I first moved to Los Angeles in ‘11, ‘12. I lived off Pico and Fairfax and Kevin lived two blocks north. In my free time, I would walk to his house and sit in on his studio sessions, watching him play keys, strum guitar, lay loops on drums and warp sounds until he found what felt (and sounded) right. I was simply in awe watching him; it was during one of these sessions that he would create the foundation for his biggest single, “Do Me Now”, followed by laying down the production for Jay 305’s first hit, “Youzza Flip.” Fast forward multiple years, Kevin is excited to gearing to wrap his fourth project to release before 2018.

Sean Lyles

Thank you for taking the time out to do this… Firstly, for anyone who may not know: let us know who you are, where you’re from and what you do exactly?

K. Roosevelt

Thanks, brother! My name is Kevin R. Moore II, but I also go by K Roosevelt. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. I am living and working as a singer/songwriter, producer and performing artist.

SL

Out of the four titles, which do you hold closest to your heart?

KR

Man! That’s always a hard one for me to answer. I started off as a drummer so that’s where my core will always be (at least internally). I guess I can say that the singer, songwriter, producer part came more naturally.

When I started making music, it was mainly through those mediums, so I wasn’t really thinking about being a performing artist until people I knew heard the songs I was making. People would hear them and always trip out on the different vibe the music had at the time and encouraged me to pursue being an artist.

At the time, a few opportunities came into my life to make that a reality, so I thought I’d give it a go and try it out. I’ve since grown to really enjoy the creative side of being a performing artist as well. But it took time.

SL

That natural progression makes sense with drums being such a crucial backbone to your music. What was your childhood like musically? You come from a musical family, with your father being an accomplished artist playing the blues and writing Americana songs since you were born. Was percussion something you always wanted to pursue, even among other instruments?

KR

Definitely, I spend pretty much all of my childhood planning to be a professional drummer before I got into production and writing. My childhood was amazing musically, my parents were completely supportive of my interests.

Plus, seeing my dad as a working musician and watching his career grow as I got older turned out to be an incredible learning experience. This exposure to craft completely informs the way I create music and conduct business today. I was able to go on tours with him, encounter a lot of iconic musicians in person and see the world at a pretty young age. Travel opened up my mind and moved artistic success from being something abstract to something very tangible.

 

SL

Let’s fast forward to around the time we met: when we were neighbors of Pico Boulevard in West Hollywood.

Around that period, you were doing a lot of production, before Rose Gold and Journey. You were producing for early Los Angeles hopefuls. I remember the Los Angeles listening community lighting up with “Body on Me” by Hope Wright and Jhené Aiko. You also produced “Gotta Go” for Hope Wright and provided the track’s core hook. Jhené’s debut mixtape, “Sailing Souls”, was graced heavily with your production ear, and then later, BJ The Chicago Kid’s voice floated between your drums in his single, “King Kong.” I was even there when Jay 305 made his breakout record, “Youzza Flip”, which you had a major role in making. And recently, Guordan Banks’ “Keep You in Mind”, a song from 2014, unexpectedly smashed into the No. 1 spot on the Adult R&B charts after appearing on an episode of HBO’s Insecure.

With such tonal versatility and variety, how do you approach producing a record,

either for yourself or for others? How do you give a range of unique voices their own individual space to work in?

KR

When I’m working with people I try to tap into their specific vibe and energy. I’ve never been one to try and impose my creativity on anyone I’m working with. I feel like that’s the cool part – one of my favorite parts, really – in the difference between working with other people and working on my own music. I get to exercise different parts of my creativity. When I collaborate, I get to meld my creative mindset with other people. When working on my own stuff, I have the freedom to do and try whatever I want. So the change of pace between experimentation and restriction keeps me grounded.

SL

It’s quite common for many artists to say that it’s hard to listen to or even perform

their old work. Can you relate? What do your earliest works sound like to you?

KR

Well, with Rose Gold and everything I’ve made since, I stopped listening to my projects once they come out. A lot of the time when I’m making a project that’s the bulk of the music I’m listening to, so they don’t get many plays from me after I put them out, since I’ve heard them so many times already.

But with that said, the times I do find myself going back and listening to past projects sometimes. I definitely enjoy them still quite a bit. But I sort of make music with that in mind or, trying to make something with longevity, that I will appreciate for many years to come. Doesn’t always happen, but I try my best! [laughs]

SL

Then: Journey. Did you create Journey in the Tree House?

KR

Yup! That was the first project I made at the Tree House.

SL

This seems like a special place. From what you’ve told me, I’ve heard the best music comes out of the Tree House. You’ve also started a family with your lady and two dogs at the Tree House. What is it about the Tree House? I feel like there’s something special about the atmosphere and aesthetic here.

KR

Man, the Tree House is an amazing spot for sure. It was perfect from the jump. Before I moved in, I came to look at the spot and the vibe of the place was amazing. The person living here before me had a recording studio set up as well, so all signs pointed to this being the best spot. My landlady is great: she’s a very sweet older widow whose late husband was a painter by profession, so she loves hosting creatives/artists in the space. It’s really ideal for me and I’m grateful to have found this spot to live and create. This place has a rich history of musical guests too. The singer K.D. Lang lived here for ten years, and I believe some members from ABBA also stayed here back in the day.

I think there’s a few things that make this place special. There’s large windows around the entire place. It’s surrounded by trees so the scenery is always serene and beautiful. There’s a constant connection to nature while you create. It’s quite calming. Honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m living in the rainforest. Plus, the layout on the inside works perfectly. Cannot reiterate enough how great this spot is.

SL

Wow! I didn’t know the Tree House had that energy and history before you moved in. Unbelievable.

You put out Neon Haze, your third official project, around this time last year… why did you title the album Neon Haze?

KR

That title came from my homie Shin, actually. I was playing him the instrumental of a song off the project called “Silence” before I’d written it. When he heard it, he told me how dope it was, saying it sounded like a “neon haze.” I realized he was right – the whole album has that vibe. So it stuck.

SL

“Silence” is a personal favorite of mine. Lyrically, a lot of Neon Haze is conversational. Do you pull from personal experiences when writing, or can you see the movie in your head when making the beat? In other words… Are you a biographer or a photographer when writing these songs?

KR

I try to pull from experiences – whether they be my own firsthand experiences, or something I experienced peripherally, or something I witnessed, or a story that happened to someone I already know well. I have to have some type of personal connection to it.

SL

You’ve been working on new music at Tree House. It’s been a year since the last solo project. What can you tell us about it?

KR

The next album is coming soon, I’m pretty excited about it. It’s definitely my favorite project I’ve made up to date. Like usual, it is mostly self-produced, all of the songs except for one. In terms of features, we’ll all just have to wait and see when the album comes out. [winks]

SL

[laughs]

See, I thought we were homies! Soon feels like the worst word artists can use sometimes, it only feels like it makes the wait more infinite, ha-ha. I can say though that you played me a couple joints, and they are also my favourite tracks I’ve heard from you as well. We’re excited for you! Can we expect it before the year ends?

KR

Soon is about the vaguest word I could’ve used. But yeah, it will definitely be out this year.

SL

Before we wrap: is there anyone you’re craving to work with in the future?

KR

I’m always down to work with anyone that’s tight, and where I’m from there’s plenty to choose form, so that’s hard to answer. I guess I’d probably want to work with a producer in the traditional sense, since I haven’t worked with other producers as much on my own music. Like a Daniel Lanois or T Bone Burnett type.

SL

Yes, very wavy! Shout out to the originals and forefathers of the strings. We’re letting that energy fly. Thank you for your time, man. We’re looking forward to your future!

KR

Thank you, man!

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