When I was a young, hungry writer just starting out, I prayed for any opportunity to show the world my writing skills. I wrote to thousands of magazine editors practically begging them to take me on as a writer. In a last ditch attempt to get published, I contacted an editor of a magazine that I hadn’t even read, and asked if he was looking for contributing writers. Luckily for me he was. He then asked if I’d be interested in interviewing R&B group In Essence for an upcoming issue. It took only a few seconds for me to scream out “Yes,” and accept the assignment.
I was thrilled about this opportunity, but I was beyond nervous. On the one hand I was thrilled to meet the group and have my very first writing assignment for a “real” magazine, but on the flip side I was nervous because I was terrified of not delivering a good article. I quickly talked myself out of those negative thoughts and focused on writing something I would be proud of.
Thankfully, it all worked out in the end. It was incredibly fun meeting the men of In Essence, the editor loved my article, and to top it all off, I had my very first article published. #feltlikeaboss!
Wow, that was a lifetime ago! I may not have known it at the time, but interviewing In Essence and writing that article would subsequently become the basis of my current blog. (psst…this entire blog is devoted to my interviews!) Who knew, right?
So I thought for my very next interview that it would cool if I reconnected with someone that I interviewed earlier in my career and their career to see what has changed since we initially met.
I decided to speak with Dru (one of the members of In Essence), as he has continued his career in music as a solo artist.
Our chat didn’t happen face to face (we conducted a phone interview), but we had a fun time reminiscing about meeting all those years ago. We spoke about his solo career and had a pretty deep conversation about the current state of the Canadian urban music scene.
Wanna find out more about Dru and what he said? Keep reading.
Hometown: Mississauga, ON
Real Name: Andrew Grange
Astrological Sign: Aries
Years performing solo: Started in 2007
If you could duet with someone, who would that be?: Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill
Fun Fact: Wrote one of his most popular songs Stay With Me in just 10 mins!
What was your experience like performing with In Essence?
I loved it! I grew up a shy kid, so being in a group helped me break out of my shyness. I was the lead singer, but felt I had the support of 4 other guys, so I didn’t feel like I was up there by myself – I could kinda flourish and not feel so insecure. It helped me prepare for this solo movement.
Why did you decide to pursue a solo career?
Well…In Essence got dropped by BMG…they actually dropped the whole urban roster. We were caught up in that. We had just won the Juno and we had just finished the second album. It was all ready to go and then they dropped us.
During this whole process we had a tour in Europe, so we thought we can make it work.
My daughter was a lot younger at the time and I was thinking that I needed to make a move for my daughter’s sake. After we got dropped, we toured Europe and I let the group know that I was going to start a solo project.
It didn’t go over too well…..but some of the members were very supportive.
How would you describe your solo music?
I’m traditional R&B at the core of me – traditional like artists like Donell Jones, Jodeci—that’s the kind of music that really influenced me personally. I kinda spin off of that.
My first album was very straight up and down R&B, but the second album had songs like “Getting it in” and “She Could Ride.” I kinda experimented with pop and EDM. Merging R&B and pop, but staying R&B at my core. I branched out and tried things.
How did you find branching out with EDM?
It’s puts an R&B artist in a weird situation in Canada because we want to get on the radio, but we can’t get on the radio doing traditional R&B or even doing more urban or edgier music coming from a Black artist in Canada.
Messing with EDM opens up my audience a little more – more of the pop audience. In a way it helped.
Do you feel that there is industry support for urban artists?
There’s nothing there. There is no structure at all….I feel like there is no real belief that an urban artist can come out here [from Canada] and not be co-signed by someone from the States.
I’ve spoken with a few urban artists and they say the same thing. Has there been any change in the past 20 years?
There haven’t been any major changes. All our biggest urban artists had to go to the States. We always need someone outside of our own country to say, “Yes, he is good.”
The changes I have seen, when I am outside of Toronto is that people know Toronto now, it’s like the new hot spot, it’s the spot where new artists come from. It is encouraging.
Is there something that you would like to achieve in your career?
I’m still growing, still on my way up. I want to be known as an international artist.
The convo I had with Dru on the Canadian urban music scene was literally one of the most enlightening conversations about the music biz I’ve ever had. It really got me thinking about the artists that I enjoy, but haven’t seemed to receive the love and support that they deserve. Hopefully, we will see things change for urban artists in Canada. Thanks for the knowledge, Dru!
For more information on Dru, please visit the links below:
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