Native New Yorker, River Nelson has carved out a respectable following for himself in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the globe, with widespread press acclaim and radio support from the likes of BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne and Giles Peterson. In 2010 River worked with legendary UK producer Lewis Parker and the two created the critically praised The Rise & Fall of River Nelson, described by The Independent as “full of thoughtful sentiments and a positive attitude set to infectious symphonic-soul beats”. This was followed in 2013 with The Shape of The Sky, and his third album How to Dream in 2016, followed by the EP Navigation in 2017.
River Nelson’s latest album Power, Resilience, & Joy has hip hop at its very core. Emphatically speaking from his personal experience which have helped define him, Nelson’s words offer a sense of comfort in how to revive and find joy through bad times.
River offered some time to ask a few questions on his influences, writing process and collaborations:
How did you get into the music you currently make today? Did you play an instrument growing, or from writing poems?
It really came from being a fan first and that led me to become an artist. It turned out that I was so inspired by the artists of my youth, I wanted to create my own songs. I started writing poetry a little after that. But being a fan and studying hip-hop albums is what initially fueled me to write.
Do you have any other creative outlets, like painting or design?
I do have other outlets outside of songwriting, but they still relate to writing. I write poems, stories, and articles on hip-hop history. I’d like to write a novel one day as well.
Who were your influences growing up, and how have they impacted your music?
There’s way too many to name them all, but growing up I was most inspired by A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim, Outkast, Nas, Bob Marley, Sade and The Doors.
I noticed you’ve toured with artists like Common, Talib Kweli and Kelis, what was it like to tour with them, and how did being with those inspire the music you create?
It was cool but also bitter sweet because some of those shows didn’t work out exactly as planned. But the fact that I got the opportunity was life changing, and it told me to keep working and keep pushing. Because one day you’re writing songs in your living room, and the next someone asks if you want to open up for Common.
What advice would you give to younger artists trying to make it in the music industry?
You can’t be everything to everyone, so find out what you’re musical niche is and work on developing a level of mastery over it. Also, don’t wait around for anyone to launch your dreams or care about your art as much as you do. Put the work in yourself, create your own noise and then it’ll be easier for you to navigate through the music industry. Because then you’ll have leverage.
Which artists in the current crop would you love to collaborate most with?
I would say the main ones off the top of my head are the rapper YBN Cordae, Joey Bada$$, J. Cole, as well as his artists EarthGang and J.I.D. Plus, the singer H.E.R.
Do you listen to any artists in the UK, if so, who and what do you think of them?
Oh yeah, of course, Lewis Parker, Giggs, Skepta, Jhest, and the singer Davina Oriakhi are just some that come to mind. Not to mention, Sade and the rock bands from the UK that I’m into like Radiohead and Coldplay. I think all of those artists are super talented and they constantly inspire me.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I’m going to keep promoting the new album “Power, Resilience & Joy,” play shows and work on the next LP.
Check out the video to his single ‘Today’ taken from his recent album Power, Resilience, & Joy: