Re-Mus | photo by Sean Davis | courtesy of artist
The Value of Networking: How Philly singer Re-Mus went from The Funkitorium to his debut EP Soul Searchin’
As an artist, it’s important to understand and appreciate the value of networking — particularly performing at local open mics. You never know who’s watching, who wants to become a fan, who wants to collaborate or who genuinely cares. It’s something I’ve recently seen happen in Philly for Nebraska’s own CJ Mills with her single “Focused,” which started to spread after a year of performing at different open mics throughout the city. I see the same thing happening for soul singer Re-Mus.
Since the age of nine, the Philly-born singer has always had a strong passion to get on stage and sing. Growing up in a Sabian household that had spectrum of music being constantly played — musical influences like Earth Wind and Fire, The Softones, The Isley Brothers, The DeBarges, The Jackson, Rick James, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and Donny Hathway — explains why Re-Mus’ voice sounds like it’s been bathed in funk and soul. It’s something that his city has discovered ever since he moved back home five years ago.
Since his return, Re-Mus has made himself known in Philly’s local scene by performing at different open mics like the Global Village, and The Juice Jam (which I co-promote). It inspired Re-Mus to perfect his craft as a singer and as a recording artist. It’s in this network where he was introduced to The Artistry Collective Studio and began working on his debut project Soul Searchin’, and also became a part of a young funk band known as Arthur Thomas and The Funkitorium.
I recently got a chance to sit with him and hear the story of how his unintentional networking lead this amazing performer to become the recording artist that he is today.
The Key: Where are you from?
Re-Mus: I was born in Philly, but my parents moved down to Georgia when I was four. I lived down there until 2015, when I moved back here.
TK: One thing you that I’ve noticed about you is that you clearly love to perform. When did that love begin to grow?
Re-Mus: Probably since I was a kid, my parents raised me around music. My father is a singer and entertainer himself so there was always music around me. The first time I ever had the real strong urge to jump on a stage I was like nine years old and I sang “I Believe I Can Fly” in front of like almost a thousand people. I saw the stage and saw an opportunity and was like “I know this song!” [laughs] It’s been a challenge over the years to become fearless when it comes to performing on stage, but when the nervousness kicks in, I welcome it and be like “Oh, let’s go!”
TK: How is the music scene in Georgia different from Philly’s music scene?
Re-Mus: The thing is I didn’t really start tapping into the music scene until I got older. My music influences came from Boyz II Men, New Edition, Babyface and a bunch of older artists because that’s what my parents were listening to. But when it came to current music in that region, the first people I got introduced to were Ciara, Ludacris, Outkast and things like that. I never really became a part of the music scene out there, I would go to the Auburn Festival and see artists perform but I was never able to get involved.
TK: You also love to sing a lot of music from the 60s and the 70s. What is it about the oldies that make you love the genre so much?
Re-Mus: The feel is different, the passion, and man they got stories! The stories are insane. And that’s not to say that artists today don’t have stories as well, but the feeling is different. When you make music you’re putting your heart and soul into it, so the things they had to go through and overcome to get to the music was a different level of difficulty than we have today. That makes their passion to get their voice to be heard different as well.
TK: You’re also a fan of today’s R&B, specifically TDE’s own SiR. What is it about his music that makes you a fan?
Re-Mus: I grew up listening to a lot of Music Soulchild, D’Angelo, and that whole neo-soul era. The closest thing to me today is SiR, Frank Ocean, and even Ne-yo, even though he was a decade ago. SiR gives me that same feeling that I had when I listened to those artists back then.
TK: You’ve made a name for yourself performing at open mic events like The Juice Jam and GLBL VLLG and venues like Urban Art Gallery and Noto, which has allowed you to network and meet a ton of talented artists from this city. What can you say about the talent from Philly?
Re-Mus: It’s like a baby coming across a diamond and treating it like it’s coal. There’s a lot of untapped potential here in this city and a lot of people seem to not know how to utilize it. It’s hard to count, measure or weigh the talent in this city because there are so many types of people here in this city. It’s the reason why I started progressively pursuing my music career. The different types of styles and personalities that are in Philly are what activated my drive on a whole different level.
TK: Do you remember the first open mic in Philly you performed at?
Re-Mus: It was an event at Dahlak hosted by this singer, I’m mad that I can’t remember her name. I didn’t really know where to start but one day I was walking by and I heard music and looked inside and saw people sitting looking at a live performer. So when I came in I realized it was an open mic and that’s where it all began.
TK: What has been your favorite performance in the city so far?
Re-Mus: I would have to say that it was The Parliament Funkadelic tribute, because that to me was the most epic performance that I was a part of. Listen, wall to wall there were people there putting their lighters up singing to the tracks the music was hitting on time. Man, I would definitely have to give it up to that performance.
TK: Two years ago you released your first single “Yay-U,” which is written in Sabbatic, the language of the Sabian religion. What led to you becoming a follower of the movement and to add it to your music?
Re-Mus: My parents were a part of it back when it was called Ansar. Me, just growing up around the environment, it was there but it was never forced upon me. It was more like as I got older my parents gave me the option to choose what I wanted to get into. They didn’t mind me asking questions because they could point me to books that could give me answers but it was important to them for me to choose what I wanted to believe. I started asking questions when I was fifteen and I learned that it was about ancient African culture, who we are a people not who were taught and reconnecting with our legacy and royalty and the language was a part of that. As I studied the language, I started to notice how tones affect us in a certain way and their importance. That’s why I started to include it in my music.
TK: Being a regular at The Juice Jam led you to The Artistry Collective Studio, a place where you learned how to become a recording artist. Describe how that transition in your music journey was for you?
Re-Mus: I think every all falls in, the transition from living down south to moving here then going from not being a part of a local music scene to being in one, from doing it by myself to finding a team who had the same goals and intentions as me. That’s difficult to find because the city is big and is small at the same time so there’s a lot of crabs in a barrel.
It’s like “Let’s get to this spot together instead of having to sacrifice one another to get to where we’re trying to go.” Mind you I’m skeptical, I’ll give it time before I dive into it. I want to say James [Weldon] invited me to come to the studio a year prior to before I started actually coming. He would be like “Yo just come to the studio,” and I’d be like “Alright but I gotta get my bread together,” and he’d be like “I didn’t ask you that, just come to the studio.” [laughs]
TK: [laughs] Yeah that sounds a lot like James.
Re-Mus: I grew up around that type of environment, so to see it in other people first before the music. Music is sporadic, it’s like a spark that comes from everywhere but who it comes from may not be your cup of tea. So to find a group of individuals who are my cup of tea and that I can relate to and have the same passion, drive, and goals that I do makes me grateful every day. I got chills talking about it now like I don’t know how it happened but it happened. [laughs]
Like I’m grateful for coming to The Juice Jam because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have met Art which means I wouldn’t have been a part of The Funkitorium. I wouldn’t have met you, Dot and everybody else and form these relationships with y’all. I would’ve missed out and been sick! Like you said, the recording aspect was new for me. I’m used to getting on stage and doing live stuff with bands so getting into a booth and recording was a new element for me.
TK: What’s the difference?
Re-Mus: It’s just you, you don’t have the crowd hyping you up giving you that energy. When performing, you’re singing your song and you’re reciprocating the energy the crowd gives to you, so it’s like a recycling effect. When you’re on stage and the drummer hits that kick that hits your heartbeat and that jawn makes your chest go up a little bit! [laughs] There’s a different type of feeling when you’re surrounded by the energy the crowd and band give you when you’re on stage. I don’t know man.
TK: I think I get it, when you’re on stage you feed off the energy of people who are judging your voice. When you’re recording, the difference is there’s no one to judge your voice but you, and that’s not always good because as people we can be our worst critic and that can lead to a lot of overthinking and sometimes doubting ourselves.
Re-Mus: Yes, you’re absolutely correct. Finding where you’re comfortable and learning that you don’t have to do everything unless you want to. Recording music is a skill that I didn’t have and being here taught me that skill and I’m forever grateful for that.
TK: The Artistry Collective Studio is also how you were able to meet Arthur Thomas, Justin, Nate, and Greg and became Arthur Thomas and The Funkitorium. How did you become a part of that young funk group?
Re-Mus: I would run into Art at The Juice Jam when it was at Dahlak and one day he sang this song about having twenty dollars in his pocket [laughs] and was like “Yo, this cat is wild and fearless and he understands it’s all about energy and intentions. He gets it.” So seeing that I was like “Yeah, he’s cool,” and one day he was talking to me about putting a band together and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. I looked at him and asked him why would he ask me that question like I was going to say no. [laughs] I know what he does, I know what I do and together it would be insane. Then he told me Nate and Dot were involved, then Justin and Greg came later. It just made sense to me.
TK: What are the pros and cons when it comes to being a solo artist and being a part of a group?
Re-Mus: Finding the balance. And for me, that’s the most difficult, because I want to give my hundred percent in everything that I do. If I’m with The Funkitorium and we’re rehearsing or performing, I’m giving you a hundred percent of me, there is no I got this going on and that going on during either of the two. It’s not about me, it’s about us, and as long as we’re together it’s always going to be about us. Then when I got to focus on Re-mus there are times where I’m like “But I want to focus on them.” [laughs]
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I still got projects I want to do and there are things that I want to express my way through music so it’s just always about finding that healthy balance between the two. The one pro of balancing the two is that I find inspiration everyday.
TK: Since arriving back home five years ago, it seems that your music has been on a journey searching for something whether it was on stage at a venue or in a booth at a studio. What are somethings you’ve discovered throughout this journey that influenced Soul Searchin’?
Re-Mus:Soul Searchin’ has a dual purpose and meaning, the transitions and the changes from where I was to where I’m at now have also changed my views on relationships and love. That’s what soul searching is, searching for your soulmate through trials and tribulations. One of the songs off the EP is called “Love Like” where you kind of describing the perfect relationship then there’s another one called “Nothing Left to Say” and that goes into “I’ve been here, you took it for granted now we don’t have anything to talk about because what I was ready for you weren’t. Now you doubling back trying to get what you missed out on.”
If I give you my all and you don’t take advantage of that then it’s like okay, cool, that’s not what you want, but don’t come back because that time has passed and I no longer feel the same so it’s not going to be organic anymore. It’ll be synthetic because I might see you come back and hit you with the Birdman hand rubs and my intentions start to become impure. [laughs] If it’s not authentic or genuine that I’d rather her to just keep it moving, we can be cool but she gotta go.
TK: On Soul Searchin’ you worked with both The Artistry Collective Studio’s in house producer N-Dot 215 and King Isreal. Are there any songs off your debut EP that you produced yourself?
Re-Mus: Absolutely, so I worked with Mike and Dot who taught me everything I know about producing. I started last year around March and at that time I started working on “Love Like” and “Nothing Else To Say.” It’s so much to learn when it comes to producing but I’m enjoying every moment of it!
TK: What do you have in store for the future?
Re-Mus: First off, Soul Searchin’ will be released as a remixed and remastered version, something I learned when it comes to the recording is that you have to make music on your time. If you rush your process you get a rushed product. Bigger stages and bigger performances and be prepared for more new music.