Exclusive Interview with Rilan

I think there’s a place for a darker, almost nuvo-goth, male figure in pop music today.

Dark, Youthful, and Soulful are some of the adjectives to describe Rilan; a talented singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer and all around triple-threat. Since we believe he has the full package, the Kinkster Mag Team instantly included him on our “Artist Spotlight” roster. Rilan has the charm, charisma, and the nerve to appeal to a diverse audience.

Having grown up in New Orleans and then transplanted to Los Angeles, Rilan has been on the fast-track these last 12-18 months. Admitting to being a byproduct of 1970’s glam rock and 1980’s synthpop, in July 2014 he debuted his first single “Chemical” which premiered on PopCrush where it stayed in the Top 10 for 10 weeks, peaking at #1, 2 weeks in a row.

He’s worked with some heavy hitters in the music industry including Dallas Austin, Damien Page Lewis, Justin Warfield, and Ethan Lader. And in 2015 Rilan had a stint on the final season of the hit TV show Glee. He’s even hit the international scene with a Bravo Magazine Feature from his Romanian media tour.

The Kinkster Mag Team is delighted to have had the chance to catch up with this talented, confident artist.

Congratulations on the success of your videos, “Chemical,” “Hotel,” and “RIP.” How would you describe these pieces?

Thank you so much. I’ve always believed a music video to be an invitation inside of an artist’s mind. I think it’s a way for the viewer to connect the dots between the music and the singer without using words. For me, “Chemical” was my introduction to the world. It’s me in my comfort zone of black and white editorial weirdness, if you will. It’s future meets occult. It was really the jumping off point for my aesthetic. “Hotel” was more of a stylized look at my love of the 80s, from its fashion to its music to its lack of inhibition. I think of it as a taste of my dirty mind. “RIP” was actually made for Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, and I’m a huge horror movie buff, so I wanted to take my darkness to quirky place with hints of MJ’s “Thriller” in a hybrid lyric-music video. Each visual is a part of what makes me tick.

The Kinkster Mag team found the videos visually stunning with quite a sophisticated style and sexiness about them, along with the dark elements pervasive throughout. Last year Anthem Magazine called you a “Dark Pop Star.” Your sounds, looks, and image are certainly making an impression. How do you feel about the media response to date and does the response vibe with the direction you’re taking as an artist?

I really appreciate that. I dig the response. I think there’s a place for a darker, almost nuvo-goth, male figure in pop music today. That space doesn’t seem to be occupied. I really want to show people is that there is beauty in the darkness. I’m thrilled when anyone responds to what I do.

Having worked with Ethan Lader, Dallas Austin, Damien Page Lewis, and Justin Warfield is no joke. How were those experiences? What key take-away(s) from those experiences will help you develop as a singer/musician?

Just the fact that I was able to work with some of the people I’ve always admired was an experience in itself. I grew up listening to the Madonna and P!nk songs that Dallas wrote, and She Wants Revenge, Justin’s band, is one of my biggest musical influences to date. Personally creating with each of these guys was pretty surreal. I think more than anything I learned to gauge my ideas and trust my instincts. If my idols were responding to my writing and visuals, I’d figure I was on the right track.

The past 12-18 months have been pretty crazy for you. You were a Warbler in the final season of the hit show Glee, you’ve been in the studio, and you’ve had multiple live performances. Which of these do you prefer and why?

Thank you. Luckily, it’s been busy. Above all, I love performing live. I’m an ex-theatre kid. The stage is where I feel most comfortable. It’s where it all comes together for me, you know? The singing, the dancing, the atmosphere, and the crowd whatever the size. You get to develop a personal connection with everyone in the room, and I believe that’s the true power of music. 

Just for fun, fill in the blank: My music makes me feel _____.

Understood. I write about how I feel. When someone sings a lyric or tells me that they connect to my song, it means that they feel what I feel. It’s the best feeling in the world to know that something you said resonated with someone else. At the end of the day, I think we all just want to be understood.

And, can you share with us, what is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

Fuck. I’m not much of a troublemaker. Really, the most trouble I’ve gotten into involved my high school’s dress code. I didn’t give a shit about it. I broke it everyday. I never wore collared shirts or khaki shorts. The principal didn’t care for my band tees and shredded jeans. I got written up a lot for my “inappropriate appearance.” Other than that, I once got caught making out with my sophomore girlfriend during play rehearsal, but all the director said was, “Just make sure I don’t have a pregnant chorus girl on stage.”

Back to being serious…At this point in your trajectory, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit your future as a singer/musician (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs, etc…)?

My dream is to perform on a large stage where I can create an experience for a crowd: dancing, lights, sets, fog, blood, unicorns, zombies, the works. But before the craziness can happen, I’d love for more people to hear my music. I think there are some freaks like me out there who would listen to it.

In your press bio, you write, “…I walk between present and past towards the future we call home.” What does the future look like to you?

I think the future is an opportunity to make the world what we want it to be. I try to live my life based on a Paul Gauguin quote: “I shut my eyes in order to see.” I think we limit ourselves with the fear of being different. I want the future to be full of imagination. If you see it in your mind, you can make it real. To me, the future is a real-life fantasy world that I’d be happy to live in. 

Rilan: Chemicals – EP

(Image: Edward Aninaru)

John is a thinker and a doer. He's a whiz at working through policies and procedures but loves taking time to explore the urban environment in which he lives and calls home. He also appreciates getting his fancy tickled.