Reggie Williams doesn’t seem to take anything too seriously, but his steady rise in contemporary R&B is nothing to joke about.
Williams, also known by his artist name, R.LUM.R, visited Belmont Monday morning to share his journey through the industry, hoping to inspire students who are looking to do the same.
“I remember being in those seats thinking I’ll never be up here and now I am,” he said. “It’s really good to see that gap between where you are and where you want to be start to close.”
But through air horn sound effects and conversations about posting memes on Twitter, he made it clear that the best way to find success is to do it on your own terms.
“Don’t follow in my footsteps. Be the best you that you can be because you’re the only one who can do it.”
Above all else, he stressed the idea of authenticity in music and brand creation. He talked about his own niche interests, and used them as a way to connect to the audience, illustrating some of his favorite techniques in real time.
“Authenticity is everything that comes from you naturally, being true to the nature of those things and just exposing those parts,” he said. “Then it’s the intersection of what your audience is and what’s true to them and what they respond to. That overlap is where the authenticity lies.”
Williams originally studied classical guitar at Florida State, but gravitated toward the commercial recording studios and eventually switched programs. Following the natural progression of his own sound, he eventually uprooted his stable gigs in Florida to give himself a shot at something greater.
At the time, many of his close friends and collaborators were relocating. Cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago were on his radar, but he felt the sound of R&B in those cities was already too boxed in. When he looked at Nashville, he realized no one was making the music he wanted to create here. Rather than let it scare him away, Williams saw it as an opportunity to carve his own path.
Since making the move, Williams has found the sense of community in music here to be an asset unique to Music City.
“There’s a culture of music here,” he said. “I mean, obviously there’s still stuff to work on, but one thing that Orlando definitely did not have was a culture centered around original music.”
And music, to him, is a service industry. As much as it’s an artistic expression, it’s about genuinely connecting with people. Since as early as high school, Williams’ mentors have told him the importance of authenticity and audience connection.
“Why would these people care? They don’t have to,” he said. “ All of these people have done you a service when you get there, so when you’re on stage you have to reflect that.”
With Nashville as his home base, Williams had more opportunities to tour and meet as many of those caring people as possible. When he performs, he aims to give each of them exactly what they came for. But that outward focus doesn’t mean he’s losing any of his sense of self.
As far as the future, he plans for his music to go as far as his authenticity can carry it.
“As I’ve gotten a little bit older I realized the less seriously you take everything, the more you have fun with it. And the more fun you have with it, the more honest you can be and the more honest, the better.”
Photos by Chloe Eberhardt.