Jacques Greene x Gorilla vs. Bear takeover: EBHONI interview
Ebhoni is a young singer/songwriter from Toronto I came across a few months ago, when she self-released a collection of tracks to SoundCloud called Mood Ring. As I brought up to her during our chat, though there’s a lot of really good music coming out of Toronto right now, the shadow OVO and XO casts is rather large. The stuff is good but Ebhoni is offering a breath of fresh air from the woozy sound the city we both live in is known for right now. It was great to finally get in touch with her and touch base. Here’s a transcript of our Skype conversation the other day. -- Jacques Greene
JG: Hey! How it’s going?
E: I’m good, how are you?
JG: Good, I’m so sorry, I’m giving you run around the last couple days.
E: I almost can’t believe I’m talking with you. Like I’m actually a fan. This is so crazy!
JG: No way! Are you serious?
E: Yeeesss! I love your songs. Ok… so I found your Soundcloud, you released “You Can’t Deny”.
E: I remember I contacted my management, OMG I have to work with you. Your beats are so amazing!
JG: Let’s work together?
E: Yes! We have to.
JG: Awesome! Well, this is funny. So, you know this website called “Gorilla vs. Bear”?
E: Actually, just heard about it.
JG: Yeah!? They are like a big blog - website thing. I’m playing some showcase this weekend and they are like, “Do you want to curate some blog posts on our website?” *laughs*. And I was like, “Oh shit, I’m totally in. I want to interview some Canadian artists that I’m into”. So, there is this band “Blue Hawaii” from Montreal. They are releasing an album this Fall and I was like “I wanna talk with them about this album!” Then I heard your EP “Mood Ring” earlier this year...
JG: ... and I love it. So, I was like: “I wanna talk to her!”. But also without getting in touch, I thought we would have to work together.
E: Yes, we have to! And I have a show in Montreal you have to come!
JG: When is it?
E: September 16th. It’s “POP Montreal”.
JG: Cool! I know the people who put that on. I actually live in Toronto now.
E: Wow, that is so crazy...
JG: Where do you live?
E: I live near Queen and Dufferin.
JG: Oh, shit. I’m like sitting in my apartment right now, I’m on Dundas right off Sauroren, So I’m in the neighborhood, we should work! I’m playing shows this weekend and then I’m back for like 5 weeks or so, and if you’re around...
E: We have to meet up.
JG: So I’m putting a blogger hat on and writing these posts and making some youtubes, but I wanted to nerd out a little bit because I love the “Mood Ring” record because it’s really so refreshing from the rest of Toronto R’n’B. It doesn’t feel like 4 am on Xanax R’n’B.
JG: I love that shit, but it’s so nice to have a break. Are you into like Keri Hilson?
JG: I’m hearing like Keri Hilson or that Polow Da Don era, or like The Dream writing for Ciara era of R’n’B in this record, which is some of my favorite pop music ever made. I love your record, what have you been up to? How long have you been making music? What’s up?
E: I actually started making music when I was like... Okay I always sang, like my mom would try to get me to play sports, cause everyone in my family plays sports and I would be on the soccer field singing and like not paying attention. One day my mom heard me singing around the house, I was singing a Shapool song and my mom was like can you sing that again. I don’t know if you’re familiar but C&E had a contest. At the time I was like 9 and she was like I’m going to film you and put you on youtube that’s how you have to submit.
JG: You were 9?
E: 9! So she filmed me and it was so weird cause this was my first time ever being on camera singing and my mom uploaded it on youtube and the video went viral.
JG: Wait how old are you?
JG: Holy shit! Right, I was like how old is she if youtube was around when she was 9.
E: Yeah, so the video went viral and then a bunch of people were like can you do a cover to this song, and I was like, “okay”. So then I actually like continued to make covers on youtube. So then a year before I released “How Does It Feel” I went missing on youtube. I didn’t upload anything, stopped posting, just did my own thing. I was still making music. I was still writing and recording. Then I released “How Does It Feel” on Soundcloud, which was my first time ever using Soundcloud and I didn’t know how it worked and that’s actually how I started.
JG: Amazing, how big were the music videos, were you getting hits on them?
E: Yes, like over 300k, it was crazy.
JG: Holy shit, cause I’ve seen like a bunch of your Soundcloud uploads have gotten like almost 300k hits. So you’re like well versed in popping off on the internet.
E: So I went missing on Youtube, and then I’m like I can’t post.
JG: *laughs* I love that term “going missing on youtube”.
E: Subscribers were like, “I’m over this bullshits it’s been like 3 years” and my traction just went down and I was like everyone’s is all about Soundcloud, so I uploaded on Soundcloud. Then I was like, “Mom how many views do you think I’ll get?” and I’m talking views not even play’s cause I was still thinking like Youtube and she was like, “I’m not sure Ab, if it gets 400 i’ll be happy” and instead it got thousands in under 24 hours.
JG: That’s awesome and do you think it was a carry over of the people who were following you from the Youtube days.
E: No, because I when I went missing on Youtube, I actually got big on social media via taking photos. I’d go on Twitter, I’d take photos, I’d post them, and I’d talk to other people on Twitter who were big, and I’d retweet their photos and they’d retweet mine. So when I dropped that song they supported me.
E: So that’s kind of how it all got started.
JG: I forget, is “Mood Ring” like the first project you’ve done?
E: That’s my first project.
JG: That’s sick, so you write all the stuff?
JG: So who produces it, is it you also?
E: No, I’ve been working with the same producer since I first started singing.
JG: Amazing! Is he also from Toronto?
E: Yes, he is. His names Sammy, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him but his names “OP”, but like he just changed to SLS. He was signed to Ludacris, he was like in a boy group
JG: SLS is one of my favorite Partynextdoor songs.
E: It’s amazing.
JG: Are the two names referencing the same thing?
E: I have no clue, I don’t know what it stands for, but I was like, “Okay SLS it is”.
JG: So you’re playing shows regularly, or is “Pop Montreal” the start of that.
E: I actually recently, just started doing shows like 4 months ago and actually my 3rd show was at North by North East and it was actually like so crazy. In my head there was no one in the crowd, I had such a bad time because I’m such a new artist and thought everyone was like, “I don’t want to see this girl perform, like who is she”. Apparently, there was a lot of industry people in the audience and everyone was in love with my performance and everyone was writing about it on blogs and I was like, “No way, are you serious”.
E: After that I got asked by Pop Montreal and a bunch of opportunities came after that.
JG: That’s kind of sick, those events are at there best as industry showcases. It’s like dude if people are writing about your performance that's the best, that’s exactly what you want.
E: You never know who in the crowd is watching.
JG: It’s kind of better not to know who’s in the crowd. I have had moments in my life like that. When I was your age I used to throw parties with Lunice and a few other friends and we did kind of like live remixes of rap music and it was all kind of goofy but fun. It was a good party and at some point it was getting really big traction and Sasha Frere Jones who at the time was a big writer for the New Yorker came to the city to write about a party. Then all of a sudden, you’re like 18 years old and this big writer comes to your party and then everything gets tense. *laughs* and it throws off your whole fucking game.
E: That’s crazy. So like one show I had industry people were there and my mom told me before I went on stage and it’s so funny because that was the worst show I’ve ever done.
JG: You don’t want to know those things. Not to be like, “your numbers!”. But in 2017 I think we kind of have to be aware of traction, like how are posts are doing online. It seems like the shit you’re posting is doing super well. Are you looking to sign record deals, I’m sure you’re starting to have that kind of conversation with people and shit?
E: I’m like in the talks with a few people. I’m just more so worried. *laughs nervously* Because you don’t know what’s going to happen, I’m afraid to lose my freedom and my thing is having a team behind me and right now it’s just me and my mom.
JG: That’s so great.
E: My fear is to sign and have a team, but have a team that doesn’t care about it as much as I do.
JG: Yeah yeah yeah.
E: So as far as signing and stuff I’m in talking with a few people but I’m not too sure.
JG: Yeah. I think now more than ever. I know there is a big crazy like Chance the Rapper or even like in my world a lot of people want to stay independent. It’s true like our music for the most part is much cheaper to make than a band. Like giving a band money up front for the recording sessions and hiring the producer and mixer engineer. You kinda need a label for that build. But like for you it isn’t necessary. It is more like your choice where you want to go with it. There is a lot of freedom at that stage of it and it is pretty exciting thing. That’s cool! But if you and mom have started developing relationships with different producers, you can do it yourself!
E: Yeah, you’re right.
JG: It is amazing how much can be done. I mean, you are doing so much on your own now. Not to belittle the labels, but what more they bring?
E: It is all like you never know what could happen. One small thing can be very not ruining your career, but sent you back, you know?
JG: Yeah, that goes both ways. One little thing can also go crazy, right? Who know... But I always hate hearing about these disasters, these moments when someone is doing really well and then they sign someone and suddenly disappear, you know? Going into that weird Neverland. Do you remember Tink? That younger girl from Chicago?
E: OMG! This is so funny! Because I was listening her old music and thinking what’s going on with her?
JG: Dude, I loved Tink when she came out on “Winter’s Diary” Mixtape and then she signed with Timberland, which was kinda exciting. Was he actually going to bounce back and have a new like Aaliyah project? Instead, she hasn’t released a song in 3 or 4 years.
E: That’s so crazy!
JG: Where did she go? It’s weird, it’s like upside down from the “Stranger Things” or “Get Out”. *laughs* It’s like going to this giant world you can’t escape! Label managers and producers being: “Stay in the studio! We’ll never release your shit!” *laughs*
E: It’s so creepy! She was getting so big! She was big!
JG: She was popping! Going bigger and bigger, and then the biggest news item happen when it was: “Oh, shit! Timbaland taking her under his wing!”. And then just a silence.
E: I remember she did a cover of Aaliyah.
JG: Yeah, yeah.
E: I think after she was missing or something happened to her. I was like why?
JG: Dude, she went just like you on Youtube and went missing.
E: Yeah, she was like gone.
E: Disappeared on the social media.
JG: But yeah, so don’t get into the deal like that! Don’t! *laughs* Don’t work with anyone that will keep you on the bench forever. Although, your pen is great - do you do any songwriting?
E: That’s I was thinking. I was also thinking about songwriting later in my career. Once I build myself as an artist, you know.
JG: I like that, yeah. I always love hearing about the people who are huge kinda artists and then the stuff their are doing. PartyNextDoor is a crazy example of that. His solo career is doing pretty well, but when it’s like oh you made ‘Work’ and ’Wild Thoughts’ and all this other stuff currently. That’s crazy! But then, if you start writing really good songs, you face the same problems as PartyNextDoor. The rumors are that he can’t keep the best songs for himself. Like Drake or Rihanna will keep them for ever.
E: It’s like you write an amazing song and I want to keep it for myself.
JG: Yeah, but you only end up with your B sides... But for now, you are working on the follow up of the that project?
E: Yes. I’m actually working on my next album that I will be releasing this time next year. I am really really really excited for it. I feel like people see me they think: “Oh, she has to make R’n’B & Hip-hop music.” Producers still will only send me R’n’B tracks. Everyone knows I love love love pop electronic. That’s my stuff. I feel that people put you in a box and that’s what I felt with Mood ring. I was in a potential box to create a certain type of music.
E: So my album now I working on the next year is actually the music I love. Like I look up to Dua Lipa. I love Dua Lipa!
JG: Yeah, yeah totally! Absolutely!
E: Just like that sound of pop electronic is like how I can take it that and make my own. The next album I’m so excited because it’s actually something that represents me.
JG: Is it still mostly the SLS kid or you kinda working with a few other people?
E: So, it is with him as well but I’m looking for the other people.
E: I’m excited about it. I’m really excited.
JG: That’s so exciting! Fuck it! That’s exactly kinda news I was coming here to get with my blog hat on. *laughs*
E: I’m also so excited as I just want something that would make me feel good, you know?
JG: That’s I’m striving for as well. Respect.
E: Yeah, we have to work, honestly.
JG: Yeah, holy shit. I’m actually leaving tomorrow morning to go to another weekend shows one of which is Gorilla vs. Bear things I’m doing this for. After that, I’m in Toronto mostly for the 5 weeks. I really working on new music for myself, so we could do scratch my back, I scratch yours. *laughs* So, do you record from home or you have studios in Toronto you go to?
E: I have studio i go to called Big room. It’s not the best studio but it's mad comfortable. I've been going there for 2 years.
JG: Yeah, so you know the engineers and all that. At the end of the day I think as a vocalist it’s so important to develop the relationships with the producers, having the relationship with the engineer that you trust, that knows your voice and knows where you want to go.
E: You’re right. Best thing comes when feeling comfortable, you know?
JG: Yeah. I think in general for anything we do, it’s funny making music is a lot about dichotomies. Like there is one quote that I’m gonna paraphrase very terribly - “The best art happens at the intersections of crippling self doubt and megalomania”. Like think you’re god and you are not worth shit, that's exactly where you make good stuff. I think the best music comes when you’re really comfortable with yourself and your environment and your tools. Also, pushing that outside your comfort zone and going like another thing.
E: I agree with you.
JG: So that’s great. Cool, well shit. Is there anything else go over? Anything else you want to tell the World? *laughs*
E: Well, I’m releasing my new song on Monday.
JG: Hell yeah! That’s good news. What’s it called?
E: It’s called ‘When Asked’
JG: What kind of mood is it? More like dance side you were talking about?
E: It’s more electronic.
JG: Great. Is that related to the project or it is just a summer loosey?
E: Just kinda a summer loosey
JG: because you don’t want to go missing on Soundcloud *laughs*
E: No, I haven't posted anything on Soundcloud for so long now. Like 5 months maybe, that I feel like I’ve been missing.
JG: Yeah I’m starting to feel that way, I just released a full album, but because of the pace of the world I’m like, “Oh shit, it’s time to let something go and feed these kids. You know?” It gets crazy like that. I don’t know if that is sustainable or positive that we feel like we have to constantly put shit out.
E: Right? I feel like people’s attention span is like sooo low. You can release a song that’s everyone's favorite for like a week and then next week everyone is like uhh who’s that artist again?
JG: Yeah It’s really brutal.
E: Unless you’re like Rihanna or something it doesn’t matter. But until you get there you always need to be doing something.
JG: There’s only a few people who can do that, in rap music and in my world of dance music you kind of have to constantly have something out. It’s kind of insane. But regardless, it sounds like you’re doing great.
E: Yeah I’m so excited honestly.
JG: Is your mom proud of you now?
E: She cries a lot.
JG: Oh my god I love it!
E: She cries like all the time, like whenever we pull to a venue she is crying.
JG: My mom's had a couple moments like that too. It took my dad a little while to understand what i do. *laughs*
E: My mom was like that for a while too. I don’t think she understood for a while.
JG: It’s like one of my songs has a quarter million listens online dad. *laughs*
E: Yeah, they’re like, “Oh that’s cool” and I’m like, “okay?”
JG: That’s great, I’m glad you mom has your back for you too in these mean music industry streets. Anyways, congratulations on all of it and I’m stoked to hear the new track. I’ll hit you up next week when I’m back, and lets try and you know... I’m pretty slow at making music, but I have this time specifically to do that, so I’ll be working on new shit. So maybe I’ll send you stuff or we can meet up or something.