RINI makes sunset music. The Melbourne, Australia-born and Los Angeles-based R&B artist has a wonderfully light and evocative touch to his music. His vocals glide over moody production. His themes of heartache and healing resonate cross-continentally. Drawing influence from Frank Ocean, Kehlani, and The Weeknd, RINI’s sound strikes at the heart of contemporary R&B. While he’s making a name for himself, too, RINI is leading the way for Melbourne’s music scene to make itself apparent in the US market.
“Melbourne is diverse, there’s a lot of different cultures in Melbourne,” RINI tells me over the phone, calling in from Australia. “I came to Melbourne when I was 10, and having different friends with different backgrounds, listening to different music has influenced me a lot with my music taste. I found my inspiration from that [diversity].”
For some artists, breaking into the US market is their ideal vision of success. Certainly, for many Western audiences, an artist doesn’t exist until they hit US airwaves. This myopic view of the music world is something RINI, 22, hopes to combat by bringing the Melbourne culture over to his new home in Los Angeles—whether or not that’s fair is another question entirely.
“That’s a good question,” RINI says when I ask him if it’s fair for him always to be looked at as a representative for his culture. “The [R&B] scene out here is not very big, so it’d be a great honor to be the first and open up the gate here for all the other artists in Australia.”
“I don’t think about it like that, I guess,” RINI adds, discussing if he feels any pressure to make it big in the US. “If it happens, it happens. There’s always gonna be someone else that will [open the gates] eventually, but if it’s me, that will be great!”
Feeling minimal pressure to “cross over”—it’s all about doing the work first, for RINI—he has one piece of advice for upcoming Melbourne artists hoping to follow in his path: “Be yourself.” The rest will come in due time. Keep working and keep the faith; that’s the key.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: How did you first get into music?
RINI: I started playing guitar when I was 10. I never used to sing; it was just a hobby I picked up. Eventually, I developed into this singing artist. I started making covers on YouTube, and that’s how I started getting people noticing me and saying, “You should start writing your own songs.” When I was 17, I had this friend [who’s] a producer. He had a beat he was gonna chuck away: “If you wanna use it, shout.” I was like, “Yeah!” I write a song to this beat, and it turned out alright! People loved it.
That [experience] gave me more push to keep working while doing covers and trying to find gigs. [It also] helped me develop my skills in guitar and music production. Growing up in the church, I was part of the band and used to sing there as well. When I was 18, I made my album—self-titled, the RINI album. That was a collection of beats I got from my friends and [received] good feedback. I kept putting out new stuff, released a couple of singles, an EP, and now we are here.
Being from Melbourne, what is the art scene like there?
Melbourne is diverse; there’s a lot of different cultures in Melbourne. I came to Melbourne when I was 10, and having different friends with different backgrounds, listening to different music has influenced me a lot with my music taste. I found my inspiration from that [diversity]. Melbourne has its own unique vibe as well, not just in music.
Now living in LA, what differences do you see between the Melbourne scene and the LA scene?
There’s a massive difference, for me, because the workflow in LA is a lot quicker. People are a lot more upfront in LA. [They] are more open when they speak about what they think and their creative ideas. That gave me a boost in confidence and [influenced] how I express myself and my music.
How hard is it to break out of Melbourne and tap the US market?
It’s hard because there are not a lot of big platforms out here in Australia when it comes to the type of music I make: R&B. It’s a lot of pop, rock, and alternative. There’s not a huge scene for R&B, so it is quite hard. I think breaking [out] is all about being different and standing out.
What would you say has been your key to your musical success thus far? How do you make yourself stand out?
With my sound, I try to be as experimental as I can. I always try new things, and I write through my own experiences. I try to open up, express myself, my story. I think people connect with that, easily. That’s what makes them listen to what [I] make. When they find something they like, they share it with other people. That starts a whole fanbase. That’s how I got to where I [am]—always trying to be myself when it comes to my music. I try not to say stuff that I don’t usually do. It’s always stuff that’s real to me and my own experience.
When you’re coming up in Melbourne, is the image of success breaking into the US?
To me, yes. The US [is] where you go if you want to reach the top. That’s where all the big labels and major artists are, that’s their ground. That was my goal, to reach out internationally. Then, from the US, it goes all around the world. I wasn’t trying to think about [breaking out] too much; I was making my own stuff. I love making music, and I love how it makes me and other people feel.
Secondarily, as an Australian artist, do you think it’s fair that you have to represent Australia at all times?
That’s a good question. Like I said before, the [R&B] scene out here is not very big, so it’d be a great honor to be the first and open up the gate here for all the other artists in Australia.
Do you feel any pressure?
Not really! I do, but I don’t. I don’t think about it like that, I guess. If it happens, it happens. There’s always gonna be someone else that will [open the gates] eventually, but if it’s me, that will be great!
It sounds like the best way to “cross over” is to focus on the music and let things happen naturally?
What advice would you give the upcoming artists in Melbourne hoping to “cross over”?
I would say: Be yourself. It’s cool to follow artists you listen to, in terms of what you make, but add your touch to it. Spice it up, you know? Be true to yourself. Write about real stuff and talk the way you would talk. Being 100 percent open to your audience will help you cross over. I know it’s hard, especially out here in Australia, because there are not a lot of platforms… But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it through. There’s always a way. If you keep working hard, it’ll pay off.
What advice do you have to give yourself to stay grounded?
Come back to my roots. Be with the people I grew up with: My family, my friends, people I’ve been hanging around since the start. Those people remind you where you come from. It’s always: Be humble.