Let Lonr. take you on a tour of R&B’s future. The 23-year-old artist makes syrupy, hip-hop-twinged R&B with an emphasis on cinematic soundscapes. Each Lonr. song feels like a micro-feature film, the way it undulates and pulses with his affecting and raspy vocal. Lonr.’s 2019 debut single, “AM,” secured the attention of the blogs, and his debut EP, Land of Nothing Real—released by Epic Records on April 24—capitalizes on the explosive energy only teased on “AM.”
“Lit” throbs as the Brooklyn-based Lonr. snarls, “Insanity, no breaks.” “Unruly” follows but features a more downtempo Lonr., one who isn’t afraid to tap into his emotional sensibilities. These feelings reach their climax minutes later on the H.E.R.-assisted “Make The Most.” Lonr. showcases range without becoming, pardon the pun, unruly himself.
“With this EP, my goal was to speak to the loners,” Lonr. tells me. “I focused on those concepts of desire, love, and longing. In my perspective, a loner’s true emotion is desire—whether it be another person’s attention or to relate to their peers. Even if you don’t see yourself as a loner, there’s a loner in you.”
More than a solo artist, too, Lonr. is an adept songwriter. In 2019, the artist secured two GRAMMYs for his songwriting, including H.E.R. (“Free”). “That was like, ‘Okay, I got one foot in now. Time to go hard,’” Lonr. recalls.
Going hard, for Lonr., means tapping into his writing ability and penning a track for every emotion. His goal is to make sure he touches every corner of the spectrum, so fans can always turn to his tunes, regardless of how they are feeling.
“This EP is backed by love, longing, desire, typical Lonr. shit,” he jeers. “People appreciate [vulnerability], and it’s something they want to hear. [I] write from emotion, not just writing about whatever’s cool.”
As another artist in the canon of making vulnerability appealing, Lonr. stands out because of his high octane energy and a sharp pen. He hopes listeners can feel the emotion behind his every word. Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did you first realize you wanted to make music for a living?
Lonr.: As a kid, I always wanted to prove [to my cousins] I could be elite. When I was young, I would always be singing, making beats, just to show people I got a little bit of sauce. I started legitimately producing in 2013. It brought me here. The mentality I had when I was young helped me grow.
What was the first moment you tasted success?
The first moment I tasted success was being invited to a writing camp in Miami by H.E.R. and being with all these major producers and songwriters. Showing them what I could do, and later getting the GRAMMY for the songs I wrote with H.E.R.. That was like, “Okay, I got one foot in now. Time to go hard.”
Talk to me about your songwriting for other artists, especially since you’ve won two GRAMMYs.
It’s all about consistency, writing, and constantly trying to elevate. You put yourself into a mindset of being creative and about your process. Especially with writing, the most important thing when you start is finding your format and how you go about writing. Everybody has their specific way of getting lyrics down. Through my process of writing with people, I take notes on how they do it, versus how I do it, to stay on top of the game. Writing is something I didn’t start off doing when I started making music, but it’s one thing I decided to do because I wanted to be able to control the creativity of my music, even when I write for other people.
How do you apply your pen differently when writing for yourself?
Writing for yourself is easier because you know your story and your perspective. You can just go off and write everything in your head. Writing for someone else is completely different. You have to communicate with the person and know who they are. That’s why it’s best to write with someone you understand because it’s easier to put yourself in their shoes. Understanding that person is key. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a whole ‘nother way of writing. It’s something I like to do because it puts me in more of a creative space.
What’s your favorite topic to write about? Land of Nothing Real touches a lot on heartbreak.
Yeah, this EP is backed by love, longing, desire, typical Lonr. shit. I write best when I’m writing sad songs. Even this latest single, “Make The Most,” I noticed that in writing it, people appreciate [vulnerability], and it’s something they want to hear. [I] write from emotion, not just writing about whatever’s cool.
What was it like working with H.E.R. on “Make The Most?”
It was dope! We had put so many songs together [already]. We tested out how our tones and voices sound together. We already knew it was gonna sound smooth because we have that laidback sound. It was easy, and when we get into the studio, we love to go into topics like that. When she heard the song, she hopped on the second verse, and it was easy to get it down.
What did you learn from touring with YBN Cordae on his headlining The Lost Boy tour?
It was one of the best experiences. Going on that tour, I was constantly learning Cordae’s fans, learning what they like and what they react to. Cordae is a cool dude, down-to-earth. He killed his show every time. My goal with those shows was to get the most energy out of everybody, so they would already be hyped up by the time Cordae came on. I took it as a challenge, as an opener most people didn’t know, to get that energy up. The energy that whole tour was on 10.
With that in mind, you have such explosive energy across the Land of Nothing Real. Where does that come from?
I make music in the moment, and I make music with however I’m feeling. “Lit” was made on tour with Cordae. We had a break in Atlanta and hopped in the studio. The energy we were putting out and getting back the whole tour, I wanted to make a song about what that felt like. My intention is to have a song for each emotion. If anybody feels a certain type of way, they know what song to go to when listening to my music. I wanna cover all fields.
I love when you slow things down and get nicely emotional, as on “Safezone” and “Jump.” How do you access those heavier emotions without letting them overtake you?
I’ll usually tap into past experiences that made me feel like that, so I can get in that mood. My favorite thing to do when I’m feeling [down] is to put that energy into my music. If I’m feeling sad, I need to write a song about it and capitalize [on] that feeling. All artists write better music when they’re feeling what they wanna talk about. It just comes out all-around better quality. The main thing, for me, is just writing how I feel whenever I’m in the studio.
What do you hope new fans learn about you through this EP?
With this EP, my goal was to speak to the loners. I focused on those concepts of desire, love, and longing. In my perspective, a loner’s true emotion is desire—whether it be another person’s attention or to relate to their peers. Even if you don’t see yourself as a loner, there’s a loner in you. I want people to gravitate to that notion in this EP, and I want them to see a lot of my music… There’s music that’s having fun, but there’s always gonna be a deeper message.