New Jersey bred, North Carolina based singer-songwriter and rapper Jon Richie transcends simple categorizations with a dynamic and compelling, hybrid style he dubs “pop rap” and “positive hip-hop”.
With his powerful interchangeable mix of emotional lead singing and clever, high impact rhyming, backed by a creative fusion of acoustic guitar and colorful electronic textures, Richie shares a fresh, freewheeling musical adventure on his highly anticipated full length debut Dreams or Memories. The eclectic collection’s 12 tracks were penned by Richie and co-produced by him and Andy Pow, owner and operator of Digital Wave Recording in Fayetteville, NC. Richie plays guitar and keys while incorporating background sounds that he previously recorded with earlier producers. His breakthrough is all the more remarkable because he is accomplishing his dreams and fulfilling his musical vision while serving in the Army as a platoon leader in Air Defense Artillery at Ft. Bragg.
Richie comes by his unique style organically, liberating himself from having to choose one vibe or the other and meshing together a wide range of influences, including Switchfoot, Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday and blink-182 on the rock side, and Kendrick Lamar and Machine Gun Kelly in the rap/hip-hop realm.
“The album reflects these past few years, discovering who I am as an artist and working on developing my own style to get to where I am today, a true culmination of a journey that in many ways, is only just beginning,” says Richie. “Overall, it’s a happy, upbeat album about being okay with where I am in my life, loving both my jobs and the relationships I’m blessed with. It’s nothing crazy, just me doing my own thing, kickin’ back with friends and enjoying what’s in front of me.
“The ebb and flow of the album, starting out happy and upbeat and sharing heartbreak along the way, helps me paint a picture of myself as a normal guy going through the ups and downs, the joy and the heartbreak of life, being in love with a girl and losing close friends. It’s the perspective of an average person speaking from personal experiences, not trying to make myself sound too cool, but simply keeping it real.”
While he loves writing and producing music in the studio, Richie says the most gratifying part of his development as an artist is the opportunity to connect with people via his music. “That’s what music is all about for me,” he says. “When someone tells you what my song means to them, it’s the ultimate.” Richie has had many exciting opportunities to share his soul over the past few months as he has performed at pop and hip-hop shows run by local promoters in Fayetteville and Raleigh. He has opened shows for renowned rappers Bubba Sparxxx and Struggle Jennings (grandson of legendary country artist Waylon).
When he is given free rein to share the scope of his music with the audience, Richie starts his performances with happy pop songs to get the crowd moving before delving into the more emotional tunes. At a recent show, he started singing a capella before launching the tracks behind him. He’s a born entertainer, finding the perfect moment to jump offstage and run through the audience to make those deeper connections.
While Richie didn’t design Dreams or Memories as a concept album with a single “through” narrative, he achieves the emotional ebb and flow he mentions by arranging songs in a compelling tracking order that balances “good days and bad days” in a way that progresses logically and not like a “crazy roller coaster.”
Appreciating the hands on approach of co-producer Andy Pow, whose guidance and no nonsense critiques helped the singer/rapper up his studio game considerably, Richie also brought to the table previously recorded mantra beats and layered music he had worked on with various producers in the past.
The infectious, laid back, pop-tropical tune “About The Money” shows him and his friends talking, drinking, kicking back and having a great time, talking about their future but focusing on other things besides money to make themselves happy. Richie showcases his whimsical romantic side via a soulful blend of acoustic guitar, rap and lead vocal energy on “Say Now,” which he wrote from the perspective of his older brother, as if talking sweetly to his wife. “They’re pretty much the couple that inspires me to find true love of my own,” Richie says.
His artful fusion of rapping and singing is in full throttle mode on “Tell Your Friends,” a summery jam that he calls “as close as I can get to a bad boy tune.” He’s also in a lovelorn state on the passionate ballad “Steal Your Heart,” vowing to love the girl who got away better if she comes back. Complementing his vocals and rhymes are the soaring featured vocals of Glen Travis. After the synth heavy, super ambitious “cocky rap” tune “I Want It All,” Richie offers his heartfelt best on the title track “Dreams or Memories,” a deeply introspective about coming to terms with his own life and future after the tragic deaths of several fellow West Point cadets. “It’s about holding onto the great memories while allowing the reality of the brevity of life to drive me to accomplish the things I want to in life,” he says.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Born in Baltimore and raised in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, Richie and his brothers grew up in a home where their equal passions for music and sports were cultivated. While taking piano lessons, he grew up swimming and playing basketball and baseball. His older brother (five years older) taught himself guitar and started an alt-punk band in high school, and Richie, following suit, took up guitar himself at age 13. While writing and recording music with a simple electronic setup in the family basement, he played in an acoustic pop/rock band in high school.
Later enrolled at West Point, he became great friends with a fellow cadet (professional name: Nova) who was a rapper. Nova helped Richie discover and develop his talent for rapping, and at one point Richie went through a phase where he was only doing hip-hop. It didn’t take long before he realized something was missing, so he went back to his roots, playing the acoustic guitar and singing. While developing his sound, it felt natural to start adding raps to the songs and his hybrid style took root. “I think my biggest strength is that I have learned to build a song and chorus and have become a good singer and rapper,” he says. “I ‘m good at putting together tunes where I can utilize both.” In 2016, as he graduated West Point and headed to Oklahoma for five months of training, he tested the water and received a great response to the EP he posted on Soundcloud called Summer Daze.