When I last sat down with Brio in July 2015, he was just about ready to release his debut album, LITEBLEU. Even then, Brio talked about the patience he practiced in taking two years to record and fine-tune the new album throughout his time living in Atlanta and then moving to back to his hometown of Charlotte.
He was not understating his patience.
Now, a full 17 months later, LITEBLEU is finally out, but it it took some time. As we sit in Midnight Diner, he laughs with his buddy J. Reid, a local designer, about the number of times he was "just about" ready to put the album out over the last year.
"He can vouch for this," Brio says, laughing and pointing at J.Reid, who's finishing off a veggie burger next to him in the booth. "I had so many other dates lined up. 'We're doing it this week, naw, we're doing it that week.' Even at the beginning of the new year , we had a whole rollout planned, but with it not going the way that I wanted it to, it damaged my vision for it. I said, 'Fuck that.'"
Now that his debut is finally on the streets, we took the opportunity to look back on the process and forward to 2018.
Creative Loafing: How does it feel now that you've got this thing out?
Brio: For real man, I feel like, really elated, just relieved that it's out. It feels a little vulnerable, but it's still real at the same time. I've just been so eager for this moment, for it to come out and to share it with everybody. I finally moved past that step of getting over the reasons for not putting it out, and just being like, "Yo, it's time to drop it."
With that gap of anticipation, you can just feel the release of that energy, and I'm just literally sitting with it and trying to be calm in that.
What sound were you going for with LITEBLEU?
This is a real personal sound in a way, but it puts you into a mood where it really makes you focus. It can be taken either way: It can be taken lightly or it can be taken as a deep subject. My focus is speaking through the life perspective, speaking through a spiritual perspective, where it can be both sides of the coin, however you want to take it.
And you produced every song on the album, so you were able to create the theme of the album from scratch.
Sonically speaking, it's real ambient, letting the sounds use imbalance with the aggravation that I'm speaking with, and just letting that paint a whole trance-like, hypnotic-type state, but at the same time, bring you to into a focus.
I'm a writer. I've been a writer first, but when I grew more into noticing that the music is my purpose and passion, and speaking that message, then production really became the backbone. I'm a sucker for the drums. The drums are what I feel like is the focus of things. And really I just love sounds at the end of the day, being able to utilize that alongside your voice and let them mesh with that.
How did living in Atlanta and then moving back to Charlotte play a role in the creation of this album?
Atlanta played a major part in this whole sound, just with my whole craft being found there. I was out there for three years, and that was where I really found myself musically. Then, letting that expand more here, I can see what I was learning from there and what musically influenced me that was coming from there and letting it marinate into what is to come now.
I love that everything is still remaining very original and very authentic. It's never shied away from my hometown sound at all. It's such a specific sound that's coming from this environment here, growing up here. With everybody else in this community — people in my squad, people everywhere else that we're cool with — it's like Charlotte's specific sound that you hear in this area. That's so powerful. Being able to get those different influences from such a melting pot in this city is so beneficial to how we're really about to make this shake in the future.
How have you watched it already start to shake since you've moved back a year and a half ago?
To me, the city is really moving toward one effort to get to a place where they want to truly floss it, but it takes a lot more work and it takes a lot more input at the same time. I've definitely been seeing such a growth; the homie Elevator [Jay] always doing his thing at Snug Harbor, all the shows from all these different people, Deniro [Farrar] going off, and even the homie Nige Hood, everybody is working together with a community aspect. That's another thing about the energy here that makes it so unique: just watching us learn how to be that city that we want to be, working with the community and letting that environment rub off at the same time and finding those similarities and blossoming from there.
So what's your 2018 looking like?
I'm looking forward to the new year. I'm really, really eager, looking frward to releasing more product and releasing more content, Getting this music out and really pushing this project. I'm really happy that it's out now. It's a time that I can start fresh, push it to the people and get this message across and then let it be an introduction where you can get eased on into the next thing coming.
Is the next thing coming going to be in four years?
[laughs] Nah. It's coming soon.
Check out LITEBLEU at soundcloud.com/brioankh/sets/litebleu and stay tuned to our website to hear Brio as a guest on our 'Local Vibes' podcast.