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Hanging with Nevon Sinclair: Rising Above Sexualization in the Music Biz

Let's talk about Nevon Sinclair.

First of all, just listen. Go ahead, check out the Youtube and Soundcloud links below this paragraph, pour a glass of wine and enjoy. This. Man. Can. SING! Nevon has made a name for himself as a choir leader and a back-up singer, but now he is blessing the world with his solo talents. All we have to say is: FINALLY! And we want more of his brand of juicy alternative RnB.

"All I Have"


We had the pleasure of sitting down with Nevon to talk about his career, his current projects and the male experience of being sexualized in the music industry.

The Spandettes: Nevon, maybe you could tell us about what kind of experience you've had struggling with, or not struggling with being a man in the world of music and the image part of that.

Nevon: Ahhhhh, struggle indeed. Well, I find especially these days it's getting really sex driven. So I kinda 'have to' have that kind of sex appeal, or strive to be the world's sexist man. 'Cause I feel that that's what they're measuring everything up to these days. Not every artist is trying to be that. Personally I'm not trying to be a sex symbol...I mean if it happens it happens [laughs]. My music is more so about life and love and not just sex. I would love for people to steer away from that. But I feel like it's just what they're used to now. They're like 'But you're a man, you should be focusing on making the girls feel a certain way'. Which is cool but, I want [my content] to be more than that if I have song like that, I also want a song about life and how it can be really difficult and rough, or what it means to break up for a good reason, because it's best for both of us. So it's a constant struggle. You don't wanna neglect your image either, because it's a self image as well, cause you look back at photos or videos and you wanna be happy with what you see. I've had that feeling before where I think, 'oh I guess I gotta be smaller in person so I look good on camera' and you stop and you're like 'wait! What is the focus here?' So I guess that's what I can say my struggle has been.

Alex: It's interesting to hear a male perspective of being sexualized in the music industry.

Nevon: Because it's still there! We just don't talk about it as much.

Lizzy: You think about D'Angelo and his very very public experience with that.

Nevon: Exactly, And he was saying that was not his natural body and it was a lot for him to keep that up.

Alex: And that was one choice, one video.

Nevon: Right! And now everyone sees that and they want that every time. So, that's pressure. The video for "Untitled" made everyone view him a certain way. It's that sexualizing element.

Alex: Do you find you've found a balance between presenting yourself like an artist with an image and also felling like yourself in those images?

Nevon: I'm closer now. I'm still working on it though. I write a lot of music in a lot of different styles as well. So it's been hard to identify myself as one particular thing. Or at least simplifying it for people. I will be asked 'what is you style, what id your message?' and I'm like 'Weeeelll, I like this and that and that AND that and want people to feel this and feel that and I want people to feel this too'. I feel as an artist it's important to simplify who you are for others. Cause not everybody has an artistic mind or a creative mind. So I think you have to zero in on a focus. I've been recently working on that. I'm getting a bit better. It's just a work in progress.

Lizzy: As you get older you have a greater need for a sense of self, I think, 'cause before we weren't really thinking about it, but now it's like, what do I have to say, and how can I brand that?

Nevon: Just because you love something or like it a lot doesn't mean you have to do it as well. I can really like a style of music, but not want to make that as an artist. I can do that style when I'm having fun, but for my project let's get back to the focus.

Alex: It's learning to curate your own style.

Nevon: I used to want to do that. Like have a really, jazzy song and then you hear something else that's really nice in a pop style and you want to do a pop song! But that's not always the right way to do it.

Maggie: I know lots of artists that have made it that are like put in this box. Like, this is the kind of music you do, this is how you perform. And any time someone is like, 'well they're county, why aren'y they doing a country song?' Or even when a singer picks up an instrument people are like 'well she's a singer...what's happening?'

Nevon:  They wanna see you that one way. You want to have a focus, but you don't wanna be boxed in. I guess it's a balance. I think what people are doing now is they are experimenting with their focus and genre. You can have a jazz R&B and then a jazz soul album, it's kind of the same, but different. You can have some songs that are standard jazz and maybe some jazz/soul songs, but it's still focused in a certain way. So I think finding the balance is important. And then you're listeners can be like 'ok, she's a jazz-ish artist'.

The Spandettes: So we know that you've sung with a lot of singers doing back-ups and that you have lots of experience being in and running choirs, can you tell us a little bit about your back ground?

Nevon: So at around...well my mom said I was around 4 that I started doing the whole singing thing and taking interest, I can't remember that, so I tell people 6. But I do remember she was part of the church choir, and I had to follow her to practices and I started picking up the music along the way I guess. They actually got me up to sing with the choir. I was the only kid in front of a 60 voice choir. And at the time obviously, you don't know what's happening, I was just happy to be there. So I did that for a few years and I became super fascinated by harmonies, as you guys know. I love harmonies now! So I would go home and with my tape deck [laughter] my double tape deck. I would play a song and then work on the harmonies in my brain, and then record it on the other side. And then I found out that I could take that tape out, put it over here and record the third harmony. So I was like recording harmonies at a young age. I didn't know at the time what I was doing, it just made me happy. I would do that and I sang in choir. Then I got into competitions through church. I was doing junior competitions. It was my first time singing in front of people as well, and I won. And then I was hooked. I was really shy and nervous. I was about 9 or 10. I felt all the emotions that come along with standing in front of a crowd of people and singing. AND being judged at the same time. But because I won it made me feel like, 'you can do this'.

Alex: Wow, to get that validation at 10!

Nevon: I kept on doing it. I did more competitions and I won those as well, so I was like, 'well I need to do something else'. So I ended up joining a choir. The Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale. This is when it got really fun. I got to start traveling at 15 years old and touring. My first was in Alberta, we did an award show there. Then we went to Fresno, California two weeks later and I was like, 'what? This is what music is about??' My first flight and all these awesome experiences. It kept going from there. We sang back up vocals for Kanye West, back in the day when he was doing "Jesus Walks". We sang with The Killers, Mariah Carey...we sang with and for a lot for people. It was very fun. It's been a really cool ride.

Alex: Are you still with the choir?

Nevon: I'm not with them anymore, I sing with whenever they need me. But I had to kind of withdraw myself and focus on my own stuff. I was working with everybody and doing everybody else's stuff. I needed to do my own thing. I got some really good experiences form it cause they were the first people that actually allowed me to exercise my harmony skills. They would be like 'Just do it Nevon!!' I would be like, 'I wrote this song, will you guys try it out with me?' and they would be like 'Yeah for sure!!' Then they approached me to do their project and be the writer for the project. Now this is a Juno award winning choir. Before I started they had been doing this for years. They established a really good name for themselves. They are amazing. They have done so much. For them to be doing this for so many years before me, and then trusting me to do their next project was pressure but it was so cool. So I did that and it went well. And I thought 'I'm gonna write more!' So I did! I began writing more for myself and others. I work with other artists in the city doing vocal training and arranging. Just kinda getting my hands on whatever I can get my hands on. Now I'm trying to take myself out of the world of just begin a back up vocalist and I'm hoping people will see me more as an artist and a songwriter. I've written a lot of music for the gospel community here in Toronto. But nobody outside of that really knows who I am. So it's kinda like starting form scratch which was hard at first, but I'm a new artist again! So now I teach at Singer's Edge, I work with lots of cool artists like Daniel Caesar is one, an awesome new artist coming out of Toronto. Amoy Leavy, she's got a new album, so a bunch of people I work with are doing their own things, so things are moving. Sometimes I feel like things aren't moving, but that's the nature of it I guess.

The Spandettes: Can you tell us a bit about your projects?

Nevon: Yes! I have two projects right now. First a duo project called ELKTRK with my friend and producer Diego Las Heras. 

Alex: Did he produce "All I Have"?

Nevon: No, he did mix it though. The beat for that song was done by Joelle Chambers. A cat I used to work with back in the day. We did that one in 2013. Diego and I [ELKTRK] have released two singles already. One is called "AGS" which means ain't gonna stop. And the other song is called "You Got" which is the most recent track we've released. We'll be putting out a video soon, then the full EP. I don't have dates yet ...

Alex: Stay tuned people!!

Nevon: Stay tuned! And then my own project I'm working on as well, but that will follow the ELKTRK project. ELKTRK feels...I guess the way I can explain how it sounds is, alternative R&B. It's got a cool feel to it. Then my own stuff is more soul, it's a little darker. It's chill and organic. It's going to be more live music.

So there you have it, there's so much on the horizon for Nevon Sinclair. be sure to follow him @justNEVON on twitter and instagram! make sure to check out The Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale, ELEKTK and keep up with Nevon's releases! 

We're so excited to sing with Nevon on Thursday, June 9th at the Rivoli on Queen west! He's one of Toronto's best kept secrets, but not for long. We'll all be hearing a lot more from him!


The Spandettes