Published Feb 27, 2017Allan Rayman wears his mystery like a multilayered shroud. He eschews media interviews, maintains an enigmatic presence on social media and cultivates a laissez-faire approach to self-promotion. As he puts it, staying off the grid is intentional: the Toronto native isn't interested in fame, glamour or worrying about how many retweets he gets on social media, preferring to let his music speak for itself.
"I like leaving it up to people. I'm also not cut out for some kind of limelight," he tells Exclaim! in an exclusive interview. "That kind of stuff scares the shit out of me. I don't have the mindset to be some kind of icon or anything like that. I'm just trying to do my thing. And I have a really good team behind me to help fulfill that vision."
His aesthetic is steeped in heartache and melancholy yet awash in rock, blues, funk and soul sounds — painting a surreal and cinematic backdrop for his distinctive lyricism and vocal style.
And with the 13-track album Roadhouse 01 out now (via Communion/Universal), learn a bit more about the enigmatic singer-songwriter, below.
1. He admits to being a shy kid growing up in Toronto; he was also a construction worker before turning to music full-time.
"I pretty much just did my own thing. I wasn't really a part of a scene in the city," he says. "[Music was] kind of a hobby. I was in construction and that's kind of where I thought I was going to end up. A lot has changed since then, but I always just keep my head down. Pretty crazy what's going on right now."
2. His dark, moody sound can be attributed to his ongoing struggle between making music and maintaining personal relationships.
"For me, it's all about the balance of your personal desire with your responsibilities to the people around you. I'm finding, in this line of work, it can be very selfish. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance the friendships. I don't see the importance of self-promoting," he says.
"It's about a balance — love is death. I wear my heart on my sleeve. And if I fall for something or someone, I kind of throw myself at it. It would take me away from music. But music is also the death of my love, because I can't find the balance between the two. I have to focus on one thing. Right now, that's music. What's dangerous is that, if a woman comes along and sweeps me off my feet, then music's fucked. Because I'd move to Alaska and become a fisherman for her if that's what she wanted."
3. Roadhouse 01 is designed to be a holistic cinematic experience; Rayman is hands-on in developing the visual shorts for the singles.
"I get a lot of influence from film. I love character development and a solid storyline. I always just a big film guy. I love HBO, we're always hooked on these shows [where] every Sunday we tune in — what if music was like that, in the sense of you know that there's more to a story coming down the line?"
4. The new album took about a year to create.
"We were fairly quick in getting these songs together. Everything is constantly changing for me as an artist — I didn't know what I wanted to do or sound like in the beginning. And then you kind of find your lane, your spot and get real confident in that pocket. Right now it's definitely a singer-songwriter thing right now."
5. Single "Repeat" features fellow Toronto artist Jessie Reyez, someone he holds in high regard.
"That voice just kind of knocked me back. It was one of the truest female counterpart to how I see myself as a musician. We just kind of got on very well and the vocals complemented each other. She has the same kind of mindset: it's good to be vulnerable and push yourself into those kinds of vulnerable states."
6. He worked with creative director Ben Swantek, who's previously worked with the Weeknd to design the House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence mixtape covers.
"[Ben] was able to come in and take what's up here in my head and put it to paper. I have nothing but love for that dude and his ability and creativity. We just want it to feel mysterious and enigmatic — that's a huge thing — and less is more. I want the art and the way it looks and feels to reflect the sound. And that's grit and grunge. It's moody, dark, don't give too much," he says. Obviously when the Weeknd came out with the [House of Balloons] trilogy, all that stuff, I was blown away just like everyone else. I remember hearing 'Wicked Games' and I was just freaking out."
7. He doesn't care about media hype, press interviews or having a big presence on social media.
"At the end of the day I just want it to be organic. If you're someone that likes the music and listens to it, that's great and I'm definitively appreciative of the support. But it was never ever for anyone but myself. I just keep my head down and stick to having fun with it. I don't know why people gravitate towards it, but I like to make it as raw and unrefined as possible. I think people maybe like that," he says. "I'm not trying to sound ungrateful by any means, but I really don't care. If you listen to it, that's amazing but I'm just keeping my head down and doing what I was doing. In my opinion, this is success to me as I was able to quit my job and focus on my music. But I'm of the mindset that this could all disappear at the same time."