Rising singer-songwriter Brayton Bowman describes his sound as a combination of “sass, stank and soul”—a fitting label considering his stout vocal tenor and incredibly honest lyrics. “Falling in love is so superficial,” Bowman asserts on his new single, “Skin Deep,” produced by UK hitmaker MNEK. We first introduced you to the two on our list of the freshest male contenders to take over pop in 2015, so you can only imagine the brute strength of the two when they collaborate on music—beyond. This single, steeped in throbbing throwback production, is the result of that collective magic, further proving that Bowman is a believable up-and-comer this year.
We caught up with Bowman to talk about his obsession with Britney Spears’ debut album, drinking whiskey on NYC’s High Line and working with MNEK.
On getting started with music:
“My first musical memory was learning every word to Britney’s first album and trying to convince everyone around me that I was Baby Spice in a former life. I would say my first real introduction to music was at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. When I first got to ‘CAPA,’ I was this confused little white boy that didn’t really know anything other than how badly I wanted to sing gospel music and Stevie Wonder tunes. My choir teacher, Dorina Morrow, taught me what it means to be a musician, and I shudder to think where I’d be right now without her. I also had a really fucking awesome voice teacher who’s actually slaying it right now in ‘Kimmy Schmidt’ on Netflix: Tituss Burgess. Here’s to you, mama.”
On the process of finding his sound:
“I tried the ‘college’ thing for more than two years and spent the whole time singing Amy Winehouse and Stevie Wonder songs—listening to pop coming out of the UK. When I dropped out of school, I started making music that combined the two. The creative process is definitely a journey for me, but I’m really grateful to be where I am right now and am enjoying the ride to say the least. So leggo y’all—Mama’s ready to work.”
On his sonic references:
“I’m definitely a ‘What you see is what you get’ kind of artist and I think that comes across in the music. I write about what’s on my mind and am pretty set on not sugarcoating things, so the songs wind up being like musical journal entries. I’ve self-diagnosed myself with songwriting ADD, but it’s fine we’re making it work. Writing is a vehicle for me to share my feelings with listeners instead of a therapist, so I’m sorry if it ever feels like I’m yelling or crying at you in a song—I have a lot of feelings and am trying to express them. Sonically, the music stands by my firm belief that songs should make people feel the way late ’90s and early ’2000s radio did. My next single is channeling some serious throwback R&B duet vibes—imagine an MNEK-produced Ja Rule and Ashanti duet.”
On “Skin Deep:”
“‘Skin Deep’ is a shade-throwing homage to every man in a ten mile radius of NYC that I might’ve matched with on Tinder in my first six months of living here. Uzo (MNEK) and I may or may not have been drinking whiskey from the bottle on the High Line one night and I went on this rant about my frustration with all the surface level connections I’d made with these men that only care about a pretty face. ‘Skin Deep’ is about that moment you realize the only reason you’re dating someone is because of how you both look in your selfies and the two of you have absolutely nothing in common. Props to you if you met your boo thang on a dating app, but it just wasn’t the vibe for me.”
On meeting MNEK:
“Uzo was in New York for the first time in August, so I hit him up on Twitter to see if he wanted to write. We wrote and recorded this track in my Harlem apartment with a guy called Tré Jean-Marie—a name you need to remember because he’s not only one of my closest friends, but a disgustingly talented musician and songwriter. Writing with these two was like second nature and the three of us have some other tunes in the works.”