Raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, amongst future Ivy Leaguers and Wall Streeters, Raymond Joseph developed a disdain for small talk and shallow conversation. Instead of treading lightly with his peers, he opted for existential debates. When he wrote his first song at 11, it included the question: "God, why do you take innocent people away?"
On his new single, "Oh My God," the same awareness is there. "Rows and columns here, the perfect lines / An idle fear in me," he sings.
"Oh My God" is a bittersweet battle against complacency. It features both a loveliness ("She moves like calligraphy ... She knows who I am") and a uniquely blasé paranoia ("Is that a siren in the streets? / I couldn't tell you anymore"). Musically, the easy introduction fails to stifle an increasingly obvious anxiety within, and the frenetic production builds until you forget where you started. Each tap of the "replay" button surprises you with a return to simplicity.
Of course, the complicated part is always lying in wait, too. Raymond wrestles with panic disorder and depression. His music has been key to making sense of that struggle.
“It’s a funny thing isn’t it? Feeling happy about sad songs,” Raymond says. "It’s because the singer feels sad, too. I’m not alone in that sense. I can have that connection. I think it can be pretty uplifting to listen to a sad song."
At 18, that desire for a deeper connection led him to Belmont University in Nashville, a music-obsessed institution that provided a strong network of like-minded peers. The move helped Raymond launch his career nearly 1,000 miles from home.
Following the father-son collaboration The Attic in 2011 and an immersive music education, Raymond released the album Free (2015) and the standalone single "Silhouettes" (2017) under the name RJ Bracchitta. Years of Nashville gigs and touring helped him build a loyal audience that eagerly awaits his first major release as Raymond Joseph.
"Oh My God" and the rest of the forthcoming EP mark major changes in approach; instead of arranging tracks to complement a live production, Raymond insisted on a "soundscape" that will make fans want to slip on their over-the-ear headphones. Co-producer — and former Belmont classmate — Ian Miller's work calls to mind indie classics such as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, while Raymond is clearly influenced by recent milestones such as Ray LaMontagne's Ouroboros, Phoebe Bridgers' Stranger In The Alps and Ethan Gruska's Slowmotionary.
He compares the sonic result to some of his favorite Radiohead records.
"The second any of it starts — no matter if you hate it or like it — it puts you in this headspace," Raymond says. "And all of a sudden, you’re not listening to a song. You’re on a journey."
— Alex Martin Smith, ILIUM