Kevin Ross: The Audacity To Be Independent

R&B and soul singer, songwriter, viral mashup video maker, and Founder of independent label Art Society Music Group (ASMG), Kevin Ross, shared a small sample of his story, his passion and his creativity in a recent interview with QG. In our conversation, Kevin discusses his transition from major label artist to independent label owner, what it’s like to collaborate with big-name artists such as Jamie Foxx, Trey Songz, Tank, and Toni Braxton, his current project Audacity, and much more.

When did you first discover your passion for music?

Early on, maybe like 10 or 11. Once I went to arts high school and got into the school of the arts in [Washington] DC. That’s where I sowed the seed for trying to figure out what I wanted to do with this kind of passion or this desire. I had some great teachers that really nurtured that seed that I had sowed into the ground. From there I think I decided to do music around 16, 18 professionally, and it was on from there.

What were some of the initial highs and lows of getting started in the industry?

I think it’s just the misconception that everyone has about the music industry. A lot of the business is built off of perception. It’s about how something looks and not what it actually is. I think that was my biggest learning curve; that is was really a show. Like the whole business is a show. It’s a production and it’s a set. That’s I think the biggest learning curve that I had to learn starting out. Making sure I understood what was real, what wasn’t, what was going to be the thing to keep the lights on and pay the bills, and then what you want out of it. Because at the end of the day you can want something, but to do it every day I think [there’s] a fine line between passion and when it becomes work; like you’re punching in the clock every day. You’ve got to be able to reignite that passion and dig back into the reasons why you wanted to do it, why you fell in love with it, and at the end of the day what kind of impact you want to leave with your passion.

Tell us a little bit about how you got started with Motown Records and what your experience was like working under that record label.

I was signed to Motown and that was cool. I think that all throughout high school I was doing a lot of Motown tributes and Motown reviews with my fellow students and colleagues during that time. To be signed to that same label; Motown had a name of prestige and a legacy behind it. To then be a part of it or to have my name attached to it was super dope. You learn a lot as far as the leadership changes or how different things move around, and you see that it’s much bigger than just the imprint. It’s the inner workings, the mechanics, and the people that are inside. When you start seeing different staff changes every so often, maybe every year, that kind of gets you concerned after a while. For me it was looking at it to say, “Okay, I’m grateful for this opportunity, but you learn what you need to learn and then you move on so that you can start your own business or start your own thing. Respectfully, go and do your own thing.”

What all was involved in making that transition to being independent?