Rudy Walker was a talkative kid. How talkative? “My mom used to always have to tell me to shut up,” Walker says, laughing.
But he soon found music to be an outlet for expression. “I realized, ‘If I learn the songs on the radio when I sing along, I can still get that same emotion of opening my mouth… if I do it right, she won’t tell me to shut up.’”
The Richmond-based R&B singer grew up in Baltimore and graduated from Morgan State University in 2012. Along the way, he built his vocal skill set via private lessons, classical choral singing, and recording with family starting at the age of 13, culminating in a 12-song demo tracked on a visit to Richmond. He moved to Richmond in December of 2016 — “I remember driving that U-Haul down 95 like it was yesterday,” he says — and has since linked up with manager, rapper and entrepreneur, OG Illa, who looked through Walker’s back catalog and identified “Actions” as a candidate for single release.
“Actions” is a quick listen at just over two minutes, but it’s filled with sage advice about the importance of communication in a relationship, something he’s found just as beneficial in his work as a recording artist. “The artist community [in Richmond] was pretty welcoming,” he says. “I hear a lot of people say that it’s siloed and kind of cliquey, which I can see a little bit. But I feel like if you just communicate and talk to people and make them feel like they’re as much a part of your situation, or your life, or your energy, they’ll reciprocate in most cases. Most people just want to be seen and heard and felt.”
Style: How has it been seeing listeners react to “Actions”?
Rudy Walker: You write songs, and you record them, and you get all the instrumentation together, and you really just never know who it’s going to touch, how many people it’s going to touch, and how it’s actually going to make them feel… The fact that it touches someone just as much as it touches me is pretty damn cool.
There are so many love songs, but fewer that focus on communication. What inspired you to write about it?
Just finding an amazing love in my own life, and it taking what I feel has been a long time to do so. Not only finding that amazing love, but being that amazing love to someone else… I need to present in my relationship if I’m going to be in one, and I need to make a contribution to that relationship – doesn’t have to be difficult. What we have can be special and easy. So many people say, “Oh my gosh, love is so difficult,” and I disagree. I think love can be really easy if you know how to use the tools …
Communication is the tool. It’s one of the tools, but it’s like the biggest tool. And it’s transferable. I lost my mom the night before the single came out. My single released at midnight, my mom died around 6 p.m. I loved her. I loved her deep. I have no regrets. It’s really difficult. I have my moments, but I loved her deep, and I communicated with her. I told her how she made me feel — when it was good, when it was bad, what my expectations were of her — and would ask her what her expectations were of me. So it’s transferable.
Who contributed the production and instrumentation?
I produced it — all digital production. Production is really expensive … I started realizing, “I need to learn how to produce my own music. I hear stuff in my head. How can I get this out?” And I’m not an instrumentalist, to be honest, [but] I’ve learned how to create emotion with digital sounds and that’s something I did with “Actions.” I remember hearing one of the main loops in there and was like, “I really like this.” So I slowed the tempo down a little bit, I think I changed the key on it, and I found some drum sounds and programmed them a little bit. It’s a really simple beat, and I wanted it to be that way because the lyrics are what I really wanted people to pay attention to the most.
When did your formal vocal training start?
I would sing in class whenever I had an opportunity to, so my third grade teacher, Ms. Hampton, was like, “You need to be in the school talent show.” She put me in the school talent show, and I started singing the Christmas program, the holiday program … That turned into an opportunity to get a music scholarship in fifth grade. It was the Rosa Pryor Music Scholarship. That allowed me to get private vocal lessons [with a teacher] from the Lyric opera house in Baltimore, which is where I’m from, [which] helped me get another opportunity through a program called TWIGS [To Work In Gaining Skills] with the Baltimore School for the Arts…
In ninth grade, I ended up going to a liberal arts high school called Baltimore City College … and I joined the choir but didn’t quite fit in, ironically. I just didn’t fit in at all. I don’t know if it was my childhood ego and feeling like, "Wow there are so many talented people,” because they were a very talented choir. Or if it was puberty, or the things I was going through at home… I may have shut down a little bit, but I never stopped singing. I started writing my own songs, and I started recording with my cousin at 13… It wasn’t until 2015 that I actually released my first single through CD Baby and my own DIY distribution, and I still didn’t really know much about the business side of music until like 2016. Ever since then, I’ve been learning and recording and trying to grow as a musician. My biggest goal right now is to get placements. That’s the journey — where I’m at right now.
To hear “Actions,” and to find the latest on Rudy Walker’s releases and performances, visit linktr.ee/itsrudywalker.