Interview: Reggie Becton Talks About Music, Orange Beanie & Masculinity

Meet the man beneath the orange knit

Photo: Claire Fagin

With two EPs under his belt, LA artist Reggie Becton has been leaving his imprint in the music scene pushing the boundaries of R&B through his own stories. Originally from PG County, Maryland, Reggie grew up listening to Marvin Gaye, Prince, and Brandy while honing his own craft. His debut EP Phases was released in 2018, which was lauded for defying the traditional notions of masculinity. The follow up, My Beanie’s Orange, showcased Reggie’s ability to craft his own R&B soundscape honed with 80s soul and alternative rock.

After releasing his latest single “Listenin’’, we had the opportunity to poke Reggie’s brain and get to know the man underneath the bright beanie.

What’s your earliest childhood memory of music?

My earliest childhood memory would be me singing in my pre-k graduation. I remember at the graduation ceremony, I was selected to lead a couple of songs and I just remember being in love with that moment. So that is by far probably the earliest memory of music I have.

Did you know you wanted to do music early on?

Yeah, I think as long as I can remember. Music has always been a part of me, and always been something I wanted to do. Can’t imagine my life without it at all.

What’s the first record you’ve purchased?

First record I ever purchased was…I want to say Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad. And I didn’t really purchase it directly. I just remember my sister saying she wanted to buy a CD for the car and asked me what kind of CD she should buy. I just remember seeing that CD cover and telling her, ‘Hey, you should get that one.’ I remember seeing Rihanna’s album in black and white, and thinking we should get that one.

What’s some advice you could give to musicians who are just starting out?

A useful advice I’ve got is don’t overthink it. Don’t overthink the creativity behind the music. And also, just follow what comes up first in your mind, which really goes with don’t overthinking and tapping into your personal thoughts. And lastly, one advice I picked up from an interview I watched was that, it comes from you. A year or two ago when I would write songs and get stuck, I would leave them at the door so later I would find words that rhyme. For the past year, when I’ve been writing new music, I’ve been doing away with that idea because I’ve watched a an interview of Brandy, who was one of my favorite singers, talking about how real songwriting comes out of them. There’s no need for dictionary, there’s no need for plethora. Real songwriters are wordsmiths, so I really wanted to embody that more. So I just went, ‘Okay, every word I use will be a word that I know and that comes from my vocabulary.’ So I started to read more, watch more things, and explore genres I usually don’t read, so I can pick up on new words and ideas. So that’s been a great piece of advice.

Let’s go back to your first EP Phases. It’s a record that defies traditional masculinity. In your own definition, what does masculinity mean in this age?

To me masculinity means vulnerability in this age. I think part of my music has this air of vulnerability where you get to not hold back any emotions. I’m not worried about how people may judge my manhood by how I say something or by what I say. And that’s been a freeing process because I remember early on when writing songs, I would be like, I don’t want to say that because it makes me seem weak. Or I don’t want to say this because it makes me seem soft. And now, I’m leaning into that more. Like, I want to say this because most men don’t say this. Well, I want to say this because I know there are men who feel this way, but don’t have a song that they could relate to so they just keep bottling those emotions.

I’m trying to make music that is free of those societal rules and norms of masculinity, and really about being who you are – it’s like being genderless, almost. Think about somebody like Prince. When you think about how people say men are strong, Prince had that type of energy while being vulnerable. He didn’t have these walls around him, you could see him. I thought that juxtaposition that was great

For you sophomore EP, why did you title it My Beanie’s Orange?

I titled My Beanie’s Orange because the orange beanie has really started to take off and really had become synonymous to my brand. And part of me wearing orange beanie was homage to Marvin Gaye, one of my favorite soul singers. And he’s from the same area where I’m from, he’s from Washington DC and I’m from PG County, which is a small county outside of Washington DC. I remember listening to the five songs that appear on that project and on the first song [“Y.O.U”] I literally say, “My beanie’s orange”. Listening back to that song, no matter where I was listening, that line always stuck out to me because it always felt so obvious. Like when you see me, It’s obvious that my beanie’s orange. And when you state the obvious, it can become such a powerful statement. It’s like wearing a shirt, a white T shirt, that has the letters “White T Shirt.” Having it on word makes it even more powerful. So, I wanted to make that my title.

Also I felt like the music was reflective of my artistry and the music I like. To me, it was the first time that I made music that resembled the music I heard in my ears – the vision I had for music for myself. So I have to thank my executive producer, Aidan Carroll, who really helped me out on that one. Also Marco and Yamil, who were the producers on that project. And it really just allowed me to find my own sound with that project. In My Beanie’s Orange, I found myself with all these declarative statements that showed Reggie Becton is here.

Can we expect your own line of orange beanies anytime soon?

I’ve definitely gave it some thought, but the company who makes my orange beanie is called Bricks & Wood. And they sell them for everybody. And the quality of their orange beanie is so good that I don’t even want to try to recreate some of it. So right now I’m just sticking with Bricks & Wood. I’m a supporter of them and they’re just really great black-owned business and I love their orange beanie – it’s just super quality knit. And I always say that, if I can’t bring my fans the same quality of orange beanie that I wear on stage and in photos, then I wouldn’t want to mass produce a beanie lin. So maybe in the future

Your latest single “Listenin’” tapped into toxic relationships, which is always fun to hear about but not be in it. We don’t want names, but do you have any funny/crazy date story you can share?

Crazy date story. I remember one time I was driving with a girl at night and we were coming from my house after the movies or something. And in Maryland where I live, there a lot of backroads and we lived pretty close. So you could take one backroad from my house to hers. I remember we were in the car and we just started arguing about something. And we were arguing in the car in this super windy, curvy backroad. And when we got to this one curve, this car just sped in this two-lane street. So it was really freaking scary. We stopped arguing and looked at each other, grabbed each other’s hands and were like, “Yo, this is crazy. Let’s just forget about it, you know?” And we didn’t argue about that problem from that day on. That night was just a freakish moment when you realize that life is so much bigger and what we were arguing back then didn’t even matter.

How have all the events this year (pandemic, BLM) influenced your music?

I want to say that it’s given me more time to be thoughtful with things I say, and really nail down all there is to what’s going on. I think that as far as the Black Lives Matter movement go, those emotions haven’t been translated to a song yet, but I think it’s because I’m still dealing with those emotions and really trying to figure out how I feel in those aspects of the world. And not just write something because it’s cool right now or it’s needed. If I just write something that’s not really representative of how I feel at the moment, then I’m not really doing anyone a service as far as the art. So I think that has been an effect on me. And also just staying patient – the pandemic has allowed me to really go inward and look into myself to realize what I want and how to wait on it, instead of being rushed by everything that’s going on in the world or by the journey of others.

You’ve spoken about your own mental health before. For people out there who are struggling with their own mental health right now, do you have tips to staying sane this year?

My tips to stay sane would be to breathe. Anytime you find yourself going through something difficult, just breathe – take three to five big breaths. That helps a lot. Stretching also helps, like start the morning off with stretching. And doing a lot of prayer. So just talking with God or whatever higher power you believe in – talk to that theme, talk to that person and just have become one with them.

Also turning on your favorite song and dancing is super helpful. Or even picking up a hobby. I’m learning guitar and it’s just teaching me so much about patience. And it’s almost taking me back to that childlike mentality when you first learn to ride a bike. You just keep falling and you get back up, you keep falling and back up. That’s how I’ve been with my guitar. There are certain things that I want to play and I can’t play right now. But I keep practicing and then within three weeks I’m able to play it, so that’s fun.

What are your goals for 2021?

My goal is to put out the California project, which is a project I’m working on right now. It’s a longer form project than my last two EPs. We didn’t have an EP drop this year, so in early 2021 you’ll get double that in one project. Another goal of mine is to be on tour. Hopefully the pandemic subdues and we are able to do some live shows in person. I’ve done a couple of digital shows and it just hasn’t been the same. But really my goal is to do some live shows and open for an artist like Kehlani, who’s someone I love or like, or PJ Morton – that would be crazy and a dream come true. Another goal is to do music full-time. Right now I still work a 9-5, so I’m balancing two careers and by next year I’m able to do this full time and be in a good financial place.

Let’s say the world is about to end tomorrow and you get to throw a party. Which song will you pick as the opener? And which one as the final song before we all die in flames?

Okay, so the opening song for my party would be my single “Listenin’” because I think it’s a great party starter since it has that nice uptempo beat and just tells you to listen. And it sounds like it’s telling you that a good night is in store for us. The last song would be Prince’s “Purple Rain.” I just feel like that would be the perfect song to end the world. The guitarist at the end sounds like a great fall from the heaven’s ground…it just sounds like an epic soundtrack to the final days of Earth.

There’s 99.99% chance that Reggie will be wearing his orange beanie at the party.

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