Brandon Douglas fuses soul, rap and jazz in self-produced EP

Brandon Douglas, a sophomore majoring in creative writing, is heavily involved in the student-artist community. Photo courtesy of Brandon Douglas.

Through an EP replete with catchy rap choruses, saxophone solos and funky guitar riffs, Brandon Douglas has developed a distinctive hip-hop and neo-soul sound as well as an original and trendy aesthetic. Douglas, better known as Bran Movay, is a sophomore majoring in creative writing  who has cultivated a strong presence in the student-artist community despite not pursuing an education in music. On Friday, Douglas will play a local show at the Yoni House with fellow USC musicians Zembased and Martin Ladell.

Over the summer, Douglas marked his debut in the music industry through the release of  “Flower Talk,” an entirely self-produced five-track EP. Douglas’ childhood growing up in Dallas has often inspired his songwriting. Douglas’ musical talent and experience  in graphic design and videography has granted  him full creative freedom to carry out his artistic vision. A melange of rap, neo-soul and jazz, Douglas’ musical style embodies his aptitude for melding hip-hop with personal influences.

The Daily Trojan sat down with Douglas to learn more about his development as an artist as well as his upcoming plans.

Daily Trojan: Your childhood has been a major inspiration in your music. How did growing up in Dallas impact your musical style?

Brandon Douglas: I’d say being from Dallas didn’t have any specific impact on my music, rather growing up in the school system I went to, a really small private school, definitely allowed me to try a lot of different things that I wouldn’t have at a big public school. I definitely would’ve been too scared to do anything at a bigger school … so it enabled me to experiment and not be too afraid to try something new.

DT: How did the local scene play a role in your growth as an artist?

BD: I’m still exploring the local scene in terms of the bigger picture of Dallas, like all of the music that is coming out of there. I’d say my friends are more involved in it than I am; they know other rising hip-hop artists who are on the scene in Dallas, as well as the whole community there. We’ve played a couple of clubs there whenever we [were] back together, so it’s always fun to be involved in the scene.

DT: Growing up, you maintained a relationship with music producers Erykah Badu and André 3000. What was some of the best advice they gave you in terms of being an artist in the music industry?

BD: Keep going. I remember André said those exact words: “Just keep at it.” Even if you do have some sort of talent or something is there, you’ll never know for sure until you explore your style and who you are as an artist, which comes with time.

DT: How did you get your start in music?

BD: My friend and I would always love playing around in GarageBand, so that’s definitely where it started. I didn’t get serious about until my sophomore year of high school. My friend bought this really nice recording mic and we just ended up making a project together. All throughout school, I was getting better at producing, rapping and all of that. Last year was the first time I released something on my own without my friends backing me up.

DT: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a music career?

BD: I’m still kind of realizing it now. It’s a weird thing because I feel like there’s more to me than music, but music can definitely take me to a place where I’d be able to explore everything else that I want to do. So I’d say I am pursuing music but it’s definitely not just music. I don’t know, it’s just something that I’ve happened to get good at and other people seem to like it so I’m going to keep doing it.

DT: How would you describe your musical style to someone who has never listened to your work?

BD: I usually tell people it’s a mix of neo-soul, hip-hop and a little bit of jazz thrown in there. I have a lot of friends who are instrumentalists so I like to get a few saxophone and guitar solos. It’s definitely grounded in hip-hop since I’m rapping most of the time and also singing a lot.

DT: Describe your creative process.

BD:  Most of the time it starts with a voice memo. I’ll take a voice memo of anything; it could be a melody, a flow, an idea for a hook or a chord. Then I’ll either start making the beat or start writing the song. Most of the time I start with the beat and then write over the beat that I produced, but a few songs on the EP started with the lyrics and I made the beat around the lyrics, which is a lot harder to do in my opinion.

DT: What is the biggest thing you have learned from releasing “Flower Talk”?

BD: I learned that I definitely don’t want to be mixing and mastering my music anymore. I like producing the beats and everything, but mixing and mastering seem like busy work. So I definitely want to move on from that and I’ve found a couple of people who might mix for me. I’m also just happy to have something out with my name on it. I learned that it was an adventure. Nothing ended the way I thought it would, but it turned out pretty cool.

DT: Who are your style influencers?  

BD: Fashion-wise I’d say I look up to people like Tyler, the Creator and Luka Sabba — they’re both really cool. My dad is probably my biggest style influence because I borrow a lot of his clothes sometimes and he just has a great sense of style.

DT: What is your dream collaboration?

BD: Pharrell, Childish Gambino, Tyler, the Creator or Smino would be cool.

DT: It’s been about six months since “Flower Talk” was released. Are you working on any new music?

BD: Yes, there is always something going on. I’m hopefully going to come out with a song “Mama” with my friend Ahmed. It’s kind of a collaborative track, so it’s both of our songs and it’ll be a single dropped later in December or January. We’re wrapping it up now, so we’ll see because it might lead to a full-length project with him.

DT: Can you tell us about any plans you have for 2018?

BD: I’m hoping to get a website up at least by the summer. I’m also working on a few music videos. One of the songs off of “Flower Talk,” “Willie Mayes,” is the furthest along. I’m working with a friend named Lindsay who is a junior [studying] film at UCLA and she will be directing it. We will hopefully be shooting all that in January or February next year. I’ve been performing a whole lot, so I’m looking forward to more of that next year.

DT: Do you have any advice for those who want to get a start in the music industry?

BD: Don’t be afraid to start somewhere — everyone has to start somewhere. Find people with similar tastes or even people [who] don’t have similar tastes. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!

Editor’s Note: This conversation was edited for clarity.