by Jennifer Hamra
When I arrived at the Basement Burger Bar in Downtown Detroit, Apropos– Detroit-based singer and songwriter– greeted me with a hug. It was my first time meeting the singer, but it was like we had been longtime friends. He was friendly and eager to share with me his story about his new solo career in music.
I could tell he was very passionate about his music as soon as he started answering my questions. He definitely has a story to tell, and it’s through his music that his stories come alive.
“It’s all about staying true to yourself.”
What makes Apropos stand out from your everyday famous musician is he’s not into creating music that just sells. He doesn’t make music to be accepted, either. Apropos strongly believes in creating music that is based on truth and substance. “I always want to stay true. It’s all about staying true to yourself.”
His music deals with real-life issues. He doesn’t believe in singing about superficial trends that are seen in today’s pop culture. Instead, Apropos wants his music to be about real life experiences.
“I’m not going to go down the road of speaking about pleasure, jewelry, sexual desire, and things like that,” he said. “I feel like there’s more than that. I feel like we have enough of that type of stuff. I’m always going to speak the truth.”
Apropos went on to say, “I’m not going to make up a song about trying to get a girl to my bedroom or trying to pop bottles in the club or stuff like that. That’s not really what I want to do with my music career. All of my songs are going to be about real experiences.”
“I knew at a very young age I was going to be doing this.”
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Apropos moved to Southfield, Michigan at the age of five. His family later settled in Farmington where he graduated from the Farmington school system.
He has a strong background in music. His grandfather sang in a church choir and was in a Doo-wop group in the 1940s. Apropos’ father was a pastor and singer in church, while his brother was in a Christian rap group called “God’s Army” from 1998 to 2006.
At an early age, Apropos knew he wanted to perform. “I always saw myself being on stage, you know,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I always knew I was going to be famous, but I always knew people were going to know me for my music.”
He began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. By age 10, he wrote his first piece of music– a classical piece.
“I knew when I started writing my own pieces and started closing the book, and you know, just getting in front of there– vocalizing and playing chords and stuff like that– that’s when I knew one day I was going to be a musician.”
He is the former lead singer for the Michigan-based band Soul Divide. In Summer 2016, he parted ways with the band to pursue his solo career in music. He even left his full-time job to focus solely on his musical career. That’s how passionate and strongly he feels about his music.
You have to admire someone who is willing to take such a big leap of faith to follow his dreams.
GOOD LIFE DETROIT (GLD): What does “Apropos” mean?
APROPOS (A): It means ‘pertaining to’. My name is Austin, and I kind of wanted something that starts with the letter ‘A’. I feel as if I pertain to a lot of different genres of music and a lot of different styles. So I went with that.
GLD: Detroit is known to have a lot of incredible music artists. How has that had an impact on you musically?
A: Motown 100%. I would just start there. Ever since I was a kid, I looked up to The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye. All these great legends, who even if they weren’t from the city [Detroit], they started their music career in the city [of Detroit].
Motown has definitely had a tremendous impact on what I do to this day.
I really like what Barry Gordy (founder of Motown) has done and what he did. He kind of started a conglomerate, and you know, it goes on to this day. A lot of musicians from this city stick together and that’s what’s important.
“I feel as if I pertain to a lot of different genres of music and a lot of different styles.”
GLD: Why did you want to stop taking piano lessons?
A: I didn’t really like the classic stuff. I liked to sing jazz, rock, R&B. It was very frustrating being a student playing piano when you couldn’t really do those things (singing jazz, rock, and R&B). I had a very strict piano teacher. Her name was Ms. Emma. She was a very strict Russian lady. Older lady. She was the type to smack your knuckles if you played the wrong note.
It’s not that I didn’t like it. It got really tiresome. I wanted to break out. That’s when I started getting into blues and that led me into rock. Rock led me into hip-hop. Hip-hop led me into neo-soul. It [piano] definitely opened up a door.
GLD: Do you write all of your music (lyrics)?
A: I do. Lyrics? I do. For the band [Soul Divide], as well. I wrote all the lyrics.
In this Apropos project, I work with a producer. His name is B-WHAYE. What we do is, he gets a rhythm going. He gets a little melody going. And he gets the production all set, as for as the drums, the guitar, the bass. Pretty much all of the music, all of the instruments. He gets all that going and that’s when I start the songwriting. It’s a collective songwriting process.
GLD: Is he based in Detroit?
A: Yep. He’s a great producer. He produces for Trick Trick, Snoop Dogg, Chavis Chandler.
GLD: You’re currently working on an album or you just finished it?
A: We just finished the EP. It’s just not released yet. We’re waiting for the music video for the song “Oreo” to drop and once the video drops, we’ll have a release date for the EP.
GLD: Where are you going to do the video?
A: My manager and I are in the process of writing the theme for the video. Once we get all that straight, we definitely want to include Detroit. We won’t be out of the state or anything like that. We just want to kind of get the idea of the video first.
GLD: Can you tell me about the song “Oreo”?
A: “Oreo” was a very fun song for me to write because growing up in the suburbs, being the person I am, I was the skinny jeans, skateboarding-like kid who listened to rock music. You know, I got called Oreo a lot because people think, you know, black on the outside and white on the inside. I disagree with anyway. I don’t think somebody can act white. I don’t think anybody can act black.
As I look at my life now, doing music and kind of being free, that old me kind of came out a little bit and wanted to reach out and tell these people who pretend to be your friend. I’ve had so many people who wouldn’t even want to say hi to me back then. They’re coming up to me now saying, “Hey, how’s the music going? What’s up?” It’s like they don’t talk to me but they know, “Austin’s doing music. He’s trying his best. He’s trying to do it. He’s trying to make it.”
That song can be related to people who hate on you. People who told you that you’ll never be anything. It can be a fight against the system– the way our government treats us– because they sometimes stab us in our backs and then come running to our aid. They try to act like they didn’t mean to hurt you, but now they want to help you.
I really hope that everybody takes the song in their own way. But in my way, it is about the kid who used to get made fun of. It’s like now look at me. I’m on the come up. That type of thing.
GLD: I really like “Acumen”. It’s really catchy and I find myself humming the song a lot. I was curious what is the meaning behind the song?
A: I wrote that song at a difficult time in my life. Kind of like, we all have months where we kind of get down and everything seems like it’s coming against us. It’s very melancholy, to be quite honest.
But while things are bad, there’s still hope. There’s still faith. In the chorus, when I’m saying “at times I can it all”, I’m really in a bad spot. But you know, it’s all about keeping your head up high and seeing it all. I just wrote that to just kind of keep the faith, to keep things going. So it’s a sad song, but at the same time, it’s happy because I know my sorrow is going to be over. I’m going to be happy. That’s what that’s all about.
Of course, the meaning of “Acumen”, is having insight– having keen insight. And that’s why I named it that. No matter what, I still have the insight that everything is going to be okay.
GLD: What is it like performing?
A: It’s the best feeling in the world! I love it. It’s the only time I feel genuinely happy is when I’m on stage.
GLD: Do you ever get nervous?
A: No, I never get nervous. The reason why is because I always knew I was going to be doing this. Whether it was in front of ten people or a hundred people or a thousand people. I always knew I was going to be performing.
So when I get up there, or when I get in front of the camera, you know, it’s just natural. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel fueled.
It’s awesome performing. It’s the greatest feeling, especially seeing somebody who doesn’t know your music very well. Seeing them in the crowd and watching them engaged, watching them tap their foot, nod their head, or put their hands in the air.
That’s another great feeling, too, because you feel like you’ve done your job for you and you’ve also done your job for somebody else. You’ve made this product You’ve made this song, and now this person who doesn’t even know who you are is feeling you and vibing along to you.
That’s a great feeling. It’s an awesome feeling. I love it.
“I feel like the new kid in Detroit. I can’t wait to show these other kids what I can do.”
Fun Questions with Apropos
What are you currently listening to?
Mahogany Jones– I’d love to work with her in the future.
Royce da 5’9″
Favorite 90s jam?
Mark Morrison “Return of the Mack”, for sure. I love that song! It’s a comeback song.
Do you play any other instruments?
Drums. I like playing drums. I used to play for a church for about 7 years. So I taught myself that. Just vocals, drums, and piano.
Do you have a musical artist you’d love to meet, dead or alive?
Prince– due to his presence. His presence would be something amazing to learn more about.
Michael Jackson– for his performing.
Jim Morrison– for his songwriting. He’s one of the best persons to look at who turned poetry into song.
Bradley Nowell from Sublime– because he is and will always be my biggest influence in rock music because that was my first type of rock music I listened to. If I could meet him that would be amazing. He was kind of the first rock star I looked up to. Rest in peace to him.
What song is your go-to song for when you’re happy?
Stevie Wonder “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered”. It’s just a great song. It puts you in a great mood. How can you be mad when you listen to that song?!
When I’m sad, I listen to a lot of Nirvana because it’s straight moody. No matter what mood you’re in, you’re going to find something to match that with Kurt’s voice or with what he says.
I’m not a metal person. I don’t like heavy metal so when I’m angry…maybe some NWA. That’s the closest to heavy metal I’ll get because they were actually angry and on a mission to fight against something. NWA definitely.
I listen to a lot of Kendrick Lamar. Why? Because that dude is just so passionate, man. I feel like he’s just on a mission and he just keeps completing these missions in life. He’s just always striving, for something, I feel like, as an artist. Him and J. Cole. So I like listening to a lot of Kendrick and J. Cole when I’m lifting.
On the rock side, there’s this one album I love by Bloc Party called Silent Alarm. It’s like one of my favorite albums of all time. Anytime I’m working out, I listen to them, too.
Where’s the best place to hear live music in Detroit?
It was UFO Factory. I used to love going there. Unfortunately, they’re no longer [open]. I’m really starting to like El Club in Southwest Detroit (Mexicantown). It’s super eclectic. You can go to a rap show there. You can go to a heavy metal show there.
The last show I went to there was Tunde Olaniran. It was a great show. He’s a very good performer. El Club’s a great place. You always catch somebody cool there.
Apropos: “I’m always willing to work with any local artists with a positive attitude and an open mind. Because I really feel that’s how we’re going to get people to excel and go beyond the City of Detroit. It starts with the reposts. It starts with the likes. It starts with the retweets. It starts with going to people’s shows.
Just meeting up with another musician, just talking about planning. What’s your next move for your work? Here’s my next move and let’s see if we can come together. Trying to do shows together.
I really want to see that happen a lot more– artists supporting other artists. Everybody should know who the musicians are. There should always be support. That’s the only way we’re going to get back to the Motown era.
I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, but I feel like we can support each other a lot better. And I can’t wait to see that because I’m totally ready to support my fellow musicians.”
“I feel like the new kid in school. My first time at lunch with the lunch tray looking at all these Detroit artists. ‘I don’t really know where to sit. I don’t know if you’re cool with me. I don’t know. Am I allowed to sit with you? I saw you had a show yesterday. I like your music.’
I kind of feel like the new kid in Detroit. I can’t wait to show these other kids what I can do.”
Alex Godwin Photography’s official website is here.
Special thanks to Apropos for meeting with Good Life Detroit and sharing his music and thoughts with our readers!