We had the good fortune of connecting with Amir Royale and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amir, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Real red-blooded humans take “risks.” It’s just a part of our nature. Our ancestors “risked” traveling from one continent to another to extend their lineages. The Walt Disneys, George Lucas‘, Steven Speilbergs, Issa Raes, Spike Lees, Neil DeGrasse Tysons, Maya Angelous, and Rosa Parks of the world took “risks” to make this planet equitable for those that came after them. Falling in love is a “risk.” Becoming educated is a “risk.” If we were to get really granular, just deciding to keep breathing is “risky.” But, to be honest, it’s all about context to me truthfully. Some of us are worried about losing what’s comfortable — and that’s something I’ve throughout my life empathized with almost detrimentally. When I was in Kindergarten, my father and I would go to my public library in Saint Albans, Queens to do this challenge called the “100-Book Challenge” at P.S. 36. Without fail every year since then I would be one of the leading students completing that challenge to the sacrifice of my social life and friendships. You have to understand — I was in KINDERGARTEN — and I was reading not 25, not 50, not even just 75 but ONE HUNDRED BOOKS per year at minimum. Teachers praised me — but thought my father and I were going overboard. Students were either envious or dangerously hostile about me doing it. And, well — as I got older, I started to really understand how much my studiousness and ambition were hurting my safety around school — but in context to where I am today — I’m not really sure there would have been a better choice. I made those same sacrifices to become an actor in my elementary school plays. To be in the school band and drama departments of my middle schools. I made those SAME sacrifices to get into my eventual dream high school Fiorello H. LaGuardia HS of Music & Art and Performing Arts. To me, my “risks” were always a gamble. For sure, I could end up not getting anything even close to what I was dreaming about or trying to manifest — but how would I have felt today if I didn’t even attempt to try? This whole year of living in an artistic drought of a pandemic, amidst the ceremonies of graduations I could have cared less to experience — it just taught me one thing — that we’re the creators of our own legacies and the architects of our own fate. I found myself having more and more agency in the life I was living post my graduation from New York University in a way that was absolutely terrifying to me. Partly because — and I don’t even know how to fully explain this really — but, I know that this constant sense of power would be around the corner of decisions I was scared to make. “Are you going to accept this job?” “Are you still going to record at this studio even if you don’t have the funds to?” “Are you still going to trust these people that everyone doesn’t seem to want you around?” “Are you going to let her go, or keep her in your heart no matter what?” Scary questions; beautiful answers. You know? These days I just see “risk” as a necessary way of healing your future mistakes. It’s just… well… I don’t know [scoffs]…. Maybe we just haven’t recognized what those mistakes are going to be yet.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
This is a weird question for me — mostly because it took me a long time to get where I am now. I think at some point, maybe, I didn’t think I would get here… wherever “here” is. I make art from the standpoint of history. From the standpoint of being a griot for the next generation of young artists that looked up at this wild world with favor and joy just like I did when I was about 4 or 6 years old. I constantly obsess over how the people around me are supposed to live forever. In more ways than one, I think I worry about our mortality a lot. Having grandparents in their 90s and a father in his late 60s does that to you. Losing my mother, as young as I was, did that too maybe. Not to mention I’m black. Not to mention my wealth class. Not to mention the city I grew up in. Not to mention — a plethora of things really. You get it. So yeah, I don’t really make the stuff I do just for me. That stopped a long time ago. My story became EVERYONE’s story. Films became a chance to immortalize narratives and emotions my friends and I could never express out loud. Music became a chance to cement the legacy of great geniuses and heartwarming people around me. Theatre became a chance to prove to people there’s more to life than just our day-to-day paychecks. I’m a walking history book (I’ve been coming to find), and I’ve become so concerned about people I know not existing tomorrow. So, as I said, my solution became to create art that kind of transcended time. At least to ME. I don’t mean that in a: “crazy; I’m so important; pay attention to me!” sort of way — I more so mean — if no one ever learns of me until 30 years from now? — every second, minute, day, week, and month of my life since 2012 is findable for you. Because I wanted it to be. And yeah — I guess I hope you enjoy it in some form or another. It wasn’t easy getting here at all. It took a lot of hard conversations, dark nights, heartbreaks, student debt — friendships. It took a lot. A lot I was willing to sacrifice just to tell this story — our story — my story — their story — to so many other souls. I don’t mind that sacrifice really. I used to — but, I don’t think I mind it anymore. Because it feels worth it now. As mentioned before, I couldn’t be here without the faith and love of so many of the people who came before me and who held me up when I couldn’t stand up on my own at some point. God, my mother, my family, my close friends, my mentors, my professors. Myself included. I had to believe I’d get somewhere eventually — and though I’m not perfectly where I’d LIKE to be — at least, I don’t think so — I’m close. I feel it right around the corner somewhere. It’s gotta be somewhere, you know? Like, it’s just dark so I can’t really see much yet, you know [laughs]? I just know that when it all comes together I’ll be happy we prepared for it all two decades of time in advance on this Earth basically [chuckles]. Because it was all worth it. It was ALL worth it. Truly.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Man, this city is crazy. Pop-out and get yourself a nice Iced Coffee and Bacon Egg & Cheese over at J & T’s Supermarket on 117th Road and Farmer’s Boulev
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Well, first and foremost, I GOTTA shout out God. Can’t do much of what I’m trying to do right now without the helpful guidance of him and my mother up above. Of course, my close family follows right behind that. My father is the reason I can even stand on two feet with any hint of confidence. My grandfather is the sole reason I allow myself to laugh so hard and so often. And without my question, I couldn’t be sane or know what love feels like without my grandmother. Those 3 souls protect me more than I realize most times. Shoutout M. StageScene Communications though. MSSC (a company that my father founded and that I currently head the Board of with some close friends and collaborators) hosts a majority of my own projects and features so many up-and-coming artists from all across America. It’s a blessing of a community to have in my life so early on reaching into my early twenties. In time, MSSC will mean so much more to me and everyone than friendship and faith — it’ll be an unquestionable reality for the modern equitable artist, and I’m so excited to see our evolution into that. And lastly, I’d sincerely before anything else would like to desperately thank Richie Cannata and more importantly his son, Eren Cannata. Richie has become like a second father to me in the past two years based on his faith and wisdom alone with me. Going to Cove City Sound Studios and being in the presence of an industry titan and glorious musician such as himself blows my mind. Constantly. He and John Arbuckle have helped me hone my craft so intensely it’s insane. And meanwhile, Eren — well — Eren is just that [chuckles] — Eren. Eren is a big brother to me and a mentor that I’ve searched for so neurotically since middle school. Taking me under his wing (which I constantly see he never had to do) has been such a scary and wondrously beautiful experience. Seeing his inevitable and unstoppable growth out in the LA songwriting / production scene with Facethouse is like a dream come true. But, him constantly helping me shift, mold, and adapt to this crazy world around me is a blessing I don’t think I expected. And I love him for that. Truly. Oh yeah [laughs], and before I forget — shoutout Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Harry Shifman, Lee Lobenhofer, Sandy Faison, Stacey Cervellino, Jonathan Davidson — MR. ROB KRAUSZ. Couldn’t be here without you. And of course, Clive Davis Institute over at NYU and Tisch School of the Arts deserves its due credit as well. From Lauren Davis, to Jason King, to Jeff Peretz, to Kenn Hicks, to Vivian Goldman, to Bob Power and Nick Sansano — I mean, damn — the list is endless. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. My existence is the work of a village, not just our creator.
• Photo of MSSC Board of Director’s Team, provided by M. StageScene Communications, Corp. • Cover Art for Amir Royale’s single “Paradox”, designed by Julisse Tinoco for SPECTRUMM Animations. • Photos of Royale and his family, provided by Aja Eden Adam of Adam of Eden Photography. • Photos of Royale with Richie Cannata, John Arbuckle and Eren Cannata, provided by Cove City Sound Studios. • Photo of Amir Royale at The Venue, Berlin, provided by Jean-Michel Jorrisen. • Promotional Poster for Amir Royale’s LES POISSONS MORTS film, provided by Royale Pictures Inc. & SPECTRUMM Animations.