Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
ROE has always wanted to be a performer. Even as a kid, the Los Angeles singer-songwriter was certain that center stage was where she belonged. But anyone who is familiar with the music industry is fully aware that the path to superstardom is anything but linear — too often, the road to success is marked by twists and turns, pit stops, and delays.
No one knows that reality better than ROE. When she was just a teenager, the singer was signed to Macy Gray under Interscope Records, an incredible opportunity that allowed her to learn the ropes of the hyper-competitive music industry and rub shoulders with some of the most famous people within that space. Observant and shrewd, ROE ultimately decided to play the long game, putting performing on the back burner — but never giving up on her dream — and trying her hand at songwriting under the rigorous tutelage of R&B deity Laney Stewart .
The choice paid off, and her decision to become a songwriter led her to a career penning songs for some of the biggest names in R&B. Over the past decade, ROE has collaborated with icons like Usher, Mary J. Blige, and Teyana Taylor and has even written original music for Fox's musical series Empire and Star. She's crafted love songs and heartbreak anthems alike, building a pristine reputation for being one of the best songwriters in show business.
After a successful stretch of writing music for other people, the lyricist is now ready to get behind the mic again and use her pen to tell her own story. With a brand new single "I Like," ROE makes her official debut as a solo artist under Universal Music Publishing Group, and the sultry track is the perfect re-introduction to a talented act. Inspired by the classic melody of Hi-Five's Teddy Riley-produced single "I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)," the single is steeped in the sounds of classic R&B. ROE's song and its accompanying visuals, premiering exclusively here on Refinery29, do exactly what good R&B is supposed to do — they make you feel good.
Refinery29 caught up with the hitmaker to talk about her unique journey back to the limelight, peeling back the many layers of ROE to learn how every choice she's made so far has led her center stage.
Refinery29: "I Like" is such a great R&B jam that clearly shows that you're well-versed in the genre — I peeped the Hi-Five sample! What's the story behind the song?
ROE: "In the beginning, I was working with my producer Ric Rude, and he was just going through beats and played one that really was my vibe — it was very sexy, very feel-good. 'Kissing Game' is one of my favorite songs, and for some reason, the beat Ric played for me inspired me to play around with that melody. I'm the type of artist who likes to just freestyle and float around with the music, so we literally knocked it out in like two to three hours. And I was actually going to sell that record, but something in my spirit wouldn't let me give it away, so we ran with it."
"I just want people to feel really good when they listen to this song. We're in a time right now where we need to flirt and love more than ever amidst all the craziness going on. I want to provide a moment for people to feel good. That's what I want to share with the world: a chance for people to feel themselves again."
What about the visuals? Aside from being being super luxe and bougie (love to see it!), the fact that you're doing so all alone in that gigantic mansion is pretty relevant to the times we're living in right now. Quarantine, but make it glamorous.
"I really wanted to give that glamor — that's my style! That's what I like! I'm really big on Black women living and existing in luxury, and the more that that's seen, the better it is for the culture. I've always said that when I have my opportunity to do it big, I want to be just like that. So I found the most beautiful house that I could find in Bel-Air, and that was it."
"Now that I think about it, it really does look like I was quarantining, but my real reasoning for being solo in the video was that I didn't want any distractions. It's my first video, so I wanted people to immediately see me and get me. There's tons of eye contact in the video because I really wanted to connect with the audience. Further down the line, we can have the extras and everything, but for this one, I just wanted it to be me and the audience."
How did you get your start as a songwriter after your Interscope deal?
"I don't think I wrote my first song until around 2010. When I was signed to Macy, I never wrote any of my own stuff — as much as I loved music, I never ever thought about doing that. But I was brought in as demo singer for Laney, and he asked me if I knew how to write. I didn't, of course, but I just decided to try it, and I guess I killed it. So we started working together, and then four months later, I signed a publishing deal with Universal."
"That first year was almost like college. I was learning how to write hit records from a person who had written so many huge tracks ("Bills, Bills, Bills," "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right," "Suffocate"), and we knocked out like 100 songs within that time. So, doing that for years and years, you just kind of grow in it and master it."
What's it been like for you to switch gears from being a singer to a songwriter to being a singer-songwriter? You've been writing music for other people for years now — was it difficult to start working on your own project?
"I took a hiatus from being front stage, but I never stopped wanting to be in the spotlight. I saw how writing and helping other artists assisted in my goals in the long run...even the way that everything's come together for me now wouldn't have happened had I not lended my services and talents to other people for all that time. If I'm being honest, this has always been the goal — always. So now, it's more let's tap in, let's go than me trying to shift gears to become someone else. I feel like I'm just being myself because this has always been what I wanted to do."
"In the process of writing for people, I've built so many relationships with top producers and artists in the game. There are so many features with major artists to come, and that just came with me being in the studio and showing who I am and what I can do."
If you could go back in time and meet your younger self when she was first signed to Interscope, what advice would you give her knowing what you know now?
"I'd say to just trust the process. Don't worry if you don't know exactly who you are or what you want to be right now because it'll all eventually fall into place. I really struggled with my direction at that time, so I'd definitely want to be a little bit kinder to myself and take some of that pressure off. More than anything, just trust the process. Every step that I took and every obstacle that I went through was necessary for me to get where I am now."