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Arin Ray Found The Fun In Music While Toeing The Line Between Love And Lust On ‘Phases III’

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“It’s like when Kobe changed his number from 8 to 24, it’s just different. Different beast.”

That’s what Arin Ray said about his growth during an interview with Uproxx days before the release of his latest EP, Phases III. The third installment in the series, which dates back to 2016 when the inaugural edition was released, comes after the Cincinnati-bred singer felt his 2022 sophomore album Hello Poison flew a bit lower under the radar than he would’ve liked.

For anyone who’s followed Arin’s music since Phases, you know that the EPs are a check-in from the singer that update fans on his current mental and emotional state, so now could be the perfect time for Phases III.

Arin Ray’s latest project is the result of some course correcting, going back to what he does best: having fun with his art. The result is an 11-track body of work — almost twice as long as the previous Phases installations — that presents the singer as a flirty and charismatic character who can let his guard down for a good time.

Elsewhere in this interview, Arin Ray spoke about his growth between Phases and Phases III, what to expect for his Phases Tour in 2024, and how he balances love and lust on his latest project.

You’re over a year removed from Hello Poison, what about that project and the experience creating it would you credit towards making Phases III?

With Hello Poison, that was definitely a weird time for the world coming out of the pandemic. It was super pandemic-esque, super lovey-dovey. It’s coming from a space of it not doing what we felt we could’ve [done] with it. Then I was like, “Do I have a temperature on what’s dope right now?” I took a step back and just paid attention to my previous recordings. Whether it was Platinum Fire or the Phases [EPs] and just seeing what I was doing aesthetically [and] energy-wise, what was working?

I was a fan of Hello Poison so I may just be in my own bubble, but did you feel like it didn’t reach expectations in the way you wanted it to?

I mean, shoot, that thing didn’t reach nobody, to be honest. If we’re really talking about numbers and stats, that did not do what it was supposed to, or what it could have done. I felt like it was better than advertised, but it showed me to find new ways to promote my music. I took that one on the chin and started moving in a certain direction as far as being more intentional with my records. It was a weird time because it was COVID vibes, but we back outside now.

You’re going off instinct and having fun on this project with songs like “Wet Dream,” “Tequila,” and “Psychic.” How much did you miss these fun moments in creating and was it something you felt like you had to do?

We was just having fun, literally. My intention with that was really just to have fun, be creative, and be intentional. Sometimes when you’re talented and you want to always push and give people new stuff, they might not be ready to receive that just yet. I feel like a lot of people are still musically catching up to Platinum Fire.

I feel like pretty much all the young dudes today, and no disrespect, there’s a piece of Platinum Fire in them. I dare you to ask any of them and see what they say about that. There is an influence in the way we do break beats, melodies, [and] cadences the way I was doing it. Artists wasn’t doing it. So yeah, I definitely was just trying to have fun with this one and just not really care.

All my Phases were literally me just trying things. Phases I was me trying stuff because I was working with Nez & Rio with different sounds. It was just trying stuff and having fun. It’s a check-up on where I am mentally, physically, [and] emotionally with these relationships with women.

You worked with Tricky Stewart and James Fauntleroy on “Wait So Long,” I hear James on “Psychic” as well. What was it like working with legends like Tricky and James?

There’s not a song I have ever let anybody write and produce for me. This is the only song (“Wait So Long”) I let [someone produce and write for me] with James Fauntleroy. I let him do his thing from scratch – beat and song. The session was crazy bro, I’ve been waiting for that for like 10 years because I studied bro, so I was like, “Hey, you got it.” I ain’t never let nobody do that. It was a great experience, great experience.

I like how you balance lust and love on this project. The fun moments we previously talked about depict the lust, but you seem more serious and a bit more geared towards love on “Wait So Long,” “Cold,” and “Moonlight.” How intentional was this and what’s key about that balance to you?

It’s just where I’ve been. I was just having fun, not looking to be in a relationship. So this is Single Arin not looking for love in any way — but you know, you always find it somehow. That lust/love contrast really pushed the whole project because it’s like I’m talking to her, I’m dating, doing whatever. But I’m just having fun at the end of the day. It literally just comes down to fun man, just having fun and not really being so serious and caught up in being in love and having to do that. I’m like, “Do I know what love is?” half the time. You know, we learning.

I loved your “Stay” collaboration with Phabo, so I wanted to ask, who are some of the newer R&B artists that have caught your attention lately?

Phabo is obviously one of them. I love bro, he’s really cool. Jordan Ward’s not really R&B, but Jordan’s incredible. I love Jordan. Q’s really not R&B, but he’s incredible. The ladies are running it, it’s really not about the men as it is the women. Samaria is crazy right now. I been loving her music. Ebony Riley, I love her. Obviously, Ari Lennox my peer, she’s incredible. Summer Walker [too]. Baby Rose, I’m hypnotized when I watch her perform. Her voice just grabs you, dog. There are so many people who are incredible.

What I’m seeing is style. What I like from all of them [is] they have style. They don’t all look the same, they got their own thing and they’re really into their music. They love their craft and they love building a community and I love that about them. [It’s] something I wish I was better at. I’m learning from them. Chase Shakur [too], I’ve been seeing him come up. That boy is nasty. He’s on to something.

Is this the final installment for Phases? I ask as you said that the trilogy is complete in a post.

I would hope imma be done with Phases, but you never know. I can’t say no because what if I get bigger and — I’ve never done it on a Drake scale, but say I’m that big, you never know what doing an EP like that and bringing it back to home could do for your fans and your people. To that, I wouldn’t say no, but for right now I would love to dive in and new things.

I got a few collab vibes that I’m gonna do with a few people. I got some music that I want to do with Terrace [Martin] and Elena Pinderhughes. There are a couple of collectives I want to create to push my artistry and my musicianship to the next level. I don’t know if I would do another Phases, but if it’s another EP, it’s definitely gonna be something where it’s very, very unique and very for the times and just maybe collabbing with other people.

You did the Hello Poison Tour last fall. For fans that will come to the Phases Tour, what will be different about this run of shows?

The experience is going to be more for the fans, I’m really touching on everything. I’m doing renditions of certain things that I haven’t performed, things that people been asking me to perform and I never do. The experience will be crazy. The bigger show, we got the band. Me and a band, it’s not a night-and-day because I can crush the stage by myself, but the type of energy that comes with that is second to none. I just can’t wait to give them visuals, my voice, everything. It’s another step up, the next step from what we were doing on [the] Hello Poison Tour. The Hello Poison Tour was great, but I learned a lot too. It’s gonna be a show, it’s always a time when you come out to my show, people know that.

Phases III is out now via Interscope Records. Find out more information here.