Rich Hobby: Welcome to the Hult Center podcast. This is Rich Hobby, Director of Marketing for the Hult Center and thank you for joining us for this episode. I am so excited for today’s chat as I’m getting to speak with Ron Artist II who is an incredible musician and performer. Simply put, he’s just this phenomenal guitarist, vocalist and just lights up the stage the moment he steps foot on it. Ron was actually recently on stage in the Soreng Theater during a time we can only have 50 people inside the building and we’re exceptionally excited to have him return along with his full band The Truth. Ron, Aloha, and welcome to the show.
Ron Artis II: Thank you so much for having me, man. I’m really looking forward to coming back to Eugene, especially the Hult Center.
Rich Hobby: Well, I know Eugene is excited to see you come back as well. And the last time we saw you was quite the solo show, which saw you finish your set adorned with a giggling baby dancing daughters on stage. So what was that memory like?
Ron Artis II: Man, it was really amazing. It was a surreal moment of you know, coming through these last two years and then being able to come down to Eugene and do a concert in such a beautiful space and have my family out with me on the road. It was like a glimpse of normalcy coming back.
Rich Hobby: Perfect. And will the family be joining you on this one? Are they going to be staying home on on for these dates?
Ron Artis II: Oh, the family is going to be with me on this trip. So I’m really looking forward to it.
Rich Hobby: Well, perfect. I know. Definitely a number of our back of house staff will love to trade a high five with them when they come through the door. The doors.
Ron Artis II: That’s gonna be fun, man. Yeah, it’s gonna be fun. They’re growing. So quick, man. Time Time moves so fast for little kids.
Rich Hobby: I bet. Yeah. So now that you’re able to return with the full band, what can audiences expect?
Ron Artis II: Um, the difference between, I’d say that the biggest difference between the full band and my solo performances is just, there’s such an eclectic sound. When I’m playing with these guys, it’s it’s so much fun, there’s so much energy, we get to really kind of push and pull off of each other. And we’re just gonna we’re gonna be journey through our new album, as well as the album Soul Street. So we’ll be coming out blues, funk, soul, it’s overall it’s going to be an evening of soul. And it’s a lot of fun, because it’s like, we hopefully get everybody in there moving, it’s going to be an experience,
Rich Hobby: Well I was just listening to your most recent album, with Ron Artis second and the Truth. The album is titled Purpose and was released in 2021. And show some of the incredible range you have as a musician. What messages were you hoping to share on this album?
Ron Artis II: This album was really important to us because it’s like, it was a wild two years, I don’t even get in it for anybody. But uhm, one thing that kept coming in front of mine was purpose. I once heard a long time ago, when I was growing up that you only go as far as your purpose takes you. And if you’re, if we seem to align ourselves with the popular thought that fame or all those things are worthy of where to put your heart at, and where to put your goals. It’s um, it only gets you so far, especially through times like these last two years. If your goal is to be famous, if your goal is to get known, if your goal is to get a lot of money in the bank, that’s only going to drive you so far, you’re going to lose hope you’re going to lose fuel, you’re going to fill this unfulfilling moment in your life. And this album was really trying to lean into what my purpose is, and what purposes I appreciate, and other people I’ve met to my journey of life, and one of the songs is titled more than me. And that’s really a personal reflection at the music industry itself, that, you know, there’s so many folks that come in my life and they told me, you know, be the greatest you can be, be the star be this think, to me, the word being a star, star is a four letter word, to me, it’s something that, that I never aspired to be. I think the best I can be in this world is of service to other people, and trying to find some way to leave something, something special behind once I’ve lived my life through to help somebody get through and navigate the times that they’ve got to have to navigate through their lives in the song just wants to highlight a lot of the beautiful things in in life that are worth living for. Besides myself, there’s so much more than myself worth living for. And that’s what that song is about.
Rich Hobby: When did you find your purpose? What was that path like for yourself?
Ron Artis II: I found my purpose because I had a great had two good parents growing up and they kept putting the challenge to me, especially my dad, he would be like, hey, Ron, why you why music, and I, you know, being, I don’t know, 16,18, 20 year old through the span of years of I would just respond. Just because I love the music man. And he’s like, that’s beautiful, but it’s not enough. You’ve got to find out what your reason is what your purpose is because That’s inevitably what’s going to carry you through the dark times of your life. To keep doing what you’re passionate about, you’ve got to know what the reason is. And it was, it was really, it was really tough for me to think about that, you know, over the the span and a conversation with my father about this especially was like, one day, I remember telling him that oh, man, I, I he’s like, why are you and I was like, well, because I love doing music with my dad. You know, my dad was my first music teacher. And we spent all this time together, he looked me square in the eyes. And he said, that’s beautiful. I love that. But I won’t always be here. And of course, you think like, your dad’s gonna be on you everyday, like writing you, man until you’re 90, whatever. But unfortunately, a year after that my dad passed away. And it was by far the heaviest moment of my life. And I remember all those conversations of finding what your reason is, finding why you have your gift, why you have the breath of life, the beat in your heart still going. You still have a difference to make on this planet. What’s that difference? What do you want that difference to be? If someone’s answer is I want to be the greatest who ever lived. And I want to be celebrated through the end of time, I beg you to re evaluate that decision. Because life is just, it’s such a gift. It’s so beautiful. And there’s so many people in this planet who are struggling. And there’s so many things that we go through personally, and we fall into the feeling that it happened to us. And we completely miss out on the truth that you get a wonderful gift with all your struggles, everything you’ve gone through everything you’ve been allowed to experience in your life. It’s, there’s something special about those moments, however hard they may be. And I sometimes remind people that when you’ve come through that struggle, you’ve been given a torch to light the way through that darkness with someone else. So just appreciate the lessons that we’ve been given on our lives and find your reason. Find your purpose. And appreciate it. Love it. Cherish it, and love other people.
Rich Hobby: I love that sentiment. And it’s funny that you mentioned love because if there’s one theme that seems to carry through your music, I’d say that it’s love like in all caps. Thanks. And I’d love to know in your opinion, what makes a love song truly great. And do you have any just like, like a top three to five of those are? Ron’s love songs.
Ron Artis II: Oh, man, you mean my love songs that I’ve written? I love songs that I love to go and listen to.
Rich Hobby: I’d love both to be honest. I’d love to know what love songs influenced you then? Then you know, or maybe maybe you can even select you know if there was one love song for Ron that you think everyone should have? Yeah, then what would that be?
Ron Artis II: Man. Well, there’s a bunc h, right? Um, everything from La Bohème by Charles Aznavour, I love that song? How do you mend a broken heart by Al Green? It’s all over the map. Right? I think the biggest thing for me was I wrote an album two years ago. And it’s called Julia. It’s titled after my wife. And we celebrated eight years of marriage that year and, and I decided to write an album just as a testament of our love. And the thing for me, someone asked me like the hardest question in the world, which was like, What is love? And I’m like, If I could describe that in less than a minute, I don’t know I would have to be, I’d have to be insane genius. I think we can only ever describe a perspective of love. And each and each conversation, we only were talking about one of the most powerful forces in the whole universe. So it’s like, when I describe love, it’s this deep caring for someone that you care about them so much that not only do you want to feel their highest highs with them, their joys, their memories, you want to share all that but you also want to feel their pain. You also want to feel their struggles with them. If something’s affecting them, you want it to affect you because you care so deeply about this person or this, this group of people. You just this feeling is indescribable. You want to thrive with them, you want to see them thrive, you want to struggle with them, you want to cry with them, you want to you want to share life together. And it’s important, I think, for us to in this fast paced society to be able to discern the difference between love and lust, because there’s so many of these quick love songs that are just like “oh babe I how you look tonight” or like this or like that I love your hair the way it is. And it’s like, oh, slow down, yo slow down. Connect to that person, care about that person. Because inevitably, we’re are we helping each other? Are we hurting each other. And it’s, it’s important to have fun and live lightheartedly at times, but it’s also important to know that every decision we make every step we take is we’re making a footprint in this life. And so it’s just trying to be aware, you know?
Rich Hobby: Yeah, that was beautiful. Having seen you play guitar, and haven’t played guitar myself, I have to ask a question of the way the style that you play guitar takes considerable skill and practice. What advice do you have for developing musicians when they hit a wall or hurdle in their development?
Ron Artis II: Um, find and appreciate your voice. I want to say like, when I was first off learning guitar, I think I was about 13 when I started. And then before that, it was mostly all keyboards and bass. And then at 16,18 was kind of the moment of hitting a wall and realizing I’m not going to be able to play everything. You know, it was like, man, music itself is an endless journey, you could live 10 lifetimes and never reach the end of it. Be fair with yourself, find what you’re passionate about. Find out what your voice is. Because far too often, we don’t value our own individuality. When it comes to music. It’s like how you speak no one really likes to listen to the recording of themselves speaking, it’s because but to someone else, it could, they could find it really soothing. But it to you, it can just sound like you. And the same could be when you play guitar licks, or chord progressions or a solo you think it just sounds like me, I’d like it if it sounded more like someone that I love listening to. I mean, there’s a lot of times where I’m just like, man, I wish I could do this look a little bit more like Wes Montgomery or George Benson, or, you know, if I could really get that butterfly vibrato a little better, like BB King, you know what I mean? Or pick up my pick up a strat and just kill it like Stevie Ray Vaughn. You know, it’s just all these different voices through music. It’s just, it’s so beautiful. But at some point, you have to ask yourself, what is it I love about those musicians? And for me, that answer was they don’t sound like anyone else. So it’s like, why are you trying to sound like someone else. So it’s like, it’s important to try to practice it’s important to research and dissect. dissect a favorite song, figure out what you love about it, and just shut it and work at it. Work at progressions and all this stuff and push yourself but I I’d like to invite the performer that feels like they hit a wall, right, it feels like they hit a wall to explore this idea. The idea is simple. Everything and every living thing on the planet is allowed to have seasons except for us. We don’t allow ourselves to have seasons. If you feel like you’re not in spring, you’re not in summer, you feel like something’s wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You just need to let the soil sit. You just need to let your mind drift. You just need to dream. You just need to relax, step back, do whatever you need to do. Spring will come again, summer will come again. And every one of those seasons are important. So it’s just live, live life and respect yourself. Respect the process and have fun.
Rich Hobby: That’s perfect. So before I’ve got one question left before we wrap up, and it’s because I love asking about influential albums. And I’d love to hear about one album that influenced you when you were young. And one album that is actually influencing you right now.
Ron Artis II: That’s so funny. I see I had it a picture of it on my thing. On my thing because like, I’ve been locked at home the last couple of weeks. Because we went and got covid, got ourselves COVID in Colorado. So we were we’re all locked up and my wife thought it was a good idea to get me a vinyl player and a vinyl while I was here. And she went to, she was looking through all this stuff and trying to pick one out that she thought I might like and she had no idea that this was one of the singularly one of the most pivotal albums of my childhood it is Breezing by George Benson made in 1976. When that song masquerade came on, it changed me. Uhm, here’s like, try and picture I think I must have been darnit, 12, 9, no… 12 or 13. And my dad had a record collection and he put this song on. And when Masquerade started, it just was like, what is happening? There’s so many harmonies there. This guy is singing the notes with his guitar. It’s just, it’s an experience. That album for me was very pivotal. I did not know that it meant the beginning of a long, hard journey. I didn’t know that it meant that I would have a really hard time appreciating pop music for years. And that most of my friends from then on out would be my dad’s age. No idea that editing conferenced all that. But yeah, I ended up you know, pretty much living in the corner of my bedroom with a guitar and an amp hovered up next to some kind of sound playing device and just repeating the same song over and over and trying to learn it. Later in life, it would be the Continuum album by John Mayer. That album, was another eye and ear opener. There’s so many more albums along the way. It was the Ohio Players. Parliament Funkadelic, those guys um, what was it? There’s an album with Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, the song Blues at Sunrise. There’s just so many moments just where it’s like, Hey, you think this is something that you’re into and then boom and explodes. You know, Ynge Monsteem I’ll never forget the song Arpeggios it just, you know, I’ll never forget thinking like, Oh, I’m a bad guitar player. I’m 16 years old, and I’m shredding and then that comes on and you’re like, Did Did he speed up the recording? And my dad’s like, nope. The guy’s just pretty crazy. And it’s just you know, you have all these different things in it and it’s just all the way to you know, Pavarotti, Sting, Bob Marley, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder. It just goes on and on and on. There’s just there’s this songwriting. I’ll never forget the first time I heard I think it was the album’s called Acoustic Soul by India Arie and Urban Suite by Maxwell, Brown Sugar by D’Angelo, there was just these moments where you kind of going down your road, you know, what you think you’re going to pursue and then all of a sudden, bam, something comes out. Oh, you hear a Dell the first time on the radio, and he was like, Whoa, man, music is endless. You know, and that’s something I love about it.
Rich Hobby: Well, as promised, I’ll wrap it up there. But before we do just want to give you the opportunity, where should people be finding your music?
Ron Artis II: Um, they can wherever music streaming, you can go online, obviously, it’s more supportive to an artist by directly or to show or something. But I, like I said earlier, I’m, I’m really all about people kind of experiencing the music any way they can, that that’s accessible to them. So you can just search my name. Just know there’s two projects out there. If you want to hear more of the solo music, it’s just my name, Ron Artis II. If you want to hear the band. It’s Ron Artis II and the Truth. I’m really looking forward to coming to Eugene, playing the Hult Center with the band and having a great time. And yeah, man, I can’t wait to see everybody.
Rich Hobby: Well, Ron, we can’t thank you enough for taking the time to check in with us and can’t wait to see you and the Truth. Tickets and info are available at Hultcenter.org. And thanks again, Ron, and we look forward to seeing you very soon.
Ron Artis II: Thank you so much, man. It’s gonna be amazing. I’m looking forward to it.