You might not be familiar with Son Little (or, as you may have seen him, Aaron Livingston) by name, but an inviting warmth and familiarity characterize his voice. Over the course of his career, he’s collaborated with The Roots, RJD2, and Hot Sugar, toured with Mumford & Sons, and now he readies his self-titled debut album (out October 16th on ANTI- Records). If it’s anything like new single “Lay Down,” Son’s first full body of work promises to be a beautiful, heartfelt affair. Built plainly around Son’s voice and guitar, “Lay Down” is alluring and intimate, an encapsulation of a moment between lovers that feels timeless in its sentiment and presentation.
Listen to “Lay Down” below and read a brief interview with the talent Son Little below that.
What’s the meaning behind the name Son Little and why did you decide to go by an alias instead of your real name?
I don’t look at it as an alias so much as a way of identifying a mode of thinking. It’s a part of my personality that has its own vocabulary and language. Aaron Livingston is the title I was given when I arrived on earth, but Son Little has always been out there, radiating. I’ve undergone an emotional mental meta physical transformation and the name reflects that.
You’ve worked with some incredible artists and producers over the years. What are some of the key moments or lessons that stick out in your mind from your time spent with RJD2 and The Roots?
The Roots have played a significant role in my development as an artist. They’ve done that for a ton of artists and I’m sure will continue to do that as long as they’re around. Their commitment to a high standard of artistry is very contagious. They gave me boosts of confidence when I really needed it, and some swift kicks in the ass when I needed that. They don’t call it the Legendary Roots Crew for nothing, and I’ll always be grateful for their long time manager, Rich Nichols, for throwing me into the fire.
RJD2 has had a huge influence on me as well. First off, he’s frighteningly talented, hard-working and sharp as a tack. He also has this kind of throw-the-kitchen-sink at it approach to production that has rubbed off on me a bit. He’s also a big time tinkerer and someone who is always looking for ways to get better at what he does and add to his growing list of skills, which makes a good example for anyone in any field.
Beyond music, what inspires the way you write? Any particular authors?
I write because I need to, and pretty much anything I experience is a part of that. Right now I’m writing a song about a Pakistani executioner I heard about on NPR. I try to read as much as possible, but sometimes it’s not very possible. I try to avoid getting stuck on any particular genre. Some of my favorite writers are Salman Rushdie, Cormac McCarthy, Octavia Butler, and William Gibson, but there’s a lot.
How did this album come together?
The first single I released as Son Little, “Cross My Heart,” laid the foundations that the album was built on. But a few of the songs, like “Lay Down,” I had marinating for a lot longer. You never really know when a song will assert itself. Sometimes it takes a day or two, sometimes it takes years.
Did you work with a set group of collaborators on it?
Not really. I had a lot of help with different aspects of it, but every word and almost every note came from me. So if you hate it, it’s safe to say you don’t like my style.
“Lay Down” embodies an emotional moment with a sound that might easily be labeled “retro.” Were you attempting to channel a past era or simply encapsulate a beautiful slice of life?
I would never call anything I do “retro.” “Lay Down” is a love letter. And it’s a conversation between my voice and my guitar. I’d never try to make something sound like it came from the past—I’d find that very boring. However, I’d never try to mute my influences either. There’s Jimi and Curtis and Sam and Otis in there.
These kinds of pretty love songs were balanced in the past by politically or socially minded songs, songs that captured the fire of difficult times in America. We’re seeing the a racial schism that was covered up in past years by the belief of progress reveal itself to be a far worse than many would like to have imagined. Do you feel the burden of addressing the state of our nation in your music?
I don’t see this as a burden. And Son Little is only the spokesman for Aaron Livingston. It can be scary sometimes to speak about social issues, though, because they can be very polarizing, even though there are so many shades of grey to everything. Way more than 50. My thoughts and ideas are constantly evolving and I think there’s a danger that once you make a statement, that statement takes on a life of its own and in the eyes of others, you come to represent that statement instead of the statement representing your thoughts and feelings about a particular thing at a particular moment in time. Our own thoughts can box us in if we allow them to. But my goal in writing is just to be as honest true to myself as I can be at any given moment, and let the rest come out with the wash.
Son Little will be hitting the road with Lord Huron in September.
09/14/15 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
09/15/15 – Indianapolis, IN @ Vogue
09/16/15 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Calvin College
09/18/15 – Woodstock, NY @ The Bearsville Theater
09/28/15 – Chapel Hill, NC @ The Ritz
09/29/15 – Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
09/30/15 – Athens, GA @ 40 Watt