There’s no voice quite like singer-songwriter Giveon’s. The Los Angeles-based artist’s silky vocals on moody, evocative songs like “Like I Want You,” coupled with his impeccable style, are enough to draw you in already. But since putting out his debut EP, Take Time, earlier this year, he’s also racked up a number of impressive co-signs—collaborating with Drake on single “Chicago Freestyle,” opening for Snoh Aalegra, and most recently being nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Album.
“It’s something I thought would happen much later in my career,” he says over the phone from Los Angeles. “I wasn’t expecting to be nominated. My manager called me and said that the nominations would be announced in a few minutes, and I told her I already knew I wasn’t on it,” the artist said. “I ended up watching the announcement anyway. I remember Gayle King popped up on the screen, wearing a green dress—I’ll never forget it—to announce the best R&B album category and when she said my name I could not believe it. After that I closed my laptop. I didn’t need to hear anything else.”
Giveon’s musical journey has always been one of passion and self-belief. The rising star didn’t grow up hearing a lot of voices like his, and it wasn’t until he dove into the world of Frank Sinatra, “that I discovered so many other baritone voices like mine,” he says, adding that Frank Ocean and Miguel have become huge contemporary inspirations for him, too. “I also didn’t really know any creative people growing up,” he says. “I watched a lot of YouTube, which helped me to feel less alone. Neither of my parents were creative—it’s not that they weren’t supportive, they just did different things than me.”
Even with this being the case, Giveon credits his initial love of music to his mother. “I grew up listening to my mom play all kinds of music around the house while she was cleaning. She would notice me singing along, and started making me perform during family gatherings,” he adds, with a laugh. “I never really thought it could be a career, though, until recently. It was always something that I just did on the side because I loved it. But looking back, whenever I’d perform or anything I always gave it my all, no matter what. Even if I didn’t know what exactly music could lead to for me, I always believed in myself and had faith in my abilities.”
Up next for the artist is a debut full-length album, to be released in 2021. “I’ve been really focused on that,” he says. “If there’s anything I want people to take away from me and my music, it’s to feel inspired.” No matter what he’s working on, he’ll always be living by the advice he’d give to other aspiring artists. “Recognize that you always have room to grow and that there is always going to be someone better than you and that you can learn a lot from those people,” he adds. “Never feel like you’re too good to keep learning and practicing and perfecting your craft.”
Below, Giveon shares with Vogue what it was like making his Grammy-nominated EP, how he’s been taking care of himself amid the pandemic, and his plans for the upcoming holiday season.
What was your writing process like for Take Time?
The process for that album was really amazing because I wasn’t known yet at all. I could create freely without eyes and pressure on me. I just wrote about all of my experiences with relationships all the way up until that point. When it comes to writing, I never force myself to write. When I do that, gibberish ends up on the page. I always let stories come to me naturally. They’re always pouring out of me to be honest.
Given how far you’ve come already in your career, is there anything you wish you could say to your younger self?
I probably wouldn’t do anything differently, because if I told myself something else, I probably would’ve ended up on a completely different path. But if I had to choose, it would be to just keep going. Have that blind faith. If you knew the answer to everything, there would be no point in having faith and life would be boring. So just keep going and keep believing.
What are some things that help you de-stress, especially amid the pandemic?
I love to write music, watch a Pixar film, or play video games with my family and friends.
What also keeps my mind balanced and my stress down is keeping things in perspective. When I feel stressed, I remember there’s always some sort of silver lining—like in this pandemic, it’s possibly the worst year ever. But it’s also my breakout year career-wise, the year I got Grammy nominated. There’s part of me that is definitely missing out on the fact that I would probably be touring right now. But honestly, if it weren’t for this time where we’re all forced to slow down, I wouldn’t be able to say that my album is 50% done already. There’s always something to be grateful for in the midst of it all. My mom really instilled in me to always put things into perspective.
When it comes to self-care, do you have favorite skincare products?
For me, it’s not so much about products as much as it is about sticking to a regimen: washing your face, moisturizing, using toner when you need to and doing a peel every now and then. And the routines I’ve learned are honestly all thanks to the women that have been in my life. My music is reflective of relationships and love and things like that, but so is my skincare. [laughs] Women are like scientists when it comes to skincare. If there’s anything I’ve learned from them, it’s how much they switch up their routines to meet their skin’s needs. But one product I’m loving right now is this enzyme face scrub by a brand called Wishful. It gets rid of all the dead skin on my face and makes me feel refreshed.
What are your holiday plans, and how do they differ from your usual traditions due to the pandemic?
The past couple of years, I’ve taken on the tradition of hosting my family during the holidays. Since my family still lives in Long Beach, California, a smaller group of us are able to gather safely. I need to get a tree and my decorations for this year. I want to get everyone one big, amazing gift—or I might just wrap up myself and be like, I’m the gift! [laughs]
What’s your advice to those who might be away from their families during the holiday season due to the pandemic?
There’s family I won’t be able to see physically either. But my advice would be to just utilize FaceTime or Zoom as much as possible. It’s not the same but it’s better than nothing.
You recently put out a holiday song. Do you have favorite holiday albums?
I don’t have favorite holiday albums, but I love holiday songs by Frank Sinatra and I also love the song “This Christmas.” I almost covered it for my holiday song release. But when you look it up, it feels like everyone has done it. I wanted to do something different, so I went with “O Christmas Tree” which hasn’t been covered as much, but has been done by greats like Anita Baker and more. I wanted to align myself with them.
What are your biggest goals for 2021?
My biggest goal is to finish my debut album. I honestly am reworking some of my other goals for the new year, too. I want to make it about more than drinking more water, working out more, etc. But writing down my visions and goals like I did for 2020 will be a huge part of what I do for 2021. I wrote down that I wanted a Grammy nomination for 2020 and it happened. So I want to think even bigger for next year, because why not. Anything is possible.