Supreme Talent: Evan Ross Talks Balancing Music With Acting
Evan Ross was born to be a star. The 26-year-old son of music phenom Diana Ross and brother of Black-ish star Tracee Ellis made a name for himself as an actor in some of your DVR favorites like ATL, 90210, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story and The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay.
Now, he’s putting his on-screen talents to the side and stepping up to the mic as a singer. While Evan had the plug for years (he grew up close to the Jackson family), he is crafting his own LP under Rodney Jerkins’ Evolve Music Group/Capitol Records label the conventional way: on his own.
“I think people are going to enjoy the new album,” says Evan, who tapped DJ White Shadow, Tricky Stewart, The Dream and Jerkins for his upcoming project. “It’s unique and you can really envision what I’m talking about in the songs. As much as they fit into the sound of right now, all the songs are very unique and worldwide. It’s got a hint of the past from the Marvin Gayes to the Michael Jacksons.”
He adds that outside opinion need not apply here. “[I make] music I believe I can stand behind and it has nothing to do with what others may think is perfect.”
Here, Ross talks his single “How To Live Alone,” seeking his mom’s second opinion, his collaboration with wife, Ashlee Simpson, and potentially working with his big sis, Tracee.
VIBE: You recently got married and it’s funny how your first single is called “How To Live Alone.”
Evan Ross: (Laughs) [The title] doesn’t mean that. The idea, which I think is the strongest thing you can say to someone, is if ‘I wasn’t with you, I’d learn how to live alone.’ If you weren’t with the person you loved, you’d find a way to live without anyone at all.
Momma Diana makes a cameo in the video. What is she saying to you?
It’s so funny because I didn’t even think she was gonna come by. I was like, ‘We’re gonna shoot a video that’s basically me in the studio.’ We were listening to “How To Live Alone” and playing a bunch of different songs. The cameras came on and she just walked up to me, enjoying the song and really just looking at me to see how I was feeling [about it]. It was just a quick little moment and she wasn’t really supposed to be in the video. I was like, ‘We have a piece of you but we’re not gonna use it’ and she was like ‘Why not?’
Is it important to have your mom’s co-sign for the music you make?
Her opinion does matter. I’m gonna do [my music] no matter what but she wouldn’t say she liked it if she didn’t. I’m so much like her and she’s been a big part of the music. If I’m done with a song, I send it to her to see what she thinks even if it’s a rough [cut] and she mostly loves everything. If she doesn’t, she says, ‘You should keep working on it.’ I grew up [around] music and I’m so lucky that I have a mother that I can call on to ask [for her opinion]. There’s no one else who knows [music] better than she does.
When are we going to hear your new duet with Ashlee Simpson?
We have a song called “Permission To Love.” It’s gonna talk about a lot more than just me or her; it’s about the idea of “we don’t need permission to love” and that can go for whatever race or orientation you are. Not like anybody was against us being together but at the same time, choosing who you want to be with is a powerful thing.
Have you been singing to the baby?
I just started doing that because [the baby is starting to grow] the bones in their ears, which is incredible. Now I’m like always protecting Ashlee. I mean I always do but now, it’s like, ‘[To Ashlee] Be careful! Do you have to wear heels?’
Your sis, Tracee Ellis Ross, has been pushing out some impressive rap videos. Would you consider getting her to spit some bars on your new project?
If she wants to. She can do anything she wants. We are so close and I think she’s one of the funniest people that ever walked the planet. She’s brilliant all around. I feel like she could play Lucille Ball—she has that much character. She’s got eight different characters. She came out to New York for a fashion show and she decided to play this French acting coach lady, Madame Hiver. We always support each other. When I was doing The Wendy Williams Show the other day, she called me before I went on and asked, ‘How you feel? You comfortable?’ Even when she was on Girlfriends and I was 13 years old, I stayed with her in Greenwich Village to actually start acting.
With your latest film All The Wilderness on the way, how do you feel about juggling music with acting?
Acting came easy to me, I think. There’s something about it that’s a lot easier for me in the sense that you’re playing someone else. In music, you’re giving somebody “you.” Being able to do that and being willing to share that is an entirely different thing. I love making movies and if the right movie comes along, then it’s great. We have another film coming up called Just Before I Go with Courtney Cox.
Are you a Friends fan?
Yeah, Courtney Cox is one of my best friends. I go to hang out at her house in Malibu all the time. She’s amazing to work with. But yeah, we find a way to do both. Where I am right now is music but if the right project comes along, I’ll do it.
Photo Credit: Jourdynn Jackson