Now, the rising 23-year-old artist has released his debut album, titled Dead to Me, a project he's been teasing over the past year, starting with the lead single "Painful," as well as the recent releases "Sunday Scaries" and "Wherever You Go." But on Friday, he unveiled the record in full, and it's such an impressive showcase of an artist who has a clear vision of his musical skillset and is sharing his journey with anyone who will listen.
Ahead of the album's release, we chatted with Richardson about the background of the album and his own trajectory, growing up known as the "boy who lives in a funeral" to now, releasing his first full-length.
"I grew up in Philly in a funeral home," says Richardson very matter-of-factly. "My family business was a funeral business. Like, I grew up in that, and it was something like when I met people, my friends would come over and go, 'We're going to the funeral home.' It was a whole thing where people would be like, 'Oh my god, you live in a funeral home. That's so weird."
Although his family recently sold the business, Richardson says the way he grew up has become so much a part of his identity, and it influenced his personal experiences and the way he discovered so much about himself. So, it made sense that it would influence his music career, down to the artwork for Dead to Me, which sees the singer sitting upright in a coffin. Its reflective of Richardson's knack for turning dark, sometimes difficult themes into clever pop music.
"I feel like a lot of times, I use [songwriting] as a coping mechanism to kind of twist it around," he explains of his musical inclination. "I also just love sarcastic-sounding songs, songs with attitude or like, with a little bit of swagger and stuff. Because I feel like a lot of times I don't have that. I don't have that confidence but like being able to dial in and be like, you know what, this inspires me this way, this set of chords, whatever. I want to be able to really express how I feel and express that to other people."
He says he found comfort in an interview he saw once with Ryan Tedder, the OneRepublic frontman and mega-producer and songwriter who has collaborated with the likes of Adele and Beyoncé.
"I've watched a lot of his interviews all the time," says Richardson. "He's someone I really look up to and he once said that we are an amalgamation of everything that's ever happened to us and everything that we listen to. So I feel like almost everything that I listen to, if it evokes that emotion or creates that itch in me, I kind of try to find it like an archaeologist or something—try and dig it up."
Richardson acknowledges he is still in the early stages of his career, but he is clearly doing something right. After casually posting a series of covers on Instagram, he caught the attention of producers of NBC's The Voice, who were scouting for the show in less traditional formats during the pandemic. He ultimately didn't make it but he feels he's on the better path.
"The indie route is best for me," he says. "I feel like I get to make a better connection with people, and it's the right way for what I'm doing. I like where I'm at now." ■