R&B singer TRS (pronounced Triss) is blessed to be among an outstanding crop of new R&B and hip-hop artists who are putting her hometown of Vancouver back on the map as a musical mecca once defined by a vibrant punk scene and bearded indie rock bands.
We first heard the velvety smooth vocals of TRS dripping like honey from her “Ain’t Free” collab that she did with Vancouver rapper Teon Gibbs earlier this year. The young Ethiopian-Canadian songwriter is now coming up in a big way with the release of her debut music video single and forthcoming EP of the same name — “Respectfully.”
The video for “Respectfully” was produced by emerging production house HILITE Agency, who have also helped out other artists like Saskatoon’s Samurai Champs and Vancouver R&B supergroup NADUH. Always in good company when surrounded by friends, TRS gathers up her pals to give her video a girls-night-out vibe, making use of her stunning west coast scenery that is contrasted by a stark and somewhat empty looking Van City backdrop.
TRS recently hosted a private screening of her new video at an underground gallery in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Inviting the local community to safely come together while night club’s are still waiting for a green light to reopen, TRS reminded everyone that a sense of community is what’s going to keep the music scene together while standing illuminated by a modest spotlight in the middle of it all.
We sat down with TRS to talk about the meaning behind her new single, where she likes to eat in Vancouver, and what artists have been dominating her playlists recently.
Congrats on the new video/forthcoming album release. Can you tell us about the name of the album, Respectfully, and its origins?
Thank you! “Respectfully” was inspired by seeing the word all over social media — Twitter especially. Respectfully shifted from its original meaning and started to become a way to say what’s on your mind shamelessly. This record is a perfect example of me claiming my own truth unapologetically, which has also been a huge theme in my life lately and something I’ve been trying to practice more every day.
When did you realize you wanted to be a singer?
Being an artist is the most natural part of my identity. I was always musical; my mom’s told me countless stories of a little me singing everyone’s ears off. It was always a part of my life, and always my wildest dream.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
I heard a lot of Ethiopian Jazz, Ethiopian Orthodox Mezmur (church hymns), and World Music around the house. I would listen to whatever English music I could get my hands on, and ended up gravitating towards the R&B that was popular in the 2000’s. As I got old enough to seek out more music on my own, I explored more R&B, 90s rap, Motown, Funk, Neo Soul, and Jazz, among other genres.
Who are some artists that have been populating your recent playlists?
Ever since the first listen, I’ve had Dave, Phabo, and Isaiah Rashad’s most recent projects on repeat. Certified Lover Boy and Donda are in the rotation of course, among dvsn, Ambré, Brent Faiyaz, Marco McKinnis, The Internet, Lous and the Yakuza, Savannah Ré, Che Ecru, Blxst, Tems, FRVRFRIDAY, Duke Deuce, PartyNextDoor, IAMDDB, Lila Ike, Charlotte Day Wilson, Don Toliver, Reggie Becton, and Larry June who have all been living in my playlists rent free.
How much does your environmental surroundings impact you as an artist and the music you create?
Completely. In every way. My writing is heavily influenced by my state of mind at the time. So whatever I’m experiencing, observing, or feeling, that energy will probably be transmuted into my music somehow. Whether it be in the lyrics, melodies, delivery, arrangement, etc.
What are some of your favourite things about living in Vancouver?
The nature. BC is breathtaking and Vancouver is a beautiful city. The water, the trees, and the mountains make for incredible views from a distance and walking/hiking among it is some of the best therapy I’ve ever had.
What is your favourite restaurant in Vancouver?
I love so many different cuisines with a passion, and Vancouver has so many bomb spots to choose from. So this is a tough one… but besides my first love (injera), I love restaurants that feel like home, with food that has a home cooked feel to match. Taste of Africa and House of Dosa definitely do it for me. Yardie Grabz is also incredible.
Vancouver is proving to be a hotbed for hip-hop and R&B on the west coast. Who are some people in the local music community that we should be paying attention to?
The list is seriously endless. Some artists that come to mind immediately are Teon Gibbs, Kendra Dias, Makadi, Prado, Mauvey, Known, Mikey Jose, Manila Grey, Renz Monclare, Dacey, Temia, Kid Filthy, Bains, ParisPlayedYou, and Boslen. They all bring such unique, refreshing elements to the Vancouver R&B and hip-hop scene.
Where would you like to see your career take you in the next year?
I have dreams of what 2022 would look like if the pandemic allows it. Being an opener for R&B artists that I look up to when they come through Vancouver, headlining my own shows, and just continuing to grow as an artist. Hopefully people will continue to come along for the journey and grow with me.
By Stephan Boissonneault
With fresh folklore in abundance, the east coast songwriter’s sophomore offering is a classic tribute to his beloved province.