When Rich Saunders was a child, he and his family would spend long, relaxing afternoons sitting in a circle, singing together in the way that only blood relatives truly can: creating close harmonies whose naturally blending tones seem the result of some kind of inbuilt genetic code.
Fast forward a couple of decades and, though much has happened in the interim – a period as one-third of Universal-signed group Thirdstory; a stint singing backing vocals for Chance the Rapper; a trans-Atlantic, more experimental duo going by the name Refs – it’s still those magical vocal moments that are at the crux, however now they’re coming primarily from the singer himself under new, voice-centric solo project Rich.
It marks both a return and a departure for the Connecticut-born, New York-based artist, following a prolific and rollercoaster start to his career. With Thirdstory, Rich had ticked a lot of outwardly-impressive boxes. Recording debut LP ‘Cold Heart’ with producer Malay – the man behind the desk for Frank Ocean’s seminal ‘Channel Orange’ and parts of Lorde’s ‘Melodrama’, the band embarked on several cross-country tours of the USA, including a notable run with Chance that also included a performance on Saturday Night Live. During that time, Refs – a collaboration with Berlin-based producer Zach Lipkins – had also been bubbling away. Inspired by the likes of The Postal Service, it “scratched a different itch”, Rich explains. “It brought me back to my obsession with Björk and Thom Yorke, and these alternative artists I loved in high school.” Their debut ‘Stories’ came out a few months later, in the summer of 2019 (because clearly, productivity is not a skill the singer is lacking). Now, Rich is set to make his own mark.