27-year old, Chicago singer songwriter, Avehre, is a rising star and on his way to the top with some help from the legendary Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight. From an impromptu audition tape, to singing background on a worldwide tour, Avehre, has now been coined Gladys Knight’s protégé.
“Gladys is such a legendary artist who’s been around for 60 plus years,” stated Avehre. “For her to take on a new artist that’s a lot younger, people are excited but also wondering why she chose me. It’s definitely rare for a new artist to have that kind of support.”
Rare indeed! Avehre originally moved from Chicago four years ago to L.A. to work closely as a songwriter with the Norwood Agency, owned by Willie and Sonja Norwood, the parents of R&B singers, Brandy and Ray J. Avehre was receiving vocal training when he heard about the auditions from a friend who was singing background for Gladys. She reached out to him via social media for his assistance as a songwriter in hopes that he could recommend any singers who would be available to audition to go on tour with Gladys and The O’Jays. He gladly obliged. He reached out to a few of his friends that he felt were amazing vocalist and told them to send him their audition tape so he could get it in the hands of the right people but no one ever did. Reluctantly, Avehre contemplated the idea of auditioning but didn’t feel he fit the criteria they were looking for.
“They said they wanted a high tenor and I’m baritone so there’s no way I was getting this part,” said Avehre reflecting on the day he chose to audition despite his inner voice. “But I remember sitting there having that moment of what if. It’s better to try and not make it versus sitting there like I never even tried. So I winded up sending her an audition tape and I got selected.”
Icons like Gladys as a sponsor for your abilities adds the pressure to maintain momentum and deliver as a new background singer and protégé. Most artists have raw talent and the passion to succeed but end up figuring things out on their own, some the hard way, and never get to have the opportunity to link with someone like Gladys Knight to take them to the next level. However, Avehre sees his connection with the legend as a blessing and feels he can handle the pressure.
“With her knowledge and her mentorship, I really feel so blessed to be in this position because I’m getting training that a lot of new artist don’t get,” Avehre said.
With a household name such as Gladys Knight, many may wonder can Avehre live up to the hype. He seems to think so. He loves the fact that everything about his journey is “grass root” but don’t want the perception to be that people are only rocking with him as an artist because he’s connected to Gladys.
“Of course people will pay a lot more attention because of her,” Avehre agreed. “But I’m my own artist, with my own sound and my own story. And she really supports that. She gives me creative control and she trusts me.”
Being easy accessible to a powerhouse like Gladys Knight, it’s a sure thing that some jewels of wisdom are going to be dropped left and right. With being her background singer, her interim publicist, and coming on board as her future creative director and A&R, Avehre is constantly in student mode. Avehre feels she is a round the clock mentor and grandmother to him who’s adopted him into her family in and outside of work. He feels blessed to have her insight and have taken her words of advice and used it as a compass for his career.
“She always says don’t worry about being politically correct,” said Avehre. “She tells us to share our heart and be authentically ourselves and that’s what’s going to connect with people.”
Avehre has not only been a sponge soaking up the knowledge of Ms. Gladys, but he’s also had the opportunity to have one on one training in regards to time management, how to resonate with the audience, how to perform, and other grooming tools that many artists don’t have nowadays.
“A lot of them [new artists] just go on shows like The Voice and American Idol, win, and then be thrown to the wolves,” Avehre said. “They have to have an album and do a tour but don’t know nothing about touring or recording or taking care of their instrument. So having Gladys, that for me is the golden ticket.”
Like most artists, Avehre got his start in church. Growing up watching gospel artists perform, Avehre really connected with the genre because of its authenticity of pain, passion, and truth blended in with sweet harmonies that were used to convey the existence of God. Though he enjoyed singing and writing gospel music he soon realized that his sound wasn’t a traditional gospel sound and felt that the church couldn’t comprehend him sonically and felt his truth was too big to fit in the four walls of a church. However, his gospel roots do play a factor in his music and keeps him grounded as an R&B artist.
“I think that gospel music is just the ‘good news’ and for me growing up, the good news was just whatever was in your soul,” said Avehre. “I never want to lose sight of really being able to sing and selling songs because of the lyrics and the story and not just because the beat is great. I think it should be a good balance and that’s what gospel does to me.”
Originally known as Brandon Avery Smith, Avehre began his career as a Gospel artist before later transitioning to R&B. He wrote several gospel songs and was heavily into vocal production behind the scenes for the last seven years. He actually got his start from one of his favorite gospel recording artist, Kierra Sheard. She gave Avehre his first platform with her choir BRL, Bold Right Life. He was over the Chicago chapter and had the opportunity to open for her on tour and be mentored by her and her brother. Avehre later collaborated with Sunday’s Best season four winner, Amber Bullock, in the hit single “Believe Louder.” Though he loved the space he was in, Avehre was lost and felt trapped seeing how gospel wasn’t his only passion but that was all the work people were inquiring about. So he chose to reincarnate himself and his image and with the support of his mother and Gladys, the artist we now know as Avehre was established.
“Avehre comes from my middle name Avery,” stated Avehre. “We took the A-V-E from Avery and H-R-E from the word here and it’s a rebirth meaning Avery is here. It felt like something I can hear someone calling me for the rest of my life.”
Seeing that Chicago is the birthplace of many music industry stars such as Jennifer Hudson, Kanye West, Jeremih, and even Donnell Jones, being Chi-town’s next best thing can be a challenge. For Avehre, he sets himself a part by his relationship with songwriting. He thinks that very quality is what gravitated Gladys towards him and what will pull others to listen to his music. Avehre has written for many artists, but he had the opportunity to write on Gladys’ new single “Just a Little” which she recently performed on Black Girls Rock.
“I want people to really listen to the lyrics. I want them to get lost in the story,” Avehre said. “The value in what we’re [new artists] saying is not necessarily something that I feel is timeless anymore.”
Artists such as John Legend come to mind when Avehre thinks of a storyteller. He feels that the art of storytelling in music is lost and thinks that its faint existence is the reason for the disconnect between the music and the listener. A patron from a night out told Avehre something that he felt perfectly expressed this issue.
“She said, “Hip Hop music and ratchet music is like salt and salt is to enhance the recipe of something but it shouldn’t overkill everything else,” Avehre stated in reflection. “Some people just have too much salt. But wouldn’t you rather have authentically great music and they sprinkle a little salt you weren’t expecting and you’re wowed that they got some flavor but they’re actually talking about something beyond the turn up? That’s what I want to bring to music.”
Like his church roots, fatherhood also plays a major key into Avehre’s artistry. Avehre’s daughter, Brea, who recently celebrated her sixth birthday, is the biggest blessing ever according to her daddy. Brea’s arrival into the world was at the grinding phase of Avehre’s career. He was trying to elevate his craft and when he first discovered his then girlfriend was pregnant he was nervous that being a father would be the end of his career. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Brea helped him to mature in various areas of his life and taught him the values of family and balance. She’s even picked up the same traits as her father with her interest in singing and dancing. Avehre is focused on nurturing her God given gifts during this developing stage of Brea’s life and with Gladys pouring her energy into her, there’s no doubt that she, too, will be something special. With his family’s support and his child’s mother’s understanding of the music business, considering she is a musician as well, Avehre has been able to establish a fan base and maintain a close relationship with his daughter.
“I have a reason to write music,” said Avehre about Brea. “She makes me work harder because I want her to have an incredible life.”
Being a father and growing up in the church has really influenced Avehre but there’s one artist in the game right now that Avehre has greatly impacted from: Drake. Drizzy is one of Avehre’s favorite artist and Avehre has been positioned to work with producers such as S1 (Symoblyc 1) and Allen Ritter, who produced Rihanna’s “Werk” and Drake’s latest single, “Controlla”.
“When I saw that Allen worked with Drake, I was like yup it all makes sense now why I love you so much,” said Avehre. “Drake just got it. From his formula of how flows and how he writes…he just kind of came to the game with his own approach to lyricism and it’s very unique. When you hear Drake, you know its Drake and that’s what stands out to me.”
Indeed, Drake does have a way with words, but so does Avehre. Avehre discovered his love for songwriting through a touring, competition poetry team called Verbal Remedies back when he was in high school. He felt that spoken word gave him a voice and helped him gain the confidence to speak his mind. He was amazed in seeing the reaction of his peers when he used his words in a certain manner and realized that his words was a way to relate and connect to others. He then perfected that skilled and applied it to songwriting.
“Poetry is what it is. You can’t hide behind the beat and you can’t hide behind other musicians and singers. You gotta capture people,” Avehre stated. “I feel that once we understand that our words have power and we know how to use them in a way that can change the world, change our world, that’s how we really move forward and make effective change in the world.”
Staying with the momentum of his ever growing stardom, Avehre is gearing up to release his new single “Diamonds” in a few weeks. It’s about a guy who fell in love with an incredible woman and as a token of his love, bought her gifts that she now treasures more than him. Avehre feels this relatable concept is a reality for some and wants the song to make awareness of the issue and let people know to keep real love alive.
“Diamonds are symbolic of whatever people hold as a value and basically you fell in love with these diamonds,” Avehre explained. “They’re a token of my love but they shouldn’t replace me. Don’t just be in the relationship for the gifts and the material things because the diamonds can’t love you the way I can love you.”
By being able to travel the world, Avehre has gained a new perspective and understanding on what love is. He states that it’s the very people in his life that have helped change his outlook on love as a whole. Lonely nights on a tour can be taxing to any artist especially if they’re new to the industry and it comes at a cost. Sacrificing missing family gatherings, his daughter recitals and being on the road alone showed Avehre what’s really important in life.
“It showed me who really got my back beyond the stage, beyond my talents and my gifts,” said Avehre. “Who’s really there for you when nobody’s watching, once the cameras are off and everybody went home and the concert is over. I don’t have million dollar budgets to make things happen but I have great relationships and a lot of awesome people that have really sewn into me.”
On the heels of his new single dropping, Avehre is also releasing a mini docuseries titled “#Chapter27, that will go into the processes of the music industry such as what it takes to get a song mixed, mastered, and recorded, the importance of branding, and show the mentorship between Avehre and Gladys. It won’t be like every other reality TV show. Avehre hopes to create a series that’s not traditionally shot but more like a variety show with comedy, musical theatre and 10 minute segments of action footage that will be available online. It’s set to mostly likely be released after or in conjunction of his sophomore EP, Reconciliation, which is set to drop this summer.
Reconciliation is all about forgiving oneself and Avehre has a lot of forgiving to do.
“I’m forgiving myself for holding onto things so long, “stated Avehre. “Some of the music is about me breaking my own heart. Maybe I walked away from relationships too early or didn’t try hard enough or was too stubborn at not meeting someone in the middle. It’s my love story.”
Avehre states that the album will be a win with the ladies and the music conveys a lot of moods and tones where he feels like anybody who’s ever been in love, fell out of love, or is currently falling in love, navigating through a healthy or unhealthy relationship can relate to this EP. Fans can expect Avehre and everything that he is on his new record with the absence of features.
“I think a lot of new artists have features to validate themselves but I be wondering would they have really popped without those artists backing them,” Avehre said. “So that’s why on my first EP, I wanted to make my own statement.”
While fans wait for the album to be released, they can get excited for Avehre seven-city promo tour, called Exile. The promo tour includes artist Adam Ness, who Avehre met through Kierra Sheard 10 years ago. Gladys claims that Ness might be the new Prince so with her protégé performing, the duo stands to make a great impact with fans all over.
“This tour is really about the underdog,” said Avehre. “We selected that name because we feel like a lot of artists get exiled away, or maybe we throw ourselves away. We don’t think we’re good enough or big enough or known enough to be successful and I think we all have to find a way to reclaim our throne, whatever your throne is.”
To see tour dates and to learn more about what’s next for Avehre, be sure to follow him on Instagram @Avehre.
Photo cred: @emilynnrose