By Daniel Head
“Heartbreak dance music” is how Vincint, the Philadelphia-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter describes his music. His ecstatic, high-energy pop gives you, in his words, “the feeling of having your heartstrings pulled while your ass can’t stop moving.” It’s a means to move with joy through your pain.
His new EP, The Feeling, out today (February 14), is a journey of grappling with the waves of emotions during heartache. The power of Vincint’s voice — first in the spotlight in 2018 on Fox’s singing competition show The Four — and the infectiousness of his performances make you feel each pang and triumph. It’s something he wrings out of his own experiences and the ones of those closest to him.
After Vincint wrote The Feeling’s final (and title) track, his mom asked, “How do you feel now that it’s finally done?” He responded, “I feel upset and lonely, but also so joyful and so emotionally driven to give this to people because I think it’s going to help them because it really helped me,” he told MTV News. His mother replied, “That’s the feeling,” and thus, The Feeling was complete.
After a secret show at SoHo’s Gospel collective space in New York City, MTV News sat down with the budding superstar to unpack it — all the love and loss, and his music’s intersection of grief and joy.
MTV News: Give me a little bit of your start. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to sing?
Vincint: My dad was a singer, and so that was the reason that I got into all of it. He had a gospel group called Christian and Gospel Singers. And they were always in my house, always singing, always drinking. It was wild. But it was my first introduction into music, and so that was the door opening for me. I was a shy kid, so I didn’t tell anyone that I could sing until I was maybe seven or eight. And my dad happened to bring me to a choir audition.
MTV News: Wait, so where were you singing up until that point? Were you just whispering in your room?
Vincint: Yeah, I would be in the back of my dad’s Cadillac and I’d be humming along to the radio and he’d [hear and] then I would stop. It seemed just very stressful for me. Just a lot of people looking at you all the time. It’s not my thing. Well, it wasn’t.
MTV NEWS: Yeah, I was going to say, it’s a little different now.
Vincint: But he brought me to a choir audition and I was singing the solo for this all-boy choir in Philadelphia and the whole room got quiet. And then I was like, oh. And If I could do that, maybe I’ll do that forever. And so that kind of kick-started everything. I started writing songs when I was 12. They weren’t great, but they were songs.
I looked into Berklee [College of Music] and I told my parents that I applied to maybe three or four colleges, but I only applied to two. I applied to Berklee and I applied to [University of] Notre Dame and I got into both, but I told them that I got into one so I could go to the one that I wanted. And so I went to Berklee and that’s where my musical mind kind of opened up… and kind of molded my pen in the way that I think about love and depression and anxiety and everything. I kind of found my voice in college.
MTV News: When you’re writing, do you write as the experiences were happening or are you calling back on a relationship or what was going on in a friend’s life as you wrote it?
Vincint: “The Feeling” was the only one I called back on. Usually for all of these songs, I was walking around and I put it in my phone and every day something new would come. Another instance was with “Save Myself.” I wrote with Brandon [Colbein] and Ryan Hartman and the producer Tidal, and we were sitting and talking about how labels were trash, how every time we’ve gone for a deal, they’ve just kind of tried to take control of us, and we’re like, I’ll do it myself. So songs come from different places. I was writing the EP, but I lost my dad, and that is a big part of a lot of the songs. Like in “Simple,” he’s a huge part of that song for me.
MTV News: Is it safe to say that you and your passion and goals have been met with various barriers because—
Vincint: Of course. It’s because of the way that I look, my sexuality, sometimes my gender because pop is for pop girls. I’ve been in situations where, because of my sexuality, it’s not even a conversation that I can be a part of something. That’s unfortunate because you’re missing out on something great because of a fear that it may not be accepted by a mass amount of people when you’re wrong.
I was on a television show. Most of my fan base is not gay men. It’s 20- to, I think, 38-year-old women from the Midwest. I don’t make music for one group of people. I don’t want to make music for just Black people, for white people, or for gay people, for straight people. I make music for people to listen to and feel better.
MTV News: Do you think the autonomy and command over your image and musical direction is an issue that queer artists of color, queer artists, artists in general are, face regularly?
Vincint: Yeah, because people don’t know what to do with us sometimes, but I think the issue is they have to do something with us to fit some kind of mold. When, if you look around in the world that we’re in today, there is no guide to making a pop star or making someone successful. There’s so many routes to doing it. They just have the platform to literally make someone great, if they just understood that you just have to let them be themselves. It works out, like what I’m doing on my own works out. And so I think many people get into the fold of thinking that they have to change. And if they don’t change then they’re never going to be as successful as an Ariana Grande or a Taylor Swift. And also that’s a whole different machine in and of itself.
MTV News: That reminds me of the story you told about when you were an undergrad at Berklee and it was your RA who was encouraging you to do whatever the hell you wanted to — which then reminded me of Tyler, the Creator’s Grammys press-room speech. He felt that being placed in an urban category is the new N-word.
Vincint: You’re not wrong. We were talking about this last night. If I were to win a Grammy, they would call it urban pop. And it’s like, seriously, no, it’s pop. But we’re trying to change it. Whenever anyone is like, “What do you do?” I sing pop music. I make really good pop music and it’s just pop music. Listen to the music.
MTV News: That’s such a statement of confidence and says so much about your belief in yourself. How did you get to that place?
Vincint: My mother. It’s just fully and completely my mother. She says this phrase that Maya Angelou’s mother said to her: “I raised you, so when you leave this house don’t let anyone raise you. You’ve been raised.” You know what’s right. So just do right and you know what feels right to you. And so I know what I want. So if I make a misstep, it’s because I made that misstep, and I can take ownership of that. So when I want something, I know what I want.