When listening to multi-instrumentalist Ricky Persaud Jr, you’re treated to an unbelievable range of sound and passion that is both simple and sophisticated all at once. Just when you think you’ve got him figured out, another track pulls him out of any pigeon hole you might have put him in. Is he Rock? Reggae? Pop? Funk? Check ‘em all. Persaud’s knowledge of music belies his years, and he delivers it all and more on his sixth album, M.Y.O.B.
Growing up in New Jersey, Persaud was always surrounded by music. His father, Ricky Sr, engineered albums early in his working career and passed his love of music along to his two sons. His mother, who was always musical but denied lessons as a girl, promised herself that her children would be able to learn any instrument they wanted. At age 4, Ricky began to play percussion and was accepted to the Newark School of the Arts to study drums. However, it wasn’t until he was 9 that he grabbed a guitar and instinctively knew what to play. “I just picked up a family guitar and started to play, having never taken a lesson. That day it all clicked for me; I knew I had found a way to express myself.” Aiding in the journey was an early musical lesson courtesy of The Beatles. “The Beatles taught me that you can make incredible music within the pop realm and also be socially conscious lyrically at the same time.”
All Ricky wanted to do was focus on music. He took both guitar and bass lessons (along with drums), and discovered Billy Joel, which led to his interest in harmonica and keyboards. Every weekend was spent playing and learning about music. On Saturdays, Ricky was part of NJPAC Jazz for Teens, where he was chosen as a George Wein Scholar, comprised of only the most gifted high school musicians from New Jersey. On Sundays he attended the NAACP’s ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) program. Developed to encourage high academic and cultural achievement among students, Ricky gold-medaled in many music competitions throughout his years of participation. In addition to the Newark School of the Arts, Ricky enrolled in the acclaimed Mark Murphy School of Music, where he continued to study. Summers were spent at the Grammy Camp in New York, which had a rigorous audition process.
Songwriting came when Ricky’s mother encouraged him to write down his feelings during a bullying episode in middle school, and those writings turned in to his first set of lyrics. “Doing that was really encouraging, and it helped me to work through my feelings. It was around this time that I realized the power music had and how it can reach, and soothe, so many people.”
By age 14, Ricky put together a band, Ricky Persaud Jr and Crossroads, which featured not only his brother Nicholas on bass, but his mother Valerie on percussion. The group, who still tour, is rounded out by different musicians at varied times, and they’ve become a live staple around New Jersey.
As Ricky grew as a musician, with a following to match, he began to release albums, starting with 2015’s Welcome to my World at age 15, followed by Optimistic Bliss (2017), Time Is Up (2018) and the EPs Pursuit of Happiness and The Apocalypse, both released in 2019. Ricky has always played every instrument on all of his records, produced them, and written, or co-written, all of the songs. His last three releases, as well as M.Y.O.B., came out on his new label, Mystiqson Records & Publishing, LLC.
M.Y.O.B. is Ricky’s most honest record to date. “The acronym stands for “Mind Your Own Business,” which is something I’ve felt very strongly about lately. I know who I am, and I am secure in what I want to accomplish. I don’t want anyone’s opinion of me to get in the way of my musical journey.” The track “M.Y.O.B,” an anthem for championing one’s own uniqueness and power, shows off Persaud’s infectious enthusiasm. Other stand-out songs include “NGU” (Never Giving Up),” a brilliantly arranged tune bubbling with a rock fire, and “Love is Just A Game,” with Ricky’s talent on full display as he deftly spins out a guitar riff that pays homage to Carlos Santana.
If you’ve seen Ricky play live, you may understand why some people could be envious. He is, by all accounts, a musical virtuoso. Yes, he works hard, but his playing is intuitive. Music flows from Ricky’s fingers and through whichever instrument he’s playing. “I give it my all on stage and love seeing people’s reactions. Performing is one of my favorite things to do because I love how spontaneous it can be. I think it’s beautiful when music isn’t exactly like the recording and you discover something new.”
Ricky’s many accolades include a full four-year scholarship to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, a 2016 Governor's Award for Excellence in Music, the Artist of The Year in Pop award at the 2019 Josie Music Independent Awards, a 2020 Global Music Award and 2020 Best Male Artist in Pop at the Indie Music Channel Awards. He was a singer and guitarist in Cissy Houston’s much-admired regional choir for high school students, and had the opportunity to work with Savion Glover, who took in Ricky and his clear talent and drive, through the NJPAC program.
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