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Mind Reading: 6LACK On His New Album, His Endel Collab And The Self-Care Hiatus That Made It All Possible

After a voluntary pause in music-making, Grammy nominee 6LACK is back not only with his first new album in five years but with the very first collaborative set of soundscapes under Universal Music Group’s new partnership with sound wellness company Endel.

Reaction to the immersive audio environments, which feature AI-generated mixes based on vocals and instrumentation from new album Since I Have A Lover meant to aid sleep and focus, have been “So far, so beautiful,” he says. And he’s all too happy to share them with fans after his own deep dive into self-care.

“Once you give yourself the opportunity to think and feel and live and process and talk and rest—once you’re away from the studio-it’s more exciting and the incentive is there to come back,” he says. “These are the moments that make me feel refreshed enough to create. In order for me to reset, I had to do everything except music.”

The R&B singer and rapper, who has openly shared his experience living with depression through his socials and his music, says the hiatus came not from one incident or break, but a growing sense it was time to step back and regroup.

“It’s one thing to talk about it and it’s another thing to commit yourself to live that way. There’s always been this desire to get better and to find more love in the things I do and the relationships I have, but this was the first time in my life that I actually looked at everything I did in the past five years and it was like, ‘OK you talk a good game, but can you prove it?,’ “ says the 31-year-old.

“I was in a space of just being a self-inflicted music machine. But that’s just one layer of who I am. It took the pandemic for me to have a moment to think about 10 other areas that need tending to and 10 other conversations that need to happen. Knowing that but also being hesitant to jump in made it feel like things were starting to fall apart around me. I felt more reactive than proactive and the way I was handling myself in stressful situations just wasn’t my best self.”

Among changes to his routine, 6LACK switched up his sleep schedule from late nights in the studio, to earlier to bed and rise. “I wake up between 5 and 7 every day, and these are really peak hours for me. The timeline hasn’t started. Nobody’s texting me, there’s nothing to be distracted with. Seeing how creative and how fresh and inspired I am in the morning was step one. I wake up, write what I’m grateful for, make sure I do some kind of stretch or physical activity to get my body warmed up and get my brain sharp,” he says.

“Besides that, it was just taking away little vices. I’ve never heavily smoked or heavily drank but I started to notice the routine was getting a little more casual. So it was like, ‘OK cool, I won’t smoke for a few months or I won’t drink for a few months. I’ll do a detox type of diet for 30 days and make sure I’m having some kind of disciple and doing things that I know are helping my body feel better.”

The time off laid the groundwork for the new album, which weaves in themes of disconnection and heartbreak but also embraces a brighter ethos. In keeping with his mental health advocacy, the artist was excited to work with Endel to create soundscapes specifically to help elevate listeners’ sleep and focus. Endel has worked with other musicians including James Blake.

“I’m in on the whole process. The technology does its thing but it’s very much my DNA. These are my background vocals, these are the instruments and the moments we crafted on the album. It’s refreshing to hear a different take on something that didn’t necessarily require us to go back in the studio and reproduce it from the bottom up,” 6LACK says.

“Knowing you can take the stems of what I’ve already created and feed them into an algorithm and pick whatever aim you want for it—whether it’s sleep or relax or study—and then the system analyzes the stems and reconstructs it and generates a soundscape… it’s like magic. It’s technology, but it’s art and it’s magic.”

These days, besides spending more time in the Endel app, he’s been focused on trying new things to propel himself forward, like starting guitar lessons and enrolling in online kickboxing classes.

“I need to put myself in spaces I’m a little uncomfortable with, anything that challenges me or keeps me curious or active,” he says. “Don’t get comfortable, and if you do get comfortable, let it be because you actually did something where you can pat yourself on the back and sit down and relax.”

Mind Reading (formerly Hollywood & Mind) is a recurring column that lives at the intersection of entertainment and wellbeing, and features interviews with musicians, actors and other culture influencers who are elevating the conversation around mental health.