Royce Hall wants to save lives through his art, and he takes a number of avenues to do so, be it as a recording artist, actor, poet, photographer or sketch artist.
The transgender Atlanta resident connected with Q to discuss his internal struggles, the responsibility of creating safe spaces for LGBTQ artists, and his inspiring shows. He also sat for a Q photo shoot, and a few of the best images, including outtakes not seen in print, appear within the interview.
What was it like growing up in Tallahassee, Fla?
My childhood was absolutely phenomenal. My mom allowed me much freedom, within reason, to explore and express myself, to create and learn. Culture and academics were a huge deal in our household.
At 3 years old, my mom placed me in a piano school. At 10 years old, I joined beginners’ band as a clarinetist. From there, I learned several other instruments while performing in a hip-hop trio.
As it relates to my identity, that wasn't the easiest to navigate. Being totally self-aware at such a young age was a source of internal struggle. I didn’t have the language, which would have given me agency and power, to convey what I felt and knew about myself. Thankfully though, I wasn't stifled when it came to my presentation.
My younger years were, retrospectively, very pivotal. I became a battle MC and began honing my skills, which lead to a 46-2 winning record. However, my collegiate years were where I self-affirmed in many ways. I dove headfirst into my art as a solo artist, even more than prior to, and I learned how to celebrate and give language to myself, as a man of trans experience.
Tell us about Southern Gent Productions.
It’s the ultimate live performance art experience. Last year, SGP collaborated with Soul Productions, LovHer and Actor’s Express for two installments of QueerLit — a live performance experience that celebrates and creates a safe space for LGBTQIA poets, singers, musicians and other artists.
Next is preparation for another installment of QueerLit as well as the Atlanta edition of SpeakerBox, which is a live performance experience for artists to showcase their dynamic talents before an audience specifically present to engage with and enjoy their talents. SpeakerBox was a monthly event I organized with MixHer while residing in Tallahassee.
What creative piece of art are you most proud of producing?
To date, I am most proud of my two book releases, “Rioting At Dawn” and “Poetix.” Both are books of poetry. Creatively, I'm also most proud of my growth as an actor.
What can people expect at a Royce Hall show?
The Royce Hall Experience is all about creating a journey on stage. My musicians and I provide a fusion of funk, jazz, hip-hop, neo-soul and spoken word. I love providing an intimate, personal experience. You can expect to connect to my music sonically as well as from a human experience.
I have so much fun doing what I love. Engaging with my audience is a matter of bonding and connecting via music. We will laugh. We may shed a few tears. We will sing together. We'll experience love, joy, a good feeling together. I perform my original songs and covers. Expect the unexpected, but in an amazing way.
What’s next for you?
In addition to SGP, music and writing books, I'm also an actor. Currently, I'm finishing my third and fourth books, my EP, and I’m writing my first script. I've also been cast as a lead actor in an upcoming short film, stage play and a few other projects. Also, I've been assigned as first assistant director for an upcoming film and assistant director and writer for a digital series that I also star in.
What else should people understand about you?
As a content creator, I feel it is my mission to uphold the reasons I've been blessed with so many gifts. I think about youth who are similar to me and how my art can save lives, create positive dialogue and change, evoke thought and understanding, bridge community gaps and leave a legacy that traverses the spectrum of human existence.
I want the way I make people feel to connect them to others, even in their assumed differences.
A version of this interview originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue online here:
Pick up a new edition of Q each week at LGBTQ and queer-friendly venues around town.