Locals: Rashad holding nothing back on the Quiet Loud

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

The Quiet Loud, Rashad's second full-length solo album, doubles as a musical biography of sorts, packing in lyrical allusions that trace his influences from the soul and blues giants who frequented the family turntable in his childhood years (Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye) through comparatively modern practitioners like Blackstreet, a '90s R&B crew he name-drops on the suitably sticky "Slow Jam."

"[The album] is a reflection on my life in music. It's my history in it, and how I feel about it," said Rashad, a singer/producer who landed his first major label deal with RCA Records at 13 years old (in subsequent years, he inked similar deals with Columbia and Universal, and he now operates independently). "Every [artist] has something different they talk about, and my passion is music. If I'm not talking about a female, I'm probably reflecting on what I grew up on musically."

At times, the songs onThe Quiet Loud, which dropped in early December, blur the lines between rhythm and romance. When Rashad, born Rashad Thomas, questions his loyalties on "I Thought About Leaving Her," singing, "Could it be I stayed away too long?," it's open for interpretation whether the musician is talking about a lover or the stage.

Despite numerous hiccups, the singer said he's never held any doubts about pursuing a career in music, and he managed to keep his chin up even during those frustrating years where he found himself caught in a "Groundhog's Day"-like cycle, repeatedly landing major label deals only to hit snags that led to planned releases getting shelved.

"I've been frustrated with the industry, for sure, but I was one of those kids who didn't give himself a plan B. I didn't have any other interests," Rashad said. "I just kept moving and growing and making music, and I think that goes to the love. I'm doing it for the right reasons."

It's an all-in approach Rashad has continually tried to adhere to with his music - "You can tell when someone is making music for other people … [and] I've always been in my own world," he said - though he did admit his various label experiences reminded him of the need to walk his own creative path no matter the external pressure.

"A lot of people, when you're in that major label grind, it's all about sounding like someone else. For a creative person, that sucks; I don't want to do that," said Rashad, pointing to a mid-2000 stretch where he recorded a more straightforward R&B album for Universal, buffing away the hip-hop influence that has long been a trademark of his sound (the album was never released). "It's not that the music wasn't great, it just wasn't completely me. I learned I need to be completely true to what I do, and I got more comfortable in my own shoes. I was more reserved [then]. Now I'm not holding anything back."