Ricky Rebel is an established singer who was the lead vocalist of Michael Jackson’s boyband called “No Authority” in the 1990’s. Ricky toured with Destiny’s Child, Jessica Simpson, and Britney Spears, and is now a glam rocker. On Saturday, March 18, he will debut his new single, “If You Were My Baby” at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. The song has a 1980s-sound and celebrates confidence. Ricky recently discussed his career and his hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: How and when did you decide to become an entertainer?
Rickey Rebel (RR): When I was a child I used to play the “Grease” and “Annie” movies on repeat. I sang along to the musical numbers and my parents realized that I had great pitch. I remember seeing Madonna roll around in a wedding dress on the MTV Awards and shock everybody. I knew that I wanted to do my own version of that one day!
MM: Growing up, what kinds of music interested you?
RR: I listened to Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna. My parents also loved the Beatles so I can literally sing along to any Beatles tune.
MM: How did you decide on the name “Ricky Rebel”?
RR: I became “Ricky Rebel” in response to the homophobia I was experiencing at the time in the music industry. My whole life I have been told by industry professionals to “tone down” my feminine side. I decided to rebel against all of them and just be myself. Since I did that, my career started taking off.
MM: How did you come to lead Michael Jackson’s boyband?
RR: I auditioned to be in the group when I was just a teenager. At first I was supposed to sing behind a lead singer. When they put me behind the mic, the music producers found out that I was a lead singer too. I literally sang lead and also 90% of the background vocals of No Authority’s first record. Rodney Jerkins loved my voice because I sounded a lot like Michael Jackson. He also loved to watch me dance like M.J.!
MM: What was Michael Jackson like? Do you have any cool stories about him?
RR: Michael was a very kind person. I fortunately got to spend time with him on his Neverland Ranch. We had a blast going on the rides, watching movies, swimming, and dancing in his studio. Those are memories that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
MM: You’ve worked with everyone from Britney Spears to Madonna! What was it like to collaborate with these super-famous performers?
RR: Britney was amazing to tour with. I literally got to watch her blossom into a superstar. She is very humble. I met Madonna way before I got signed to her label. She was interested in asking me a lot of questions of my then boss Michael Jackson. I think that she was very impressed that I was signed to his label. Maverick Records later signed the group just in time to release our record and open for Britney Spears. Madonna gave me a special gift for my birthday, an autographed poster that’s hanging in my room. I literally have worked for the king and queen of pop music! Not very many people can say that.
MM: Out of all your music, do you have a favorite song? What is your favorite song, period?
RR: My favorite song is “Boys & Sometimes Girls.” It’s an honest song about my complex sexuality. I did not grow up as a kid wanting to kiss “Johnny” I wanted to kiss “Sarah.” Coming to terms with my sexuality was a difficult process. I think that “Boys & Sometimes Girls” took all of that pain I experienced of being different and turned it into something fun. It was my first song to chart in the top 30 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Charts. It holds a special place in my heart. DJ Hector Fonseca and his label Audio4Play Records made a fantastic remix album to the track. I have Hector Fonseca, David Keeton, my amazing manager and executive producer, and Bobby Shaw to thank for its Billboard charting success.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your musical career?
RR: Having a song chart on Billboard is huge and not to mention we are performing at one of the biggest music festivals in the world, SXSW. I’m also scheduled to appear on a National TV show, but I can’t discuss the details.
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become a musician?
RR: Never compromise your initial vision of who and what you are and want to become. The industry will do everything it can to try to change you. They told me that I was never going to make it as a gay man, but I stuck to my guns and I’m proving them wrong. Be Yourself.
MM: You’ll be performing at SXSW on March 18th. Is this your first time and what type of show are you planning?
RR: I am a SXSW virgin. I’m excited to be debuting my new single “If You Were My Baby.” It’s got a fantastic 80’s vibe. Apparently, my producer used the exact same synth keyboard that Prince used on his music. I think that there’s a little Prince magic on the track. I’m planning a fabulous 80’s fitness type video to go with it. Overall, my life is good. I’m blessed and grateful for the way things are unfolding.