Commercial success: Historically, PepsiCo has employed music icons such as Britney Spears and Michael Jackson to appear in commercials and sell its soda. For artist Outasight, however, the opposite tactic worked: Having his song in Pepsi ads helped him sell music. After the 28-year-old singer and rapper’s single Tonight Is the Night was featured in commercials that aired during The X Factor, the song became a hit.
Tonight Is the Night sits at No. 26 on USA TODAY’s top 40 airplay chart and has sold more than 240,000 downloads. The tune’s music video has attracted 1.4 million YouTube hits, and Outasight now has more than 10,000 Twitter followers.
Overnight sensation: “Before Tonight Is the Night, I was taking a grass-roots approach to music and gaining one fan at a time,” says Outasight, who released the single in September. But when the commercial aired, “my Facebook went over six figures in ‘Likes,’ ” he says. “It was a whole different medium of exposure.” Now Outasight, born Richard Andrew, plans to release two Tonight Is the Night remixes Tuesday and put out a full-length album sometime this year.
“I have a lot of music to share,” he says. “It’s eclectic, but it’s strong.”
What’s that sound? Outasight’s dad played the guitar and his mom was a record collector, so the self-proclaimed “music nerd” was exposed to everything from Kiss to The Beatles to Stevie Wonder growing up in Yonkers, N.Y. As a result, Outasight’s sound doesn’t stick to a single genre. His five mixtapes and two EPs released since 2007 fuse R&B, hip-hop, soul and rock. On Tonight Is the Night, Outasight incorporates head-bobbing synth, drums and vocals so smooth they almost sound Auto-Tuned (but aren’t, he says).
Though sometimes compared to B.o.B, he says the two aren’t really alike. “We both sing and rap, but the similarities stop there. I’m just me.”
On the grind: Outasight says he’s been “grindin’, grindin’, grindin’ ” for years. Starting out, he performed in New York City as an independent singer, frontman for a rock band and rapper at open mikes, using the moniker “Outsight” (later adding the “a” because it sounded as if he were mispronouncing “outside”). Once, he drove eight hours just to play a 15-minute gig in Pittsburgh.
“Anytime there was any sort of opportunity, I’d jump on it,” he says. “I did a lot of couch-surfing.”
Little victories: Before the Pepsi campaign, Outasight had a few turning points in his career. Two were in 2008, when the then-unsigned artist was featured on MySpace’s home page and won an mtvU Freshmen competition with his music video for Good Evening, a song off his Radio New York mixtape. Still, Outasight remained mostly out of sight.
“At that time, there weren’t a lot of singing rappers,” he says. A bigger break came in 2009, when Outasight signed a deal with Warner Bros., which was “the right fit,” he says.
Major collaboration: At Warner, Outasight tried to work with Talib Kweli, but it took a while to get the rapper’s attention. Outasight eventually sent him a song to rap on. “If you’re going to send Talib anything, you want to send something dope,” says Outasight. That song, Ain’t Waiting, wound up on Kweli’s 2010 album, Gutter Rainbows.
He’d love to work with Kweli again but has more collaborations in mind: Beck, James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem), Jay-Z and Kanye West. “I like to set goals,” he says.
Hitting the road: After opening for Gym Class Heroes and the Dirty Heads last fall, Outasight is ready for his own tour. “It was a great learning experience,” he says, though he found touring without a mainstream hit a challenge. This month, armed with Tonight Is the Night, Outasight is performing club dates across the country.
“I’m touring extensively all year,” says Outasight, who rarely takes breaks. “I pride myself on being a performer.”
Plugged in: “My laptop is my best friend,” says Outasight, who’s constantly reading and connecting with fans and friends through social media. “I like being able to see kids really be affected by the music.”