From timeless literature to classic films, many of the most memorable tales begin on the highways and byways that simultaneously cut and connect North America. Whether it's Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces or Jack Kerouac in On The Road, the trip itself becomes the destination and invariably changes the man one mile at a time. Singer, performer, and songwriter Rafferty experienced a rebirth during a similar journey. On the other side, he created "Apple Pie," which soundtracked the Apple iPhone 6 launch, became the most used song in Apple's history of any product launch and serves as the lead single from his forthcoming debut EP produced by GRAMMY®Award-winning "Producer of the Year" Jeff Bhasker [Kanye West, Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, fun., Jay-Z].
The EP showcases his patented sound weathered by life's storms and powered by 808s, driving bass, rock swagger, and a touch of country twang. "The vibe is very masculine, but there's a romance to it," he explains. "I want to create what Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, and Elvis had. It's modern, but it summons those ghosts of tradition."
Rafferty's journey began when, galvanized by Amy Winehouse's Back to Blackand Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, the 6-foot-6 half-Persian and half-Scandinavian Colorado-born wandering maverick spent four months traversing the country with an acoustic guitar, highlighted by countless impromptu gigs at rough and tumble trucker outposts, smoky cafes and tiny restaurants throughout the heartland.
"When I would play 'Ain't No Sunshine' or an old Merle Haggard song, the audience would light up," he said. "I was playing for others without expecting anything in return. I got comfortable with it. I said, 'Fuck it. I'm going to be a singer.'" Rafferty returned to Los Angeles with a deeper drive, but in 2013 everything spiraled out of control. After his landlord committed suicide, Rafferty left the Hollywood Hills house where he resided, a younger cousin lost his battle with cancer, and he ran out of money. His dad showed up at his doorstep with a proposition.
"He wanted to give me another shot under one condition," he recalls. "My dad wanted me to record 'Apple Pie.' I don't know why the hell he picked that song, but everything changed when I did."
By chance, Rafferty met Tyler Johnson [OneRepublic, fun.] at the studio on the day he planned to record the track. After a highly creative session, Tyler invited him to meet his mentor Jeff Bhasker. "All of a sudden, I'm in the studio alongside my dream producer," laughs Rafferty. Shortly after, a friend at Apple unassumingly submitted the final version of "Apple Pie" to an office pool. A year later, it made history.
Officially premiered on Ebro Darden's Beats 1 show in 2016, the song gallops from an energetic beat into a quick guitar snap before culminating on the arena-ready chant. There's a deep message at its core. "I feel social media and the pace of the world we live in now is so fast," he goes on. "It's like we're just hanging on the back of a firetruck, going down the street at 80mph. There are so many expectations. You always have to look good on social media. You have to make money. You have to post often. There's no point to it. I wanted to make a score to this crazy lifestyle everybody lives. That's what 'Apple Pie' is." Follow-up single "Save Me Some Sunshine" merges immersive soundscapes with a bluesy anthemic howl. "It's basically a love song," he reveals. "You're willing to wait, but you're making your way towards that person. I want women to feel like there are good men around. There's a crew of guys who are solid, romantic, and will uphold whatever they want to be."
"When listening to my music, I want guys to feel as if they can be like their dads and granddads—the traditional men who didn't hide away their masculinity," he says of the timeless, larger-than-life character his songs embody. Ultimately, Rafferty rises to the occasion with a 21stcentury vision rooted in the best traits of old school manhood. "It's about feeling empowered to stand tall and be a solid, stable gentleman," he leaves off. "I believe we can create stability and find truth within songs."