Rayvon Owen is "on a mission — you best believe it."

The fearless former American Idol contestant, who finished fourth place in 2015, returned with his second official single, "Volume," in November. But it was during his three-year hiatus (if you want to call it that) between the reality competition and now that he truly found himself, accepting his identity as a gay man and finding his footing in an ever-shifting industry.

"I’ve just been trying to dig in deep into my life, into my story and what I want to say," he shares. "A lot has changed since then, which has affected my writing process. I wanted to really step back and see what came out of me, authentically. For a while, I was pigeonholing myself into one sound, so I’ve been working with a lot of different people and trying a lot of different styles and sounds."

On his debut single, "Can't Fight It," Owen came out swinging with an explicit declaration of self that peeled back all the self-doubt and angst to reveal who he truly was. With an EP due out in 2018, the artist is expected to continue his journey of self-discovery.

Below, Owen discusses new music, lessons he's learned since coming out and how he wants to use his platform for change.

What led you to write “Volume”?
I worked with these producers named The Gifted, who are incredible and have worked with a lot of big artists and newer artists, too. That day, I can remember feeling uncertain, going into a new situation. It was my first time meeting them, and in preparation for that session, things weren’t working out the way I had hoped. I felt down on myself, almost beat up by the industry. It was one of those days.

So, going into that session and based off their energy, too, we were very honest with each other about the hardships of being an artist and creative person. It’s so tough to feel that pressure and then figure out what you want to say. I spent so long trying to please others. I got into a place where I didn’t want to do that anymore...That’s what this song hearkens to: It’s a transitional song, and it’ll open up to a whole new project and sound. I’m far more comfortable with myself, with my sexuality. I’ve been open about that, and that’s still a daily process. I learned how to feel what I needed to feel.

How did you get hooked up with The Gifted?
My manager has worked with R.LUM.R. He’s an amazing singer-songwriter, and The Gifted have produced a lot of his projects, as well as for Tayler Buono. My manager has built a relationship with them [and] it came up in conversation to get together. We just hit it off. It was such a cool connection. You meet people sometimes, and it’s just instant, you know? We had a certain energy. They were warm and inviting and made that space a safe one. That’s why we were able to write “Volume.” It felt right and a good first step back out.

Who are some of the co-writers you’ve been working with?
Brandon Rogers is one. He was actually on Idol as well. He’s written for Troye Sivan and some others. I've been writing with a guy named Rhett Fisher quite a bit. He’s an amazing singer and songwriter. He was also a Power Ranger. [Laughs] These two girls named Lyre are amazing producers. I wrote with James Droll, who did one of the Spotify Pride playlists. And Tiny Voice, an amazing production group. They’re huge in the J-pop and K-pop world. I’ve been producing with them for this EP. I’m so excited.

Have you narrowed down the EP track list?
Not yet. We’re working with the label to figure that out. I can say that I have been writing quite a bit. There are some songs I know I’ll never use. [Laughs]

Is coming out a theme that runs through your upcoming EP?
Not necessarily. It’s definitely in there. I’m just writing as I learn and grow and experience life. A song is a stamp of a moment of time for me. It’s obviously me throughout the whole thing and a small thread of that in some way. I’m singing about relationships...with a guy. That’s gonna be there. There’s also variety. It’s not all about that.

You’ve been out as a gay man nearly two years. How would you reflect on that time?
It has had its ups and downs, like anything else. Honestly, I feel mentally, spiritually and physically in the best place I’ve been in my life. I do not regret coming out at all. It’s been so rewarding in so many ways... not just personally, but with sharing my story, I’ve gotten a lot of amazing responses from people.

They’ve been loving and supportive. It’s worth it when you get a message from someone online who is young and says, “You helped me come out to my parents” or “I was depressed about it but you’re helping me.” It’s even to the point where people get very personal, saying things like, “I wanted to take my life.” If I can make a difference in one person’s life, then, that’s worth it.

Hopefully, for the community as a whole, we can reach a place where we won’t have to do this. Hopefully, it becomes a worldwide, accepted thing. I think it will. We’re heading in the right direction.

You’ve spoken about how coming out led to you losing people in your life. How did that impact you?
It was very tough. Even moments like that made me think I made the wrong choice. Should I not have done that? Should I have kept quiet? Should I try to get help? You go through all of those thoughts. As loving as my relationship with [filmmaker Shane Bitney Crone] is, I still went through those thoughts. But those moments become less and less.

I’ve seen how blessed and fortunate I am now that I’m on the other side of that. I went through so much torment, so I’m glad to be away from that. As far as the people that backed out of my life—even some fans, family, friends—it at least gets the conversation started. If it hits a little closer to home for them, I think they will eventually be more moved by it in the end.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned the past two years?
It might be a little cliche, but honestly, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is you have to be who you are. Your authentic self is the best self. That’s what is going to be most rewarding to me. That doesn’t mean you don't have to make sacrifices and don’t have to mold yourself. We’re not perfect...

I’ve also learned not to let anyone or anything deter me from my goals, ambitions and doing what I have to do. Being open minded, too, present and enjoying every moment... I just had two deaths in my family recently. Life is too short. You never know when your last day will be.

What do you want in 2018?
I’m vegan now, so I’d like to see more vegan restaurants. [Laughs] It’s hard to be vegan on the road. Also, I’ve been wondering, “What’s happening in the country? What’s happening with the energy and climate of the world?” Then, you hear things, and you don’t know what to believe all the time. I hope people will find peace and middle ground in so many ways, especially accepting people of other races, cultures, religions. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and realizing stuff. You hear more news all the time. Has it always been like this, or have I not been paying attention?

Listen to Rayvon Owen's new single, "Volume," below: