A rising RnB sensation with powerful vocals, Rai-Elle has undeniable talent. The London-born singer rose to stardom when she stole the nation’s hearts during last year’s X Factor. Rai-Elle has since been busy working on new material and releasing her debut single ‘KSB (Always On My Mind)’.
Taking her lead from Lauryn Hill, Total and SWV, and mixing this nostalgic palate with modern-day influences, such as Teyana Taylor and Queen Najia, Rai-Elle has been surrounding herself with strong female role models. Passionate about female empowerment, Rai-Elle is a breath of fresh air and a name we cannot wait to see grow.
Luckily we were able to catch-up with her, chatting words of advice from her long-term influence, Stormzy, and the influences behind the latest single.
Congratulations on releasing your debut single ‘KSB (Always On My Mind)’, how does it feel to be releasing your own music for the first time?
The feeling is different actually. I’ve always wanted to write my own music so now that I’ve done it, to get the feedback is just crazy. I feel really overwhelmed. It’s so amazing and has really motivated me to put out more music.
What inspired the single?
Well on the way to the studio I was listening to old school RnB, like Brandy. And I just thought, okay, today I think I want to make a song similar to this. I wanted to express how something or someone makes you feel without being so blasé and saying oh I love you. I just wanted to make a song that everyone could relate to.
Was it about a specific song or person?
No, not really… I thought I’d put myself in someone else’s shoes and write from their perspective. What I like about the song is that it doesn’t specifically mention a boy or a girl so anyone can relate to it. It could be about food for all people know, anything that makes you feel a certain type of way.
How was the recording and writing process?
Courage and I were in the studio for just the one day, we wrote the song that day. We were just vibesing off each other. We started off with a simple beat and then built up on that. Once we had a beat down we wrote the melody, then we put lyrics to it. I tend to start with the chorus first and kind of reverse it and work around that. The process for ‘KSB (Always On My Mind)’ was great because we just bounced off each other coming up with ideas and brainstorming, and then we just put it together.
Have you been writing songs for years or is it a more recent thing for you?
Writing is new for me, but I do enjoy it. I have a lot of choruses in my phone. It’s just learning different ways to write and different ways of mentioning things without actually saying them. It’s all about being creative really.
You say female empowerment is something that’s really important to you, what does female empowerment mean to you? And is it something you try to consciously embody in your lyrics and performances?
I think females need to be independent. We are capable of doing a lot of things. We need to believe in ourselves, because we are super heroes. We can do anything we put our mind to.
I would like to inspire and encourage the younger ones, or even people that are older than me, to believe in themselves. I feel a lot of people don’t do that, they count on others, they feel that without certain people they can’t do certain things. Through my lyrical content I want to make that clear. Like yeh you can be in love with someone or like someone but you also need to be smart about it, like I sing in ‘KSB (Always On My Mind)’. Don’t let it make you look dumb, don’t get yourself played basically.
Have you got any plans to perform?
I don’t have anything set up at the moment but we’re looking for opportunities to play with a band, hopefully to perform a different version of the song as well, maybe an acoustic version, that would be great! I would love to go round and perform the song, a lot of people love it so it would be amazing to go out and perform it to them.
You’ve said before you’re a versatile artist, what different genres and artists inspire you and have influenced your debut single?
Old school RnB definitely inspired the song but I don’t want to be put in a box. I want to express how I feel, and I think for me it’s more about the sound rather than the genre. Because if you’ve got a specific sound you can really do anything, and people just know it’s your voice. For example Beyoncé could do an afro beat song, or a house song, or RnB but you just know its Beyoncé because she’s got that distinctive voice. So for me growing up with various genres of music it’s kind of made me into this person that just wants to make music for all different audiences and then all different kinds of people can relate to my music and the message that I want to put out there.
The music scene in South London is really strong at the moment, how do you feel your South London upbringing has had an influence on you?
To see people make it out of South London is really inspiring to me, and for me to know that if they can do it then so can I. You’ve just got to be your own person really. For example Stormzy, I look up to him and he’s an amazing artist and person. He’s got a great heart and he’s doing so much for the community, and everyone really. It makes me think I can do the same thing. So it just motivates and pushes me to persevere at it and not to give up because seeing what he’s done and where’s he come from makes me think okay, it can happen.
What are some of your earliest memories of music/ singing?
The first time I performed in front of a large crowd I was five years old, and that for me was a game changer. It made me realise how much I wanted that to be my lifestyle. For me music isn’t a hobby, it’s a passion. When I perform and the crowd give me feedback and respond in certain ways it touches me. It’s amazing to know I can reach out to people musically. I think music is a good way to communicate with others and get positive messages out. I started off singing gospel so to know that touched people and brought others to Christ it’s nice to know that I’m using the gift God gave me correctly. I’m not using it to do crazy things.
It must have felt amazing to have the support of Stormzy when you were on The X Factor, did he give you any words of advice?
It was so nice to know that he appreciates my art, in the same way as I do his. He told me to be myself, and to not let anyone change me. The music industry is a very tough industry to be in and you have to have a very strong head on your shoulders. It’s not going to be easy, it might not necessarily be quick but the more you work hard and put in that work the more it will pay off in the end.
Do you have any plans to collaborate with him in the future?
I would love to do a collaboration with Stormzy, it’s just all about the timing isn’t it. But that’s definitely something I would want.
If you could work with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would love to work with Stevie Wonder. He’s just a legend, he’s like a prodigy isn’t he?
What are you listening to at the moment?
There’s a variety I’m into.. hmmm. I like Western, Ella Mai, H.E.R. – every single song of hers. Queen Naija, she’s killing it at the moment, I love her. Just UK artists really. I feel like we should support each other not put each other down.
What else do you have planned over the next year? Are you working on any new projects?
I’d like to bring out an EP and hopefully do a little tour. I want to work on some collaborations with some sick people, so that’s what I’d love to do in the next year. I’m working on my EP at the moment so hopefully that will be out sometime this year. It’s just about branching out, expanding my fan base and touching base in different countries. Going global, that’s the dream.
You’re only 17 and just at the beginning of your career, but do you have an ultimate career goal in your sights, the one thing you want to achieve?
I just want to be an artist people look up to. For people to listen to my music when they’re feeling low, and when they’re feeling happy. I want to be an inspiration to the young ones and even show them that you don’t have to dress a certain way for example, to be recognised. Just be yourself and people will have to either like it or lump it.