- 20 Jan 21
A steadily blossoming solo career and an overflowing list of A-list musical contacts has built up excitement for the release of Raye's 'Euphoric Sad Songs' mixtape, not least since her collaboration with Regard on chart smash ‘Secrets’. With her latest body of work, the 23-year-old is carving her name into the notoriously unforgiving industry all on her own.
It would be a fair assumption to state that South London-based artist Raye has dedicated an ocean of blood, sweat and tears into curating pop and dance hits behind the music industry curtain. Working overtime for the last number of years as a songwriter and producer for some of the biggest names in the game - not to mention securing a prestigious Beyoncé credit - has earned her respect amongst her peers, but the vocal talent is now being recognised as a solo artist in her own right. Wearing her heart on her sleeve is one of the dominant reasons why her “extended family” of a fanbase resonate deeply with her Euphoric Sad Songs dancefloor break-up anthems.
Touching base with the 'Regardless' singer (full name Rachel Keen) over Zoom, her infectious energy and enthusiasm for the art of performing makes it obvious why limiting herself to producing and writing for megastars in studios is a decision never worth making. Hot Press quiz the ambitious artist on her favourite collaborators, the struggle to be taken seriously as a female producer in a male-heavy business and her post-Covid plans for an official debut album.
“The Irish crowds are completely bonkers,” Raye laughs, her genuine excitement over the sheer mention of gigs palpable. “I’m not just saying this - the crowds in Ireland are honestly unforgettable. They’re the best, because the energy is unmatched. I’ll be performing in the freezing cold while it’s pouring rain, and there’s screaming people topless swinging their shirts around - I love them! I really cannot wait to get back on stage in Ireland."
Having visited the nation’s most popular summer festivals, Electric Picnic and Longitude, as well as performing a headline show at the Academy and supporting fellow London-based artists Jess Glynne and Rita Ora; Raye has seen plenty of Ireland’s off-the-charts spirit when it comes to live music.
“When you get on stage, you feed off what the crowd gives. When a crowd like the Irish give you everything, you give them everything in return.”
Jax Jones, Regard, Rudimental, Jonas Blue and Martin Solveig are among the list of global DJs who have nabbed Raye’s voice, penmanship and production skills to create certified chart dance hits. Having contributed written tracks to the likes of Little Mix, Charli XCX and John Legend; her ability to work with artists from far-reaching genres has allowed Raye to expand her own range.
“If I was to choose who the best person to collaborate with is, I’d probably have to say David Guetta,” she says. “He’s one of my best friends. He’s both unbelievably talented and ridiculously energised all of the time, has a constant stream of ideas. I’m already planning to work with him until the end of my career - I adore him. He makes me laugh so much because he has the harshest French accent, plus the way he sees life and music is just fabulous.”
Working in music since the tender age of 17 after attending the UK’s Brit School for performing arts, Raye has since achieved an impressive level of success. However, with every accolade and chart entries come gut-wrenching setbacks and reversals in good fortune.
“I think disappointment is part of it, because it makes you appreciate a cut ten times harder,” the Londoner comments, reminiscing on past setbacks. “This is why it’s really important for songwriters to get better deals - it’s just a ridiculous probability game. Imagine going to sessions all of the time and writing for weeks at a time; you have to hope that the artist eventually chooses the song, uses it as a single and that the track actually becomes successful. After that whole process, you have to wait a whole year for your first cheque to come through. It’s nuts.”
“It’s a real hustle, and you have to really love it,” Raye continues. “For the Beyoncé credit in particular, I had to work super hard. I wrote an insane amount of songs and put the shift in, but that’s what it takes. People don’t realise how much goes into getting just one credit.”
As a producer who happens to identify as female, the artist has experienced the inevitable downside of trying to be taken seriously for her work. Just 3% of producers in the music industry identify as female or non-binary. Men currently make up 95 percent of the music tech industry, but Covid-19 combined with the mainstream rise of bedroom pop has enabled more people to get involved from home.
“You know what’s sad is that I’ve met a lot of female producers who have stopped making music because they felt either totally dismissed or harassed, and it’s really awful,” Raye explains. “It’s a constant struggle for women, even in 2021. We’re doing a lot of incredible things in front of the camera. Women are levelled up as equals in the media, making it seem like all of these amazing changes are happening, but behind the scenes, it’s still so tough.”
“I was in the studio not too long ago co-producing a track, and then someone barged in when the song was basically done, realised that it was a good song and basically bullied their way onto having a little cut in it. Then their name is above mine in huge writing. It’s just disrespectful,” Raye adds.
“I can’t wait to tell people I’m a producer and not have to prove it before I’m taken seriously. This is what I’m used to since I started writing at 17. You are underestimated and looked down upon until you prove otherwise, which I have worked very hard to do.”
Raye had to extract painful memories of a former relationship to curate her mini-album, Euphoric Sad Songs. Filled with brutally honest lyrics backed with dance beats and consistently catchy hooks, the work harks to the often-messy romances of youth and the tearful nights out that follow.
“I marked the mixtape as the nine stages of grief for healing a broken heart. ‘Change Your Mind’ has text messages in the chorus that are real messages I had sent to someone. In ‘Love Me Again’, I had literally just come off stage and was beside the tour bus sobbing. I just broke down on the floor and wrote the whole thing. All in all, there’s been a lot of crying, a lot of regrets and confusion. I’m so lucky to have music, because I basically get to create medicine for myself in the form of a diary. This is how I empower myself.”
Currently in the beginning stages of making her official debut album, six years after she first kick-started her musical career; Raye is raring to go.
“That’s my mission right now, and obviously everything that comes with it; the visual journey, the story I want to tell, what it sounds like and tastes like. I’m really about to dig in, and I’ve worked really hard to get to this point, so it has to be phenomenal. I’ve got big plans for the collaborations, looks and features. I’m going to be calling up a lot of favours!”
Euphoric Sad Songs is out now, via Polydor.
- Live Review
- 29 May 23