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Off The Record: Meet Raye

Off The Record: Meet Raye

Raye’s energy is infectious. When the 21 year-old singer songwriter walks into the East London studio where we’re shooting the FLANNELS AW19 campaign, the place lights up. Just a few years into her career, she’s already making huge waves in the industry, from co-writing Beyonce’s track Bigger, to doing vocals for EDM king David Guetta, to amassing over 1 billion streams for her co-writes with Charli XCX, Major Lazer, Ellie Goulding and John Legend. These days, her own top pop hits, including Love Me Again, Decline and Cigarette – the latter a collaboration with Mabel and Steflon Don – are done to her own tune. The woman knows how to work, and hard.

At the time of writing, she’s just wrapped a sell-out arena tour supporting Khalid, and only last night picked up her first music award. We can practically hear the bottles popping. When we meet in September, Raye is on the brink of the aforementioned tour and the award is just a twinkle in this rising star’s eye. Nonetheless, she is fizzing with energy, fiercely self-determined and warm – ready to talk music, style and the city she calls home.

Singer Raye looks directly at the camera, crouches low to the ground wearing a pink, yellow and beige all-over GG logo Gucci track top and matching pink pleated shorts
Singer Raye looks directly at the camera, crouches low to the ground wearing a pink, yellow and beige all-over GG logo Gucci track top and matching pink pleated shorts

Of proud British, Ghanaian and Swiss descent (she sports a tattoo of each country’s flag on her wrist), Raye was born and bred in South London, where she grew up in a close-knit family to the soundtrack of old-school jazz and R&B. After quitting the prestigious BRIT school aged just 16, she released her first EP a year later, and her latest track, Love Me Again, is a sparkly, soulful pop mega-hit that’s both fierce and vulnerable – her personal story of heartbreak told through big, immaculate vocals and her signature catchy tunes.

Raye tapped Jess Glynne for a girl-power remix of Love Me Again, and her determination to champion fellow female artists has made her a lot of friends in the industry. This refreshingly direct approach to female empowerment is reflected in her personal style – something she tells us has evolved over time. Seductive, feminine and unapologetic, her wardrobe both on and off stage speaks of a multi-faceted creative spirit who embraces fluidity. From corseted dresses to baggy jeans, it’s about her self-expression and autonomy. Both feet are firmly on the ground – one foot in a stiletto and the other in a sneaker.

An industry game-changer with fierce personal style, Raye embodies the energy and spirit of London’s creative community. Alongside fellow artist AJ Tracey, she’s the face of FLANNELS AW19, a campaign designed to champion the city’s brightest new talent to celebrate the opening of our London flagship store. Raye articulated what it means to be a stylish female creative today when she stomped her new season Prada shoes and sat down on set to talk sisters, song writing and stage looks to die for. You’ll be hearing a lot more from her – watch this space.

Singer Raye wearing a black oversized Prada military long-line coat with chunky Prada lace-up shoes and a pink Prada chain handle bag
Singer Raye wearing a black oversized Prada military long-line coat with chunky Prada lace-up shoes and a pink Prada chain handle bag


When did you start making music?

I started making music at 10, 11, younger than that. I started writing songs and I kind of fell in love with it really early.

How has being born and raised in London shaped you?

I mean London is such a special place, I feel like it’s a home to so many different cultures. I love it, I loved growing up in Croydon, it was a bit rough around the edges. I love buses, I love public transport, I’m in love with London as many people are. It’s such a contagious environment.

What are your most important musical influences?

I have so many and I’m always listening to new things. I think learning about music history, the past and present is so essential to being a good writer. Some of my biggest influences have been Nina Simone, for her fire and her passion, and her real drive to just write those political songs that nobody wanted to hear, but they were just so important to the time. Jill Scott, she’s a neo-soul artist, but lyrically she’s written one of my favourite albums of all time and I adore her. A lot of incredible, black female singers I love; Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, I love the classics. But that’s just one little part, I have so many influences and I’m always looking to be inspired.

Singer Raye sits in front of a wall of mirrors wearing a Versace baroque print bodysuit in black, white and yellow with a matching Versace baroque fountain skirt with black leather Versace strappy high-heeled mules and big gold coin earrings
Singer Raye sits in front of a wall of mirrors wearing a Versace baroque print bodysuit in black, white and yellow with a matching Versace baroque fountain skirt with black leather Versace strappy high-heeled mules and big gold coin earrings


What’s the story behind your song Love Me Again?

It’s probably one of the most emotional writing processes I have ever had. It was literally pouring it down with rain, I’m driving in my car, I’m feeling really, really sad, I’m crying my eyes out, and I was like I really just need to go home. It’s just heartbreak isn’t it, you know when you want someone who doesn’t want you back. I turned around the car, drove home, walked inside my house and I have a little set up in my house and the chorus was literally the first thing that came out. I found some chords and I was literally just crying, crying, crying. I called my label that night and I was like, I really feel like we need to scrap every single plan that we had and put this out.

What does the support of other female artists mean to you?

Girls need girls, women need women. I’ve been making a conscious effort to surround myself with as many women as possible, and it’s so beautiful when artists get to really click on a level where they talk and spend the time together. You know, we’re dealing with a lot. There’s a lot of pressures in this game, it’s not easy. It’s a rollercoaster and everyone is going through the same thing. It’s so refreshing that there are genuine friendships forming and women are going out of their way more than ever now. It’s so essential to be there for each other, support each other. That’s the energy I thrive off, it makes me so happy and when I receive that energy, I give it back to other women.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Probably writing a song for Beyoncé is pretty high up there, she’s everyone’s icon and idol. To have been able to create something for your idol, it’s just nuts.

Singer Raye stood in front of a wall of spot lights wearing black high-waisted Off-White leggings with a matching top, chunky black boots and a long-line Off-White puffer jacket
Singer Raye stood in front of a wall of spot lights wearing black high-waisted Off-White leggings with a matching top, chunky black boots and a long-line Off-White puffer jacket


What role do fashion and style play in your life?

I’m really starting to come into my own with understanding how to express myself, when it comes to my style and what to wear. I’m not afraid to do ‘out there’ looks, I love experimenting with colours and I’m enjoying the phases that come with each visual I’m creating, I think I’m finding a real sense of confidence with my style which is great.

Who are your style icons?

Madonna, in the late ‘80s early ‘90s, when she was doing those big, baggy leather jackets and cycling shorts, she really had it going. And that red lip with her little mole. I have a little mole as well! She was such an icon. I have several, and they’re people like Naomi Campbell who always looks so fabulous, her figure, she’s tall and elegant and I’m thick and curvy, so I love everything she wears, but I’ve got to find my version. Different body types need different shapes and different vibes.

Talk us through your dream stage outfit

Dream stage outfit? I love to jump around like a psychopath on stage, I love to run around, so for me, things have to be secure, loose, not too heavy. But you also want something that’s a statement. Either some shorts and some high knee boots or trainers, or some platform shoes and a little top. I’ve got this really cute body suit which is, like, so cute. My dream tour look is something light, something bold, something I feel really comfortable and sexy in. I feel like I’ve just discovered how empowering it is to feel sexy and to feel sexy on stage. Something with a bit of skin out.

A close-up of Singer Raye wearing a matching Balmain black and white houndstooth off-the-shoulder top and skirt two-piece with gold Balmain buttons on the cuffs and down the front
A close-up of Singer Raye wearing a matching Balmain black and white houndstooth off-the-shoulder top and skirt two-piece with gold Balmain buttons on the cuffs and down the front

QUICKFIRE ROUND:

How would your friends describe you?

Honest, or blunt, giggly, and focused

Song that plays when you enter the club?

Popsmoke, Welcome To The Party. Big, big tune.

Your favourite place in London?

Brixton market, I just like it there, it’s real

What did you do on your last day off?

I was in Ibiza with my friends

Your favourite album?

I would say Jill Scott, Who is Jill Scott? When I was 12 years old I heard it and I was like ‘I don’t know what this is, but I am so in love with it.’

What’s your wallpaper?

My wallpaper on my phone is a family picture

The best advice anyone’s ever given you?

You know what, never regret anything. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of the bumps in the road. Definitely, never regret anything.

Photography: Ben Morris, Interview: Florence Trott, Fashion: Karen Clarkson, Fashion Assistant: Gemma Baguley, Makeup: Olly Fisk, Hair: Alex Price, Nails: Anouska Anastasia, Art Direction: Gini May, Set Design: Ian CY, Bryony Gordon, Production: Carley Bishop