RAYE is one of the UK’s most talented rising UK singer-songwriter’s. From Co-writing the likes of ‘Bigger’ by Beyonce, ‘Sixteen’ by Ellie Goulding, ‘Capital Letters’ by Hailee Steinfeld, and ‘Don’t Leave’ by Snakehips, she’s established herself as a master of the pen.
Stepping into the spotlight in 2016 featuring on Jonas Blue’s ‘By Your Side’ and Jax Jones’ smash hit ‘You Don’t know Me’, she quickly became a prominent voice in the EDM-pop world. She’s also most recently teamed up with Regard for the absolute banger ‘Secrets’ which has just gone Gold in Australia.
Stepping away from collaborating, she has also established herself as an impressive artist to get to know in her own right. With songs like ‘Decline’, ‘Friends’ and ‘Love Me Again’, she has showcased so many different sides of her artistry and toured alongside industry heavyweights Khalid, Rita Ora and Halsey.
Her new single ‘Natalie Don’t’ is a playful pop song that hears her begging another woman to leaver her man alone. It’s been dubbed as a 2020 take on Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ and it’s ever so relatable. The song is taken from her forthcoming EP which candidly addresses the seven stages of grief through heartbreak, and she’s ready to show listeners a more vulnerable side.
I recently chatted to RAYE about the creative process behind her stunning new single ‘Natalie Don’t’, discussed her process of dealing with grief, and she shared with us some incredible women that she recommends you check out ASAP. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: ’Natalie Don’t’ is such a playful pop song that hears you begging another woman to leave your man alone. It’s already been dubbed as a 2020 take on ‘Jolene’ and even includes a cheeky nod to it. So did you walk into the studio that day ready to reference that song?
RAYE: I definitely wasn’t trying to be subtle was I? *laughs*. The lyric “leave my man like Dolly. Beg Jolene just cause you can, don’t take him please” really says everything I wanted to say, and captures that whole moment for me.
I remember hearing ‘Jolene’ for the first time when I was about 14, and I was so moved. I immediately saw the story, I saw Jolene, I saw what she was wearing, and I just felt it. It was like a “this is what music is” moment for me.
I then experienced my own Jolene moment, so I thought why not write my perspective on it. It was very therapeutic, it felt great, and I genuinely love the song.
TB: Was it a song that quickly came together creatively, or did you play around with it for a bit?
R: I remember on the day I started a few different lyrical ideas. On ‘Natalie Don’t’ we had the verse and the pre-chorus, but it really needed a chorus. We tried a few different iterations but nothing was feeling right. We came back to it the next day while we were listening through the ideas we came up with, and I was like “wait, what!”, it felt so fresh within a new day.
I got in the booth and the chorus just fell out. I was like “gang, we got it! Signed, sealed, delivered”. There was very little post production changes to it. What you hear is literally from the day we created it.
TB: The accompanying music video definitely played up to the playful side of the song and was very aesthetically pleasing. So what was something funny or random that happened on the shoot?
R: It was honestly just a weird shoot cause it was done in the middle of COVID. Everyone was in masks apart from me, so all I could see were eyes *laughs*. It was such a strange vibe. So I told them to crank the music as loud as it goes, press play, get me a shot of tequila, and then let’s do it! It was a really fun shoot, but weird, but fun, but weird. That’s the best and only way to describe it *laughs*.
TB: I feel like that’s the only way to describe right now in general, to be honest.
R: Oh hun, tell me about it! What a year! It’s honestly been such an ugly and beautiful year.
TB: This song is taken from your new EP which is going to have seven songs that addresses the seven stages of grief. I’m so here for this concept!! How therapeutic has been writing and packaging this project together for your own grief process?
R: It has been great! I’ve had so many funny and weird moments throughout this process. I was on tour with Khalid last year in Frankfurt, and I got off stage and went onto the tour bus myself and just burst into tears. I went on Instagram and took a video of myself crying. Like, this is how desperate I was. My eyes were red, my mascara was running like spider fingers down my cheeks, and so many people were reaching out to me so concerned.
I had a full mental breakdown in that moment, but the next day I wrote ‘Love Me Again’ which is track 1 of the project. It represents the shock and denial, which is also stage 1 of grief. It hears me questioning “what is going on?” and “This can’t be real?”. Like, you know this person inside and out, and now you’re telling me I can’t talk to them, and we have to be strangers now? It’s the craziest thing.
There are love songs everywhere, and everyone sings about heartbreak, that we kinda underplay the emotion that is at the very core of it. Because honestly, a break up is like a death. Especially if you immediately cut ties with them. I’m friends with some of my exes, but there’s others that Im just like DONE. There’s no going back to them.
TB: Oh I have one of them! *laughs*
R: Oh hun, good luck! Do you not get weak when there is alcohol near you? Like I take three sips and I’m like “Hello, can I just say how I feel, again” *laughs*.
TB: That is actually me, it’s so bad *laughs*. I try to let music just do the talking for me so I don’t have to say anything out loud to them. So what albums or EP’s were your comforting go to listens when you were going through that period in your life?
R: I do not listen to sad stuff when I am sad because it makes me SO sad *laughs*. Do you know what I actually listened to? It’s very niche, but there’s a hotel in Paris called Hotel Costes, which is one of my favourite hotels in one of my favourite places ever. And I found it because they do these really beautiful compilations which feel like an Ibiza beach club.
So I just put on these albums, and for the most of last year it was all I listened to. It’s tricky being an artist and a songwriter as when I do listen to music it becomes work. I’m naturally picking it apart and analysing it, which then takes me into my work mode. But when I listen to Hostel Costes, it allows me to just relax. It’s like Jazz music; it’s free flowing, you can’t sing along as you don’t know what chord is going to come next, and you just have to listen and enjoy the beautiful ambient vibe. But yeah, I find it a lot easier to distance myself from commercial music unless it’s my friends music *laughs*.
TB: Something that some people may not know about you is that you’ve written for some huge names including Little Mix, Ellie Goulding, Charli XCX and you even have a writing credit on Beyonce’s Lion King album. So what has writing for, and with other artists taught you about who you want to be as an artist, and how you approach your own music?
R: It’s really beautiful being able to help someone sculpt or create something. I love collaborating in general because I love people and energy, and the fusion of two energies and what it can create. I’m also really friendly and love a chat, so I want to create something real with you, and tell stories. So when I work with artists we have a really good chat and create something deep, real and special. I love being apart of that process.
When I started writing full time I started to immerse myself in multi-genres. I learnt and fell in love with dance music to understand it. And then you have the maths of pop which was a whole new world to me. Like when you go to Sweden and you have the likes of Max Martin who apply maths to music, it was so alien to me. But then you learn to apply it, as well as sampling, and it changes everything. It enables me so much freedom and outlet. So the more I’m collaborating with other artists, the more I’m learning, the more I’m getting better and then the more cuts I’m making, the more money I’m making, gang, gang, gang *laughs*!
TB: You’ve collaborated with so many incredible EDM producers like Jax Jones, Louis The Child, David Guetta and Regard to name a few. So what has been one of the most surprising collaborative sessions that you’ve walked away having created something you really didn’t expect?
R: You know what, I had a session with Joel Corry recently, and I went with my friend Jin Jin and took an idea that we did with David Guetta a few years ago that he really liked. And we went into the studio and he was just the loveliest guy ever. Me and Jin were there the whole time like “why is he so nice?!” *laughs* We were obsessed! We ended up making a really great song, and I was really pleasantly surprised!
TB: Let’s step back in time for a little bit and talk about one of my favourite songs of yours, which I also think was one of the most underrated songs of 2018, ‘Friends’. This song was so playful and ridiculously catchy, but it also made a really important statement about how women need to have each others back and not try to tear each other down. So I wanted to give you a moment and a platform to talk about some incredible women that you think people should listen to.
R: I have so many! My first one is Miraa May. She is extremely talented, exceptional with the pen and she is HILARIOUS. She is like Adele in my opinion. She has Adele personality, it’s so effortless, and they are actually both from Tottenham actually! But yeah, she is so amazing, and her music is so special. You should start with ‘Nobody’.
I was actually having dinner with Mabel last night, she is my girl! I know that everybody already knows her, but you should continue listening to her because she is THAT bitch! She is a sweetheart, and if anybody has anything bad to say about her then they can come say it to my face *laughs*.
If you don’t know Mahalia, then please get on it. If you don’t know Jorja Smith, then please get on it. And Stefflon Don just put a song out yesterday called ‘Move’, which you should get on.
There’s another artist called GRACEY who went to my school, and she is a really talented songwriter. She just had this huge song with 220 Kid which is so beautiful.
There’s honestly so many incredible women in the UK. You should listen to them all *laughs*.
TB: This lockdown period has inspired some people to pick up a new hobby, or find a weird new obsession. So what has been something you’ve picked up or obsessed over during this period?
R: Shake Shack! Do you have that in Australia?
TB: No we don’t!
R: Hun, I feel like you should be grateful and sad at the same time *laughs*. Like every day my sister and I order it when I get home. I’m not even meant to eat red meat as my body HATES it. But it’s always the first option when I open my app, it just shines in my face *laughs*.
I’ve also been engineering myself during this time. So I’ve been recording and getting really good at doing it just me. And I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my family. I’ve been closer with my family during this time than I’ve ever been during my adult years. So if COVID has done one good thing, it is through bringing a lot of people together. My sisters have become my best friends,, and I love that!
‘Natalie Don’t’ is out now!