Singer, Songwriter, Straight Up Breakout: Raye’s Not Your Typical 20-Year-Old

While most people her age are waking up next to an empty box of Dominos, UK’s go-to hitmaker is collabing with Charli, Ellie and Stormzy–not to mention prepping for world domination. NBD. 

By Beth Harrison

You can usually find normal 20-year-olds doing things that normal 20-year-olds do: like scamming fake IDs, sneaking into parties, or deciding between spending their quarters at the laundromat or at the bar. But Raye is not a normal 20-year-old. The South Londoner–like Kate Moss, she hails from Croydon–wrote her first song at the age of 10 and pretty much hasn’t stopped grinding for a decade. Cue hits for the likes of Charli XCX and Ellie Goulding, collabs with Stormzy, a buzzed-about EP called Welcome to the Winter, a Glastonbury gig and sold out shows under her own name and throwback r’n’b meets pop sensibilities. Not bad for a kid who dropped out of the BRIT school (essentially Britain’s version of “Fame”–Adele is an alum) ’cause she needed more of a challenge. Now, with big label backing (thanks, Polydor), a new track with Afro-beat star Mr. Eazi (Decline–but more on that later), and a recent gig kicking down the doors to our London Pad Pop-Up behind her, we’re positive that at age 20, Raye’s about to be spending more than just quarters.

How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a musician?
I was about 10 when I told my dad I wanted to make music a career. Ha! I was very young but deadly serious.

You recently came in third on the BBC Sound Of List (basically a round up of the most critically-acclaimed artists in music in a given year), how did that feel?
Incredible! To be supported by the BBC full stop is levels and a real moment for me. I’ve been watching that list for years so it was defo mental.

You’ve co-written songs such as Charli XCX’s After the Afterparty and Snakehips and MO’s Don’t Leave–which was your favorite song to write and why?
My favorite song to write? Ummm it hasn’t come out yet but it’s coming out sooooon 👀

Where in London did you grow up/what do you love about London the most?
I grew up in South London and I most love London for its diversity and culture. The different foods, night life and how important a part music plays in everyone’s life here.

Where did you first get your influence for music?
Probably equal parts growing up in the church and growing up in a very musical family. My dad was in a small band when he was younger and my grandad used to write songs, too.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Probably it would have to be Jill Scott as she is my favorite writer of alllllll timeeeeee. Listen to her first album Who Is Jill Scott? if you haven’t already.

What was the first album you bought?
Diary of Alicia Keys.

How much has your music taste evolved over the last few years?
I mean, incredibly. I’m always digging into new projects, old classic greats, always trying to expand my taste and understanding of music whereas before I was a lot more closed minded.

What do you think makes a good artist?

Bringing something fresh and iconic to their artistry whether it be visually like FKA Twigs or musically like Frank Ocean.

What are the next steps for you? Can you give us any hints as to what’s in the pipeline?
More music!!! A few songs which I’ve written for other projects are coming and a tonnnnn of special collabs.

You’ve already worked with a number of huge artists at a young age, how do you hold your own?
Trying to learn and absorb all I can from the huge artists I have got to work with, and just working as hard as I can I guess.

If you could describe your sound in one word, what would it be?

Honest

Which track has been the most challenging for you?

Probably Sober, it’s a very dark heavy song which was very personal to me.

Last song you listened to?
Migos, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B – Motorsport

If you hadn’t made it as an artist, you would most likely be _____
A writer or lawyer

Preview Raye’s latest single, Decline: