These days, Raye spends more time in hotel rooms, tour buses, and on stage than anywhere else. “Nothing makes sense until I’m on stage,” says the British Ghanaian singer-songwriter. Variety. “I really feel at home up there, I’m so grateful for every little moment.”
Today, Raye announces the addition of North American and Australian dates to his “My 21st Century Blues World Tour,” which also includes stops in Europe and the UK in support of his recent album, “My 21st Century Blues.” .
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Released in February, the LP marked Raye’s long-awaited and well-deserved debut after years of co-writing hits for various stars including Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding, Charli XCX, John Legend and Rita Ora. On her own album, Raye revels in artistic freedom as a freelance and independent artist, having left the confines of her former label and signed a new deal with Orchard’s Human Re Sources.
Having wrapped up a string of dates with Kali Uchis, along with a slate of his own headlining shows, Raye is now supporting SZA on their sold-out “SOS” arena tour across Europe and the UK. It will return to North America for 24 dates beginning September 29 in Washington, DC and continuing through New York City, Chicago, Toronto, Atlanta, Nashville and more before the tour wraps up in Los Angeles on November 7.
Joining her in the US, Europe and the UK is Raye’s own sister Absolutely, who recently made her solo debut.
Next, Raye pulls back the curtain on her busy schedule, making the decision to appoint her father as her new manager, and how slipping into SZA’s DMs led to her opening performance.
This year is really shaping up to be the year on the road for you, how are you feeling?
I love shows. I love playing live. I feel like on these tours, nothing makes sense until I’m on stage. And supporting tours can be pretty tough because you have to work hard to win over the crowd. You want to bring some people there for the trip.
I am truly overwhelmed by how well received I have been and how beautiful [Kali’s] audience is. It’s been a busy year, with a lot of shows, but I love it.
How did your opening space for SZA come about? What is the relationship there?
In fact I just swiped her DM and asked her [laughs]. It was actually crazy because then she told me that she had been listening to my album… It’s crazy. That you don’t even notice who takes the time to listen to your music… That’s a great compliment.
You will also record a live album at the Royal Albert Hall at the end of September…
That is a great achievement for me! Ridiculous. I understand why many people do not choose [record live albums], it’s very expensive and it doesn’t make any money… that’s for sure, but I have to remind or remind myself, often even on a day like today, I want the decisions I make to be for the good of the art. I want to make art that excites me and live music does that for me. There’s also the concept of missing analog more and more in today’s musical climate. Even how I specifically believe, and always dreamed of doing a show with a full orchestra to celebrate live music and capture it to its fullest in one of the most iconic venues of all time…the fucking Royal Albert Hall, as he once said Adele.
I’ve definitely been pushing myself a lot, but it’s got to be great. It’s got to be the best performance I’ve ever done… or it’s a fucking shame.
You’ve come a long way in terms of your team, your artistic freedom – your father is your manager. now. How has that change been?
I am very lucky. Technically, all of my sisters work in music: my two younger sisters are both professional songwriters, and the youngest just signed a recording contract with Epic Records. It made sense that our family as a whole would go all out for music. It’s a decision we made collectively a while back… I had a former manager for a while that didn’t work out and I remember being in a state where he was really lost in some respect. I went to my dad, so I thought it would just be a temporary help, but it ended up working really well.
He’s a really weird guy: he has no ego. Like, I’m aware, I have an ego! But he does not. He has always gotten ahead by going into companies he knew nothing about and becoming an expert. Even though he was working a job that he didn’t necessarily love, it was his life’s purpose. He was also in a band when he was younger.
God really criticized it wonderfully, actually, because [my father] I ended up having all the tools to do this job really well. He takes care of me and all my sisters. And we have a lovely team. Now my mum is part of the vibe too: she’s just left the NHS. So it’s really a family affair now. There was a point in my career where I saw my family maybe once a year… I was a shell of myself and I wasn’t doing very well and this industry can be really complex. At the worst of times, your family is important.
Thinking back to 2021 compared to where you are now, not just in your career but as a person, what thoughts float to the surface?
It’s amazing all the doors that have been opened for me: getting to make a Tiny Desk? It’s like one of the highest honors. 2021 Raye probably never would have believed that would have been possible. Not in the way that it happened and… now I’m on American TV, things are opening up for me at home too. I really feel validated in my desire to be a musician.
When it comes to new releases, are you recording or pulling from the vault of unreleased songs you’ve amassed over the past few years?
I’ve been making beats and being creative, but I’m also a studio baby. I’m not really used to being a touring artist, so it’s been a bit of a struggle for me to adjust. I am in a place of total creative freedom… only since I have been independent has it been like this. But I was also listening to some of my old songs the other day and I was like, “Oh shit! There are some good things here. I’ve done a couple of rock songs before and I’m very inspired by jazz, it’s probably the genre I play the most.
How did you and Coi Leray connect to collaborate on “Flip a Switch”?
Collaborating is always a really inspiring process for me – I love hearing another artist’s perspective on something I’ve created and Coi is so brave. I really admire how confident he is, especially when it comes to how he’s going to promote himself on social media, for example, if he loves a song, he’s like, “I’m going to post about it like three times this week and I don’t give a damn.” .’ He had the perfect energy for the song and he recorded the verses for it in February, right before my album came out.
Is it easy for you to create the visual and creative counterpart of your songs?
I think some things are more visually clear than others. For “Escapism,” for example, I immediately knew exactly what I wanted the image to look like, where I needed it to be set. He was also counting from a very honest place. I just wanted to go back to that club where I spent so many nights and it was the same with “Ice Cream Man”, I knew exactly how I wanted the image to be. “Flip a Switch” was challenging in a way because it was a very old song… I wrote it when I was 17 or 18 years old. It wasn’t as clear as the others to me right away.
We want to tell a story with this album. And this song has 808 and this bad bitch energy, so I wanted to find the best way to capture that in images. Inside the music, you are protected: you can tell your story the way you want and you decide how it feels.
Do you have any idea, either visually or musically, what your next era will look like?
It’s going to be very interesting. It’s complex because I’m in my “21st Century Blues” zone and there’s a long period of time between that album and now, so it will be interesting to see… how they merge and what ideas would be combined if they were very similar in sound? Or would they be completely different? I have no idea. We’ll find out when I decide when the time is right to dive into it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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