Music, Featured

5th March 2024

“I’m trying to enjoy every part of the process” – Rachel Chinouriri talks her Debut Album and Much More

In mid-February, Rachel Chinouriri went on an intimate record store tour in promotion of her debut album What A Devastating Turn of Events which comes out on May 3rd this included a stop at The Jacranda. When I got the opportunity to interview Rachel Chinouriri I was over the moon. I’ve seen Rachel twice before once at Finsbury Park supporting Sam Fender and then at Latitude last summer so I’m a big fan.

When I think about the next British indie pop sensation Rachel Chinouriri is the name that immediately comes to mind and a lot of other people think the same including British musical icon Adele. This interview allowed me to learn all about Rachel’s inspiration, the making of her much-anticipated debut album and favourite show as well as so many other things.

This first one is boring, but it does get more exciting after this, I promise. What inspired you to go into music, and when did you decide that you wanted to do it full-time?

So what inspired me is I listened to quite a bit of early Coldplay growing up and, Daughter and Ladysmith Black Mambazo and my dad’s side of the family is quite musical. So it’s just a bit like, well, I like music. I like singing songs. I did music GCSE. Then when I realised what it took to do songwriting, I was like, this isn’t too bad. Then when I got into BRIT School I thought well, if I can get in I should probably give it a go so after that I really focused in.

I feel like everyone always says that their parents were big influences.

I think my parents to a degree, but it’s like no one in my family properly pursued music. Probably because they lived in Zimbabwe. So me living here and then getting into BRIT School meant I could give it a go, and it’s currently working out. So I’m like, okay it’s not too bad.

Who are your biggest inspirations musically and then also in the way you perform?

The top three’s always early Coldplay but Coldplay generally. Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Daughter, then I’ll say people like Labyrinth, Florence and the Machine. I think she’s an absolute beast when it comes to performing.

I mean, Beyoncé is a top-tier performer, but I think no one can compare to that. I’m not even going to try to bring that one up. I think anything pretty early noughties indie, Lily Allen is a pretty good one, I should mention her more often. But yeah, I’d say those kinds of guys are inspos for me.

So really recently you got a shout-out from Adele and also Sophie Turner quite a while ago. How does it feel to have so many like I don’t want to say celeb endorsements but just like kind of gathering kudos from big names? Especially from Adele like she is a British icon.

I think Florence Pugh and Adele, were both massive shocks and so successful in both of their fields. Those are strange ones to get shout-outs from, I didn’t even think that you guys were on the internet. Adele went to my school, and it’s a big thing that she went there. And I remember I saw her at the Brits in 2016, and she was saying to us, I was like you once. So it was a bit of a full-circle moment. There’s a picture of me in absolute shock when the news came out because I saw the tweet like nine or 10 hours after everyone was talking about it and had a what the hell’s going on here moment. So yeah, it was quite surreal.

So you’ve spoken about being put into the wrong genre of music, a lot on TikTok and The Hills is about that. What advice if you have any would you give to any young people of colour more specifically, who feel like they’re getting put into the wrong categories? 

I think it’s kind of, it’s a hard pill to swallow. But it’s kind of accepting that currently, it’s still a challenging thing, and we have to be part of the change. But don’t let being part of the change stop you from trying. It’s just you have to be vocal about it. Because the people before us didn’t even have the platforms to be vocal and say, I’m being put into the wrong boxes. Now we have an opportunity because of people like them.

We can at least speak up and be like, there are different black people and POC in different genres, and we do make different kinds of music. At the same time, we shouldn’t be separated into, this is black music or Congratulations guys, you’ve got your own thing. We should be compared in the same ways for all genres of music.

So yeah, I’d say, don’t let the extra hurdles deter you from doing what you love, because it’s not your fault that other people don’t get it. And you’ve been given a gift, and people deserve to hear.

Rachel and I after the interview!

You’ve been kind of everywhere, including on the cover of NME in some really cool outfits. How much is your style a part of your image and performance? And also, what is your favourite outfit you’ve worn recently, and who are some of your favourite designers?

At the moment, styles, an interesting one because I’m someone who’s like comfort and convenience over anything. But since working with Shannon, who’s my stylist, it’s been fun to be given a vision and look at it more like an art. The clothes make such a difference to what the video can even turn out like, so even The Hills video the outfit she picked was perfect. If you even pick the wrong outfit, that can completely wreck an entire aesthetic and entire look. So it’s been fun, piecing together different things, especially for those music video shoots.

With NME my favourite look was most probably the Union Jack boots. Those boots were so cool, I was like where the hell did she find those? What they represent and being on the cover of a magazine as well was pretty unreal. 

So I’m kind of like under Shannon’s wing, but I throw a boatload of ideas at her. Then she somehow manages to source them and find better, but I think I’m finding the fun and the creative aspect of it. Fashion is, really, it’s quite a vital part of any musician’s journey. And I’d say my favourite brand currently is Heaven by Marc Jacobs. I think they are wicked and smashing it at the moment.  Anything nostalgic feeling I’m a fan of and I think they’ve got it like perfect.

So when your album is coming out soon, how are you feeling about that coming out? What was the process of making the album?

I kind of feel nothing and everything at the same time. Which is weird to say because I’ve been doing EP campaigns since I was like 17, so I know kind of the magnitude of what I need to do. Then album campaigns are the same as an EP but slightly longer. The amount of pressure which you feel, to a degree I think mainly because it’s my first album like the amount of pressure or like the amount of work you have to put in and how far in advance you have to plan.

There are things with this album we’ve had for a full year, like the artwork we shot last April. I’ve had the song titles since like 2020, and I’ve been writing it for two years. You have to plan so far in advance to even hit deadlines like in a year’s time and for everything to coincide. I think learning about that and realising how much I have to do and if I don’t keep on top of it, I could be pushing myself back a few months or mess up like the tiniest thing. I think it’s been a great learning experience because the team around me is already very on it and my label is really on it as well. 

I’m trying to enjoy every part of the process, which I am I think. I’ve got the artwork that I want, the album I want and all the music I want on it so it’s not the end of the world. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of the work feels like fun when you’re doing what you want. Yeah, it’s been brilliant.

All I Ever Asked is my favourite song. I think it’s my like, third most played song of all on Spotify, I think so many of the streams are just me.

I think a third of them might be you!

God yeah that’s possible! Could you talk a little bit about the backstory of the song?

My friend at the time had Hinge and found a boyfriend on it. I mean, I used to say it was a terrible idea, and then I’ve got myself a boyfriend off Hinge. But, she found someone on there, and he was a love bomber and then broke up with her out of nowhere. And I remember she called me while I was in the studio, and I was like, I need to leave, but you sound a bit off and she just kind of burst into tears.

I was already writing something. It was a bit breakup-ish, but there wasn’t any form to it. Then, when she told me that I was like, right, well, that’s what I needed for this moment. And then I wrote the song, heavily thinking about her but thinking about my own situation. But yeah, it was just like a reminder that you should never be treated like a fool, and I think people definitely feel that when they hear it.

So my darling went really, really viral. How do you kind of deal with the pressures of that? And then releasing music after it? Did you feel any pressure? Or were you just like, this is great!

It’s a weird one because I’m kind of like a social media kid to a degree like I used to go viral quite a bit. I used to go a little bit viral on Vine, and sometimes I’ll go randomly, a little bit viral on Instagram. Then my TikTok before was more like a comedy thing, and I’d make really stupid, dumb videos, but they would always go viral. So I knew what to do when virality came kind of like don’t look at too many comments because people are probably saying that they hate you.

Then when it’s your own song, when you’re a musician, like you’ve been trying for ages, when that happened, I was like, okay, it’s slightly strange. It was also about five days before Christmas, so everyone at my label was gone and no one could actually help me finish the song. I think there was a lot of pressure to keep the momentum going, but it has kept me going for a couple of years now. That song is also like five years, six years old, and I wrote it when I was 17. There was also a version of it on SoundCloud and that got taken down there was another version of it that stayed on for five years.

So yeah, it was quite strange having that, but I think I could understand the virality thing but I think there was like a pressure. This was near the time when Pink Pantheress was popping off, as well as many other TikTok people popping off and so many artists were being told to go on TikTok. So many people were trying to find success on there and to have one that did well was like, oh, I finally did this thing. And it’s working!

You’ve supported so many incredible people like Louis Tomlinson, and you’ve also played a lot of festivals and shows. Which one would you choose as your favourite, you can pick more than one because everyone I’ve asked has given a few answers.

I don’t have too many, to be honest, so you haven’t got to worry. I think my favourite would be Louis Tomlinson, the whole tour was pretty good. Actually, the crowd were incredible. But I think my favourite was Latitude. I did three sets and you were there! I was the surprise act and got to go back to BBC introducing and worked my way up to then being a surprise act and people recognised me when I came on. Genuinely I thought no one was going to be surprised because no one would recognise me, and then people did. But the tent was quite life-changing. Latitude was definitely one, and I do love that festival. But another one I would say is Barn On The Farm, I have a real soft spot for that festival, I think it’s really fantastic.

I feel like we have to talk Never Need Me the music video I’m just so obsessed with it. How did you kind of come up with the idea for that, and how did you approach it? 

I mean, we had like a rough idea and the song was about a specific person. I was like, well, might as well relate it to that specific situation. My housemate is borderline like my sister to a degree so she would always give me a bunch of advice, and we used to sit and be like, imagine if I cast someone like you, and they did my makeup because she’s a makeup artist as well. We kind of had that rough idea of best friends going out and seeing a guy and being like a screw-you sort of thing.

But then Florence Pugh DM’d me which was quite unexpected, she sent me a bunch of solid paragraphs. It was a real OMG, how do I respond to this?

So I not only asked her to come to my show, I was like, do you want to be in my video? Not expecting anything at all, and she came back saying, hell yeah! Things had changed, and the realisation hit that we were actually going to have to do this video. Then I just had to hope that she turned up. I don’t know why I didn’t think she was gonna turn up. But then I met her before, and she is like the loveliest, sweetest, humble, kindest girl ever just gave me so much advice and her professionalism as well it’s incredible. And she came to the show, she was brilliant.

We had a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun. And I just told the idea to Jake, and I was like, listen, Jake, you’re gonna have to run with this and do what you can. So he just kind of took the tiny idea and made it into a whole world. So yeah, it was brilliant.

This is my last question. If you could have anyone, dead or alive, come to a gig, who would it be? 

You can’t ask that! I think it changes every day.

The main question is do you want the pressure? That’s the big takeaway we’ve had so far in the answers to that question.

I’m going to keep it safe and say my grandma, she’d probably vibe pretty hard. I don’t think she’d understand what was going on. Margaret would be pretty impressed. I don’t think she’d hear much either even with speakers, but I’d say my grandma. Then if it was like someone huge dead or alive. I mean alive would be Chris Martin, hopefully, Adele, but she said she’s coming, so I’m not gonna use my alive choice on her. By Chris Martin, I do actually mean the whole of Coldplay. Then I think dead I would go for someone like Amy Winehouse, I think she might come and be brutally honest. Even if she was I wouldn’t mind because I could say she’d been to see me.

I think it is gonna have to be Amy Winehouse. I love that woman. I’d definitely try my best to make her happy. I think I would be a bit like please, I hope you like the songs playing. But she will be brutally honest and I’d appreciate it. Have you seen the video when she won the Grammy? When they are announcing the album names, she’s live on stage with a microphone. I don’t think she probably noticed that her mic was on, and the announcer read out “The nominee is Justin Timberlake with What Goes Around Comes Around”. She’s like he called his album What Goes Around Comes Around, and she looks so disgusted. She didn’t even hide it said it straight down the microphone and then afterwards she wins straight after. But yeah she’s just brilliant and so iconic, I’d love for her to come.

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