Half-way through chatting about her gig the previous night, Rae Morris’ press manager gets out her phone to show me photos of the venue that she’d taken on the sly. The venue was Cecil Sharp House in London, and the photos show Rae sitting onstage at what looks like a school hall, flocked with fairy lights. The gig was Rae’s first headline show in London, after playing some well-placed support shows, including Noah and the Whale and Bombay Bicycle Club.
Before being signed by Atlantic Records last year, Rae was writing and touring whilst simultaneously juggling her A-Levels. Fast forward a year, and Rae’s sitting in a sushi bar telling me about plans for her album. Having spent nearly eleven months trying to work out who she is as a performer, and perfecting that idea in the studio, Rae finally feels ready to release her brand of acoustic singer-songwriter folk to the masses. Despite being signed to a major label, there’s still a sense of homegrown-ness to Rae, whether it’s the handwritten letter posted on her website, or the fact that she still designs all of her own artwork.
Between shows on her UK tour, Rae found time to chat with me about the last year, and what’s next for her.
How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it?
I’m in the process of defining at the moment, because I’ve been performing on my own for quite a long time. I guess the genre is just classic singer-songwriter with a bit of an alternative edge. I write songs that are quite emotional, and really mean a lot to me. I use song-writing to express things that I can’t really say in words. My music is just really honest and really comes from somewhere that means something to me.
What made you want to start writing music?
Until a few years ago, I always thought that writing music was a craft that I’d really have to learn, and I never thought I’d be any good at doing it. I thought it was just the best way of expressing feelings, and I find it the biggest release of emotion, and I really felt like I always wanted to put something down, and create something that lasts forever.
Your lyrics are very personal, is that intentional or just the way you write?I think it’s subconscious, because I didn’t know what I was doing when I first started writing songs, and it ended up being very honest. That’s definitely the type of artists I am, my songs are just an honest expression of how I’m feeling. I do like to ensure there’s a deep meaning in my songs, because I think it’s difficult to sing about something I don’t really believe in.
Do you find it nerve-wracking playing such personal songs in front of an audience?
Strangely, I don’t! I find it really nice that people can interpret it in their own way, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the exact same circumstances but they can take the emotion from it. For some reason, I find it the most natural thing to do!
Who are your inspirations for your music?
I’m massively inspired by other female singer-songwriters. Songwriting wise, my biggest inspiration is artists like Kate Bush. When it comes to recording things, and the way I want it to sound so natural and real, I think I’m inspired by artists like Feist and Laura Marling. With those artists, I feel that when you listen to something, it just sounds so real, like you’re there in the room with them. There’s something so special about when you feel like an artist is actually there singing into your ear.
When you started, you were juggling your music with college, are you full time now?
Yeah, I feel so lucky! At college I studied Music, Art and English Literature, so I was kinda cheeky because it felt like I was sneaking in all the easiest subjects for me! I was really lucky because even then I was doing what I was enjoying, but now I feel so lucky that I get to wake up and do what I want to do. I don’t want to do anything else! I wake up and this is all I think about, which is pretty intense! I still do my own artwork, because I love the whole ‘creation’ thing, and I love putting pen to paper and making a mark!
You toured and recorded unsigned for a while, do you find it different now that you’re signed to Atlantic? Is there more pressure?
It’s really different, but in a very organised way! Everything’s a lot less stressful, because I feel like I’m looked after. It’s quite a scary world when you’re on your own, and performing on your own! I feel very lucky to be signed with them. I actually feel less pressure, because I’ve been signed for a year, but I just feel like I’ve been given time to continue gigging and really find myself, and figure out what I want to release. The pressure has actually been less than when I was on my own, because I was so worried about what I was going to do!
You’ve toured with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club and Noah and the Whale, what was it like playing such huge venues?
It was unbelievable, it was so scary! The nicest one for me was playing Blackpool with Bombay, because the amount of times that I’d been in that venue made it really special. I actually went to my first gig there, I went to see Bloc Party with my brother, and I remember looking up at the ceiling and thinking it was such a beautiful venue, and it was a real defining moment for me, playing there.
How would you describe a Rae Morris live show?
I’d say it’s quite emotionally intense! It’s just me and the piano, because it’s what I’ve always done, and I still think it shows who I am quite honestly. I did my first London headline gig last night, and I had a few strings to accompany me, and it was nice because I didn’t feel as lonely! The live aspect is really important to me, because it’s my favourite part.
Do you have any favourite songs to play live?
Oh, I don’t know about that! I have a song called “For You” that I always feel is a bit emotional for me. It sounds quite self-indulgent of me to say! But yeah, I really like that one and it feels special for me when playing that.
Your new song Grow is your first release for a while, tell us a bit about it.
It’s really exciting, because I’d not really given anything to the people for a while, and hopefully we’ll be releasing it in a few weeks ago. It’s actually a very new song, so it feels really nice to be able to play it live already. It’s been one of my first proper studio experiences, and I think it’s the first thing that I’ve felt really excited about.
What’s next? Is there an album in the pipeline?
It’s definitely in the pipeline! I’m actually going on a European tour in November with a band called Fink, and I think December is going to be when I really get into starting to record the album properly. I’ve had the songs for two or three years, just sort of waiting to be recorded! I started writing them when I was 17, so it’s kinda interesting to see what’s changed and the progression since then! It’s really, really exciting.