Raye talks this weekend's RedFestDXB and working with Beyonce
THERE ARE USUALLY two huge indications the New Year is up and running in the UAE. The first is that inaugural gym payment that's just come out of your account. You know, the deduction which triggers a stream of cursing yourself because you haven't been the required five times a week to make the price worth it. The second is the annual Virgin Radio RedFestDXB rolling into town, bringing with it some of the world's biggest acts to play away Thursday and Friday.
This weekend we can look forward to names including British grime artist Stormzy, American rappers Machine Gun Kelly and Young Thug and chart-topper Becky Hill. Here we speak to fellow act, the insanely talented Raye, to find out more.
To call 22-year-old Raye's (real name Rachel Keen) rise to the top meteoric would be somewhat of an understatement. The fact the English-Ghanaian-Swiss artist can count Charlie XCX, David Guetta and Normani as friends should be sufficient credentials before you even listen to the work she has produced with the trio and many more performers beside. Last year Beyonce chose Raye's song Bigger to open her Lion King album, The Gift. Yep...Beyonce.
"They say never meet your idols, but I'm so glad I met this one," she recently told us over the phone about the experience.
"Having Beyonce's support was amazing. She kept my background vocals on the song! Her respecting my artistry, somebody who is so defining - you know that's my MJ - it's just nuts."
After just one conversation with the ebullient and eloquent young singer-songwriter, it is clear to see her achievements over the past couple of years are well deserved. Having been writing since the age of 14 and selling songs soon after; being immersed in an industry not always known for its sincerity, Raye prizes integrity in others above all else and will only work with those whom she feels a connection. This has been the blueprint for success.
"I can't do the fake thing. I can't go into a room and pretend to make something if you're not there enjoying it," she said. "Often, the artist I work with, I build a personal relationship. I'm very bad at cold hard business. They need to let me in and for that to happen they need to trust me."
As a result Raye confirmed she becomes 'mates' with all of her collaborators. The rapport, she says, runs both ways citing an example where, upon request, US pop star Normani gave back a hit song because it possessed such personal emotions it clearly could only be sung by the author.
"I wouldn't want to work with someone who would just be looking to squeeze all the juice out of my lemons and leave me as some empty dried fruit on the side," Raye explained.
It appears 2020, however, is the year Raye's name will be front and centre rather than as a contributor to others' records.
"I have always looked at people like Emeli Sande who isn't just a great performer but a great writer. I was determined that I was also going to have a writing career. This year I want to settle down and focus on my vocal projects more. I have a great songwriting credit list, and that was my dream, but now it's time for myself."
An exact date for her debut album remains a mystery, but Raye insists it will be within the next 12 months. When it comes to this weekend's agenda, though, she is more definite.
"I've got a 45-minute slot, so I'm about to give you lot the time of your life! I know what my Dubai audience will want so I have to get them all in there. Hopefully I won't miss any out.
"I'm so excited to come to Dubai and go to some of the fancy food hotels. I'm done with the cold over here too (UK)!"
Fun fact: Raye is also a Dubai restaurateur having invested in LaMer's Mediterranean Kitchen.
For tickets and info visit redfestdxb.com