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Interview: Raleigh Ritchie

Raleigh Ritchie, who chose his monniker from The Royal Tenebaums by combining two character names, isn’t too keen on being known as an “actor turned musician”. Previously seen in Kidulthood and Game Of Thrones, Raleigh (real name Jacob Anderson) has been penning songs since in his early teens, finally settling on a sound that might be lend itself to being called neo-soul or electronic R’N'B. Whatever the case, Ritchie’s two EP’s – ‘The Middle Child’ and ‘Black and Blue’ – are evocative, thoughtful pieces that he uses as letters, confessionals and a method of soul searching.

He’s got a new EP due out mid-April and a full length album (on Columbia) somewhere on the other side of summer.
He’s a very busy boy indeed and we manage to catch him in between sessions, snapping him in a freezing East London studio where he smokes a lot, polishes off numerous cups of tea and talks about his standout ‘Black and Blue’ EP, in particular the hypnotic ‘Bloodsport’, which brought him to a whole new audience.

You prefer ‘Black and Blue’ as a body of work, why is this?
I think ‘Black and Blue’ speaks more to where I’m going, like, in terms of music I want to make it’s closer than ‘The Middle Child’. ‘The Middle Child’ was very much of the summer, how I felt at that time, and ‘More’ and ‘In Too Deep’ have that summer 2013, ever so slightly dancey feel. But B&B is more focused, a start to where the album is going to go. Which I’m finishing, which is fucking weird to say. To say to myself I’m going to have an album out this year after god knows how many years… it’s like a really weird thing. I panicked a lot over the last year but now I feel alright, I feel confident that I’m going to be happy with it.

When do you see it being released?
I’d say the end of the summer, I’m hoping its going to be a good winter album. But like September time.

Is it as honest, as darkly heart-on-sleeve as ‘Black and Blue’?
That’s the only way I can write. It’s all just based on how I feel about things. But I very rarely write a whole song out of the studio, I like to put a song together and record it all in the same day. I like to bottle up cos it means that there’s a fair amount of imperfection in it but you can keep the emotion, you keep the emotion you had when writing it.

Storyteller or songwriter? Which applies more to you?
I love listening to music. Melody and the sonics is important and I can be really bossy when working with people, and be a bit of a control freak, but yeah, the lyrics and storytelling are why I got into it. Like I’ve tried writing songs for other people, I’ve done it and enjoyed it, but it’s not the same feeling as writing for myself.

Morrissey is your big influence for this reason, the story aspect?
He was a big part of that and that he sang in his own accent. I find it really odd when I hear a British singer singing in an American accent. I did it when I first started cos I thought that was you were meant to do. But I don’t understand how you can say something so personal about yourself and put it in someone else’s voice. And Donny Hathaway (the American jazz/soul/blues singer) was big for me, because you can hear how he feels, he so fucking tautly filled with emotion! He means it, 100%, you understand what he’s going through.

You were acting and being successful in that for some time. As you moved over to music where you afraid of the tags that came with that?
It’s not like I became an artist on a whim because I was bored of acting, I’ll do some acting again, there’s other shit I want to do but I haven’t stopped writing songs since I was 14. There came a point that I worked out what I wanted to sound like and it’s only been in the last two years that it’s focused in on what it is now. I know where this album is going but I don’t know what the genre is completely, I know there’s elements of different things, and one of the elements that stands out is my voice as that kind of soul/R’n'B thing but that’s not everything I’m about.

Could you see yourself switching things up and keeping people on their toes?
No one can look this far ahead but I’m going be optimistic for once and say my second album could be like a fucking folk album for all I know. I love so many different things and I want to play with them and see what my take is on them. I’d hate to put myself into one thing and say this is what I’m going to be for the rest of my life.

I had never heard his music before, but I really like it.