With her unique blend of a down-to-earth London upbringing mixed with a rich African heritage, rising star Rachel Chinouriri has already pricked up ears with a series of heavenly tracks such as ‘So My Darling’ and ‘Riptide’. Now, with ‘Adrenaline’ showing that she can do sassy just as well as sadness, she stands on the edge of a breakthrough. Even at half eight in the morning, an ungodly hour for most pop stars (and Dork to be fair), a giddy excitement surrounds her every word as she brings us up to speed with everything that’s been going on.
“I love it. And I love that people are loving it as much as I do.” It’s clear that the adrenaline is still flowing for Rachel as she discusses her recent head-turning release. “It came from a real situation, but I exaggerated it a bit. When I went into the studio, my headspace was that I was gonna just challenge this person in my head and see where it goes.” Where ‘Adrenaline’ goes is wonderful indeed, an ear-worm of a chorus peeking through the haze of a shimmering early-summer bop. It’s very different to the more serene slow jams that we’ve got so far from the Croydon singer.
“Over the last year or so, I’ve just been writing, and I’ve explored a lot of styles and genres. I’ve started to figure out what I like, and I’m enjoying this vibe more. I’m just enjoying playing about.” Playing about or not, a follow-up EP will soon be with us. “All the songs on it intertwine as a story, it’s a big love story and is around some of the emotions that I’ve felt. It can be related to by everybody because it’s all about love.”
For most people, their introduction will have been the sublime ‘So My Darling’, a classic bedroom track written while she was still at college. “I had a bad demo of it. I couldn’t play guitar at that point, so everything was out of tune.” As with all of her work, she posted it on SoundCloud where it started to gather attention. “I was constantly writing in my bedroom at that point, posting everything there, even the smallest one-minute clips. That was pretty much me for two years!”
After tweeting BBC Introducing about ‘The Weight of the World’, the Chinouriri snowball began. “They kept playing it on the radio which I couldn’t believe! I thought everything you heard on the radio was properly produced and mixed, but there I was with a song that was done in my room!”
Since then, the rough edges may have been smoothed out but the momentum has only grown with two sold-out London shows soon to be joined by her biggest yet, at Hackney’s Moth Club. With that still-under-wraps EP to come at some point in the summer, these are exciting times. But it is her family origins as much as the recent past that have guided her here. Her family moved from Zimbabwe to London before Rachel was born, meaning that her musical upbringing contained the best of both worlds.
“I absorbed a lot of the UK culture growing up, getting into indie music, whereas my family listen to things like Ladysmith Black Mambazo at home – my parents’ idea of music used to be that if it doesn’t make you dance, then it doesn’t make sense. The influence of both is quite special.”
That set of influences, unique to her but relatable to many others, makes her one of a number of diverse voices arising in British pop music. Amidst a host of upcoming new talents, Rachel has found herself drawn to one particular north-east troubadour in particular.
“Sam Fender is the person I’m into the most right now. You expect some kind of heartbreak songs, but hearing ‘Dead Boys’ or ‘Poundshop Kardashians’ for the first time, it’s just like… wow. His tone and style is really sick.”
Everything is exciting for Rachel right now. Getting ready to perform at several festivals over the summer, she confesses that she has never been to one before. “It’s a whole different world; I’ve heard so many stories, so I’m excited to go and be there!”
Anyone stumbling across her in a muddy field somewhere will be in for a treat, and as each new release arrives, it only highlights another side to her. Usually a perfectionist on stage, she is chilled about what is going to come this summer promising that, “People just wanna feel a vibe, and I’m going to provide that for them and just enjoy it as much as possible.”
With good vibes aplenty, blissed out tunes and the promise of more to come very soon, the excitement is only going to spread.
Taken from the June issue of Dork, out now. Order a copy below.
Words: Jamie MacMillan