ASBO Meets: Rachel Kerr

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Rachel Kerr is a MOBO Award Winning Singer & Songwriter. She has been in the music game for a while now and has had a career which has seen her perform for former US president Jimmy Carter, and ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron, be championed by MTV, Capital Xtra, BET, MOBO Awards, BBC, and The Voice Newspaper, among others, and share the stage with the likes of Brandy, Musiq Soulchild, Kirk Franklin, and Lauryn Hill. And has headlined legendary US venues House of Blues and S.O.B’s with BET Music Matters, and has also performed alongside BrandyMusiq SoulchildKirk Franklin, and Lauryn Hill, who crowned her as “the next key voice in music”. ASBO caught up with her before her big headline show coming to London's O2 Academy Islington this Bank Holiday May 28th to chat all things music and what we can expect at the show. 

How did you get started in music?

Rachel: I used to sing at church and at my school choir, so I was always singing at home and my first role in the industry was when I was 15 and I sang in an ITV competition called Stars in Their Eyes and I sang an Aaliyah song. And after doing that and that experience I realised that music is what I wanted to do

Who were your musical influences growing up?

Rachel: My ultimate influences were people like Aaliyah, Brandy, Destiny’s Child. My dad was very big influence on me, Kirk Franklin and so many other people.

Did you have any musical backgrounds in your family?

Rachel: I always used to see the job my dad had in going to the studio, he played a number of instruments as well and so seeing the passion and to witness that love that he had I wanted to experience it as well and when I started to show sign of being confident and able in music I understand music why he took so much joy, so my dad had a very big part to play. Not only him though I would say that all of my family are singers a lot of them sing most of them play instruments and even the church I grew up in the town that I lived inWalsall half the musicians there were my family members and so yeah, it’s a very musical family but I would say the biggest influence was watching my dad lead choirs at church, when he was recording his albums and writing. Watching that was what made me interesting in music.   

How would you describe your sound and yourself and yourself as an artist?

I would say my sound is a fusion of soul and R&B with an inspirational message.  As an artist I would say I’m an inspirational artist, anything I write is somehow encouraging and motivation and helping people in a positive way. Inspirational R&B Artist

What influences your artistic style?

Rachel: I think experimentation, I’ve tried other sound, I entered the music industry as a songwriter and there is no genre I can’t write. But in the case of me defining myself as an artist I found that by experimentation trying something new making mistakes hearing public criticism helped shaped what suited me best. However, I do feel as if my upbringing did also play a massive part as I mentioned I love R&B, I love Gospel, and I love music of black origin, and it’s me so it’ll be very difficult for me to do something other than that so yeah I feel like all of that really helped me polish and perfect my sound.

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What inspires your creativity?

Rachel: I go through different things in life and I feel like inspiration can corm through different things like for example if you ask a chef what inspires them to cook they may saying going to different countries travelling trying new flavours, I feel like it’s the same thing for me going to different countries listening to me sounds it may inspire to do things similar to those sounds, or if I am going through something I may feel inspired to write about it and so to be honest I’d say life. And even higher than that I am a spiritual person so when I find that they are times that I can’t right I also look to god for inspiration and that also does tend to help me when I feel like I am stuck for inspiration.

You released your debut EP Back To Music back in 2012 what has your musical journey been like since then?

Rachel: It’s been revelatory, I’ve revealed a lot about much about myself and learnt a lot about life. I’ve had the chance to travel and meet different people I would never have had the chance to meet. So, it’s been an adventure it’s been revelatory, it’s been more than anything just a blessing. I didn’t think it was possible to do what I do full time. I believe the scene has changed and things have developed and just by being true to myself and learning who I am its allowed the journey to be a good one. Like any journey it’s had its ups down but more than anything its been a blessing and one filled with adventure

How has your sound evolved since your first started making music?

Rachel: When I first came out because there was no expectation on me as an artist I just wrote. Whatever was on my heart, whatever I feeling I just wrote and I wrote to whatever genre I wanted to. But as things happened with anybody on their journey things get ab it bigger and expectation rise, and you start to put pressure on yourself and the sincerity of the music fades a bit and you stop writing music for yourself and you start to write for this audience that you’ve happened to accumulate. You start writing for business and so what happened is I started out for myself and things happened along the way and then I came back to myself and decided that I wasn’t going to write for radio anymore I’m going to write whatever is on my heart. So, what has happened with my artistry is that I’ve gone back to where I started and writing music that is true to me and is a true authentic representation of who I am.

What is one thing you have learnt from when you first started to now.

Rachel: I have learnt that this give that I have been given really and truly is a gift.  I feel like along the journey I realised that this journey and my gift is bigger than me. When I started I thought that yes it’s all me I’m doing what I want to do but as I’ve progressed I’ve realised that my role is just one piece of a big puzzle. And I’m literally just a vessel and so with that I’ve learnt that I have less control over things than I realise and all I need to do is be orient and be a servant and just really relax in that in being the vessel and so now it’s just being willing to submit

You have released a number of EPs and a Mixtape over the years, what is your favourite part of the creating process?

Rachel: I love writing, I like being in my room and writing, most people don’t now that everything I’ve ever released I’ve written by myself I don’t write with other people a lot. For me writing form e is my baby. But I also love the performing side as well, being I the studio is cool but as I said when I’m in my room writing and when it just comes to me and comes on to the page that freedom and that flow is exciting to me. And so, then when I’m in that performing stage and seeing how people respond to that and see how they react to those words. And seeing people enjoying what you’ve written is a very satisfying feeling. So yeah writing  and performance

What tends to be your vibe in the studio?

Rachel: When I’m in the studio I’ve learnt that it’s so important to have a sense of sincerity. I’m so blessed that I’ve been blessed to work with my Musical Director for years. He gets it and he knows me, so there things that I’ll try that other people might be like what?? And he tells me to keep going and he pushes me out of my comfort zone. He gives me the confidence to try things and he’s very good at allowing me to see how things works. So yeah, my vibe in the studio tends to be filled with experimentation, that and sincerity and I find that if you don’t have sincerity it comes out in the track. My MD is exceptional, and it generally just tends to be just him myself and my manager so also having a close team is good both of which are looking out for me and know how to support me.

The last single you released was Alive last year, tell us about that song?

Rachel: I wrote Alive a long time and that’s why I feel grateful for the people around me because Alive would’ve have been released if it wasn’t for my manager. It came of out a time of real growth and  a time in my life where things weren’t really going well there was a time in my life where I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, I was hearing the criticism louder than I was hearing the applause and I was in an uncomfortable but necessary space. And things had happened between that time where I realised that it didn’t matter what people though even though people were saying that I wasn’t like other artist in my genre I said to myself that I am who I am and I took that approach. And years later when I started to get more opportunities and more blessings those same people who were critiquing me were now the ones applauding me and realised that regardless of whether you people liked me or all the rejection that I went through I realised that it was all part of the journey and that it was going towards a point of growth. So I wrote it and I left it and then we were going through music and my manager pointed it out and at the time it wasn’t called Alive but we worked on it and to this day whenever I perform it I see the crowds really chanting it and I just feel really lucky and blessed that god gave me that anthem.

As a performer you have had the opportunity to play at some exciting events, you’ve performed for US Bill Clinton and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron. What was that like?

Rachel: It was really nice and very humbling to be honest there are things in your career that you couldn’t even plan for and you couldn’t even anticipate it’s just literally an opportunity from god and those were some of those moments. It was really nice, and I felt really comfortable I wasn’t nervous. When I finished President, Clinton found me in my dressing room and thanked me for my performance and I never forgot that. Likewise, when I meant h David Cameron who thanked me for my musical contributions and it meant a lot and most importantly was very humbling for me.

What are some of your favourite songs to perform live?

Rachel: One song I put on Instagram recently is called Centre It’s from my upcoming album and I’ve only performed that song once before, at my show in Nigeria and already it’s become my new favourite song to perform. The songs that always get the songs going are songs likes Say You Love Me, and there is a song I have called Lean In and along with a couple of others I’m looking forward to playing at the end of the month.

 As well as playing shows in the UK, you have also performed internationally in the US and others places, How do your shows differ each place you go?

Rachel: I’m very conscious that I am serving, it’s all about serving the surroundings and so if I am in Europe I will do something special for that audience and if I am in Africa I will do something differed for that audience and show an acknowledge and respect for that culture. It may be singing something that Yorba and you see how people are just grateful for the respect to the culture, so I do try to make sure that I am respectful to that culture and those people.  

You are playing a show at the O2 Academy Islington at the end of this month, what are you excited about for this performance, and what can fans expect?

Rachel: It’s going to be exceptional. I say that because I really feel like in my music that what I want to execute. Everything about my performance in terms of the band, the lighting, the stage presence.   I feel like when I was growing up everything was about production but now over the years things have changed and audiences don’t just want artists that sing a few songs and leave they want the want the real production entertainment and everything from the artist that is going to take them on a journey. And that is absolutely what you can expect from set, from the performance from vocal and real production that shows that there is excellence in the UK and there is excellence in the genre.

An as artist with your music and everything what is that you want people get out of your music?

Rachel: I want people to know and be okay with the fact that it’s okay to be a person if principle. I think what happens now is that we see a few people doing there and being real out there and it’s the era of everybody calling themselves a bitch and all that and I feel like when I was growing up we celebrated queens the Lauryn Hills, The Aaliyah’s the Brandy’s and I feel like because now that has been lost.  Because there are not many queens that we are celebrating these days it’s important that people who are coming into the scene stay true to their integrity and stay true to their principles. And you be exceptional in what you are doing.

What can we expect next from you?

Rachel: We have a lot of touring to do, a lot of festivals, we have the debut album coming out soon which I’m really excited about and in the lead up to that I’ll be performing all over the UK and American. And I’ll also be dropping some singles before the album and all that will be coming soon.

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You can catch Rachel on her headline show at the O2 Academy Islington this bank holiday May 28th and can get tickets to the show here.

As well as following her on her socials @Rachelkerrmusic

And check out her material on Spotify here.

Words: Seneo Mwamba

Images: WPGM

james may