Raye to Louis Theroux: ‘Abuse of power can be crippling’

Raye wrote her first song when she was seven, released her first song at 15 and was 17 when she signed her first record deal.

Now, at 26 years old, the singer has released her debut album My 21st Century Blues to critical acclaim, she has performed on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury and scored a number one hit Escapism (feat. 070 Shake).

It’s success she’s fought hard to earn, as Raye – real name Rachel Keen – explains to Louis Theroux: “When you’re up and coming, when you have a dream and you cross paths with powerful people – some people abuse their power and the effects of that can be crippling.”

Raye discusses her experiences as a young musician in the second series of Louis Theroux Interviews.

‘Completely break down’

Raye opened up about some of her life experiences in the song Ice Cream ManIMAGE SOURCE,BBC/MINDHOUSE PRODUCTIONS/RYAN MCNAMARA

Two songs into her first Glastonbury set in June, Raye paused. “I’m going to bring the mood down, just for a second,” she said at the time. “This next song is about sexual abuse and rape and sexual violence.”

It was an introduction to her song Ice Cream Man, from her debut album.

It’s not an easy song to sing, Raye explains to journalist and broadcaster Louis Theroux over her kitchen counter. Every three performances or so, she’ll “completely break down” singing it.

The lyrics include lines like: “I was seven, was 21, was 17, and was 11. It took a while to understand what my consent means, if I was ruthless, they’d be in the penitentiary.”

While speaking to Louis Theroux, Raye explains the song draws on many things that have happened in her life.

She goes on to stress the importance of bringing a friend with you when entering unfamiliar situations with people you don’t know.

Raye says singing the song Ice Cream Man is “my way to be loud in a way that is safe”.

‘Desperate cry to be free’

Raye performing at the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend in May 2023IMAGE SOURCE,BBC/SARAH JEYNES/JAMIE SIMONDS
Image caption,

Raye performing at the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend in May 2023

Reflecting on her early music career, Raye says: “I was so young and so hungry to make my dreams a reality.”

In 2021, after publicly airing her frustrations at her record label, she was released from her contract.

“It wasn’t at all planned, it was more of a desperate cry to be free,” Raye says about taking to social media.

“It’s so deep, what I’d realised I’d actually been doing to myself as a person, to try and be the somebody that they wanted me to be. It’s so sad,” Raye adds.

“At the end of the day it’s a business and I wasn’t selling what [the record label] wanted me to sell.”

‘I’m never going to stop doing what I love’

Raye – who just announced she’s postponing the last eight shows, external of her tour – is not sure what the future will hold, but she’s hopeful.

“For me, as long as I’m in love with this piece of art and cannot wait to put it out then everything else is a bonus,” the singer says.

While she’s seen incredible success in the last year, Raye explains that, for her, focusing on chart positions feels unhealthy: “You can’t force things down people’s throats.

“What Escapism did, of course I’m over the moon about that – but if that’s the biggest moment that I ever get then so be it but I’m never going to stop doing what I love.”

You can watch Raye’s full conversation on Louis Theroux Interviews on Tuesday 28 November 2023.

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