Introspection is best conceptualised as time spent alone with the self. So, in the current times we have all been forced to introspect and perhaps uncovered more of ourselves in a way that Rachel Chinouriri seems familiar with. In her latest single “Darker Place” she acknowledges what lies within the self by refusing to shy away from the darker parts suppressed by most. Yet, while definitely self-assured, she remains conscious and intrigued by the rest of the world, often using her voice as a vessel for the stories of others.
This International Women’s Day, Rachel Chinouriri talked growing into the woman she is today, the women that inspire her, the beginnings of her career coinciding with the wake of the pandemic and edging towards a different sound on her next project.
Renee Oribhabor: Happy women’s day! How are you feeling?
Rachel Chinouriri: I’m feeling liberated. I’m feeling powerful. I love it.
Renee Oribhabor: As you should! How would you describe the woman, you are today in 2021?
Rachel Chinouriri: I feel like a stronger woman than I was before. It might sound a bit corny but last year, I really had to battle a lot of demons that I was dealing with which I guess I avoided because I worked so much in 2019 and would go out with friends to distract myself. So 2020 basically made me have to tackle that and made me realize I’m a lot stronger than what I thought so yeah I would say that I’m a stronger woman in 2021.
Renee Oribhabor: That’s amazing. I think a lot of people can relate to really being exposed to themselves in 2020. What women in your life inspire you?
Rachel Chinouriri: My mum. I would say, a hundred percent my mum. And, very random one, but Zendaya Coleman. I just love everything that she does.
Renee Oribhabor: The actress? Is her last name Coleman?
Rachel Chinouriri: Yeah. I like how she campaigns for black people as a mixed-race woman. How she makes everyone very aware of colorism issues and yeah I think how she uses her platform and privileges that she does have, I just respect what she does for dark skinned women.
Renee Oribhabor: I love that too but it’s so funny that I’ve never had her last name. It’s just Zendaya.
Rachel Chinouriri: I’ve been watching her from Disney so I’m always like Zendaya Coleman!
Renee Oribhabor: Which female artists have you got on your playlist right now? Who are you listening to right now?
Rachel Chinouriri: Do you know Tiana major nine?
Renee Oribhabor: Yes, of course!
Rachel Chinouriri: She’s so good, she’s incredible. There’s Hamza. I don’t know if you know Hamza. She’s incredible as well. There’s a girl called Raja. I’m a bit obsessed. I love her sound and her aesthetic. I love how empowered she is.
Renee Oribhabor: What kind of music does she make?
Rachel Chinouriri: Gosh. You see when it’s so mixed with so many things that you don’t actually really know. She’s got a very soft voice, it’s very electronic, it’s very trippy. That’s the best way I can try to describe it. Like cloud music.
Renee Oribhabor: So I was on your page and you mentioned that 2019 was the year that you really committed to pursuing music as a career and how you were scared before that. But that’s so crazy because 2019 was literally just the other day. And you’re here now, having achieved all these things.
Rachel Chinouriri: I think when I was 18 I met my managers and my mom wanted me to go to university. And, and I just knew that if you do music, the chances of being able to have a career in it… there’s so many people who do music, so you do have to go into it with a full heart but also know that there was the potential of it not working out and that was a fear that I used to carry a lot more. So, I guess, when I was like 18/19 I was doing music, but I was still like “No, let me get a side job, let me put other things in place” but 2019, after working with my managers for some years, is when I started going “I’m going to put all my cards, all my eggs into one basket and just go for it, and do it with my full heart and just believe in myself a bit more”. So yeah I’d say that 2019 was definitely the starting point. And then we ended up in a pandemic laughs
Renee Oribhabor: Do you still feel that same fear now? Or do you feel a bit more confident in pursuing it because, like when I saw that on your page, I was like “no way!” Your trajectory since then, has been amazing.
Rachel Chinouriri: Thank you! Yeah I don’t feel like I have that fear anymore, because I guess my fear was how do I get into the industry, how do I make this my job, how do you live off of music unless you’re like hugely famous but then I’ve been able to pay my rent for the whole of the pandemic and will be able to pay my rent after the pandemic for so so long just off what I’m doing now. So I’m kind of like ok I believe in myself enough and I’m able to pay my bills with it.
Renee Oribhabor: How long have you been singing and writing?
Rachel Chinouriri: I started singing when I was 14 and I started writing roughly when I was 14 but it was for GCSE music. And then I’d say 16 is when I started writing songs for myself.
Renee Oribhabor: We really need to talk about your newest single because I saw you had spoken a bit about it’s meaning. It’s sung from the perspective of you following someone or not, you specifically but a person following someone and them being the darker person. But the way I interpreted it was you’re following your partner because you suspect that they’re doing something and you’re going to see the darker version of the person you’re following. So it’s great because it really inspired a lot of different thoughts for me.
Rachel Chinouriri: Thank you! It was weird because, you know, the Netflix show “You”. Me and the producer were talking about it, and then we watched crime documentaries and we started down this massive wormhole of talking about documentaries and jail and the system and stuff like that and then we ended up with Darker Place. It’s just literally about someone following someone else. So, so many people have had different interpretations of the song and I’m like “hmmm”. It’s interesting to see what people come up with.
Renee Oribhabor: Really interesting and the music video as well is amazing! Who directed that?
Rachel Chinouriri: Milo. Milo Blake
Renee Oribhabor: Really, really great job. I love the contrast between your different looks because I remember you said somewhere as well, it’s also about the contrast between good and bad and light and darkness.
Rachel Chinouriri: Because I feel like a lot of people, everyone has light and dark within them.
But obviously people who do bad things are deemed as having a lot of darkness within them and there’s a lot of judgment which goes towards people who do dark things but I always say it depends on the circumstance, because everyone is capable of doing something, but it just depends on what circumstance they’ll do it under. So it’s kind of like not fearing the dark sides of you, because you do need to be able to balance both. A lot of people who don’t explore that side of them end up doing really horrific things because they’re so scared of it. But they don’t know how to deal with it when it comes about so it’s kind of like speaking on that contrast within people.
Renee Oribhabor: So when you’re writing your music do you frequently draw from your own experiences, or is it more so, just like taking a bit from here and a bit from there?
Rachel Chinouriri: I’d say some of it is my own experiences, but I love listening to people’s stories, so if my friends send me like a 10 minute voice note I’m not the person who’s huffing and puffing I’ll be the person that’s like “yeah, send me more”. I’ll listen to the whole thing, and I feel like I find it easy to put myself in other people’s shoes to then turn them into songs, I have a few heartbreak songs which are actually about my friends and stuff so I just find it easy to story tell based on what I hear from people, and then I can interpret experiences from my own life to kind of understand how to write in the best way.
Renee Oribhabor: it’s funny that you mentioned that because on your Tiktok you posted something like “send me with trauma stories, I’m going to make a banger out of it!”
Rachel Chinouriri: Girl these people were sending me some wild stories! I was like okay I’ll have an album based off the stories people were telling me.
Renee Oribhabor: Yeah you need to have a project called turning your trauma into tunes!.
Rachel Chinouriri: Yeah laughs
Renee Oribhabor: Ok but we have to talk about how you’re like a TikTok star now! I see you on my feed all the time!
Rachel Chinouriri: I don’t know how it’s come about, I was just like I was in Africa one time. December I went to Africa to visit my dad and then, I was just like you know what let me try, let me try TikTok and then by the time I went to Africa in December, I came back the end of December and I had 50,000 followers and I was like…Sure, all right, and, since that it’s just going up and up and up.
Renee Oribhabor: Wow that’s amazing. But I love how you really use your platform to challenge bigotry like you don’t allow anything to run on there.
Rachel Chinouriri: No one can rest on my page.
Renee Oribhabor: Coming back to your single. The remix! It’s so good! I’ve really had that on repeat. Have you worked with any more electronic producers? I feel like that sound really, really suits you.
Rachel Chinouriri: Really? it’s like my music currently we’re trying to go into a more electronic place so I’m currently working with a few more electronic producers, people I’ve worked with recently are a group of two producers called My Riot who have done like London grammar and they are amazing. And we’ve had a really great time working with them, but I do secretly love, not even secretly, very obviously love electronic music, I just want to intertwine it into my music more, which is what my second EP sounds like.
Renee Oribhabor: Oh second EP! When’s that coming?
Rachel Chinouriri: It’s coming in April, not exactly sure when yeah because this is the EP that was meant to come out last year February. So it’s been some time but we’re saying April fingers crossed it will be coming.
Renee Oribhabor: And what can we expect, what can you say about it?
Rachel Chinouriri: It’s definitely a bit dark. It’s very sad. A lot of trauma tales within the EP, writing wise but it’s definitely a new sound for me. It’s definitely a mix of my old sound versus the sound which I’m trying to go after now, which is definitely the more electronic way so yeah.
Renee Oribhabor: Do you have any advice for you back in 2019, when you were scared of really taking the plunge with your music career. What would you have told yourself back then?
Rachel Chinouriri: I would tell myself to get a grip because honestly now where I am now I’m thinking if I had just started earlier, I would have been so much further ahead now and what my manager said to me, is you know focus on yourself don’t compare yourself to other people, because you see other people sometimes like skyrocket really quick or go slower then go up but everyone’s journey is so different. And as soon as you only focus on what you’re doing and work on your own craft and get the songs then you’ll always be fine. You just let the music speak for itself. So yeah I’d just say trust myself and trust my music.
Edited & condensed