I’m 15 minutes into this interview with Raye about her new campaign with H&M Move when she drops a bomb: She’s just been nominated for seven BRIT awards. She got the call before our Zoom and had been holding it in since the nominations wouldn’t be made public for another four hours. “It’s absolutely freaking ridiculous,” she says, stunned, cradling her cheeks. Later, I’ll learn the full scope of her achievement: She’s the first artist to net that many nominations in a single year in the history of the awards, breaking the previous record set by Craig David, Robbie Williams, and Gorillaz. That’s as good a segue as any into the pivotal year Raye has had.
Since releasing her debut album, My 21st Century Blues, in Feb. 2023, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter has embarked on several global headlining tours, had her record shortlisted for a Mercury Prize, and performed an exquisite symphonic version of her record at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall to viral acclaim. Alongside her new role as the face of H&M Move’s winter collection, she’s gearing up for an equally momentous 2024 during which she’ll attend the BRITs and perform solo for the first time at Coachella. NYLON caught up with the singer to talk about the new campaign, her wellness routine on tour, and why she’s still reveling in the validation of her success.
NYLON: Let’s talk about your new H&M Move campaign. What motivated you to join forces with the brand?
RAYE: H&M approached me basically saying, “We’d really love to have you be a face of this new collection.” I was a bit shocked at first because I don’t feel like I’m giving gym, fitness-queen vibes. I was like, “Are you sure?” The beautiful thing about it was that it wasn’t like, OK, time to get some abs if you want to be part of it. It was very much “We want you to just be you and embrace who you are and how you look.” We kept it really raw, there was no retouching in the photos. It was very different from any shoot I’ve done before.
Do you find that kind of experience is still rare when you work with other fashion brands or when it comes to being styled?
For sure. There’s still a sample size that I very [rarely] am. I do think there’s an underlying pressure, and I don’t think social media contributes very positively to that either. Also, I’ve been so used to just being on sets and being like, “Okay, suck it in. Hold it together. Look as together as you can.”
A big message of the campaign is about how movement serves your personal wellness and mental health. You spent the last year on tour. What did your wellness routine look like? Did it change?
There was definitely no routine. When you are on tour, mentally, it’s a very different thing riding the highs and lows of adrenaline all day. You wake up, it’s going to be a show later. Then you go to sleep like, “Ah, I just did a show. Try and sleep.” When we have off days, [my team and I] will try and find fitness classes we can all sign up for. For me now, I love working hard. I love sweating in the occasional HIIT class. I love a bit of boxing, and I love dancing. I have a choreographer that, whenever I’m in town, we’ll link up and just play music and be stupid for an hour and a half, rolling on the floor and just being free.
Do you have a favorite piece from the collection?
The jumpsuit. I feel so cute, it’s not tight or constricting. I feel really good in it.
I feel like we have to talk about your Royal Albert Hall performance with the Heritage Orchestra. How was it to put that show together and create an orchestral version of your record?
That was just a musician’s dream, really, to get to translate your music into symphony form and perform with 90 people on stage. I was so excited that you’re supposed to pace yourself vocally, sip some tea between songs. I didn’t sip any water once the whole show. I realized when I came off-stage, my vocal coach was like, “Raye, you didn’t hydrate enough.”
That’s unbelievable. Were you doing anything special to help your vocal cords leading up to the show?
Babe, I didn’t. I think because we’d done so many shows last year, you kind of build your stamina. I definitely think I’m a better singer now than I was when we started the Lewis Capaldi tour. I watched the performances from then and to where we got to Albert Hall, and vocally, you see improvements. But in that case, I was just so consumed by everything that was going on in my ears I was like, “I don’t need nothing. I don’t even know water. I just need to be here.”
Of all your accomplishments in the past year, what was the biggest artist bucket-list item you got to check off? You met Alicia Keys, your hero.
[She’s] literally one of my heroes. Honestly, putting an album out and feeling like people actually took the time to listen to it. We just found out today, it’s getting in at 4 o’clock, that we’ve got nominated for seven BRITs, which is absolutely freaking ridiculous. Like one of them is Album of the Year! For me, it’s the validation of being told for so long that nobody would care if I put an album out, and you hear that lie repetitively for so long, you almost start to believe these things about yourself, and then you get a chance to prove that narrative wrong. I [didn’t] ever want to be a musician girl. I wanted to be an artist who releases albums.
“It’s important to stop and smell the flowers when you can. I’d like to do a bit of that in 2024.”
Congrats, oh my God! Did you grow up watching the BRITs?
I was a BRIT kid! I went to the school funded by the BRIT. You’ve got signs all over the school, pictures of it. It’s a thing in your head like, “My God, this is a goal.” This is a huge goal for me.
You’re also playing Coachella. Is there anyone from the lineup you’re excited to see or meet?
Definitely Jon Batiste. We’ve actually been DMing a little bit back and forth. He’s a muse. I just love instrumentalists, people who live and breathe music. Lana [del Rey], obviously. I’m actually such a Lana fan. I’ve never really spoken [about that], I don’t know why. But I remember listening to her albums when I was on the trains. She’s, again, one of these artists who doesn’t care about what else is going on in the music world. She just tells the stories she wants to tell in her way. I love Jungle as well, and Grimes, I think she’s brilliant. Oh, and Jhené Aiko. It’s going to be a good weekend.
What else is in store for you this year?
I have some plans and ideas in the works, but nothing’s set in stone. I think it’s funny how fast-paced everything moves in the world today. I’ve got people messaging me, “When’s the next album?” I’m like, “Biiitch! What do you mean?” Writing music requires a bit of living [and] we’ve been on the road traveling. I’ve had no social life, I’ve been so single. It’s important to stop and smell the flowers when you can. I’d like to do a bit of that in 2024, be creative and express myself.