Raleigh Ritchie has returned.
The multi-hyphenate talent has unwrapped ‘Andy’ – his first studio album in four years.
Comprised of 12 resonating tracks, the set follows breakthrough effort ‘You’re A Man Now, Boy.’ It also arrives on the heels of a revered performance at Glastonbury with Stormzy and a lengthy spell in HBO hit ‘Game Of Thrones.’
With a fresh perspective and ample growth artistically, Ritchie re-affirms why he remains one of music’s most magnetic talents.
That Grape Juice caught up with the the star (born Jacob Anderson), who opened up about ‘Andy,’ the diverse nature of his career, and the importance of “doing you” at all costs.
Join us below for an insightful interview with Raleigh Ritchie…
That Grape Juice (Sam): Tell us a little about what you’ve been up to since your first album – You’re A Man Now, Boy?
Raleigh Ritchie: Well, a lot of it was writing the album, it just took a long time. I don’t like to rush things generally, but it was quite a long process for me to kind of work out what it was that I needed to say or wanted it to say. In other words I don’t like doing things just because I’m supposed to do them or just because it’s the done thing, I need to have a really solid reason for doing anything. And so even within the thing of I had a good reason to write another album, I just had to have a good reason for writing the songs that I wrote, if that makes sense, it just took time. And second albums are weird, there’s a lot of pressure associated with a second album. And in a lot of cases it’s kind of like, I remember as a kid anyway, even though this pressure wasn’t necessarily on me because I’m not signed to a major label or anything, but there was always this “thing” about the second album is where people kind of flop because they make a weird decision, they go in a completely different direction. So I was very conscious of that and trying to hold on to what I am, and who I am, what I’m here for.
That Grape Juice: How have your experiences shaped this project, ‘Andy’?
Raleigh Ritchie: I think, probably in lots of different ways. But, probably on a subconscious level, because don’t feel like I’m a very reactive artist, I don’t tend to react to what’s hot at the time. And it’s not even necessarily, I’m not over conscious of it, I think I like what I like. And I also feel like, to me, a song sounds the way it sounds because it’s expressing how something feels with music. So, it means you kind of have to be fairly flexible with sound and not kind of be too stuck on one style or one thing, and I get bored doing that anyway. So, I think it’s less the time between the first and second album changes the sound of the album, like the sonic, and just more that I’ve changed quite a bit. So the knock-on effect of me changing was also that my patience changed maybe. But, I don’t know if it sounds different, but I think it’s probably better for other people to tell me, better than I could ever.
That Grape Juice: What are a few ways you feel you’ve grown as a person? And as an artist as well.
Raleigh Ritchie: The most marked one, for me, the one that became really great for me. Because the second album, once I decided what it was, I listened to the first album and I was like, “What are the differences between the two?” And I just think that I was more naïve back then. I think I was dealing with a lot of, I never know how to say it, but my mental health wasn’t brilliant, has been in a lot of anxiety and a lot of depression and invasive thoughts and all this stuff. And here’s that thing of it takes 18 years to write the first album and then 18 months to write the second album. So the first album was full of teenage me and full of me in my 20s. So, I think there’s a real sense of this is just who I am, this is the way I am, and I can’t really change myself. I think there’s a lot of sort of resignation in my first album, whereas I think with the second album I’m getting to a place where I started going to therapy again, and it made me realize that actually, no I can change my behavior, I’m not defined by how I grew up or whatever trauma I had or whatever wrong I’ve done, I’m not defined by those things.
I feel like, within a song, rather than me just being like, “This is who I am, I’m never going to change”, it started to move a little bit more towards, “This is something that I’m not comfortable with about myself, how do I work towards feeling better for myself?” I think that’s kind of the difference, it’s less naïve.
That Grape Juice: This is your first time working with GRADES. Can you tell us more about how it was working with him?
Raleigh Ritchie: Yeah, GRADES such a cool customer. And to say that he’s worked on some really amazing and important albums, like the work he’s done with NAO is some of my favorite music for a long time. And you just wouldn’t know, to meet him, he’s so dedicated to just making good music and music that he enjoys and cares about. I want to work with people that don’t put limits on themselves, because then if they put limits on themselves about what kind of producer they are, then that means they’re also putting limits on you and what music you can make together. I love working with people who are open and willing to try things. And really there’s a reason that GRADES is the only other producer on this album other than Chris, and that’s because he kind of has that kind of same ethos and that thing I was saying about with the second album, that same ethos of just going, “You know what? I can’t overthink this anymore, I can’t worry too much about trying to live up to what the first album was”. I think there were producers that I worked with over the course of the album, they also had an idea of what I was and what I should be, and GRADES was never like that. And pretty much from the first session we did together, I feel like we just got a good rhythm going. There’s other songs that we’ve written together that didn’t make it onto the album that I think are great and I’d like to release at some point. This is a new thought, but I’d quite like it to sort of be like a almost off-cuts record, something that has songs that never made it onto this album, but a part of that kind of phase.
That Grape Juice: Who are some of the dream collaborations you’ve always wanted to work with?
Raleigh Ritchie: It’s tough because I used to say all of the obvious ones, I’d be like, “I just want to work with Kanye” or “I want to work with Pharrell”, but I think actually, I don’t mean this to be brash or whatever, but I’ve worked with some amazing producers that I’ve done, especially earlier on when I was signed to Columbia it kind of afforded me being able to get into rooms with some of those people. And even if you love somebody’s music and you love their production, it’s always just about why an environment is so difficult, I think, with big superstar producers to get the time with them that you need or that I need anyway, to be able to just experiment and mess around. But I’m not sure that there’s any of my favorite producers that aren’t people that I work with regularly, I’m not sure if I’d ever be able to get the time with them that I would need to work on something that intensely. I’m trying to think right now who somebody that I’d like.
Do you know what? I don’t know what’s wrong with me; I would absolutely jump at the chance to work with Tyler The Creator. I’ve been a long-time. They say, “Never meet your hero’s”, so maybe it would be too overwhelming for me, but yeah.
That Grape Juice: We’d love to hear that – and imagine your fans would too!
What’s lockdown like for Raleigh Ritchie?
Raleigh Ritchie: It’s been interesting. Obviously, for me, it’s been slightly different to the fact that me and my wife had just had a kid, so that changes the dynamic of it anyway. We are sort of experiencing, I guess, what we would be experiencing anyway except for that fact that our family and friends haven’t been able to be with our kid. I find it weird artists talking about this stuff because I’ve realized that I’m coming from a huge place of privilege to even be able to say that it’s been okay for me. Because I didn’t have to go back to work, I didn’t have to put myself in harm’s way or in danger, I have a huge amount of privilege in the situation. And I know that a lot of people have really suffered, and a lot of people have been made redundant, a lot of people have really struggled during this time. But for me, I’m an introvert, so I kind of don’t struggle in this kind of situation, I also don’t struggle in chaos, I almost find a sort of calm when things are chaotic. It feels wrong to say, but.
That Grape Juice: What advice would you give to young creative about how they could use this time of lockdown to advance their dreams?
Raleigh Ritchie: I’ll say two things that slightly contradict each other. I’d say, if you can, use this time to just make things that you love, even though I’d also say it’s a general rule, never make music that you don’t love yourself, it’s a wasted endeavor. A. You have to live with that forever and B. This is too hard; this industry is too brutal to not be in love with what you’re doing. So, I’d say that’s golden rule number one for me if I’m ever speaking to anybody who wants to be an artist. You have to love it, you can’t do it for money, you can’t do it for crowds, you have to do it because it’s all you can do. So I’d say play and experiment during this lockdown period, but I’d also say, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to achieve and to write the perfect quarantine album or lockdown piece of art. Because the world is in a kind of state of chaos at the moment and it’s okay to process that, it’s okay to not use this time to get a hench or to write the perfect thing, that’s absolutely fine, life is long and you have the time.
That Grape Juice: Great advice.
Raleigh Ritchie: Also, don’t let people put you in a box, that’s a big one for me. I’ve been so heavily defined by other people’s idea of what I am for so long, and it’s taken me until I was 30 to allow myself to just be whatever I want to be. I always used to preach it and say like, “I just make time to do what I love, I don’t care what people think”. I really cared what people thought, it has been such a waste of energy and such a waste of focus. If you want to do more than one thing, nobody else has to do it, nobody else has to live your life, nobody else has to experience the work that you put in to what you do and what you love doing. So you don’t need to worry about what they think because it’s not them that’s going to be within your existence. If people don’t accept it, then it’s their loss.
I would encourage so heavily multiple hustles for young people, because I’ve got younger sisters, I know it’s difficult at the moment to find direction. If you want to do something creative and there’s multiple things that you want to be creating, just do it, do it all. Life is long, you have the time to try stuff, as long as you’re passionate and you understand that it’s going to take hard work, it’s not just going to be as simple as, it works sometimes when you put videos on YouTube and do that stuff, that is great, but that won’t happen for everyone, 15 minutes of fame won’t happen for everyone. So you can’t do it for fame or for the easy win, you just have to love what you’re doing, if you love what you’re doing you can’t go wrong. Don’t let yourself be defined by other people.
That Grape Juice: ‘Game of Thrones’ wrapped-up last year. Can we expect to see you again on our screens soon?
Raleigh Ritchie: Probably. Not soon. I think I really just needed a long break after “Thrones”. But I really enjoy it, I think. And I think I’m okay at it, I think it’s a thing that I’m all right at, so I’m going to do it. I’ve had meetings about stuff, I’ve done a few audition, but again, the kind of sentiment I just made about making music, don’t make music that you wouldn’t listen to, I again, recognize my privilege in being able to say this, but I don’t ever want to act in anything ever again that I wouldn’t watch. I’m not talking about “Game of Thrones” when I say that either, but I’m fussy purely for the fact that I love film and I love TV, so I only want to be in things that I would want to watch myself. So, in short, probably not necessarily soon, because obviously the circumstances have changed, but yeah definitely again, I would love to, I just want to find something that I’m excited about.
That Grape Juice: And finally, what’s one feeling you want people takeaway after listening to the ‘Andy’ album?
Raleigh Ritchie: One word, that’s really difficult because I really love the interpretive nature of music, it’s up to the listener what they take from it. But I just say I hope that it provides comfort, a space to be vulnerable, if that’s what you mean. I hope it encourages people to be vulnerable and to just feel what they’re feeling and not feel ashamed because that’s what I chose to do writing it.
‘Andy,’ Ritchie’s critically-acclaimed album, is out now