[INTERVIEW] RALEIGH RITCHIE

Shot by Matt Beard

Raleigh Ritchie, also known as Jacob Anderson, is an incredibly talented singer and actor. He recently dropped an album called Andy at the end of June that breaks genres and barriers. Last week I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Raleigh. We spoke about his process with the album, who Andy is, what it means to be a professional sadboi, and more. Read below what we spoke about and make sure to stream Andy on all streaming platforms.

Who is Andy to you?

That was the name that my granddad was given, it’s short for Anderson. I used to go over to his house every Saturday and spend the day with him and my cousins. Its my favorite, cleanest memory of childhood that I have. He’s somebody that I always felt safe and secure with. He passed when I was 10. I miss him, It’s weird, and I still think about him regularly. I nearly called the album Jacob, which is my name, but I feel like people wouldn’t necessarily have gotten what I was getting at. A lot of the album sort of addressed myself as a little kid. ANDY represents my grand dad and safety, a happy place when I was a child.

Where was this album recorded?

Most of the album was recorded and written between two different residential studios. The studios we went to for a week or two weeks, and just wrote music. We would work from like 10am or mid day until like 5am, go to bed, and then start again. We did that for a couple of weeks. We definitely clocked in like 10’000 hours. Then the post work Chris did and the tweaking was done at Chris’ studio in east London. 

Who is Chris Loco? He seems to have a hand in all your projects and you guys have great musical chemistry. How did your collaborations come to be?

I think I started working with Chris in like 2014. The first thing we wrote was Stronger Than Ever. We do have really good musical chemistry, but he’s also one of my best friends. Especially during the making of this album *laughs* we’ve definitely been through a lot together. We fought for this album together. He’s always had my back, he’s been a real partner for me. The thing I’ve always loved about working with Chris is that he’s always encouraged an environment where there’s no wrong answers. If I want to do something weird, he just goes with it, and if he wants to do something weird then I trust him and we go with it. We have a level of comfort with each other where anything is possible and anything and everything can be talked about and explored.

You also had a lot of string arrangements on your album, did Chris write those as well?

Chris played a big part in that but that was me! It was always my intention, apart of tying this album together for me and making sure it sounds more cohesive than maybe my first album did. Having strings on every song, to me, felt like it would tie it all together. That was apart of the plan as soon as I knew what the record was. I went over to Rosie’s house and played the albums as demos, and I sent her all these notes. She said that I should turn it into a book or something. I write what would probably equate to like five pages per song worth of notes, what the songs about and how it should feel, how the strings should or shouldn’t drive the emotion. Then Rosie takes it, and writes these beautiful arrangements. Its a collaboration.

Were you ever vocally trained or took lessons? Your voice is amazing and some of your vocal runs are crazy! 

The short answer is yes, but not with any kind of regularity. I was in a boys choir when I was a kid, I got a scholarship I was maybe 10 or 11. I sort of hated it, but I think I learned more than I care to admit. After that I learned to sing by just singing. I never had proper singing lessons. I used to never warm up before shows so my manager made me take some lessons because I would keep losing my voice. I never actually wanted to be a singer, but I love writing. I just didn’t want anybody else to sing my songs.

I really enjoyed your performance of Squares on The Late Show, the visuals were incredible.  do you plan on doing any more “live”performances during COVID season?

I don’t know man, maybe. I love writing, I don’t spend a lot of time on social media. I’ve become a proper old man. I’ve just had my first child, the idea of putting together another performance feels like a lot of work. But thank you I’m glad you liked it. I got very stressed about it. The video production was by Adam Brooks and my music director, I would like to give them all the credit for that. I think they did a beautiful job of bringing it all together. At the moment in the UK, it’s looking pretty bad at the moment for live music. In the future I think I’d like to put something together that’s a little more comprehensive. Like if it was a show that would be great, but I don’t see myself doing videos with just me. With the band again maybe. I like performing for people as well, seeing peoples faces. I miss that aspect of it. I do so much talking at my shows, I talk to the audience a lot. I get stage fright, so I feel less frightened and anxious if I can talk to them. 

It seems like you draw a lot of influence from dance and pop music, who are your biggest musical influences?

I don’t really have influences in dance music. I don’t go out I don’t go clubbing at all. I wouldn’t say I really listen to any dance music. There was a version of this album earlier on where we were using quite a lot of 4/4 drums but we repurposed them to sound like something more soulful. We were calling it “Deep Home”. Like deep house but not for clubbing. It’s deep house that feels like home. I’m really crap at talking about my influences, because I feel like I’m influenced by everything. But obviously [David] Bowie in terms of pop. Bowie was huge, he was everything to me when I was growing up, he was my hero. Maybe a bit of Prince as well. Bowie and Prince I feel like they didn’t just stick to one thing. They always made boundary-less music. I’m not interested in making something that just sounds good now. I want to make things that will hopefully still work in 20 years, people will still find comfort in it.  

You’ve dubbed yourself “professional sadboi” and depression and loneliness seem to be a big theme in ANDY. How long has this been something you’ve struggled with?

I feel like the best way I could articulate it is the way that I write it in the song. It is something I’ve lived with, I wouldn’t say struggled, for a long time. My way of dealing with it is the combination of writing and therapy, and music is hugely therapeutic.

Would you ever do a spoken word/rap project? Your writing is incredible, and I love your flow on 27 club.

I think I only put that in when when it feels like it needs to be in there for the song. Internally, I always call that the “Cut the shit” moment. When you just say it straight up to round everything out. You know how in verses, sometimes you’re trying to bury something or articulate something in a specific way and it can come across a little bit ambiguous sometimes. I always think those spoken word bits, they’re normally the part of the song where I cut the shit and just say exactly how I’m feeling. 

Your last album was in 2016, why such a long break?

These things take a long time. Like I wrote a note about it, people can read it on instagram. Theres a process to it and i had to figure out exactly what I wanted and needed to say and I didn’t want to rush it. I don’t think you should ever rush these things. I wrote the album because I wanted to understand something about myself, I wasn’t going to stop halfway through I had to get to the end of my point. That’s why It took so long. The irony of me being annoyed that Jay Electronica or Frank Ocean hadn’t released anything for years while I was keeping other people waiting on my album, will never be lost on me. So, I get it.  

Are there any songs that you wrote a while ago that ended up on the album?

Squares and Worries are the oldest songs on the album. Squares I wrote about four years ago, and Worries about three years ago. Thats the only song that was on the first version of the album which sounded quite different. Everything else was recorded in that period, like I said we worked in blocks. For instance we wrote and recorded Aristocrats, Big & Scared, and Structure in the same weekend. I think you can tell when some songs were recorded around the same time because they share a narrative.

Is there any message that you want to share?

I just want to say that, there are things on this album that were really difficult for me to talk about. I had to be vulnerable in order to talk about them. And I also understand that sometimes when you listen to something like that It can be vulnerable making to listen to. My intention and hope, is always for people to feel comfort and to feel understood in a way that I always felt understood by music. I guess for anybody that listens to my album and understands what I’m talking about, I just want to say that it gets better. However difficult the situation is right now, however long the road is that they’re traveling on, the album itself is testament to the fact that things do get better. Just takes a bit of time and processing. Talk to someone, tell people how you’re feeling, make your own art. That’s what I’d want to say to people.