London-born, singer-songwriter, Rukhsana Merrise has just dropped her debut EP, September Songs. With a unique blend of folk and soul, her debut is proof of how significant September 2014 was when she set to work on a bedroom project creating an intimate collection of tracks over the course of a month. Fast-forward one year later and September Songs, aptly gets its rather timely autumnal release. With supporting slots alongside Laura Mvula, Bear’s Den and Leon Bridges (not to mention over a million plays and counting on her SoundCloud) Merrise is shaping up to be a name to watch for 2016. We caught up with the rising star to talk over her creative process and further discover her heartfelt lyricism and musical influences.
THE METROPOLIST: How would you describe your sound?
Rukhsanna Merrise: That’s a difficult question to answer, but I guess my sound can be described as a mixture of some of my musical influences from, Singer-songwriter and folk music to Soul and Hip hop.
TM: What is your artistic process and how important are lyrics to your music?
RM: I love story telling. My approach to writing is the same way you would treat a journal. So all the things I might not be able to put into words I bury in songs. Words are so powerful and lyrical content is definitely my driving force behind my artistry. I often write my songs without music and then take them to the studio and find chord progressions around the melody. It’s an interesting process.
TM: Back September 2014 you set yourself the task of writing, recording and releasing a song every week of the month, and this is how the EP, “September Songs” was created. Could you describe this particular process and if you would do something similar in the future?
RM: The process was pretty simple. It was like three worlds colliding. Guitars, which were folk-influenced, merged with unorthodox hip-hop drums and 808s with melancholic melodies and storytelling.
There really isn’t a theory behind it. I guess it was three people in a room every weekend just sharing their musical influences and trying to use that to create something musically that felt honest to us. The songs have slight variations in sound, but all complimented each other. I like writing to deadlines as it doesn’t give me time to overthink the music. I would love to do it again, but it would have to come from an organic place.
TM: Who are your major influences and do you have a particular song that inspires you?
RM: I am a massive fan of Joni Mitchell, the late Amy Winehouse, Kanye & John Mayer. A song that really inspires me is Joni Mitchell – A Case Of You.
TM: Did you grow up surrounded by music or was it something that came later?
RM: I didn’t grow up around instruments as such, but used to sing with my sisters for fun. As a child I would go through my mum’s old records and CD collection and I went to a very creative secondary school. This really helped develop my love for different genres of music. I always felt pretty lucky from an early age to be exposed to different genres of music and my interests would be from one extreme to the next. There was no such thing as restriction with sounds in my household, so I guess that played a heavy influence on my interest in music.
TM: What can we expect from your debut album?
RM: A reflection of the music that I like. Pretty much a progression of September Songs. The musical direction for the album wouldn’t change much, there will be everything you’ve heard from me before on my EP (guitar, groove-led honest songs). However there will be a sense of growth song and production wise. I would like to introduce some of my other musical influences spanning several different genres. Most importantly I want to create a body of work that reflects who I am.
TM: It seems like you have had a great 2015 so far with a million plays on SoundCloud, attention from BBC Radio 1, touring with Jack Garratt, Laura Mvula, Bear’s Den and Leon Bridges, and performances at Glastonbury, Somersault and Bushstock. Do you have a favourite moment this year?
RM: Probably Glastonbury! It’s the mother of all festivals. I’m a fan of the place. It’s so magical and just being able to play there was amazing.
TM: Being an up and coming musician entering a tough industry, what has been the best advice you have been given?
RM: “Be yourself kid and don’t try and be anything other than that!’ Words from my neighbour John Clifton. Those words always stick with me, I don’t think I’m good at being anything else.
TM: Do you have any other passions? If you were not a singer/songwriter, what would you be doing?
RM: I would probably set up my own charity shop. It excites me recycling things people don’t want and the money goes to a good cause.
Rukhsana releases her debut EP, September Songs on September 25th (Communion Records) and will play a UK live show at Servant’s Jazz Quarters, London on October 22nd.