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15 minutes with Rita Ora

Interview by Nicole La Ruffa

On the rise.

We’ve been singing along to Rita Ora’s effervescent pop songs for years – from the 2012 anthem ‘R.I.P.’ to ‘I Will Never Let You Down’ and ‘For You’ with Liam Payne. Now we welcome Phoenix, a 16-track culmination of club beats and dreamy collaborations. Joined by the vocal forces of Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha, Charli XCX and Cardi B (to name a few), the 28-year-old singer remains as catchy as ever throughout her sophomore album.

Singles like ‘Anywhere’, ‘Let You Love Me’ and ‘Your Song’ continue to blast through the speakers of our car radios, and we’ll continue to turn them up accordingly.

In the midst of preparing for her upcoming Aussie shows, the North-Londoner managed to squeeze in some time with us for a quick chat.

Congrats on your wonderful new album! Was it a relief to finally release something you’d been working so passionately on?

Thank you. Yeah, I mean it was a relief to just be able to put music out in general. I had the best experience with this album, it was so different to my first experience, in a good way. But I’ve definitely grown into my own, and I am really proud of the process.

‘Girls’ – featuring Cardi B, Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX – was one of the first tracks you had written for the album. Can you explain how this collaboration ultimately came to be?

Well, they’re all my friends in their own way. I guess I just wanted to admire these women. I wanted this album to represent my friends and everyone I genuinely like and respect. It was that simple when it came to this record.

‘Girls’ also sparked some controversy from the LGBTQI+ community. How did you initially react to the backlash?

Of course I was devastated by that reaction, because I’ve done nothing but support the LGBTQI+ community and I’ll continue to do that forever. They’re part of my life and so I genuinely understand what peoples’ thoughts were but at the same time, I had a good group of people who were so grateful that somebody spoke out. And I think that you’ve just got to weigh it out really. Sometimes people are more sensitive than others and you’ve just got to understand that and remember that. I don’t regret it, it was part of my story and my journey. And Phoenix is a very open book, so everything I’ve done with it has been from pure intentions of happiness and positivity.

Do you feel that there’s still a certain stigma around women who express their sexuality within songwriting?

For sure, I feel like there’s a lot of ‘I can’t believe she said that,’ and I think it’s been going on for decades. The norm should be different, why can’t we express ourselves? And you know, opinions are going to come regardless but that just goes to show how much you’re willing to sacrifice and fight for your art. So that’s what I’m going to do forever.

Another catchy collaboration from the record is ‘Keep Talking’, which features the dreamy vocals of Julia Michaels. What was that recording process like?

I love Julia Michaels. I think she’s so talented in so many ways. I just had to have her on the album, because again, I just wanted people that I love and admire on this record. Honestly it started off with me just singing the whole thing, and then I said to Julia, ‘this song is so much better with two strong females, you should totally do this with me’, and she was like ‘yeah’.

Phoenix was released six years after your debut album. Do you think there’s been a shift in the music industry since then?

I think a lot has changed. You know it just goes to show how much the world has evolved. With my first album, there wasn’t any streaming. It’s crazy to say that, but that was only like seven years ago. So yeah of course, with streaming, and all of the new amazing artists that have come out, I think there’s a lot of change. But at the same time, that’s why I really wanted to keep my authenticity and my truth and go in and learn about myself as a woman and write an album that I’d be really proud of.

Have your musical influences changed much in the past six years?

Yeah, for the better. I’m a bit of an old school person, so I definitely listen to my classics – Joni Mitchell, Madonna, Blondie. Everything [like] that for me is timeless, I’ve been listening to [them] for years. But then of course there are all the new artists that I’ve learned to love over the past few years who have also inspired me.

Is there a particular song that you think sums up the theme of the album?

I’ve learnt so much about my songwriting, I feel like I haven’t got a favourite. ‘Only Want You’ for me, is one of my favourite songs – even though I said I just don’t have a favourite – but I mean like, it’s emotional and it’s really intense and it’s got that incredible Nirvana guitar. I think those elements were super important for me to bring into this album. And at the same time, it has a killer beat.

On a hilarious note, you pulled off a pretty impressive Post Malone costume for Halloween. Do you think he’s planning a Rita Ora look for this year’s celebration?

(Laughs) I don’t know how I’m going to beat it, it was so not thought through. I didn’t expect people to pick it up as much as they did. Like it got to the point where I saw a post recently – I think it was on The Hollywood Reporter or something – and they posted my picture, instead of Post’s, advertising the Grammys. They genuinely thought a picture of me was Post Malone. Do they not realise that they’ve actually covered my Halloween costume?

This March, you’ll be touring Aus for the first time. Is there a song that you’re most excited to perform for us?

It’s the first time I’m performing all of those songs, so I’m excited in general to really perform it all.

You’ve also released an acoustic version of ‘Let You Love Me’. Can we expect some acoustic sets on tour?

Definitely. [Playing] acoustic is one of my favourite moments on tour. You get to really connect with the audience, and it’s an intimate moment.

Is there a third album in the works?

Actually yes. You know I had a great time [making this album]. I always want to do more so for me, moving onto the next is exciting. While I’m on the road, I’ll definitely be recording.

Catch Rita Ora on her Australian tour from March 1.
Tickets via Ticketmaster.

ritaora.com

This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 187. You can read it here.

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