“I want my music to be healing”: Rachel Chinouriri on Finding Solace in Sound

Kess Leung

Fusing the emotional forthrightness of indie with the sumptuous vocal tones of soul, Rachel Chinouriri is the 22-year-old sending ripples through the music industry. Following the release of a glittering new single, the talented prodigé talked humble beginnings, finding inspiration in the little things, and conquering her fear of butterflies. 

Having initially found solace in writing music, twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter Rachel Chinouriri is known for her lyrical candor and sumptuous, soulful vocal tones. Coming a long way since the release of her first ever EP, Bedroom Tales, the artist has entered 2021 with the melodious single – Darker Place, making it the perfect time for a quick catch up with her.

A unique view into the artist’s headspace, Darker Place is amongst Rachel’s most introspective works to date. When asked about the inspiration behind her latest single, the artist mused thoughtfully: “The song is about the battle of lightness and darkness within people. I always believed that everyone had a certain darkness within, and it shouldn’t be something that people fear exploring! Usually, people who end up doing bad things are the ones who avoid understanding their darker ways. As long as there is a balance and the understanding of how to control it, I don’t think it’s fair to judge people”. 

“I make music to heal myself in a way. So, I hope other people can listen to it and heal as well”

She then pauses and chuckles to herself as she recalls the memorable moments on set of the accompanying music video: “There was actually a moment, which was sad but also really funny now that I think about it. We had a bunch of dead butterflies on set, and I was told that the butterflies were going to be behind me which I thought was fine. But one of my biggest phobias are of moths and butterflies and I don’t think the director knew how afraid I was. So, when he told me to hold the butterfly and pick the wings, I started crying! I was wearing all this bright red makeup and contact lenses and my director said I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to. But I had already ruined my makeup, so I just decided to do it!”.

Of course, for an artist who has been in the industry since she was seventeen, change is inevitable. Recounting on her first ever EP – Bedroom Tales, which she mixed on her mother’s laptop – Rachel has her own opinions on how she has grown musically: “I would say I’m definitely more open to experiment because when I first started with music, if someone wanted to reproduce or sample my work, I’d be like – ‘No! Don’t touch my stuff, leave it to me to do!’ Shaking her head in amusement, she chimes, “now, I’m more like ‘yes! Let’s collaborate with people.’ Agreeing to collaboration was how I got Darker Place, and it’s not too far off from Bedroom Tales but it is definitely an extension of what it was.”

At the mention of the past, a sense of nostalgia materialized as the singer reminisced her beginnings. Musing on the inspiration of what sparked her love for the art, she recounts fond memories from her childhood days: “Ever since I was little, I loved music! I was that kid who would sit and drum all the time or see a piano and play really badly. It definitely came from my dad’s side of the family which is very musical. It came pretty naturally to me, the process of harmonizing or coming up with melodies. So, that’s when my love for it started.” Referencing the inspiration behind Darker Place, the artist elaborates with glee: “I had actually wanted to become a criminal psychologist before I was a musician! Then, I did GCSEs in music when I was fourteen and we had to write songs. That was where I started thinking, ‘maybe I could do this as a job!’” 

Following up on her love for music, the artist elaborates on her approach to music as a whole: “I would say my biggest inspirations growing up were Coldplay and Daughter. I love how Coldplay writes and I love the ambience of Daughter’s music. Especially the songs Strawberry Swings and Tomorrow – I could listen to them all day long!” Gesturing to signal her inspirations, the artist smiles: “I’m heavily influenced by indie music but there’s also something about acoustic music that charms me. That’s the sound I am trying to achieve – a mix of acoustic and indie-alternative vibes. I want my music to be healing and to bring understanding between people. I make music to heal myself in a way. So, I hope other people can listen to it and heal as well. That’s the general goal.” 

“I can be on a train and I’ll see graffiti sprayed across the wall and I’ll be like: ‘That’s the song! That’s the idea!”

For an artist who is seemingly self-taught, it is no surprise that Rachel tries to be as involved in the production process as possible. “I always try to be really hands-on with production. I need to ensure that I can envision all the chords in my music. Once, I am happy with the chords, I would trust the producer to do whatever and if I hear something I don’t like, I would be like – ‘Oh no, change that.’ But I usually start with melodies would combine my favorites. Then, I’ll write the accompanying melodies.”

As she continues to contribute insight into her creative process however, it is clear that the current climate has had an effect and the artist laments: “I take inspiration from day-to-day life which was why 2020 was so hard – daily life was inside of the house! But this allowed me to write a song called – Thank you for nothing, during the pandemic, and it was a phrase that I saw and thought I could turn it into a story of some sorts.”

Perking up at the mention of a silver lining, the artist cheerfully continues: “I actually have a book where I have written so many random sentences and sometimes, I look through it and go – ‘Ok I can take that!’. Occasionally, the producer helps me think of the best way to phrase the sentences. Anything goes really. I can be on a train and I’ll see graffiti sprayed across the wall and I’ll be like – ‘That’s the song! That’s the idea!’”.

Whilst the world slowly starts to recover from an eventful time, the artist eagerly indicates her aspirations for the coming years: “In the future, I want to release an album and create a whole world around it! I would also love to play on the big stage. A stage where the crowd is there to see me and I’m not just opening for someone else! I think it’s fun, don’t get me wrong but when I watch artists like Kendrick Lamar and see the crowd singing back his lyrics, it’s just incredible.” Concluding with a soft smile, the artist hopes, “I want to experience that, maybe even perform at Glastonbury! If I perform there, I’d be like – ‘Okay guys, I’ve made it in my life!’”.

With her recent single Darker Place released to a barrage of raving positivity, it seems that Rachel Chinouriri is set to be one of the biggest musical discoveries of the year.  And with more enthralling tracks in the pipeline, it is only beginning of the young talent’s phenomenal journey into conquering the music industry.

Kess Leung

Featured image courtesy of Benn McGuinness via Unsplash. In-article image courtesy of Rachel Chinouriri via Facebook. Image use license found here. No changes made to these images.

In-article video courtesy of Rachel Chinouriri via Youtube.

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