Singer Cilla Raie flies the flag for feminism
- Credit: Archant
The self-assured musician tells Daniel Wittenberg why she’s putting music before image.
Cilla Raie might have 99 problems but institutionalised sexism in music ain’t one.
As an emerging female artist on the R&B scene, the Hornsey singer-songwriter synthesises sheer graft with a strong social media presence to shun the pressures of a male-dominated industry.
“I’m proof that you don’t have to be overly sexualised to make it,” she says, pointing towards the release of her debut EP – a self-titled stream of consciousness about the different stages of love. “The most important thing is always that music has to be good. I try to focus on my craft and make people interested in who I am artistically.”
Perhaps it’s easier said than done; Raie has been crafting a path into the music industry since the precocious age of 14, when she recorded demo vocals using her brother’s home studio gear.
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At 16, she started working for expert producers – mixing her A-level studies at Greig City Academy in Haringey with recording sessions across London – and she speaks emotively on coping with isolation from her classmates, added to the homework burden brought about by her singing.
“I remember spending a lot of time in the music room at school and all I became known for was being a singer. I ended up keeping my experiences private because I didn’t want to be judged. But it was hard to know when to switch music off even with my parents telling me to focus on school, as it’s easy to get distracted,” she reveals.
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Still, the Denmark Road resident – now 21 – demonstrates that young musicians can let their talents speak for themselves, having forged her own contacts from few resources.
Like many teenage aspiring singers, she built her reputation through miniature gigs in local talent contests and carnivals, on top of the online audio platform SoundCloud, which allows her to network with music fans and professionals: “It really works. You can build up quite a large fan base and get producers contacting you.”
After teaming up with DaVinChe – an underground producer who counts British rappers Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Strider and Estelle as among his collaborators – Raie’s strived even harder to turn her amateur repertoire into a saleable sound.
This persistence, above all else, is central in her efforts to emulate the success of “old-school” R&B artists like Alijah and Destiny’s Child, though self-belief may be her greatest asset: “I’d love to get to their level. I believe I can make that happen thanks to all the hard work I’ve put in.”
‘Cilla Raie E.P.’ is on sale via iTunes for £3.95. Cilla Raie’s ‘SoundCloud’ music stream is also available to hear online at www.soundcloud.com/cillaraie.