Art by Vince Smith
Interview by Ashley P. Williams and Malaya Velasquez
The format of an interview can be limiting but when speaking with a person with the powerhouse personality and natural charisma an interview becomes a mutually insightful conversation: fluid, moving, and most of all natural. While the following questions provided a structure for the conversation, when the nuanced vocal intonations, ideas and memories segue with no boundaries or friction it revealed that our cover girl Rita Ora is more than just a pretty face with knock-out vocals. She is down to earth, humble, insightful and strong. She recognizes her influences, her past and the power of environment, while tapping her own power to use this amalgamated background into a harmonious future. From Spice Girls to Stefani, from Style to Sound—we see this interplay of influences coupled with a self-starting innovation create one of the world’s up and coming influencers. We welcome Rita Ora.
What’s your AMMO?
I think when I was in elementary school play, I felt like music was my route, my sister was the more academic one. It’s fun, you get to be creative. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I mean and things that inspire me are people like Gwen Stefani, Beyonce, and Madonna, these women are distinctive. My mom and my family.
Tell us a little about your background and how it has influenced your music.
Well we are products of our environment. And I was raised in West London, and from Cosovo. It was the 90’s, so it was kinda a time of the Spice Girls, and things like that. Growing up I lived surrounded by such a mixture, everyone was from everywhere, no one on my block was from the same place. It was a borderline town in everyway. It was right between the rich and poor area. So I saw both sides. Yea it was full of juxtaposition. It comes through, some songs.
How would you describe your sound?
I think it’s soul urban, pop: mixed. I feel my voice is really deep like a man, but when I sing it’s quite soul. Right now I’m tired so it’s very deep. When I sing an acoustic song it’s raw and it’s different . It’s hard to sing million songs a day, [my voice] is not usually this deep. Urban soul pop.
Is it correct that you credit Gwen Stefani as your biggest influence, professionally? What inspires you most about Gwen?
Everything she does, she is natural and organic, and you don’t have to wonder ‘Why is that cool?’ It’s not mechanic at all. I feel like she is the one person that can put on heels and sweatpants and it’s realistic. When she’s with her son at the park with nails painted it’s still cool; natural. With some people you can tell that it feels forced. She definitely earns it, she has confidence. Really cool. Beyonce too. She is an inspiration; a hard worker. You can’t say anything about her because she delivers. You may not like her music but you have to approach her with respect. She is always on the highest level. I had all the spice girl photo albums. I had all the pictures. I think my two favorite ones were Posh and Scary Spice.
What can we expect from your new album? Have you decided on the title “ORA”? When can we expect it?
It’s coming out in the fall. It’s gonna be real cool.
Some of your favorite tracks?
Well, I’m trying to figure [that] out because I have to take some [songs] off. They’re like ‘You can put the ones we take off on the deluxe’. I want it all on the same one! One called “Shine your Light”, acoustics are online and Cold Play’s fave. “R.I.P.” One of my favorites, my first song out, my baby, Tinie [Tempah] is on it. When he walked on I look like such a nerd! One called “Fair” about being in a relationship. Truth is they’re not really that fair.
“Did you hear that Johnny Depp broke up? I’m going after Johnny Depp.”
You’ve had a chance to meet and/or work with some major industry heavy-hitters like Craig David, Drake, Coldplay, Jay-Z. What’s the best advice you’ve been given so far? And who gave it you?
I know it sounds like they made it up. It’s crazy, I just feel like I’ve been really really blessed and thankful for everyone who believed me or wants to be involved. One step at a time, Jay Z is a very powerful person, it’s very nice to have him believe in me and have other people’s respect through that. But after that it’s up to me to show them. He said just be yourself, be patient, don’t rush and go with your gut. [The album] took ages and then it was really nice cause they let me [borrow] their time. I hope everyone likes it; I’m really nervous.
“I love Harlem, I wish I was from there [laughs]. I love ASAP Rocky. I would like to do a tour with ASAP [and] MIA. We’ll do each other’s bits [from songs]. We’ll give each other fluorescent pens. We’ll have an art party.”
Your look is as sick as your sound. How would you describe your style?
My style? My everyday style is quite mixed. Sometimes masculine in the day: I’ll wear a suit or big hoodie but then you wear red lipstick you can feel like a complete look. [laughs] Red carpet is more like heels in a nice dress. A powerful female outfit. I like experimenting! I can’t stop, even if there’s no room on my hand for another ring, I’ll push one back and try another one on. Especially when all the stylists bring you such fun clothes. If I can’t decide but I have to wear it I’ll bring it in bag. Not just one outfit ever.
Your sound is edgy and poppy, but your talent is polished and palpable. How do maintain a balance between fun and focused in your music?
That’s a good description! In ‘How we Do’, Biggie is one of my big influences, but I do it with my own twist on it. You can do a lot for your video; when you hear the song you hear it in different ways. For that song I see so many different parties. An alien party, a party in a garden. Having fun! I wanted many different parties, and you can do that.
What was your experience guest judging on the X-Factor UK like? Are there any comparisons between judging on live television and performing onstage?
I feel like I’m so new I didn’t want the people to think I’m judging them; just giving them more realistic perspective; I have 3 mins to help them. Apart from that it was really cool. [The judges] came from all different experiences. Producer, rapper, and singer. A lot of people surprised me, first impressions change. You can seem really shy but then when they sing they turn into this confident amazing creature on the stage. And here the crowd’s just going nuts. And one guy sang “RIP”, I think he was homeless, he was so good.
Who would you most like to work or collaborate with in the future?
ASAP Rocky, MIA. I feel like I’m so new. I would love to work with Jay Z and Beyonce and you kinda have to earn those rights. They’re not gonna wanna work with someone so new, but maybe in three albums time. ‘Please you don’t have to talk or sing on the track. Beyonce you could just breath and it will be a top song.’
What’s one thing you want people to know about you that you don’t think is out there already?
I don’t know. Um I always have to have a sleep over. I hate sleeping alone. I’m like ‘please comeover, I’ll give you PJs.’ Also I have to have Tabasco, if not it doesn’t taste good.
What’s next for Rita Ora?
Next? I just want to get my songs out, doing bigger, bigger and bigger shows. I want to do a bunch of festivals. Those are so fun you can do your bit and then watch others. There’s a bunch, I’m playing Hackney Weekend, with Rihanna, Jay Z, Jessie J and… It’s cool. One big white party.
For more from Rita Ora go to, www.ritaora.com