Rachel Huggins' sound is distinctly ‘London’, influenced by the creative hive of artists such ‘the founder of nu-classic soul’, Omar, whose show at Rich Mix in Shoreditch spurred her on to channel her own distinct voice. Rachel has just released her EP 'Keep Dreaming'. Thanks to Rachel for this interview!
Hi Rachel, tell us a bit about yourself and your musical journey so far!
Hi, I’ve been ‘doing’ music for as long as I can remember, preparing solos for Sunday School programs, learning a range of instruments at Primary school, focus on piano and drums at Secondary as well as becoming a founder member of the schools Gospel choir legacy. At college I developed my keyboard, drum kit and vocal skills and studied music business, production and sociology at university.
I’ve been song-writing since school which has developed and strengthened over the years leading up to my ‘Keep Dreaming’ EP.
You recently released your fantastic EP ‘Keep Dreaming’ - tell us about the making of that and the inspiration behind the songs.
‘Keep Dreaming’ is a title I have been stuck on for a long time after a conversation with my dad. He has a picture stuck on his study door that says keep dreaming and he was trying to encourage me to set goals and work towards them. Once I have achieved something, I need to set new goals etc.
The songs were a combination of older and newer tunes, collaborations with producers who I worked and a co-write with Lyricl. In addition to this there are two pieces which were completely written, arranged and produced by myself (Freeness & Keep Dreaming). I had a great time recording and compiling the EP.
The EP has a very upbeat optimistic vibe about it, even though you tackle issues of injustice within ‘Take Control’ particularly. Are you generally a positive person when faced with difficult situations?
Yes, I do tend to look on the bright side! I believe that there are generally two solutions in life, whatever the issue may be; do something about it or forget it and move on. Not always as simple to do but I feel like positive energy is more beneficial than that of negative. You can be more productive. When I’m upset, I try not to spend too long in that head space as one could end up down the ‘rabbit hole’ and find it hard to get out of. Therefore, it’s important to ‘Take Control’.
Feels So Good - Rachel Huggins:
Your voice sounds very effortless, were you always singing from a young age?
Yes, my voice is my first instrument and so I have spent the most time learning and practicing over the years from joining choirs as well as developing my individual sound and working out what is right for me and becoming comfortable with my own voice.
Which music artist have inspired you along the way?
Mariah Carey! (Love her and she came out when I was 11 and was significant to my interest in music and taking singing seriously).
Mostly gospel music including Aretha Franklin (Amazing Grace album) and The Clark Sisters but 90s R’n’B, with the likes of Mary J Blige, Jodeci, SWV and Brandy was very influential also until I discovered the neo soul movement with artists like D’Angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Bilal and more and this is what I listen to mostly now.
It’s tricky, but can you give us your top 10 favourite songs right now?!
1. My Paradise by Tony Momrelle
2. Learn to Love by Anais and Azekel
3. Same space by Tiana Major9
4. BRB (feat Pink Sweat) by Mahalia
5. Player by Madison Ryann Ward
6. Paper Thin by Lianne La Havas
7. Love Not War by Emeli Sande
8. Ghetto Walkin’ by Miles Davis, Robert Glasper & Bilal
9. Want (feat Tinyman) by Jaz Karis
10. Whenever you want by JNR Williams
Your gospel background shines through your music, particularly in ‘Freeness’ - you were a finalist in the BBC’s Gospel Choir of The Year, twice - is this still a big part of your musical life? - Covid has made it very difficult for choirs to continue singing. Yes, as in, I go to church and worship is a major part of our services, so I have always felt drawn to choral work. Just before lockdown I led a gospel workshop with around 60 participants with the West Barnes Singers, this was a fantastic event and I got to road test some original hymn and worship arrangements which sounded beautiful with so many voices!
Naturally COVID has basically made it impossible for singing in church much less choral work so it’s been sad not singing for pleasure but understandably necessary.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, I am still full swing into promoting this EP but I have loads of ideas swirling around for what may turn out to be the next one!