They say if you want something done right, do it yourself. Raissa has taken this idea and run with it.
The 22-year-old is taking the music world by storm with her unabashed lyricism and unique creative direction. She proudly writes and produces all of her music, along with directing her music videos. In a landscape that can feel increasingly oversaturated, Raissa arrives like a breath of fresh air.
Raissa's music is perfect for when you are deep in your feels but cannot quite put your emotions into words. She wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn't shy away from being vulnerable in her songwriting. She is unapologetically herself and willing to bare it all in her lyricism. Whether it's her self-love anthem "Angel Energy" or her untraditional love song "Bullying Boys," Raissa is able to perfectly balance R&B musical elements with her soft and delicate vocals.
We caught up with Raissa to chat about finding inspiration in Lady Gaga's theatrical stage presence and Joni Mitchell's lyricism, staying wholly true to your vision, and the honesty found in writing and producing all her music.
Ones to Watch: What inspired you to start making music?
I come from a family of people who, even though they don't work in music, have always been really big supporters of the arts, so I always grew up around a lot of music. Like when a David Bowie album would come out, we would go and buy it, like my parents have always been big lovers of music. It was very natural for me to start writing music at a really young age. I always felt like I was meant to be an entertainer and music was the one thing that felt easiest to make on my own time. It wasn't a conscious decision to do it, it just kind of happened.
You mentioned David Bowie, what other artists influenced your musical style?
Prince and Bowie are definitely two huge inspirations. I've always been attracted to artists that are very theatrical and are playing a character. There's a huge juxtaposition of the vulnerability in the music that they write and the theatre in how it's presented like when you see them in concert or in a music video. Lady Gaga is another artist. I'm a massive fan. She made me feel like, from a young age, that there was room for me creatively to make music, especially as a girl. My songwriting background is more influenced by folk and singer-songwriter music like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. They made me want to write songs and see the importance of lyrics.
Of all the different places that you grew up, what made you settle down in London?
I came here for school. I got into a good school here, so I decided to go, it wasn't so much that I really wanted to come to London. I was also looking at schools in the US, but your tuition is just a bit out of control (laughs). I grew up in Kuala Lumpur and I knew that I really wanted to leave, it didn't really matter where I went.
You've gained quite the following in a very short period of time. Do you feel more pressure when you're making music knowing so many people are listening now?
I actually feel less pressure. All I can really do is make people pay attention and be honest in my music. I feel like my fanbase is young, they're really excited, and they have a real respect and love for artists. They come from such a place of love and excitement that it pushes me to do better and makes me really happy to be doing what I'm doing.
It's so cool to see so many artists blow up purely because their fans love and support them. What specifically do you think is drawing people to your music?
I hear from a lot of people that my music makes them feel really empowered to be sensitive and vulnerable, which is always exactly what I've wanted to do with my work. There's a strength in not always being strong and in being kind and hopeful and loving. I'm also just 1000% myself in everything that I do, and people really respond when they can tell an artist cares about their work. And nothing I ever do is cynical - that's a really important rule for me. And I think that's probably attractive for young people, too. Like they don't have to feel silly for liking certain things.
Yeah it sometimes feels like there's growing pressure to not get excited about things.
1000%. Like something's either not intellectual enough or too ditzy or too pop or not pop enough. And it's just like, yo, we are just here to have a good time (laughs).
So, I know you touched on it earlier, but can you take us through your creative process? What does making a song look like?
It really depends. I'll be on the bus or in a car, and I'll write a verse or chorus, or sometimes an entire song before I really know what the song sounds like. And then I'll get into the studio and get on keys or on guitar and figure out the melody and work around that. I like to start with guitar or keys and then build the production around it later. And I like working in small spaces, usually just me and one of the producers that I've worked with a lot.
Would you be open to working with other writers and producers in the future?
I'm not opposed to anything. I just finished up my EP and am about halfway through my album, and there have been no writers involved whatsoever except for myself. I'm super attached to my songwriting and can't see myself ever singing someone else's words. My music is like me standing up in front of people and just talking to them, and if someone else wrote what I'm saying, am I really the one talking to the crowd or is it someone else?
And the lyrics are why people connect to your music so much.
Yeah, I've seen so many people posting my lyrics or quoting songs in their Instagram captions. People get really attached to the images that I've written, which is such a great reaction. There was one girl who posted a video of herself dancing to "Bullying Boys" and I called my manager like screaming because you could tell she was just so excited and happy, and I know exactly how that feels. I used to be that girl dancing in front of my mirror.
What was directing your music videos like?
My manager called me and asked if I would be able to make a video for my song. I've always loved drawing and painting and learned how to use different creative software pretty quickly. I knew I wanted to condense a bunch of visual images I loved so I just figured out how to make that happen. I ordered a green screen on Amazon, taped it to the wall, and shot myself against it. It all felt very natural. I did my own makeup, picked out my own outfits, and made my own gloves. It was super fun! It's made explaining my creative ideas to people much easier, too. If I'm ever in a creative meeting, I can show everyone exactly what I want and make mock-ups myself.
That's so empowering too. You can do it yourself and get the exact vision you want.
Yes, for sure. There's so much value in your point of view and not compromising on it. I think its way more powerful to do a lower-quality project that's completely true to your perspective than making something super high resolution that has no soul to it.
So, what can we expect from you for the rest of 2020?
An EP and an album! They're one big story that fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. The EP is coming next month and titled Hero Girl. Every song will have its own piece of visual content. I honestly think it's the best work that I've made to date. Not that there's a ton to compare it to yet (laughs). And a merch drop along with the EP! I'm working on the design of it right now.
Final question, who are your Ones To Watch?
Mia Gladstone, Brevin Kim, and myself, why not! (laughs)