Hailing from South London with a Joni Mitchell obsession that verges on worrying and a voice like a mocha with extra caramel shavings, Rukhsana Merrise is that special kind of singer-songwriter who hits the sweet spot between sounding timeless and absolutely of the moment.
It’s lunchtime and the singer, who first garnered public attention with the beguiling ‘September Songs’ EP in 2015, has just rolled out of bed after a particularly late night in the studio tweaking her long-awaited debut album, and is helping herself to a well-earned morning(ish) coffee and cigarette.
“You’re trapped in a place with no clocks and no concept of time, then all of a sudden it’s 4AM and you’re like ‘Oh shit!’” explains Merrise, “It’s like a casino, or Westfield shopping centre.”
Anyone who has heard more than one Rukhsana track will know she has more arrows in her quiver than the autumnal folk of breakout hit ‘So They Say’. There’s the sitar stomp of wage-slavery rejection ‘Money’, and the summer pop shuffle of ‘Come My Way’. Just last month she teamed up with Kojey Radical for new single ‘Die In Vain’ (the cigarette-strewn cover of which did not impress Merrise’s grandma).
No surprises, then, that Merrise describes her upcoming record as an “amalgamation of sound.” “That’s generally what I’m like!” she laughs. “It’s also very nostalgic because it’s about growing, childhood and adulthood and how there is this synergy between them.” There’s even what sounds to be a straight-up pop banger on the cards called ‘Two Hearts’: “It’s scary that I put myself in that place as an artist, I never thought I would venture into something that uses those… um… lovely three chords,” admits the woman with rather more Suzanne Vega than Selena Gomez in her DNA.
But, no matter the song that surrounds them, Merrise’s lyrics are what really captivate. This can be traced to her roots as a teenage poet, always scribbling down her feelings long before she thought to put her words to music. “It started as love letters and poetry and things about life,” she recalls, “You know when you’re angry and you have a little scrapbook and you write all that shit in one place? You realise that, actually, if you write melody around this it becomes a song!”
Start singing your jotter notes, kids - maybe you could be the next Rukhsana Merrise.
WHERE: South London
WHAT: An armed Lianne La Havas kidnaps Radio 1’s A-list at gunpoint and heads for the border
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Die In Vain’, ‘Money’, ‘Talk About It’
FACT: She wrote her first song when she was eight in an effort to get her teenage sister to stay home. “She survived the whole thing and didn’t decide to go out with her friends, so I suppose it worked!”
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Words: Josh Gray
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
Fashion: Josh Tuckley
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