Fans of HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones have come to know Jacob Anderson as the vigilant, protective Grey Worm, leader of Queen Daenerys’ Unsullied army. Faithful watchers of the Emmy nominated series may not get to hear Anderson’s character deliver a great deal of dialogue, but followers of his musical alter ego Raleigh Ritchie have come to appreciate his voice as a rising R&B/Pop performer.
Raleigh Ritchie, the musician, was crafting his first official project around the same time Jacob Anderson, the actor, was first clashing with fictional foes during season three of Thrones. The British singer-songwriter’s 2013 EP The Middle Child featured the introspective “Stay Inside," the bass driven “In Too Deep,” and the Justin Timberlake-esque “A Moor.”
The following year saw two more collections from Ritchie. Black and Blue spawned the Top 40 U.K. hit "Stronger Than Ever." One month later, he connected with American soul band The Internet for Black and Blue Point Two which featured four remix versions of Ritchie’s earlier tracks.
The 25-year-old is now preparing to offer the world his first full length studio album via Columbia Records. Ritchie is launching the campaign for his upcoming LP with the single “Bloodsport.” The tune originally hit the internet two years ago, but the Bristol-born artist wanted to approach the song’s sound in a fresh way for his debut album.
With a resumé that includes hitting the stage at England’s famed Glastonbury Festival and opening show dates for Hip Hop superstar Kendrick Lamar, Raleigh Ritchie is on the cusp of eclipsing Jacob Anderson. Get to know the buzzing entertainer in AllHipHop.com's exclusive interview.
How did you come up with the stage name Raleigh Ritchie?
It's the first names of two characters from The Royal Tenenbaums. I felt like I related to those characters at the time, and it stuck.
You kind of established yourself as an actor before you got your record deal. What led you to pursue making music professionally at that point?
I'd always been writing music, so it was never a conscious decision to release it professionally, I think I just felt at the time that I'd found the sound I was looking for and then I met the people I wanted to work with, so it all just sort of happened at the right time.
You're sound is a mixture of different styles. Who are some of the musicians that have inspired you musically?
Kanye West is a big inspiration to me creatively. He's constantly pushing the boundaries and evolving. He's not just a rapper, he's a creative force. I want to make things. I don't just want to be a pop star.
Can you talk about your latest single? What was the creative process like putting that song together?
I write every song the same way pretty much. I like to write and record in a day and try and sort of bottle up the emotion I felt when writing the song and put it into the vocal. I guess the difference with “Bloodsport” is that the structure changed from the first demo. Originally there was no chorus until after the second verse, but it felt like it needed to come earlier. It was tense waiting for it.
Going back to your 2013 song "Stay Inside." The opening lines say, "Drugs and girls, love and death is all that goes through my head." Are those still the topics that consume your thoughts now?
No, not so much. I think I've found a bit of calm since I wrote that song. Also, the song is about a really specific time in my life that I hadn't spoken about, and I wanted to get it off my chest, but even then it was written retrospectively. I think we all think about love and death. I think those things consume our minds for most of our lives.
There are some psychological theories that suggest the "Middle Child Syndrome" causes middle children to feel left out in the family which can create a personality trait of feeling the need to work extra hard to gain attention. Your The Middle Child EP seems to feature the idea of being emotionally insulated, but still striving to be noticed and loved. Were the themes on the project drawn from real experiences in your life or were they observational?
That was the idea yeah. I'm actually not the middle child, but sometimes I feel like it. And I feel like it in regards to my position in music, like I have to work that little bit harder to be noticed or taken seriously. I felt like that even then, because people liked “A Moor” and then they found out that I was in a TV show and they sort of shifted a bit maybe. It's weird.
But yeah, in terms of the themes being personal or observational; everything I write is personal. Sometimes I observe things and write about them, but even then it's my personal account of what I see or feel about something.
I saw an interview where you expressed you felt there's a lack of feeling in pop music at the moment. What feeling does your music convey?
It conveys whatever I'm feeling at the time I guess. When I say "feeling," I'm talking about whatever the artist is feeling, rather than what they project. I feel like I don't hear enough music where it sounds like the person singing actually means what they're saying. Some of the rawness and personality is gone, and it doesn't feel like listening to a human being. It's like listening to a singing computer.
How do you balance working on a hit TV series and making music at the same time?
It's not really a problem. I probably only shoot 4-6 weeks in total over a 6 month period, so it's a day here and a week there. It's really widely split, so it rarely affects it. On the days I'm shooting, I just do stuff I can do on my laptop or on the phone.
Tell us about your song “Bloodsport.” Why did you feel this would be the best single?
It's arguably the song that people have responded to the most, and it was always going to be on the album. It was a song that I felt like I could make a few improvements on too, like getting Rosie Danvers in to write a string arrangement for it. It just made sense to go with that as a single next.
Have you worked with any artists in the American market? If so, what do you think it will take to accomplish breaking through into the American music scene?
I wouldn't know. I've worked in the states a few times and worked with some awesome producer/artists, but I haven't written with any American artists. Who knows though, maybe in the future. And I don't really have any concept of what it takes to break through any music scene, I just hope people like my music and get something from it, wherever they are.
When can the world expect a full album from Raleigh Ritchie?
Soon, 2015. I'm aiming for Autumn.
Check out upcoming Raleigh Ritchie show dates in England below.