Finalists of the this year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition were spared the traditional suspense of the live finals in Pilton. Instead, all the last eight could do was sit back and wait as the festival staggered out the runners up and winner through social media earlier this week (June 17) – still no-doubt nervy stuff for the diverse set who’d already made it so far.
South-East Londoner R.A.E came out on top this year beating out of thousands of entries with her sharp blend of hip-hop and R&B. Despite the festival not going ahead this year due to the pandemic, the 25-year-old will be rewarded with a Worthy Farm set next year along with a £5000 PRS talent development prize. Speaking on the selection, Glasto boss and Godlike Genius Emily Eavis said that “her music is so uplifting and vibrant, and she absolutely wowed the judges. I really can’t wait to see her at next year’s Glastonbury.”
Colourful and attitude-packed single ‘Damn Jermaine’, taken from her self-titled 2019 EP, saw R.A.E crowned the winner of this year’s process – topping other finalists such as runners-up such as AJIMAL and Matilda Mann who will also perform next year’s 50th anniversary. The single captures her output perfectly, a vibrant and colourful blast of ’90s infused hip-hop, the track delves into a world of attitude and drama. Fresh off her big victory, we caught up with the rising star about the win and what to expect from her set.
You’re playing Glasto next year! How does that feel right now?
“It’s hard to believe, things don’t hit me until I actually do them. It’s still not hitting me but seeing everyone’s reaction and people commenting on my post, it’s making me realise it’s real. My manager called me three times and I kept missing the call, he was like ‘we won!’ and I was like, no you’re joking? I had such a shocked expression on my face because I wasn’t expecting it. It was a really surreal feeling of happiness. I didn’t know how to react, I was making a banana cake at the time so I had to stop baking to take it all in. I was with my Mum and my brother and we were just cheering. My mum was pretending to faint, it was a real moment.”
How have you found the process of the Emerging Talent Competition?
“My manager entered me so I was quite confused when I got the email to say I’d been longlisted. I was just going with the flow and excited to see how it all panned out. Even if I didn’t win I was still grateful to even be longlisted and then make the final eight. It’s like, ‘wow, they really like me’. It’s inspiring – it shows me that I should just keep going and shouldn’t stop. It’s been a dream to perform on any festival stage. Watching Stormzy headline last year was really inspiring. I was like ‘one day I hope I can perform there’ but I didn’t expect it to be this soon.”
There’s a playfulness in the drama of your track ‘Damn Jermaine’, is that an intention?
“Everyone thinks it’s a true story but it’s actually not. It’s a collection of different stories my friends have told me about with guys, so I created this guy called Jermaine and wrote about their experiences. Also because it’s influenced by the 90s and that’s an era of storytelling, so I want to be able to portray that in my music. That’s the main thing about the song, it’s an anthem that a lot of people can relate to I guess. That’s one of the key things when I’m writing music, I want it to relate to a lot of people. That’s one key thing when I’m writing is that I want to make my songs relatable.”
Were you conscious of the 90s inspiring the music as well?
“I’m so big on the ’90s, especially with groups like TLC and MC Lyte, I love how they can talk about something serious but bring some sort of attitude and they tell stories with their music. When I was younger my sister showed me Sister Act 2 and I loved how fun and vibrant the movie was. I wanted to be in that movie and recreate something like that. So I guess that’s where my whole ’90s aura came from. So I owe it to my sister but I did lots of research and really fell in love with that era – it became my aesthetic with a modern twist.”
There’s definitely an aesthetic of that era as well in music and image…
“I feel like if I’m going to embody the ’90s, I need to look the part but make it modern at the same time. The bucket hat is my signature and the oversized clothing, I love that because I feel like I can be free in it. I think my music really shows how I can be free and that’s my whole package really, being able to live a carefree life.
The live finals are usually a big part of the ETC but obviously we missed your live performance this year. What can we expect from the set at Worthy Farm next year?
“If you see me before I go on, you’re going to see this really shy girl but as soon as I step onstage, you’re going to be like, ‘who the hell is this?’ I become an entirely different person. I have this perspective that you never know who’s in the audience so I always bring it with every show. It’s kind of like an alter-ego really. I’d say to expect a really vibrant memorable performance. My live sets are very animated, I like to bring character to my face and my moves. Sometimes I even jump in the crowd – hopefully I can do that on the Glastonbury stage.”
R.A.E’s debut EP is out now