With her stunning debut album ’19 & Dangerous’ recently unleashed into the world, you’d expect singer-songwriter Ayra Starr to be partying hard in celebration; however Starr had different plans to honour her first record dropping. “The first thing I want to do after my album drops is go to the Benin Republic, lay on the beach, and just rest and sleep,” she said to NME ahead of its release.
An understandable reaction from an artist who realised her ambitions at a young age and took a long road to dropping a full-length release. Starr started writing songs while at school, but when asked about the first tune she completed in the latest instalment of NME Firsts she reveals: “I can’t remember the first song I finished writing!”
A quick phone call with her brother is needed to jog her memory. “I write most songs with my brother because we’re partners in crime,” she explains. “He would know the first song I properly finished writing because I’d be happy and tell him.” Over the phone line, said brother sings a brief melody but hangs up without stating the name.
“I remember!” she finally reveals. “When I was nine years old, I had bullies in school so I wrote a song about war. It was the first song I finished writing beginning to end. The lyrics go ‘we’re gonna fight for war, and sing for truth, hands up in the air if you want some more’” she laughs.
This early enthusiasm for writing soon translated to performing throughout her childhood: “the first band I was in wasn’t really a band,” she explains, reminiscing back to her days in school. As part of a three-piece Starr wrote and sang alongside two others, before a 17-year-old Starr decided to pursue music under her own name – one she’s making sure we all remember.
She started out her solo career by doing covers. “The first ever gig I performed at was a poetry show in 2019,” she says. “I did a cover of Jorja Smith’s ‘Don’t Watch Me Cry’; some people cried when I did it, so it was very nice and sweet.”
For the latest in NME Firsts, Ayra Starr also discussed her first piece of music merch, her first job and the first concert she attended. Watch the video in full above.