With a modelesque look and a voice well beyond her 20 years, musician Raphaelle is coming up in the NYC music scene in a big way. The soul singer, who lists Etta James, Janis Joplin an Carole King as her musical influences, just played her EP release party to a packed house and had the entire room in their feelings. We spoke with Raphaelle about her creative process, growing up fast, and her mission to bring music with substance to the mainstream.
We’re in love with your EP ‘Postmodern’. Your sound, in your own words, is ‘Modern Classic.’ Can you break that down for us?
‘Modern Classic’ means a modern approach to a classic sound. I am obviously heavily inspired by artists in older generations than I, who have created classic records. In my opinion, nowadays it's rare to come across mainstream music that has any substance that will be remembered decades from now. Anything with substance is underground, which needs to change. I’m 20 years old, and that is where the 'modern' comes from. I am taking my knowledge from my upbringing and generation and mixing it with what I’ve learned from the classics. It is my mission to prove that you can hit mainstream with integrity and authenticity. It takes one person at a time to make a change and I believe that’s one of my purposes in life.
We can’t believe you’re just 20 years old! Did you know from a young age that you wanted to become a musician?
Music was always engraved in my soul. Growing up, it was a part of my everyday life. From my father blaring jazz music all the time in my childhood home to my love for musical theatre, which I pursued as a kid for about 7 years. I got my first piano at age 10 and that is when I wrote my very first song. It was about a girl getting kidnapped. Obviously, that is a very strange topic for a 10 year old but I believe it showed how advanced my thinking was. As I grew older I had binders and binders of songs and lyrics. Even in the early days I would write for myself without anyone pushing me, staying in my room for hours. Everyone around me knew there was something special happening.
When writing music, what’s your creative process like?
When I write music I completely black out. I have no specific recollection of what happens. All I know is when I sit down to write and create a song, melodies and words and chords just naturally flow out of me and then all of a sudden I look at the time and it’s been 5 hours and I have a completed song. Every song I write has a different process, a different story, a different vibe. Writing music will forever be a therapeutic process for me. I let myself go and truly feel what it is I choose to write about.
Can you tell us a little bit about 'Postmodern' and how you hope people will connect with it?
I started developing my sound about three years ago. I would write songs every single day building up my archives. I would study artists from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s like Etta James, Nina Simone, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles...the list goes on, and figure out why they were able to touch my heart strings and I finally did. They all had one common thing, “SOUL.” They could sing one word and you felt like you could feel their universe. I knew I was an old soul my whole life. I always thought differently than my friends. I applied that to my music and Postmodern was born. All I knew is if I kept it real, the listeners would feel something. That was my goal for this EP.
What’s your favorite thing about making music and why?
To write a song and have someone listen and connect to it is the best satisfaction I could ever receive. Either they cry because they understood the message of pain in the song or they laugh because it brings them back to that personal experience they had. Music is a language that should be used to connect one another.
“If you know that you are born to do music then don't ever quit and practice your craft everyday.”
Who are your top 3 musical influences and why?
Etta James was the first artist I came across when I began to study music. I couldn’t believe the power she had over her audience with her words. She would sing “He...” and the room would be silent. That was a gift she had that inspired me.
Janis Joplin, she had a way of writing and singing where she didn’t let anyone or anything hold her back. Her confidence in her craft is beyond inspiring to me.
Carole King, the queen of songwriting. Everything about Carole and her talent of crafting such classic and timeless records is such an inspiration.
You recently had your EP release at The Cutting Room in New York. How was that night for you?
My team didn’t give me too many details of what the room was going to be like. They always make sure to let me be the artist and focus on the music, so I had no clue what to expect. As I walked out of my dressing room onto the stage and saw about 400 people in front of me, I grew a grin and knew this is where I belonged. Sharing my stories with people to ultimately make them feel understood and connected. It was the best night so far in this journey that I’ve embarked on. It was the first time I was able to connect with so many people and now I don’t want to stop.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
Most of them are dead now. But if I had to choose one living today it would be Paul McCartney. The knowledge and super talent this man has about music and connecting with people is something I would love to be further educated on. He is a legend. I would be honored to create music with him.
You came to New York from ‘Paris by way of Texas’… have the cities you’ve lived in influenced your music?
Living in a suburb and then moving to a major city, the change heavily influenced my music. When I moved, my experiences changed. I was now going through different stages in my life in a place where I had more freedom. This changed my writing. Listening to music in Europe, I started to hear new genres that I would've never heard or found in Texas. When I moved to New York it was a whole other element. I was lucky to find my mentor who showed and taught me everything I know today about music. Lets just say he is a musical encyclopedia. From old school hip hop to classical music.
What were some of the biggest challenges moving from Paris to the U.S.?
The only challenge was my age. I was very young and naive. I had to grow up fast.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists looking to navigate the music industry?
Developing into the artist you want to be is a very important step that shouldn’t be skipped, especially with all the people trying to make it today. The whole saying “Ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field,” is no joke. If you know that you are born to do music then don’t ever quit and practice your craft everyday.
What’s coming up for you in 2016?
There are still a couple of surprises with my Postmodern drop on the way that you must stay tuned for. I am also halfway done with my second album, which will be released sooner than you think. There will always be a constant flow of music from me in 2016. Things change and happen everyday.
Tell us about your top 3 NYC hangouts.
1. Central Park for a “mental escape” from the city.
2. The West Village for live music.
3. Every vegan restaurant you can find, I'll be there.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
You have supported me from day one. I cannot thank MISSBISH enough. It is publications like you that will change the game back to real and authentic content.
Photos by: Carmen Chan