Questioning the existence of love in the face of temptation, we get to the heart of this modern R&B anthem
Hailing from Manchester and blending elements of pop, dance and electronica with classic R&B, RAHH has established a sound that feels truly authentic. RAHH’s vocal talents have also seen her singing with the likes of Liam Gallagher, Emeli Sandé and Beverley Knight, but it’s with her own music that her voice truly shines – bringing to life raw and honest lyrics about love and life in the modern age.
With the upcoming release of a debut EP, in conjunction with an augmented/virtual reality project, not to mention imminent collaborations with a number of different DJs and producers, 2022 is all set to be an exciting year for RAHH. Here, discussing recent single Run The Lights, she lets us into her songwriting process…
My mid-20s brought up a lot of unrest and realisations. Things weren’t as I thought they’d be. It was harder than they said, way harder. You’re realising your parents are just normal people who make mistakes and don’t have the answers, the education system isn’t built for everybody and jobs are scarce on the other end. The government, well they mess up all the time. It seems like there’s always inflation, the prices never go down.
The generation before had a mortgage by now, and you’ll be lucky to own a parking space in the next 20 years. And love? Love isn’t the fairy tale you were sold. It’s unfaithful, confusing, it’s embarrassing, it doesn’t text back – does it even fukn exist?!
You’re coping, making rent, getting to the weekend, trying to stay out of the red, trying to save… but for what? Isn’t the world ending? You live in the present, not because YOLO is trending again but because it feels like there’s no future. You rebel and distract yourself with whatever vices are going and you realise you’re not alone. We do it en masse because we’re all feeling a bit lost and confused, a bit hard done by, a bit heartbroken. We’re a collective.
This state of mind is the inspiration for my EP.
I had the lyric Run The Lights down in my notes on my phone for a long time. I thought it’d ultimately inspire a song about having no self-control when tempted to cheat on a lover, something like that, but it suited this concept much better. For me, it just sets the scene. The lights are on red, you’re a danger to yourself and those around you but you can’t stop yourself, your foot is to the floor. One more drink, one more shot, one more line. You’re checking your bank statement the next day in horror, trying to remember the names of the bars on there. We’ve all been there, we don’t like to admit it much.
I wanted to touch on the hurting and the reasons why, but only briefly in order to reflect how your mind flits over the pain and settles back with the distraction time and time again. The chorus lyrics are the thought process in present tense, it’s the relentless cycle you’re in.
“Run the lights, into amnesia…tabs on my visa…call up the dealer… damn I still need you! Run the lights …”
My favourite line in the song is, “T-shirts and trainers, aint no-one tryna be famous”. I wrote that line whilst out in Phonox in Brixton, post-break-up and probably in a similar frame of mind. It sums up the club for me. There are no bottles of Moet or Grey Goose on display here, no high heels, people have barely got makeup on. There are no bathroom selfies or filters, the crowd doesn’t care about all of that. They’re here to dance it all away like no one’s watching, and they’re not. It’s sweaty and reckless yet strangely, it’s beautiful. It’s an inspirational setting.
I co-wrote this song with my friend Dan McDougall. Once we’d settled on the concept and title, we played through some references for vibe and drew inspiration from moody mid-tempo songs with heavy synths. Kwabs and James Blake were definitely on the reference list.
It was important for the sound and atmosphere to have the weight of a night out that wasn’t all, ‘Let’s live forever and dance the night away,’ but more reluctant, dangerous, dark. We decided to keep the verses sparse and clear and to make the choruses wet with layers and atmosphere so that the listener felt it go full throttle when the chorus hits.
Dan came up with the first chords, inspired by the stream of references I’d played him, all of them in a minor key and melancholy. We picked a key I could comfortably sing a conversational verse in so the words would cut through and we gave the melody some range in the chorus so I could sing out and really feel it. The lyrics, concept and music seemed to flow together fairly effortlessly.
IN THE STUDIO
I went to Dan’s studio one day in-between lockdowns. We usually play together in Liam Gallagher’s band but we were both living isolated studio-life since all the gigs had been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Dan built up the track as I scribbled down lyric and melody ideas and we’d check in with each other every 15 minutes or so, re-aligning and developing the song.
Once the demo was done, I sent it to Gloria Kaba in New York to produce. Gloria is a Black female producer who I’m super proud to be working with. Her credits are insane and she always brings a freshness and edge to the songs I send to her. It’s also really important for me to shine a light on the incredible lack of diversity in music, especially behind the scenes and to continue working with other people from underrepresented backgrounds.
Gloria took some of the stems, reworked the beat so it was straight and gave it a different vibe. We had a Zoom to discuss the concept and feel and I sent an updated reference list to keep it current and understated. It didn’t take much back and forth. Once it was sounding close I recorded some extra backing vocals at home to lift the second verse, along with a new adlib track and we were there.
Our escape route changes as we go through life, but the need to escape remains the same. It’s our primal instinct, escape is in our nature. And it’s okay, as long as we find our way back and face it eventually.