Catapulted into our lives in 2018, London singer-songwriter Rachel Chinouriri has spent the last couple of years honing her presence as alt-pop next British superstar in the making. With a talent for tugging on the nostalgic heartstrings of love and friendship, her music has grown her a loyal online following, with the intimately acoustic ‘So My Darling’ in particular becoming something of a breakout TikTok anthem.
In 2024, the track will go full circle, making its way from humble beginnings in her teenage bedroom at the age of 17 to pride-of-place on her forthcoming debut album, chock-full of relatable coming-of-age songs. For our Future Five series, we chatted with Rachel about the ‘trauma dump’ of her songwriting style, becoming besties with her fanbase, and the importance of a good sparkly accessory…
Hi Rachel! Lots of readers will be familiar with your work already, but for those who haven’t met you yet, how would you introduce yourself?
Hello! I would obviously introduce myself as Rachel Chinouriri, and I would say that I make alternative-indie-pop – those are the three genres I meander through. I would also say that I’m mainly a songwriter; my biggest thing is telling stories. So yeah — a songwriter who does alternative indie pop, and loves to dance when actually, I should be crying.
You’ve been making music for a while now — when did you first feel like you were becoming the kind of artist you wanted to be?
I’d say my last EP, ‘Better Off Without’. I made a post talking about how I was being called an R&B artist, and how unfair that stereotype was. That post went viral, and when the EP that followed was super indie, everything just kind of hit the fan for me.
I didn’t put out as much in 2023, but because of that momentum, the things behind the scenes that I’ve been able to do in preparation for 2024 have been incredible. It’s kind of funny — when I made that post, I was so tired with music, and I just didn’t see how it was gonna work out. And within the space of a couple of years, my life has completely changed.
You just got off tour supporting Louis Tomlinson – what was it like being able to play such massive venues?
It was a dream. I’d had a glimpse of what arenas were like supporting Lewis Capaldi across Europe, but his tour got cancelled after four shows. So it was great to do it again, especially at home in the UK. Louis’s team are the nicest team ever, and his fanbase are incredible too. Since doing those shows, they’ve just been so supportive: when you go on tour, the whole point is to try and win over people and impress people with your music, so having a crowd who were so receptive to that was incredible.
Do you think it boosted your confidence in any way, performing on that scale?
100%. I think I find bigger rooms easier because you can’t really see the crowd as much. When it’s small clubs, you’re making direct eye contact with someone; when people cry during ‘So My Darling’ or ‘All I Ever Asked’, I see them and it’s like ‘Oh, here I go too!’ The people at the back can’t see what’s going on and all they hear is me with a wobbly vocal…it’s not good!
That connection you have with your fans — The Darlings — seems really special to you. How have you gone about building that relationship?
I am starting to realise why artists don’t give more of themselves online, because the more followers that I’m getting, the more I’m realising that people sometimes want to turn what you’ve said into something that it’s not. But for the most part, it’s just about trying to normalise the interaction and making it a two-way thing. When I meet people, I’m always like, ‘Hi, what’s your name, tell me about yourself’ — usually people are quite taken aback, and it makes them more comfortable to know that I am just a normal approachable person. I’m always down for a giggle and a kiki and a drink. Some of my fans, we say hello so often that now I would genuinely say they’re my friends.
We’ve seen lots of jokes online about the Darlings having a ‘Starter Pack’ — for anyone new to the fandom, what vibe does the Rachel Chinouriri fandom have?
The Darlings starter pack is definitely something sparkly. Whether it’s hair clips, bracelets, necklaces, waist chains, sparkles on your eyelids… it’s all about the accessories! And friendship, of course. There have been so many tweets about people wanting to come to the shows but not being sure because they’d be coming alone, and right away, there will be a group of Darlings replying to invite them to the group chat to make friends. It’s really sweet to see.
The sparkly clips are on fine form in ‘The Hills’ music video. What inspired that song?
Thank you! The music video is kind of like, I belong here as much as everyone else. The connotations of being a Black woman in front of England flags and stuff like that…it helps to make people question their pre-conceptions and talk about them.
In terms of the song’s origin, I went to LA and I hated it. I think it was a combination of being in a very bad place mentally before I even got there, and then I got really homesick. I normally like to write songs with my friends or with people who I’m close with, but in those environments with bigger producers, a lot of sessions felt very like ‘hitmaker factory’ which I just wasn’t used to. I don’t think people were getting my banter or dry humour, and mentally, I was just really checked out.
By the last session, I was with my guitarist friend Aaron, and I was like, ‘look, we need to get out of here’. We went to his house in the hills, and I just felt like this an angry, American teenager, screaming this song whilst he smashed the drums. And it actually ended up being the best song that I wrote on the trip. I learned a lot about myself from that process, about the pressure I put on myself. Being on a major label can obviously be difficult and you hear so many artists with horror stories, but my label and manager are so nice about giving me time and space to be creative. I’m really lucky in that sense.
You’ve also been teasing a new single, ‘Never Need Me’ online — what’s going on lyrically with this one?
it’s based on a true story, of course, of the last few years of dating and meeting people. Before that, I was in a five-year relationship and had never been with anyone else; I needed to date around to kind of see what I actually wanted. And I met this one guy where it was just a classic case of his words not matching his actions. We had been friends for years and years, and it was quite weird to navigate because I knew that he was struggling with his mental health. I love him very dearly, but I was just like, I’m gonna have to let you go, for both of our sakes
That was actually the situation which made me go I’m going to be single for a year. When I go on tour, I used to sit and be like ‘Oh my band have partners who they can FaceTime and I don’t’. But I realised I was pretty happy to just be able to sleep and watch my videos on my phone and fart in my bed without having to think of anyone else. And then I magically met someone, which is exactly how all my friends told me it would happen.
Boyfriends and bangers – always coming when you least expect them! Your debut album is full of these honest life experiences; what aspect of this body of work are you proudest of?
I’m proud that it’s exactly how I want it to sound. I feel like my label really understands how important this album is, to me and potentially to many other people, and I’m just grateful that they’ve put the money into it to make my vision truly come to light.
Lyrically, it is a bit of a trauma dump, a journal of a whole bunch of things that I struggle with — not just boys! I think for the first one I was like, let me just make it about all of the stuff I want to get off my chest, and then the next album can be creative and fun and experimental. I wanted people to listen and instantly be like oh, this is what she’s about.
Are there any other artists you’ve been enjoying that people should keep an ear out for in 2024?
I always say Etta Marcus, every year. But there’s a gal called Runo Plum – she has a song called ‘Till I Go Red’, that I’ve been playing almost every single day. Heidi Carter is another person I’m super excited for as well — she has an incredible talent with her voice. And one more — Jasmine Jethwa. Vocally, that woman – Oh my God! She’s unbelievable.
What else do you hope might happen in your life in 2024? Do you have any goals or resolutions?
I think the one thing for me has always been stability. The last year I’ve almost been like an animal that has just been born and is figuring out how to walk properly, but I’m hitting that point, I think, with all the things I’ve learned about myself, that I’m ready not just to walk, but to run. I don’t know what that looks like for me, but I’m excited because no matter what happens, it’s the most ‘me’ that I’ve ever been. So for 2024, I think I’m just ready to release the music, tour lots and become the best performer possible. More running, more touring, more dancing, more crying. Oh, and more Darlings!
Get to know more of The Future Five for 2024