On taking Kylie’s advice and embracing the UK Top 40.

(RIGHT) Shirt JOSHUA MILLARD, jeans FRAME, earrings LUV AJ

I catch up with 20-year-old Rachael O’Connor the day after Halloween. She recounts the events of the night before as I listen, albeit slightly distracted by her wonderful Irish accent (she hails from Drumfurn in Northern Ireland). She spent the evening with her pals, “taking hours getting ready” on her skull-themed makeup. It’s a look that I later spot in a pic on her Instagram, captioned “I’m a mouse, duh” – because everyone loves a topical Mean Girls reference, right? Clearly on top of her social media game, O’Connor is a pop singer of the internet generation. She gets style inspo from the Instagram explore page, the Kardashians are her fashion icons, she loves Dua Lipa, and her best break-up tip is to “slay on Instagram and let them rue the day.” Fittingly, her first single, “Done With Your Love”, is an upbeat break-up anthem that will get you over your ex and singing at the top of your voice long before the song is near ending.

A veritable teen prodigy, Rachael’s musical career began four years ago when, at the age of 16, she braved the stage of The Voice. Singing “Clown” by Emeli Sandé, her vocals enthralled the audience and got three of the four judges to turn their chairs, an impressive feat for someone who hadn’t even begun their A levels. She ended up picking Kylie Minogue to be her mentor (as if there were any competition); it was a match made in pop heaven. She tells me that everything you would imagine about Kylie is true: “Working with her was amazing! She is just so lovely; she is nurturing and really cares about you. Because I was so young, it was nice to have a mentor that did that.” When leaving the show, Kylie shared some advice that still resonates: “I was upset when I left and she wrote an email telling me that the industry is filled with highs and lows and to just put all this experience into my music. So that’s what I do.”

In her early music-writing days, Rachael would re-work some of her favourite musical numbers. “I remember as a child I made these really cringy songs with my cousin,” she says. “I used to take High School Musical songs, change the words, tell everyone I wrote them and then perform them at family parties!” After realising the minor legal ramifications that might crop up through this line of songwriting, a few years later Rachael decided to have a go at creating completely original compositions. “I love sitting at a piano and just putting whatever you’re thinking into a song.” This love of the cathartic power of music is still there, and she now has regular writing sessions in London, taking inspiration from things that happen in her life for the lyrics. “All my music is pretty personal. I write about things that have happened to me,” she explains. Said sessions have clearly been productive, new single “Done with Your Love” is only the beginning – she is planning on releasing an EP next year with a similar upbeat sound.

(LEFT) Dress TIBI, jacket REJINA PYO, shoes VEJAS
(RIGHT) Dress and trousers JOSHUA MILLARD, shoes VEJAS, ring MAYA MAGALI

For Rachael, music was a family affair; she regularly had big family dinners where guitars and banjos came out and everyone was encouraged to sing: “My dad’s side of the family is all musical. My granddad is a big inspiration. He was in a band growing up”. As well as her family, she is inspired by almost everything pop. “I’m not influenced by one person. I’m just really inspired by the UK Top 40. I love everyone. I just love good music. Sometimes I’m drawn by a word or a beat, but really it’s just pop in general”. And when I ask about artists that she looks up to, we segue into a zealous discussion of her current fave: Dua Lipa. “I’m just obsessed with her at the minute, oh my god, she is incredible! Every song that comes out, I’m like ‘you are the queen’!”

Not content with the workload that comes with creating an EP, Rachael is also involved with Michael Flatley’s musical Lord of the Dance, which has taken her all over the world; her favourite destination so far is South Africa. “You just chill by the pool all day and then you do your show at night – it was just incredible”. However, if she had to choose between her own music or performing in musicals, she’d choose the former. “Lord of the Dance is incredible,” she tells me, “but nothing compares to being on stage and singing your own songs. There is no better feeling than performing something you’ve written and something you love and that means so much to you”. Going on tour with the musical means she is away from home a lot, and she misses her family and friends when she is away. “I always miss family life. Like on a Friday or Saturday night we have my aunty and uncle and everyone over and I have my glass of wine and we just sit by the fire having a chat. I just kind of miss that.” She follows up by noting how she also misses walking in fresh air because, “in London you can’t do that!” Air quality aside, her end goal is to move into a “ huge penthouse in London” so she no longer has to live out of a suitcase. Considering how far she has already come, buying that penthouse may not be so far off.

Martin D. Barker
Abigail Hazard
Ella Tanqueray
Adam Garland
Grace Sinnott using MAC Cosmetics
Photography Assitant
Keir Laird
Fashion Assistant
Amber Pinkerton

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