Get to know the multi-talented singer-songwriter who is taking the music and television landscape by storm…

Photography by Saskia Kovandzich

Photography by Saskia Kovandzich

Dive into the world of British singer-songwriter Ray BLK as she takes centre stage in the exhilarating new BBC series Champion. Ray’s nostalgic single “My Girl”, released via 0207 Def Jam, serves as the leading anthem for this much-anticipated show, a love letter to Black British music set in the heart of south London. As the lead single of the soundtrack, “My Girl” captures the essence of sisterhood, underpinned by Ray’s dynamic vocals and the legendary Nana Rogues’ production.

Ray BLK’s remarkable journey doesn’t stop there – she not only marks her acting debut in Champion but also stands as the executive producer of the soundtrack, curated with contributions from the UK’s finest talents. The series itself, weaves a narrative of music, competition, and familial bonds.

Stepping into the acting arena in the new series, Ray BLK’s role as Honey resonates deeply, reflecting the essence of Black British music. With a passion for acting sparked at a young age, Ray’s performance showcases her dedication to both music and storytelling. Ray’s future shines brightly as she continues to break boundaries in music, acting, and beyond. Follow her journey as she leaves an indelible mark on the creative landscape.

In an exclusive interview, Ray BLK shares insights into her musical inspiration, revealing how iconic artists like Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston have guided her artistic path. Touching on her commitment to authenticity, she discusses the evolution of her sound, crafting it by embracing her own narratives and experiences.

Stream “My Girl” now…

Read the interview…

How did you find your love for music? How did you find your sound?
My love for music honestly just came from having nothing to do out outside of school, just being glued to MTV. I feel like MTV pretty much raised me. I used to watch music videos all the time. I fell in love with female rappers. I feel like those are the first artists and genres that I fell in love with because I love seeing women being powerful, being braggadocious and having energy and just being fly. From Little Kim to Missy Elliott. At the time we didn’t really have female rappers in the UK that we’re getting the spotlight. So, that was my first inspiration. I then started writing raps before even writing songs. Then over time, I started joining choirs, school choirs, the church choir, and singing there and writing my own songs. I was in a band with some boys from my school, one of which was MNEK. I would say that’s where songwriting and recording became real for me. Before it kind of it felt like a hobby and something I’d love to do, but completely unrealistic, but recording in his studio and hearing myself back, then him signing a publishing deal at 14 years old, made things real and possible.

Then finding my sound comes from writing with instrumentals or from YouTube. The first mixtape I put out in 2015 called Havisham was beats I had ripped from online. I didn’t know anybody that could produce a song for me. So I would just listen to songs on YouTube, “Drake Type Beat.” Instead of doing covers, which maybe would have made me copy other artists’ styles or want to emulate an artist, starting my writing, own lyrics and melodies, using random instrumentals, is what helped me find my sound.

Do you have key musical inspirations, but also people that have inspired you in your personal life?
I’d say Mary J. Blige is one of my number ones. My Mum raised me on Mary J. Blige. Outside of Mary J., Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, we pretty much only played gospel. That’s why I clung to Mary J Blige, because although I was I was quite young, her music just felt real. She put her pain into her music. As I grew older, and I started relating to some of the things she was talking about, I felt inspired to do the same. Not just make music for the sake of it, but use it as a form of therapy. Seeing UK artists like Estelle, or miss dynamite growing up and finally seeing someone that like looks like you or comes from where you come from, makes things feel even more possible. “1980s” by Estelle inspired me because she was talking about my life. Obviously, not from the 80s. But the reality of growing up in a Black household in the UK and being immigrants. That was my life and I related to her. I felt like, “Okay if Estelle can now be doing American Boy with Kanye West. Anything is possible?”

A massive congratulations on your acting debut in the new series Champion. The series is a love letter to Black British music, and when watching it, it really, truly is. How did this opportunity arise? What does it mean to you to be a part of this production, and play your role as Honey?
It’s such an honour, I feel a lot of pride in being part of something that is very culturally significant. Playing such a role, not just you know, acting as Honey, but also being involved in the music, which is a bed for the whole story. I’d say it’s one of my proudest achievements so far in my career because I think this show will and does mean something to people. Seeing people react to it on Twitter and be so emotionally invested in the characters and the music. People have been asking, “We need the soundtrack to this!”, just makes me feel so proud to be part of something that means something to people, specifically, to my British culture. It really is a love letter to Black British music.

Your track “My Girl” is the lead single. What is the message behind it? What do you want people to feel when they listen to it?
I wanted to make something that felt real. It was the first bit of script they gave me to write a song for. I knew they wanted something that felt nostalgic. It’s a song that the two characters, Honey and Vita, had written when they were younger. It’s a moment of them reminiscing about it, and I just wanted to write something that felt like something that the two characters would write together. I love their friendship and I loved reading their story together, so I wanted to focus on that.

I was inspired by my friendship with my best friend when writing it, it’s a celebration of sisterhood, and having someone that is a constant in your life, someone that loves you through and through. Everybody’s focused on their own lives, people get busy with work, competition becomes a thing and I really hate that and so having a real friendship where it’s not competitive and you’re rooting for each other, is everything.

What do you do on those days when you aren’t feeling so confident? How do you empower yourself?
That just reminded me of that TikTok of Rihanna where she goes, “Uh… Pretend!” I probably do pretend to be fair. When you have those days where you’re not feeling yourself and you’re not confident, if you just pretend that you are SO confident and feeling hot and throw on a pair of sunglasses, it seems to always help.

What has the biggest learning of your acting debut been?
Honestly, I had the best time, I felt like out of all of the cast members, I had the most fun because it was something new to me. I’ve always loved acting, and it’s something I have chased since childhood. Being on set was even better than I thought it would be because you just get to perform. I love performing. Even in my music, my favorite part of being an artist is performing.

I learned to do the work. That might sound silly, but with the script, you can’t just read your bits. You have to read everything so that you get a good feel of the tone and of the characters. You need to get an idea of what all of the characters are going through in their world, not just yours, because I think it then influences how you react to them. Just be diligent.

I also learned how to be more free and how to let go. Because as an artist, you’re so focused on how you want to come across in your music, but in acting if you hold back, you don’t give your best performance. So I just learned how to let go and just be that character.

Have you watched the episodes of yourself? What is it like to watch yourself act?
Yeah, I’ve watched it all back. And honestly, I’m proud. I’d say this is something I’m just really, really proud of because it’s all about the character and I’m seeing people react online and be like, “Nah, I thought honey was cool. I hate her!” This means people are connecting with her and I played the character to its fullest.

What is one bit of advice you’d give to someone just starting in their music career?
I would say it is your ship, you’re the captain. So take control. It’s really hard as a woman in the industry to have the confidence to speak up for yourself. And to follow your vision, because you’re scared of being called controlling or being called a bitch. Being a young woman, you sometimes can assume that everybody else knows best. And often, they don’t. You are the artist, you are the music, you’re going to know what your fans want. Don’t be don’t be led. You’re meant to lead everyone else.

I love that. Would you say you’ve had your pinch-me moment?
I’ve had quite a few. Big stage moments and whatnot, but for me, it’s having legends that you’ve looked up to recognise you. One was being in the studio with Kelly Roland – that was crazy. I was in LA, I had flown out there with my producer to work on my album and they said, “Oh, someone’s just asked me about doing a session with Kelly Roland and she’s looking for someone to come in and write with her. Would you be down for it?” And I was like, “Of course!”

In LA, anything can happen, which is something I love about it. The next day he told me he had sent Kelly my music and she would love to have a session with me. It didn’t feel like real life. When we did the session, I just remember walking in – and I don’t want to sound dramatic – but it was like a real-life angel was in the room. You know when you watch a cartoon of an angel, with perfect skin, so warm, gentle and so welcoming? She was perfect.

I think what sent me over the edge, was she was ordering lunch, and she ordered sushi for everybody. And she was just like, go sit down like let’s eat this together. And we’re both eating off the same plate. I’m a huge Destiny’s Child fan, that is my whole childhood. So someone from your childhood acknowledging my talent and wanting to write with me is such a huge cosign. I got too overwhelmed and I tried to leave the session. Her manager came and spoke to me in the corridor and said “I heard you’re trying to leave. You can’t leave! Kelly loves that song! You have to come back.” So yeah, that was a pinch-me moment.

What is the rest of 2023 looking like for you? What are your next big moves?
A bit of a different one. But I want to write more. I think reading scripts from auditioning or being in Champion has inspired me to get back to not just writing music. I studied English at uni because I thought I want to write a book and then music sort of just took off and writing songs became the focus. I love reading and I love writing. So that’s something I want to go back and do, it deserves time to focus on. and really, like deserves time to focus on. So that’s something I’ll be doing. Honestly, focusing on acting a little bit more. I really enjoyed it.

Photography by BBC/New Pictures Ltd/Ben Gregory-Ring

Photography by BBC/New Pictures Ltd/Ben Gregory-Ring
Words by
Lucy Pemberton