Rachel Kerr - On Her Music & Feeling Empowered
Soulful, faithful and phenomenal are just three words to describe singer and songwriter, Rachel Kerr. There is no one else we would have loved to have grace the cover of our first quarterly issue as much as Rachel. She’s all that Afronoire is about. She exudes confidence and has a humbling presence.
“Being a woman is an empowering thing. Any specie that gives life is powerful”
On being a woman
Being a woman is an empowering thing. Any specie that gives life is powerful. Being an educated woman that is spiritual has a sense of power. A woman is nurturing, powerful and strength.
I’m empowered by so much. I’m incredibly spiritual so I feel empowered by faith first and foremost. I’m very blessed that I’m surrounded by women who are also very spiritual; my grandmother is a living angel. I’ve seen this woman devote her life to helping people and how blessed she has been in return. It is good to see a woman who is incredibly stylish, incredibly intelligent but at the same time really has a heart for people. I think as women we sometimes see empowerment as an intimidating thing; if you’re empowered and independent, there’s a fierceness attached to it but I don’t think that. People need to realise that to be empowered, to be independent has a unique beauty and vulnerability to it that should be embraced, this comes with being nurturing and offering yourself to people, wanting to help people sometimes at the expense of yourself. Beauty from within is the most empowering thing ever. My grandma is a great example of that.
On empowering others
The most immediate medium I have is music but as time goes on there are so many other ideas that I have. Thankfully I have been able to start my first business - Singercise, but there are so many charity initiatives that I want to do, there are so many educational initiatives that I want to push forward. Music is my initial offering but there are so many other things that I want to do later on to help empower people as much as I can.
On feeling empowered
I’m very spiritual so whenever I go to church I’m empowered. Whenever I speak to my girlfriends I’m empowered, I love my sisters and I love my girlfriends. I surround myself with women of substance, we have a great time and wile out like anybody else but when it come to sitting down and talking about topics that empower each other we really are women of wisdom - all in our early 20’s but beyond our years in many ways. My mum and her sisters empower me too. I take a lot of counselling and wisdom from women who are older than me. I’m lucky to have such powerful women around me. They encourage me when I’m feeling down, not just sympathy but someone who can actually build you up with their words and presence. You don’t want someone who is going to feel sorry for you; you want someone to build you up.
“Anyone can be a musician but not everyone can be an artist”
When did you realise that you had a love for music and knew you wanted to pursue it as a career?
I wouldn’t be the performer I am today without the Church, in the way I express myself and in my creativity. I was always surrounded by music from a really young age because of my friends and family so there was really no escaping it. I was raised with the Church and that has been a massive influence for me. The Church became a platform for me and set a foundation for my music.
What would you describe your sound as?
My sound is inspirational and really contemporary but at the same time it has a soulful element. The message of my music is positive, uplifting, it’s open to multiple interpretations, some people say it’s gospel and some people don’t see me being a gospel artist at all and I really like that. I want people to not judge the music before they hear it, hear it and whatever you get from it, as long as it’s positive and as long as it is there to bring life to you I don’t mind. I would describe my music as an eclectic mix of elements. I don’t want to stick to just one genre, my background is gospel but my EP had some afro beat sounds as well as other sounds that kept it real. My main aim is for my music to be a beautiful artistic expression.
Where's your favourite place to write your music?
Inspiration has no decorum
I could write anywhere. I write in the car, I used to write in the office, in my bed, inspiration doesn’t discriminate when it comes to you wherever, whenever. I’ll be asleep, in the middle of solid sleep and I will hear a melody in my head and will have to wake up to scramble to find my dictaphone to record it. Inspiration has no decorum. It can come to you at anytime. Sometimes I wish it did so when I sat down it just came to me but it can come to you at the most inconvenient times, but you just have to take it for what it is. Catch it and write a song.
Who are your three favourite artists of all time?
Whitney Houston, Mali music and Tina Turner
Who would you like to collaborate with?
This sounds a bit dread but everyone who I really love and want to perform with are all dead! James Brown, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross. My ultimate collaboration would have to be with Mali Music.
Who were your inspirations?
My ultimate influence has always been Whitney Houston. I always used to listen to Destiny’s Child and Brandy and Monica back in the day and I’m a massive fan of Tina Turner, but I think that the ultimate people have been Whitney Houston and of late Mali music. Whitney's vocals, I believe until this day have been unrivalled, I really believe that. I think she was (the person) that when I looked at the TV, she showed such grace, she was so articulate and came from exactly the same background as me, from the church and you could hear it in her music.
How does it feel like to get on stage and perform?
I feel free. I’m the most content when I’m on stage. It’s one thing being in the studio but when you’re on stage and you see people’s reaction to your music, that’s special. As an artist you really are a servant, people get it twisted and think it’s all about being a celebrity and that’s all great; but you really are a servant, serving the needs of the emotions of people in a musical form. You know when you’re striking the right chord you have had an impact.
What drives you in life?
That’s my drive - the fear of regret
I have so many thankfully there’s more than one. I fear not being the best that I can be. I believe that God has given everyone a purpose and everybody a gift and my fear is dying knowing that I didn’t exploit it and that I didn’t push it to the max. I don’t want to be 50 and look back and think what if? That’s not the person I want to be, I’ve seen what that looks like, I’ve seen people grow old and wish they had their chance again, I haven’t got time for that. I will push it as much as I can until I have a family. Before those responsibilities come, I can’t die knowing I have this gift inside me and that I haven’t shared it. That’s my drive - the fear of regret.
What do you feel is your unique offering as a musician?
I’m not afraid to write music with substance. I know that with more exposure, the more mainstream you may have to become, music is a business and you have to conform to the needs of the people and the needs of your bank account. Right now I have this fearlessness in me that I need to give people an inspirational message at the cost of being commercial. That’s my unique offering and I hope that it never becomes compromised or rivalled.
Tell us a bit more about the 'Singercise' concept
I came up with the concept because I got tired jogging. People would look at me like I was crazy when I was singing whilst jogging. I remember Matthew Knowles saying to Destiny’s Child when they were growing up to jog and sing, jog and sing and it is really the best thing you can do as a singer. It’s to build up your stamina, you don’t sound good you but you just do it to build up your core muscles. I wanted a really nice collaborative environment doing the same thing and to get people together for the same purpose: to build our stamina and our vocal prowess really. As a group we’re all singing and dancing together. That for me is why I did it – the solution to the problem that I had.
What are your plans for the future?
The sky’s the limit. I always get nervous to answer that question because sometimes I plan things but sometimes God has something planned that is completely different. I’m just going to keep working hard and hope that I make my breakthrough. All I can do is work and hope that my music starts to reach the four corners of the world. I just want more people to be empowered, encouraged and motivated in what they want to do through my music. I really want my music to be international; I think every artist wants to be.
What advice would you give to those looking to pursue their dreams?
Firstly, if money wasn’t an issue or an object, what would you? Then go for it. Someone said to me, if you look at your phone, the last ten numbers will show you where your passions are invested. When I look at my phone the last ten numbers are either family or music related showing that is where my passion lies. If anyone is having problems in identifying what their purpose is or where their passions ultimately lie then look at your phone. Be honest and ask yourself ‘am I genuinely good at this? If it’s music then you’ll know it’s very competitive industry and you need to have a unique offering to make the cut. Have faith in yourself, invest in your talent and go for it. Sounds cliché but I know so many people who are really gifted and they talk a good game but when it comes to actually doing it, they fall – that’s the biggest challenge. Research, invest in yourself and go for it.
Since the interview, Rachel has released an EP titled 'Getting Started' - which can be purchase on iTunes