First Look Friday: Let's Go Straight To The Bank With Rukhsana Merrise
First Look Friday: Let's Go Straight To The Bank With Rukhsana Merrise

First Look Friday: Let's Go Straight To The Bank With Rukhsana Merrise

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Singer-songwriter Rukhsana Merrise, better known around the game as Rox, is an artist who has impressed the industry with her voice and own unique sound. A product of her environment, Rukhsana adds an element of flavor to her music with U.S. influences ranging from Kanye West to Frank Ocean to John Meyer. As an avid appreciator of Joni Mitchell, listening to her and the likes of Fleetwood Mac helped the West Londoner to learn how to mish-mash styles that caught a lot of people's ears.

Almost two years ago, she put in front of herself the strenuous task of recording, writing and releasing a song every week of the month. The final result was the Soundcloud-only effort entitled The September Songs EP, eventually released on Communion Records. Her fresh cool, modern-funk-esque voice and command of melody is sure to engross listeners for years to come. And as we've witnessed with our own ears, Rukhsana Merrise is a force of melody that brings a whole palette of creativity that will enable her to standout from the masses.

Propelled by some cliff-scaling atmospherics, Rukhsana Merrise's "Money," which we're happy to be premiering here in the U.S., is an anthemic statement marked by her unshaken ambition. As Rukhsana showcases her songwriting skills on the track, she sits down with Okayplayer as this week's First Look Friday subject to talk about her influences, what she's learned about herself through music and why London's music scene is evolving.


Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact on both sides of the U.S You're forever being inspired by other artists as there's so much talent emerging from the UK, it makes me proud to be apart. What is it that the blokes in London are seeing and hearing that the world has yet to discover?

Rukhsana Merrise: To be honest, I am thankful to be in the position that I'm in, as I am still in the early days of my career. There's so much more to explore about myself and a lot of that will be expressed once the album is complete. I'm forever learning new things, growing more into myself and it is a story that I want to tell in my music.

OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?

RM: I have several influences that I love and respect in my life — some being music, others non-musical — but all impact the way that I have developed as an artist. I am heavily inspired by poetry and conversations. I'm always taken aback when you meet a person, a friend, a family member or even a stranger in passing. You could be speaking about your experiences in life and something then connects you in a way that never happened before that conversation. I draw my inspirations from moments like that. I've always listened to Joni Mitchell and loved her ability for storytelling and conversational lyrics. Kanye West for being so innovative within the arena of hip-hop because he dares to do all the things people don't without even thinking about it. I also always loved listening to John Mayer. I've said in the past that if I could play the guitar, I'd want to play like him because he's amazing!

OKP: Your song, “Money,” is a very dope sounding song and has placed you on the radar of music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist in London? How have you reacted to your first bits of press?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

RM: London is such a multicultural place and it is so fast paced, which means there's always something to do. Living in a place like that is healthy to some extent because that kind of environment is key to developing or working on one's craft. I'm truly forever thankful to everyone who got behind "Money" so far. I have always said to anyone who'd listen that I want to make noise so that the people who love my shit pushes and promotes it because they love it.

OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene in London? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?

RM: It makes me proud to be a part of what's happening now in London since you're forever inspired by other artists. There's so much talent emerging from the UK that people are listening to us in greater volumes. It's a great reflection of what London is like and I feel like where the scene is at now can only move forward.

OKP: What are some elements that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?

RM: My music talks to me and teaches me things about myself. It heals me in areas that I never thought could be recovered. My music teaches me how to keep going through any and all adversity.

OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?

RM: I love meeting people and talking to them about whatever—whether I've been on the road, in the studio or even performing live. Those happenings broaden my experiences on how much of a conversation I can actually have. It is a beautiful feeling to connect with people from different parts of the world to the woman I met down at the local pub to a fan that I met after a show. Those are feelings and moments that never leave you and stick to your soul forever.

OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered the professional life?

RM: The first song that I ever wrote was with my little brother and sister. We all took it really seriously, but looking back, it was quite funny at the time. [Laughs] My eldest sister was into Tupac Shakur and we wrote a song that he would've been proud of and possibly liked. It was called "Live And Die," which sounds pretty morbid for a 9-year-old and two 7-year-olds. I guess it was inspired from a very conscious place, but also came from a place of approval. My sister laughed at our three-minute performance of "Live And Die" in the sitting room, but we were happy she even watched.

OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

RM: Honestly, when you or anyone for that matter is listening to music and hears something that is so honest for the first time, it sticks! I don't feel that the problem for myself is standing out, it's more so about having the platform to be heard!

OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year and why?

RM: Unfortunately, the world of collaborations are a lot more political that that! Once upon a time, people would create music together out of the mutual respect and love of the individual's craft and skill. I've always questioned that there is nothing calculated behind collaborations, yet the industry can be a lot more political than that. Hey, maybe a sun will come out one day and change my thoughts, so that the dream of having Joni Mitchell and Kanye West in a room together will come true.

OKP: What is the overall message that Rukhsana Merrise is trying to present in her music?

RM: I'm not trying to lie to the world about who I am. To be frank, I wish to connect with people who share the same experiences as me or people who just understand what it is like to live this thing called life. When you use your art to hide away all the things you never say out loud, in the end all you ever want them to feel is the unadulterated, absolute truth.

OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind your “See You Soon” song? Could you speak on the creation and production of that song for the masses?

RM: It came from such a subconsciously fluid place both lyrically and melodically. The approach to the production on "See You Soon" is reminiscent of a '90s inspired R&B record, but is modernized with those booming 808s. The guitar chord progression is so important to this song and the harmonics compliment everything that makes "See You Soon" so lush-sounding.

OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?

RM: I am not, I repeat, I am not trying to change the music industry. I am just trying to evolve myself and my craft. Hey, the bad stuff in the game helps to make the good stuff stand out more clearer, right?!

OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Rukhsana Merrise — what would it be and in what octave would it sound like?

RM: It would sound like a silent shout out to the entire world, saying that I'm not here trying to be anything that I'm not. If you learned anything about me from this interview, know that I am growing through life, I am human, I love hard, I love talking a lot and this project that I have coming up is truly an organic project.

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from Rukhsana Merrise (and us!) by following her on Twitter @RukhsanaMerrise.