In House With Rita Ora: Singer Drops ‘How We Do (Party)’ Video, Calls Rodney Jerkins a ‘Legend,’ Praises Daphne Guinness
Rita Ora has manners. She’s come bearing gifts in the form of scones. A small British quick bread, the pastry comes in a wealth of varieties, which is similar to the musical selection the blonde chanteuse is combining on her Roc Nation debut LP. She’s worked with the likes of Drake and Rodney Jerkins on the effort and has a surprising collaboration with an English music duo and a female rapper that is sure to rock speakers — we’ll be sure to release that info at the proper time.
Under Jay-Z’s tutelage, the 21-year-old Kosovo-born, British native locked down a spring tour with Coldplay and debuted her first U.S. single and accompanying video for “How We Do (Party),” featuring a Notorious B.I.G. sample of his 1993 hit “Party and Bulls—.” Rita is far from a Brooklyn girl, but her vibrant personality and free-spirited ways stay true to the essence of Biggie’s original track.
She’s making her mark in America and the release of her currently untitled album this summer will prove whether she’s hit or missed the bullseye. With a No. 1 in the U.K. already, her confidence level is on high. The tattooed singer spent some time in our offices speaking about her “shocking” studio experience with Rodney Jerkins, the Daphne Guinness items she envies, a passion for hearing Eric Clapton and B.B. King and why Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love holds her heart.
How has your schedule been these last few weeks?
So the last few weeks I’ve been preparing for my shows out here [in the U.S.]. I’m about to go on tour with Coldplay so I’ve been rehearsing for that. I just came off a No. 1 [with "R.I.P."]. It’s got 2 million hits in like three days, which is really good because I didn’t think anyone would see it.
Why didn’t you think anyone would see it?
I was just nervous. I’m a nervous person. I always expect things but when good things happen, I’m surprised. It just ended up being really good.
Let’s talk about the Coldplay dates.
It’s going to be me and Frank Ocean and Robyn. Love Robyn. We’re going to be doing European dates [beginning in May]. But I think we’re gonna do some U.S. dates. I’m not that sure but I think it’s gonna be a few of them.
Did you and Chris Martin have a discussion when you were first brought on? Like him telling you, “This is what I’m expecting.”
Well, during the process of me doing my album, I met Chris through [Jay-Z], because they’re good friends. I used the studios a few times. It was just a connection where I think he genuinely was intrigued to see what was gonna come out with my project. When it did come out, I think he was very like, “OK, I knew this was gonna do something. Let me just ask her to go on tour.” I was like, “Ahh, I got to think about that for a minute.” I’m joking. I was like, “Yes, of course.”
Watch Rita Ora’s “How We Do (Party)” Video
What will you be performing on this tour?
My intimate shows that I headline are like nothing compared to the arenas and stuff. They’re still good. It’s more of a jumping around kind of, I’m in the crowd. I go down, I sit with the audience. I’m on the speakers. There’s no choreography. It’s very free. It’s a bit like a No Doubt performance. You know, how they were free and just jumped around. It’s that energy. It’s lively and I’m not going to be performing many ballads.
Is there a song you’ll cover that people will identify with?
We were just talking about that. There’s a song I wanna do by this band, A-ha. There’s a cover, but we don’t know what kind of cover yet, but I know that’s Chris Martin’s favorite band. So I thought to try and make that modern. But that’s just an idea. There’s another one we kinda already rehearsed like [Blackstreet's] “No Diggity,” but a really cool version.
What are the sounds that people can expect on this album? You seem to be versatile and all over the place, in a good way, with your music.
I’m all over the place, you’re right. I’m all over the place to the point where I’m still consistent with myself. So the way I sing and the way I am and the way I look is still very the same but you can hear my influences. Like, I love No Doubt and Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen. It’s old school mixed with a pop kind of stream with a grit. It’s got attitude to it but it’s not ignorant. It’s just a cool fucking album in my eyes.
You like soul music and of course you can hear that in the covers you’ve done on YouTube. Is there one artist that you gravitate towards, that you’re inspired by?
B.B. King. I loved his tone of voice. I remember he did an album with Eric Clapton awhile ago. They did a duet. I always remember listening to that because my dad loved that album. Since then, that’s when I started to understand music and do research. Jimi Hendrix, people who were comfortable in their skin. People that didn’t really care. I admire that. [Lady] Gaga doesn’t care. Some people like her music, some people don’t but you can’t deny her confidence. I admire that in an artist. That’s what I’m trying to kind of imitate with my own thing.
Is there someone you’ve worked with on this album that you were just so happy to be in their presence? And not on a fan factor, for the respect that you have for them.
When I worked in the studio with Rodney Jerkins, Darkchild, he’s done so many hits. He’s such a legend in his own right. I was in the studio and saw photos of Michael Jackson, Brandy and Destiny’s Child. It was definitely a shock but it was like, “Oh, right I better make sure I stay in this fucking studio and make him proud.” It was one of those things where I was like, “I’m meant to be here.” It was definitely overwhelming but I kept it very professional. We made some great music together.
Were you ever nervous in putting your mark over here in the U.S. since you’re an artist that got a start in the U.K.?
Yeah. The funny thing was, people back home thought I was American. They’re like, “You look like an American artist.” But then when they heard me talk, they’re like, “Oh, OK.” It was definitely a scary feeling. It’s like a dream, a thought. When you crack America you feel like you’ve cracked the world. It was scary but I guess if you don’t try it you’ll never know. So I just tried and I just didn’t think about it really. I just acted like this was home.
Watch Rita Ora’s “R.I.P.” Video Feat. Tinie Tempah
For people who haven’t been to the U.K., what’s a spot you can put us onto that’s not a tourist attraction?
On Thursday nights, you should go to YoYos, which is in Nottingham Gate. It’s like basically like a club in New York City. I know how you guys have down-under hip-hop bars. It’s dark and got graffiti everywhere and it feels like you’re in a basement. You can go shopping in Beyond Retro, which is basically like a whole bunch of old school clothes and it’s cheap. And Portobello Road, that’s where I grew up. It is a bit of a tourist attraction but it’s a sick road. It’s got a whole bunch of stores and jewelry and people selling whatever they got. Every Saturday that goes on.
You seem to mix old pieces with new and designer with thrifty pieces. Who is your style icon?
I have a lot of inspirations. I love old classic style and high fashion like Daphne Guinness. She’s a woman who’s basically like a muse who has every kind of amazing designer piece, ever. She just had her exhibition in the museum [of FIT]. She had one in the U.K. She’s great. Then I like my kind of not-giving-a–shit feeling like Gwen Stefani. She was a great inspiration on how girls should not care and still look hot. I love how Kanye West dresses. He’s another idol of mine.
I always ask people about their tattoos and I know you have some. What is the woman about on your arm?
This is Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love. I like Greek mytholoygy. I like love and she kinda controlled the love. She knew what she was doing. She was almost like the cool Marilyn Monroe of the Greek goddesses. I liked that. She has a good story. She’s holding my heart. Then I have “pinky promise,” which I just got done. It’s still a bit scabby. And then “love” and I have a lot of things around my body.
What do you look forward to achieving with this album when listeners finally do get a chance to hear it?
The only thing I want to achieve by making this album is to put a smile on someone’s face.