Kaotican Alphabet

Rita Ora interview

We catch up with Coldplay's latest opening act

When Coldplay arrive in Porto to kick off the European stadium shows on Friday, they’ll be joined by Rita Ora, the maker of the UK’s current number one single, RIP, who’s opening the show on this leg of the tour. We called her up at the end of last week to find out a bit more about her.

Hi Rita, how are you?
I’m alright. I’m a bit sick, though. I’m in bed at home in London. I have a really bad fever.

Oh dear. This may not be a great time to do an interview.
No, but work never stops! Haha. I’m a bit hot and sweaty, but I’ll be alright.

For those Coldplay fans who haven’t heard of you yet, could you tell us what your music is like?
Well, I guess I’m kind of a soulful singer, but I also love my Gwen Stefani and 90s music. So it’s like pop mixed with soul with a bit of No Doubt thrown in.

So, you’re about to set off on a European stadium tour with Coldplay.
I know. I am SO excited.

On May 16th, you’re opening at the DJ Fresh show at Cambridge Junction, capacity 1,000. Two nights later you’re opening at the Dragao Stadium in Porto, capacity 55,000.
Haha! I know! It really is going to be going from one extreme to another. But I guess it’s just amazing that I get to do it this early in my career.

Have you toured much before?
Not really. I’m doing promo at the same time in the States and here, so I’m flying literally every week, but I’ve never properly toured, like doing a show every night. So it’ll be fun.

Things seem to going rather well for you at the moment.
Thank you so much.

And it’s looking like you’ll have the UK’s number one single on Sunday.
I know! I’m hoping so! Fingers crossed it’ll get there.

It would be your second number one single of a very new career.

That’s as many as Coldplay have had. It took them 12 years.
No way? It took Jay-Z that long to get his first number one in the UK.

Ah, yes, you’re signed to his label, Roc Nation.
Yeah, I feel really honoured. Every time I’m around people like him, I make myself feel like I deserve to be there. At the end of the day they’re human and they’re people, but I want to be on the same standard. So it makes me work extra hard.

You seem to have come through very quickly. What were you doing this time last year?
I was still writing my album. I was in the studio, kind of frustrated that I couldn’t finish the album. And then the DJ Fresh song came up and everything just kicked off.

How did you get involved with Roc Nation?
That happened when I was 18. An A&R from the UK introduced me to Jay Brown and Ty Ty Smith who work with Jay-Z. They flew me over to New York and signed me the day after they met me. But it didn’t just happen overnight, I was writing for a while and doing gigs in London. I’d had a lot of promises and things about to happen, but then as soon as Roc got interested, all the labels started to come out of the woodwork! It was really interesting to see how the buzz increased. But I just stayed with a family that I knew believed in me the first time and that was Roc.

And you grew up in London, right?
Yes, I moved here when I was one. But I have been back and forth to my country, Kosovo. The last time I went there was like four years ago.

We were just trying to look at how many people have visited from Kosovo in the last month. It looks like it’s 108 people.
Oh that’s cool! Haha!

Obviously three of the shows you’re doing with Coldplay are at the home of Arsenal, one of London’s biggest football clubs. Are you a football fan?
No, I’m not a football fan at all. To tell you the truth, I actually can’t stand it. I’ll be one of those good girlfriends that’ll watch it with their boyfriend! But deep inside I wouldn’t care about who wins or loses.

Are there any of the shows that you’re particularly looking forward to?
I am really looking forward to the London ones, because I know how big that is. It’s gonna be so fun. But I’m honestly just so excited about going to all of the cities and to get the experience of a tour.

How will you be travelling around Europe?
We’re going to have a bus. And we’ll stay in hotels. I’m just making sure that my stamina is up and all my vitamins are up to date and really taking care of myself now before I get on the road.

She says, lying in bed with a fever.
Exactly! I need to get this out of the way! I’ve got a dehumidifier and lots of flowers. It looks like a hospital room!

Often Coldplay have quite established acts as their openers, and they have to adjust to playing to someone else’s crowd and trying to win them over. But presumably as such a new artist that’s something you’re having to do at every show anyway?
Yes. It’s really nerve-wracking, but so exciting. And if they don’t know you, then they don’t know what to expect, so I don’t think you can go wrong. You just have to go out there and have fun. That’s how I look at every show right now. I just want to have fun with it. I can’t just dip my toe in, I’m going to have to just jump by whole body in. But we’ve done a lot of rehearsals. So I’m up for it.

Marina and the Diamonds is touring on this leg too. Have you met her?
No, I haven’t yet. But I’m really looking forward to it. I’m a fan.

And are you a fan of Coldplay?
Oh, yeah, I have been for years. I was lucky enough to meet Chris through Jay in the States and I’ve asked him millions of times how he did it and he tells me it’s just a lot of work! I also had the chance to go in Coldplay’s studio in the UK and actually look at it. And whenever I see Chris he always asks where I’m at.

Does he give good advice?
Of course. He’s like Jay, a bit older and they’ve had so much success that they just know the difference between real and not real. He said, “Just write whatever the hell you wanna write about”.

So, you write your material yourself?
Yeah, I write my own stuff and I co-write.

When’s your album due?
Right now I’m looking at September, but that could change. I just can’t say that my album is done. I keep wanting to write more!

You seem to be routinely described as “the UK’s Rihanna”. Are you getting bored of that yet?
No, it’s cool. I think when my album comes out people will start to know me and I feel like that will slowly disintegrate. Comparisons are always going to happen for a new artist, so I don’t mind. At least it’s Rihanna and she’s hot and so successful, rather than someone that’s shit! Haha! But I don’t think I sound like her at all. I get why people compare us, but I think we’re very, very different. It’s more a compliment than anything.

Is success feeling like you thought it would? Are you enjoying it?
Yeah, I am. Or I will be once I’ve got this fever out of the way! But everyone’s being really nice and I’m just really excited.

It must feel amazing to have been dreaming of making it and now it’s actually happening.
My whole life, yeah. I was happy with RIP just actually being available on iTunes. I thought that was an accomplishment itself. But the fact that it’s heading for the top is just a different level. I never expected it to, but I’m just so happy that it has.

What’s your favourite Coldplay song?
Fix You. Just because I don’t think any song has portrayed so much emotion with such honest lyrics. His voice sounds amazing on it, the band sound amazing on it. It’s a simple song, but that’s what’s so beautiful about it. It just really works.

For more information on Rita Ora head to RIP (ft Tinie Tempah) is out now in the UK. How We Do (Party) is available now in the US & Canada and will be released globally soon.