Kohla returns with fourth single '_Gorgeous'
- Arusa Qureshi
- 20 November 2019
credit: Tammy Stewart
Edinburgh singer-songwriter and producer chats about her new track and future plans
Since the release of her debut single as Kohla in November last year, Rachel Alice Johnson has been working hard to curate and perfect her brooding R&B sound. Citing the likes of Grimes, FKA Twigs and Kate Bush as influences, new single '_Gorgeous' is the next step in her musical evolution – a wistful, 90s influenced trip-hop banger that has already seen airplay from BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Rapal and Amazing Radio.
'_Gorgeous' places Johnson's sultry vocals front and centre, with the track's shuffling downtempo beat and swelling strings providing a suitably moody backdrop. It's a terrific follow-up to previous singles 'TOUCH' and 'S/he', with the singer, dancer and artist now working towards the release of her debut EP on Last Night from Glasgow.
With her sold out debut live show, featuring a full backing band and backing dancers, coming up in December at Sneaky Pete's, we caught up with Johnson to find out more about the track and her future plans as Kohla.
On how she started making music and her approach to songwriting
I studied fine art at university so I was just writing songs alongside painting and drawing – I'm self-taught on all instruments and play by ear. I guess with songwriting it's more that I'm trying to explore an emotion; I actually find it extremely similar to painting – working with light and dark, shapes, texture, colour and space.
On her current sound
It's definitely still evolving – I listen to new music every day so I'm always taking on new influences. With the first Kohla track ('S/he') I was listening to a lot of contemporary hip-hop and R&B – Vince Staples, Banks, SZA. Whereas now I've gone a bit more retro, I've had some old Moby and Tricky songs on repeat over summer. Trip-hop seems to be pretty rare in the Scottish music scene, and I like to be doing something different.
On new single '_Gorgeous'
I think the past six months I've taken a lot of inspiration from the women around me, whether that's friends, family or artists I listen to – Janelle Monae, Solange, Tinashe, Grimes. I wanted to make something more upbeat and positive (the rest of the EP has been pretty moody). And I guess there's a body-posi message to the track too; '[she's] telling me I'm gorgeous, I know and I adore it'.
On the artists she looks to for inspiration
I think I tend to look for artists who are expressive in any format; in fine art I love Joan Eardley, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus and Susan Hillar. All those women are fantastic storytellers through image (and in Hiller's case, experience), with an aim to emotionally push the spectator.
Sonically, I really admire FKA Twigs as there's so much depth to her work. She retains all her creative control; directing, photography, choreography, fashion and production. She's always working to improve on her (already incredible) art which is pretty inspiring to see.
On what the future currently looks like for Kohla
I've spent the past couple of months in rehearsals for the Debut Visual Live Show with my phenomenal backing dancers (Natalie Bullions and Natalie Divine) and my amazing backing band (Lily and Gordon of L-Space). I think we are going to do some more performances next year, as the first show sold out six weeks in advance! Other than that, I'm currently working on new material for 2020, which I'll be releasing though my fantastic label Last Night From Glasgow.
'_Gorgeous' is out Fri 22 Nov on Last Night from Glasgow. Kohla plays Sneaky Pete's Edinburgh on Fri 20 Dec (sold out).