When I first discovered 17-year-old Croydon-based singer/songwriter Raye - which was probably about a year ago at this point - my immediate recommendation to my peers was something along the lines of "imagine a younger Rihanna if she could sing." But I quickly realised that description was a disservice to both artists - something that I truly realised when I met Raye for our chat.

To date, Raye has only released a handful of tracks on her SoundCloud page, many of which make up her debut EP Welcome To The Winter. It's heavy influence of modern day, '6'-styled hip-hop (Drake, PartyNextDoor, The Weeknd, etc) brings the mass appeal and probably explains why many of its tracks' plays are in the thousands ('Bet You Wish' even cracked the million mark). But there's also an underlying London-flavoured edge to it all. London and the UK as a whole has birthed a whole new generation of creatives thriving in their chosen paths, be it music, art or fashion, and Raye quite comfortably sits firmly somewhere in the middle. That's not to say she's not destined for greatness; having recently signed to Polydor Records, one would imagine there's plans somewhere in the pipeline to help transform this recent school leaver into the UK's best new export, but for now, I and many of her early fans are probably just enjoying watching her evolve amongst her natural habitat.

Accompanied by her manager and PR rep, I'm quickly reminded of her age, but there's a level of maturity to her that's unlike many other 17-year-olds. She (unknowingly or not) oozes confidence combined with a little teenage sass that balances out effortlessly. She takes a moment to answer the questions I present to her, not to overanalyse or overthink, but to ensure she's expressing herself in the correct way. It's endearing, it's sweet and rather refreshing, really. But underneath, I can sense there's a ball of energy just waiting to surface.

Throughout our time together we cover a number of topics including her musical inspiration, her love for Drake, touring with Years & Years, and being a feminist.

You've been putting music out by yourself for a little while. What is the inspiration behind your music? What inspires you to write the songs you write?

I'm a bit dramatic so I like to over exaggerate the things that go on in my life. They're all personal but they're quite magnified explosions of something small that may have happened. I don't know. I'm young, I just have a lot to say, I have a lot of interesting stories and I love the fact that I can just put it all into a song, however I want, and then just put it out and that's what I've been doing so far. It's just a form of expression I guess.

I know you're quite young. When did you finish school?

It's been a year now. I've been out of school for a whole year but I should technically still be in education I think!

Let's go back to that for a bit then. What were you like at school? What was your passion at school?

It's always been music since primary school I always used to try and sort out talent shows and sing wherever I could; that was so annoying! I learnt to play the piano when I was really young, when I was in my final year of primary school I wrote a song for my whole leavers do... I just fell in love with it at such a young age. I used to play sports as well. I did a bit of basketball but it was literally just music, that's all I cared about which is why I left my high school to go to the BRIT School. It's always been music, no question about it.

Is there a moment in your mind that you can pinpoint as to when you decided you wanted to make music your career?

A long time ago. My parents do music! I was brought up in the church; my Dad used to write songs for the church. I had so many little experiences where I was able to go to studios when I was like, 12 and I'm sitting around like "This is so exciting!" I never dreamed that it would actually be realistic especially at where I am in my life. But it's been a dream. I'm one of those people like, you know when you have an idea and you're like "I'm gonna do whatever I need to do to get there! What do I need to do?!" I've been so lucky and so blessed. It's always been my ambition for as long as I can remember.

Obviously a lot of people have come from the BRIT School. Having come from a traditional high school, what was it like for you? Was it a big change or was it quite natural for you?

It was a huge change! When you're in a high school, you grow up with people. You start young and you grow with them. But here, you're literally just thrown into a whole new place with everybody that's just expressing themselves with these crazy clothes, everybody is singing everywhere, it's competitive but it's such an incredible environment especially when you want to be in the creative industry; it just prepares you for it. You have experiences, you do shows but you're also around people - it's very similar, having been doing music for over a year, to the BRIT School. It completely helped everything flow. For me, I think if I had stayed at my previous high school without going to the BRIT School, I'd have been like "Oh whoa!" but it just prepared me. I think it was a really good experience for me.

I'm aware that you've been working with a variety of different producers, I'm guessing towards what will eventually be your debut album. How far in with it are you currently, would you say?

I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but I will anyway. I think I almost have an album. We have all the album songs, we're just working on singles at the moment. I'm writing songs now that probably won't be heard for quite a while but I think the plan is to release another EP before we even look at the album, hopefully by the end of this year. We have songs that everybody's agreed on, that everybody's happy with, but there's little missing gaps and pieces that I'm just filing at the moment. It's difficult because it's like mission impossible trying to get a song that's me but also appeals to everyone else, but I'm enjoying it. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

That was going to be my next question, actually. Have you found it difficult trying to find songs that remain true to you but also have that mass appeal? I can imagine there's times where you've written a song that's personal to you, you really want to get it out, only to be told it's not a "single" or something...

It's like that most days! [Laughs], You have to learn to not be too - and I know it's really difficult - to not be too precious about it. I think the hard thing for somebody like me is, if you listen to my EP, it's very R&B, electronic, underground; it's not radio. What's difficult is trying to find a way to do my thing on a song that this country would like because I want to make it here first; this is my home. I'm so far away from house music but if you look at what's in the top 10 in the charts right now, that's all there is. But we're going to get there; we're getting closer and I can't wait until that day that the label's like "that's the one!"

'Alien' seems to have captured a lot of people's attention. Avelino features on that and there's this whole generation of really creative and just honest artists coming through at the moment. But it seems with females, you're always pitted against each other by the media and in a lot of cases, these people are probably people you'd consider your friends/peers. How do you feel being compared to your friends or having to "fight" against them almost?

I recently had a revelation [Laughs]. It sounds so dramatic but I feel so strongly against... and like I said, from the little experience that I have had, it's so male dominated - there's boys everywhere! I haven't worked with a female producer yet and I really want to but I've met some female artists now who I get along so well with, we're just sharing stories and I just feel it's so powerful; girls empowering other girls. Being a girl in this industry is hard and we say sexism isn't an issue now - it's everywhere, especially in music but I'm all for the girls. That's why I have so much respect for Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj etc because they're just doing it as big as if not bigger than the men are. I love girl power. I'm a feminist! I love being a girl and I love being able to express that.

Who are your inspirations?

First one has to be Drake. I'm a die-hard, day one Drake fan! I must have found his Comeback Season mixtape on YouTube when I was like 11 or 12 and my parents used to tell me off because it had loads of swear words in it. He's been such a huge part of me falling in love with the type of music that I do. But then there's classics like Nina Simone - she's my idol! I study everything she does. I play a bit of keys, nothing close to how she even looks at a piano! She's just incredible. I just have so much respect for all genres of music. I really love music. I'm really getting into Tame Impala.

I believe you're about to release another song to the public soon...

I'm also doing something with Chris Loco, he did loads of the songs on my EP and we've done so much stuff together, he's incredible. But he's putting out an EP so I jumped on a track of his and that's coming out soon. We're putting one out later this month but we're still debating between two. They want one, I want a different one but we'll see. The song I want, for me is just female empowerment. It's really sassy and bold and I really just want to put it out so I'm going to try my best to fight my corner.

How did you come to meet with Chris Loco?

I was just going through a period of writing with a lot of people. I hadn't put any music out so I would just take what I could get. It kept getting rescheduled but I managed to pull a session with Chris and day one we did 'Bet You Wish' and I was like "Yep, you're the homie!" We did so many sessions together. You know when you just click with somebody and you've just got to keep working at that because it doesn't happen often; he is incredible, he's the future! You heard it here first! [Laughs].

Are there any other writers or producers that you're collaborating with? Do you work with other writers or do you prefer to write on your own?

More recently I've started collaborating with topliners. It depends -sometimes I'll turn up [to a session] and not really know who's going to be there and there'll be a topliner but I love vibing with somebody else because you get something completely different to what you'd come up with on your own. In terms of people I've been working with at the moment, there's a guy called SG Lewis, he's incredible! What's weird is, when I heard his music, I was like "This is nothing like me, how is this going to work?" But ironically, it works so well. I did some stuff with Oh Wonder and I think I might be supporting them for two shows in September. I'm doing some days with Labrinth, which is awesome, I think we're trying to sort something with MNEK... I've got doors open everywhere, I'm working with a lot of people but it's good; everybody brings something different and everyone has a different perspective. I'm just trying to get this one song so I suppose having many different perspectives can help me! [Laughs].

How was your experience touring with Years & Years? Their fans are quite die hard...

I got people outside the door giving me presents! Olly had put me in a photo and I guess somehow they though... I don't know! I was like "What? For Me?" It was weird! [Laughs]. It was crazy! It's the biggest thing I've ever done performing my own stuff. You just feel really vulnerable and really scared because they're not here to see you, but if you can make an impression, you feel really good. I even managed to get a quiet audience at one point which is amazing!

Have you had any ideas for when it comes to your own show, a headline performance perhaps?

I want it to be small so it feels intimate. I haven't really thought about it, I'm more thinking about the arrangement of songs, what songs I'd want to do in what order, how, if so and when I add a bit of choreography. I dance as well so I can't wait to be able to. All my songs are the moment are quite moody so I'd probably look really stupid if I'm busting a move! When the time comes, I'm all in to make that incredible but for now it's more about the songs, the output and getting my name out there, I guess, as much as possible.

You mentioned your parents earlier and that they were in music too. What did they do?

My Grandad on my Sad's side, when he was my age, he wrote hundreds of songs, played keys, guitar and loved music. Lived in Yorkshire, had no clue or way to do anything more so he just put it on tapes and put them in the attic. He had my Dad, he was exactly the same and he moved down to London to try. He was in a band, met a few labels but it didn't really work out. My mum sung in the church and my Dad became a Christian, met my mum in the church and he used to get involved with the church, writing loads of songs, the church loved him and it became my family's life. My parents had me, along with three other girls and I just turned out very similar to my Dad. I didn't want to do anything else. I think for my Grandad and my Dad seeing it - even though I'm right at the beginning, I haven't scratched the surface of what I would hope to achieve - I'm living a dream right now that my Dad and my Grandad wanted when they were my age; it feels incredible. I feel that, as cheesy as it is to say, I was born to do this. It's in my genes, it's in my blood.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? What are you hoping to achieve?

I'm looking forward to putting my EP out, my second EP. I'm also looking forward to playing more shows, lots of music and just getting more and more comfortable. If all goes to plan, we should be push more stuff early next year so for now I'm just getting ready for that, getting the music ready, getting the album ready, myself ready... It's going to be good!

It's probably a bit early to be thinking about this but what would you like your musical legacy to be? What would you like to be remembered for?

I'd love to leave some sort of mark. I'm sure everybody has the same dream; everybody wants to be remembered for something. If I could make something good enough that would stick around for a bit, that would be incredible. I haven't even thought of that, I'm just trying to get one record! [Laughs]. I'll have to have a think and get back to you... that's a big question!


You can visit Raye by heading here. You won't regret it.