#MyStyleMySound with Rina Mushonga
Reading Time: 5 minutes
ellesse: If you could just give me a bit of background about you growing up, if you were involved in music or anything?
Rina: Yes definitely, I started with piano lessons, parents forced me to go, I hated hit and I just wanted to write my own stuff quite quickly actually. Then I graduated to playing guitar and I really liked writing and literature in high school, so it was quite a natural evolution to writing my own songs. I grew up in Zimbabwe, so that’s where I started performing as well, open mic nights with friends in Harare. There’s this place called the ‘Book Café’ where we all hung out and where they had live music – one of the few places there – it’s quite legendary actually because it was politically active as well in that time. So, that’s where I ‘cut my teeth’, playing live and testing out new materials and that kind of thing and it sort of spiralled out of control from then.
ellesse: So, does the music culture help you get away from the political side of things?
Rina: Yeah, I mean I think that music in general, you know it could mean escape but could also just reflect the world around you and the things that are going on and I think that, that was very much happening at that time of course as well. It was an outlet for people and a really good way to voice your opinions and critique, but for me I was only 17/18 at the time so for me it was mainly drinking with mates and trying out new songs, it wasn’t very heavy handed or anything like that, but I think we were aware that bigger things were at play.
ellesse: Can you remember your first big musical memory, like a CD or the first gig you went to or anything iconic?
Rina: First CD is always a tricky one because I think that my sort of ‘CD’ would’ve been a cassette tape probably, like Rocksett. I was thinking about it recently because somebody was talking about writing fan letters and stuff and that they did that a lot and I was like ‘nah I never did that’ and then I was like ‘I think I did once write a fan letter to Rocksett when I was 11 or something or 12, but then I failed to actually send it. This is a really lame first musical experience, but yeah, I’m going to stick with that, Rocksett.
ellesse: Is there anything that drives in the music industry today, anything that keeps you going?
Rina: I think the need to make music and create, I don’t think the music industry is something that is very conducive to keep anyone going who’s doing it, it’s usually quite wearing. I think that it’s really important to focus on what you want to do and what you want to make, that’s the most important thing, then all of the industry stuff is secondary I guess. I think what inspires me is, that the music that’s being put out now is allowed to exist a little more outside of this neat, little commercial box that has been up for so long. There are more fusions of genres and more playing around with different styles and vibes with in a song or just one artist. It doesn’t have to be just R&B or just Hip-hop or just pop or indie or whatever, I think a lot more people are realising that its really fun makes music more interesting if you play around with it a bit more and don’t think in every conventional way. So that’s inspiring now for sure.
ellesse: In terms of your music career and when you first started recording and started releasing EPs – could you just guide us through that journey?
Rina: After I left Zimbabwe to go and study I left music for a while, or I just wasn’t very involved or active with it. I just wanted to study and do that for a while, and a study in literature I thought that, that may have been useful for my song writing at a later stage. It was towards the end of my degree where I realised that either I could keep on studying or get a different kind of career, or it’s going to be music and that I need to make some decisions. Then after having multiple arguments with my parents about deciding to go to music, that’s what I wanted to do. I had a really good friend of mine who gave me some money to record an EP and a few songs in a studio which really kick started everything. It wasn’t an amazing studio, and it wasn’t a hell of a lot of money but it was enough to make it more serious, and also feel supported by someone else, and that helps you also take it more seriously. So, I recorded a few songs and somehow that got picked up by an agent in Holland and Amsterdam and I moved there and got more attention through them. I was able to get a deal to make an album, which I did, and then after the album I did a lot of gigging and festivals and touring and stuff like that in Holland and Europe. Then recently, a few years ago, decided that I needed to move and have a fresh perspective and try new things, and my sound was shifting, just a lot of things were happening artistically for me as well. So, I was like ‘let’s go to London’ where it’s all happening, and I lived here when I was quite small as well so I felt at home here. I’ve been to Peckham a couple of times where my good friends were living and thought that this is fuelling me and inspiring me to write new stuff and then everything just came together. Since being here I’ve been signed to a new label and I’ve been working for the past 2 years or so on my new album which is coming out next year and been releasing singles this year. I think that’s it.
ellesse: What was it that connected you with ellesse then and these sessions? Was it a label contact?
Rina: I think my booking agent somehow got in touch with someone at ellesse, I have no idea, I got an email and they were like ‘would you like to do it? You’ll get cool, free, ellesse stuff’ and I was like ‘sure, that sounds fun’, and it was fun. Being able to record here as well, it’s such a great studio, and being with lovely professionals as yourselves.
ellesse: Could you describe what it’s been like today and the process you’ve gone through and recording your songs?
Rina: So, it was really exciting coming in because we walked in and saw loads of camera guys and lights up, you know I’ve been in great recording studios before but this is really set up for filming purposes as well. And we had already been in touch with ellesse of course as well about styling and that kind of stuff which is exciting because I really love fashion and I love thinking about fashion… that sounds weird but you know what I mean. So, having the opportunity to talk to a stylist and be like ‘what are you going to wear? And what’s your band going to wear? And what’s your vibe?’ and mixing that in this context was really fun. I was really excited to be here and so coming in, we went upstairs and had a chat with Gemma, the stylist who’d been working on these beautiful, tie-dye, custom, ellesse shirts, and just trying out different things and deciding what we were going to wear and then came down and recorded 2 songs. You do a couple of takes to get into it and wait around a bit and camera people have to do camera people things and that was it.