Written by Sophie Wyatt
Breaking into the music industry back in 2020, singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Raquel Martins has certainly made her presence known. Alongside playing guitar for a long list of musicians, Raquel has been working on her a steady stream of her own uniquely crafted tracks. Mellow vocals laid over strong percussion and hypnotising guitar riffs, Raquel’s music is continuing to grow as she does. We caught up with Raquel at an early 9:30am start which didn’t seem to phase her; “Sometimes your brain isn’t as conscious early in the morning so you get some interesting bits.”
Living in South London, Raquel moved from her hometown of Porto, Portugal 5 years ago. Now used to the buzz of the city, Raquel explained that, while Porto is beautiful, “it has its limitations which is why I’m here. I loved growing up there, it’s very calm. But At the time there wasn’t a lot going on, nothing that I was really amazed by musically.” Having grown up around Brazilian music, it wasn’t long before Raquel picked up an old guitar of her Grandpa’s and started to create her own sounds. Crediting her grandpa and his love of music with her own, the singer-songwriter took a moment of nostalgia while she spoke on these first memories of discovering music.
Last year saw Raquel take her music down a different path. Describing it as a “year of transition“, she explained that 2022 allowed her to move away from the session world to her own musical utopia – “It was the year that I needed.” Having had some reservations about creating her own music, unexpectedly lockdown gave Raquel the boost she needed to start putting out her own tracks. And while she explained that she loved playing alongside other artists, there is a different feeling to sharing her own inner-most thoughts through music. “It’s a way of connecting with people because you put something out and you get something back.”
Having worked alongside jazz artists such as Poppy Ajudha, Raquel is no stranger to supporting her fellow female artists. With a growing but still unequal balance of female to male artists within the industry, women often find themselves caught at a cross roads when entering a creative field. Although there is the passion, there is also the uncertainty of how far they can push themselves to keep up with a biased, male industry base. Raquel said that even from her short time in the industry, she has seen a huge amount change. But more must be done to make women feel comfortable taking that initial step. “I would never go up on stage and play guitar if I wasn’t sure this was going to be my career. I think men are more able to do things to an average level because they don’t have to prove themselves so much. There’s much more opportunity now and more female led bands and artists, but there is still a lack of women in music.”
While many people bundle Raquel’s music under the sole label of jazz, her music is far from just one sound. Layers of influence are palpable throughout Raquel’s songs, and this is not an accident. “I’m into music that surprises me, and that’s always been the music that I’m into. So, if I could label my music, that wouldn’t excite me at all. Now for the next project I’ve been thinking about what I can add to the mix.” And once again this passion for surprising not only her listeners but also herself with these new sounds, Raquel has given us her EP ‘Empty Flowers‘.
An inward-looking and intimate record that fights and loves all at once, ‘Empty Flower‘ follows in the footsteps of Raquel’s debut EP ‘The Way‘ which caught the attention of the UK scene and international tastemakers alike, as well as amassing over 600k streams. ‘Empty Flower‘ comes as a natural evolution of Raquel’s unique sound and songwriting, whilst still keeping her musical influences and roots very present with her production. Behind all the big arrangements and instrumentation, it’s a deeply vulnerable record with a very intimate sound that was produced directly from her bedroom, touching on topics such as identity, growth, emotions, gender roles, and sexuality.
Discussing her first release from the EP, ‘Mountains‘, Raquel explained that this song was the first vulnerable, intimate track she had put out. Alongside this she created a video to accompany it and create a more visual trail of her emotions. “We were all able to convey the message of the song and then elevate it with the video. Which is the important thing that people understand what I’m trying to put across.”
Not only does the 4-track EP surprise listeners with it’s experimental qualities, but also in the range each song gives us. As we learnt in our chat with Raquel, she’s not one to hold back when it comes to trying out new sounds and topics, and this really comes through when you are trying to understand the emotions you feel when you listen to each song, and Raquel explained the she felt the same when creating them. “The industry is moving so fast, so sometimes it feels like you have to put all your thoughts and feelings into this one track because it might be your only chance to get it out there. But I think it’s nice when you’re working on a project you can communicate different things, so I don’t feel that pressure anymore. It can showcase different things.” And while this project is still incredibly new, Raquel explained that she is already working on her debut album. We’re on the edge of our seats as we witness Raquel’s progression as a talented artist.