Rita Ora Talks Debut Album, Working with Drake and Seeking Second Opinions
Roc Nation’s rising starlet Rita Ora has the ability to make an ice box-cold studio feel like a sauna with her soulful, throaty vocals.
She also has a bit of a rebellious side. even When the teleprompter instructed her to omit the curse words from her debut single “How We Do (Party),” Ora continuously sang “bullshit” during acoustic takes.
Besides a fondness for swearing that will leave you in hysterics, the Albanian songstress also has an effortless sense of humor. When she’s lounging in front of you on a couch, dressed in a billowy camo skirt and a pair of J’s, it feels like you’re the only two people in the room.
Being down-to-earth is part of her charm, especially in an industry that persistently compares her to Jay-Z’s other other chick. No matter your gender or preference, those bouncy blonde tendrils, that crimson red pout and piercing brown peepers will get you.
During her MTV Unplugged taping at New York City’s urban NEP Metropolis Studio in July, VIBE sat down with the natural beauty who unexpectedly popped the first question (“Did you watch the sessions”? she asked). As her native Brit buddies would say, I lost my wits, nearly forgetting that I’d watched her five-song Unplugged set more than three times. My girl crush may have been as blatant as the pink on my cheeks but thankfully, Rita barely even noticed—she had a debut album to gush about
The name of your album is O.R.A. Is there a significance behind that?
No, it’s just Ora. I like how it looks. In my language, ‘ora’ means time and it took me a long time to do this album, like three years and it’s my surname. I just felt like it was very convenient. It’s simple, clean and effective.
Did you have a specific vision in mind while creating this album?
In the beginning, I didn’t think I was making music that mattered to me. Well I know I wasn’t, I was making music that I thought I had to make. I was 18, I got excited I got signed to Roc Nation, I got Jay behind me. I’m like ‘Oh my God, I have to take a minute.’ My mom would be listening to my songs and she’s like, ‘You don’t even sing like this. That’s not even how you sing.’ I love soul music. I have a very soul-y voice and people don’t really know that. So my mom was like, ‘Do that, that’s who you are’ and I literally scrapped the whole album. Now I’m really proud of what [I’ve done].
Was Jay holding your hand throughout the entire process?
Yes and the amazing thing was that he let me scrap everything. He just believed in me, trusted my word and I said ‘Look this isn’t me. We’re doing it again,’ and he just said ‘Ok.’ That’s when you know you have a great support system.
I heard Beyoncé took a listen to the album. Did she offer you any advice?
You know how crazy it is playing my album to her? Destiny’s Child is one of my biggest [influences], like I love them and I was just sitting there playing my record, like ‘Yo, I’m playing you my album.’ Even though she’s one of the most normal human beings, it’s still Beyonce. So I would tell her, ‘Oh, do you like it?’ and she’d be like, ‘Yeah, maybe you should go back and change that adlib,’ just literally helping me out.
Even during the show, I noticed that you’re always seeking a second opinion. How do you find that balance between what others say you should sound like and who you want to sound like?
I care about what my fans think. I care about what my friends and people that mean the world to me think. That’s why during the sessions, I looked at my sister and said ‘Is it alright?’ People always need a second opinion, even though they’re like ‘No, I know who I am.’ But that’s just how I am. At times, I do need reassurance like everybody else.
You have the song co-written by Drake called ‘R.I.P.’ on your album. What was the conversation like when he first heard it?
He told me, ‘You killed it. You swagged it out completely,’ because it’s hard, you could sit there and sing the song but it’s about the feel.
So are we any closer to an actual song collaboration?
I would love for there to be but on this [album], there isn’t. There’s a lot of collabs on there though, there’s Will.i.am, the-Dream’s on there, Major Lazer’s on there, and obviously Tinie Tempah.
Now I couldn’t help but notice your kicks. Do you prefer Jordans over heels?
I’m a sneaker girl. I do wear heels and have a nice collection but I can’t perform in them.
What do you hope to accomplish with this album?
I just want people to absorb the music and enjoy it. I really want to make people smile.
Catch the full performance will premiere at 2PM EST on Monday (Sept. 17) across MTV’s websites including unplugged.mtv.com and Ora’s Artists.MTV page.