A star is born. Steeped in the heady sounds of southern soul, Raquel Reno is a singer and songwriter who is rapidly setting the music world alight.
With influences ranging from Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin to Amy Winehouse, Raquel’s powerful live performances and soulful tones have been captivating audiences for years.
Her professional musical journey began in 2013 when she relocated to China to join a band, eventually moving to Abu Dhabi and then Dubai to form a rockabilly outfit. Giving current pop songs a vintage twist refined her original sound which transports listeners back to the heyday of the 1960s. But when Covid hit, everything came to a crashing halt.
Now Raquel Reno is back in the UK and poised to take her career to the next level having recently recorded her debut album in Nashville where she worked alongside a renowned group of musicians famed for the eclectic sounds of Muscle Shoals. Giving her work added authenticity, the album is being recorded at the legendary Sound Kitchen Studios, which is home to music legends including Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Elton John.
A natural storyteller, Raquel’s heartfelt lyrics resonate across a wide audience, further enriching her extraordinary vocal talents. As an emerging young artist who is generating huge excitement and a loyal following in both the UK and the US, Raquel is now performing at venues around the UK. Relentless magazine caught up with her at the prestigious Dancing with Heroes charity ball at the Landmark hotel in London where she delivered an outstanding performance.
As a young girl what influenced and inspired you to become a professional singer-songwriter?
I grew up in the 90s, the generation that saw the rise of pop girl and boy bands, however I was drawn to music from divas such as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys – solo female artists with gospel and soul backgrounds.
How did you end up in Nashville recording at the infamous Sound Kitchen Studio?
I wanted to experience the American sound and work with American musicians but I also felt it would open a creative door where I could really dive into songwriting and making music in the music city. It worked! On the second day of my arrival I wrote a song in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying with my British co-writer Nigel Lowis. The song came so easily!
How has living around the world, in places like China, Abu Dhabi and Dubai and especially Nashville influenced your worldview and musical style?
I’ve always been really spontaneous with travelling and working abroad. I took every opportunity so that I could travel to a new place and experience life surrounded by different people and cultures. This gave me a lot of inspiration and made me the artist I am today. I’m so grateful for those years as it also gave me a chance to really practise my craft.
What inspired the writing of Glitter and do you think the message makes it a perfect fit for charitable aims?
I wrote Glitter for a little girl called Chloe Balloqui who was very sick with Neuroblastoma. I first heard about her story when I moved to London and my partner‘s business at the time was supporting her fundraising for special treatment. Chloe would smile through everything, considering what she was going through. She was such an inspiration and it motivated me to help her through writing a song to raise funds. Chloe’s smile influenced everyone around her and really did leave ‘Glitter’ everywhere she went. The message is to try to be one of those people, to leave a smile, to be kind, positive and to be strong. It can make a difference to someone’s life.
The glamour and free living of the 1960s is often looked back on fondly. Do you think your music can invoke such feelings in a new generation who seek to recreate that vibe?
I particularly think that society has become more interested in the ‘vintage vibe’ over the past couple of years, so I’d like to think my music would fit well into the market right now. Fashion especially now is very influenced by the 60s & 70s, vinyl has become popular again, even high street clothing shops are selling vinyl now!
You have been performing back in London recently. Tell us about the events and how it feels to be back in front of a crowd.
I love being back on stage but even more so now because I am performing my own songs. I am so honoured to be part of the amazing events. Shooting Stars Ball, guests including Simon Cowell, Joan Collins, Tony Hadley, Keith Lemon, BBC Variety Show Business Awards performing on the same bill as Beverley Knight, Gary Barlow and Catherine Jenkins. It was incredible and definitely a huge accomplishment for me.
What has been the highlight of your live performances so far? And what would be your dream venue?
The highlight has been performing with my 9 piece band and seeing people get up and dance to my music, music which they’ve never heard before. That makes me feel really good. My dream venue is the 02 followed by Wembley stadium. I dream of touring and one day having the opportunity to perform in the US.
Variety Rocks and Back on Track Dancing with Heroes both offered a great opportunity for you to support good causes with your music. Is this important to your mission as an artist?
I have always been a very charitable person and I think it’s important to help people as much as possible, in general and for charities. I was given a gift to sing and write songs which helps me to connect to people through performing and sharing my music. This I believe is my purpose. To be a voice. To represent. To be heard so that I can help a good cause and raise awareness of it. I will work with charities for the rest of my life.
How important do you think it is for an artist to remain connected to their background, influences and overall message?
It’s what makes you an artist. Those personal influences have shaped my songwriting and my music. In the 60s, there was so much femininity, authenticity and girl power. In music there were The Ronettes, The Shangri Las, The Supremes, Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield, and don‘t forget film icons like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. These were naturally talented and beautiful women which I think modern society has moved away from. I‘d like to see that authenticity return.
Tell us about the new album, when will it be released?
I am hoping to release my album in 2023.
What‘s next in your career? What are your ambitions for this new chapter in your life?
I have recently been in the studio, writing and recording with really successful production teams. We are aiming to gig and release the debut album in 2023. My ambition is to be a successful international artist and tour the world. Watch this space!
Photography: Tony Breen