“I’m happy,” claims British musician Raleigh Ritchie when asked how he is. By the looks of it, there’s a lot to be happy about when it comes to his career, both in music and acting. Raleigh might look familiar, because yes, he is that guy! For the fandom of the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, Raleigh plays Grey Worm, leader of the Unsullied—the group of soldiers that Daenerys Targaryen released from slavery. When asked whether he thinks if there are some similarities between him and his GOT character, he says that he doesn’t think that they have a lot, explaining, “I guess I’m quite an observant person. Grey Worm seems like an observer. I’m also pretty shy and quiet around people that I don’t know.”
Raleigh, whose real name is Jacob Anderson, fell in love with music first and has been working on it since he was 14 years old. “People will see me however they see me. There’s not a lot I can do about that. I have to work that extra bit harder, I guess, but I’ve always made music, so for me, I’ve always been a musician,” shares Raleigh. Why have another name though? Why not? Jacob got his stage name from one of his favorite movies, Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums; it’s a combination of the names of Luke Wilson and Bill Murray’s characters. “There was never a need to, but I wanted to,” he explains of his choice to have a stage name. “I don’t think Jacob Anderson is a great artist’s name. Raleigh Ritchie is basically just a band name. I’ve always had names that I went under for music and I’ve had a few since I was a kid. It’s more fun that way and it kind of works as a barrier of protection when you’re actually writing things. You feel safe to say whatever you need to say without there being personal consequences.”
His music, a mix of pop, R&B, hip-hop, and a bit of alternative, is pleasing to the ears even though Raleigh enjoys being loud and jumps around on stage when he performs. He sings beautifully—very stern, inviting, and telling. He sees making music as something he can do for the long haul, and his passion for it even helped him out personally at some point when he found himself in a dark place and professional help couldn’t help him out. “The thing that’s kind of kept me going this whole time is being able to talk about who I was or what I went through my music. It’s like good therapy,” shares Raleigh. With three EPs out, he’s now getting ready to drop his first full-length album any time soon. There’s no stopping this soldier, not even an entire army can sit him down.
Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to? How were they able to develop the kind of music that you’re doing now?
I listened to all sorts of things. My parents both had very eclectic tastes and I just kind of soaked it up. I listened to a lot of Neo-Soul when I was a teenager. That was the music that I was listening to when I was discovering myself. D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild—but then at the same time, I started to discover Bowie, The Smiths, and Alan Parsons Project. It’s kind of a hard thing to recall. It feels abstract to me because it feels like those things were always there.
Do you sing your own songs when taking a shower?
No. I sing bad ‘80s music in the shower. I don’t really sing my own songs unless I’m on stage. I don’t know why.
”THE THING THAT’S KIND OF KEPT ME GOING THIS WHOLE TIME IS BEING ABLE TO TALK ABOUT WHO I WAS OR WHAT I WENT THROUGH IN MY MUSIC. IT’S LIKE GOOD THERAPY.”
After releasing three EPs, what took you this long to finally decide on releasing a full-length album?
I’ve always been working on the album, but I wanted to do a trial on myself first, experiment a little bit, and test the waters. The EPs have helped me decide what I want my album to be, so I’m glad I did that first.
How do you know which songs to include in your EPs?
I tend to theme them, so if you listen back to all of them apart from Black and Blue Part 2, the EPs have a couple themes running through them. Like on “Black and Blue,” “Free Fall,” and “Stronger Than Ever;” they are about the same thing but with a different perspective, and “Bloodsport” and “Overdose” are about the same thing with a different perspective, so it made sense for them to be together, and the common theme is that they were all experiences that left me feeling bruised, which is why the EP is called Black and Blue. The album will be slightly different in that way because it’s bigger and there’s more ground to cover.
Do you have a certain goal every time you write a song?
Just to be honest, otherwise it’s not helpful. Writing a song is just as much a way for me to work through my feelings than it is about creating a song for other people to hear. Whatever I write, I do it for myself in terms of lyrics and also in terms of music and the producers I work with. I think you’ve got to make music you would listen to yourself. You don’t have to “make product.”
How was it like to go on tour and open for Kendrick Lamar?
Yeah, it was good. It was a while ago now, so I almost forget how it was and it just feels like a surreal daydream. I guess if I learned anything from him, it’s just to work hard and stay focused. He was at the end of a 60-date tour and still giving it his all on stage and then recording. That’s a lot! I want to have that kind of work ethic.
“WHAT I GET OUT OF MAKING MUSIC IS LARGELY SELF-EXPRESSION. IT’S A GOOD WAY TO VENT AND GET MY FEELINGS OUT OF MY HEAD AND INTO SOMETHING ELSE.”
How do you make sure that people watching you perform live will have a good time?
That’s really important to me. Doing shows is about the crowd; it’s about communication and connection. People have come to see you tell your stories, and often they’re stories they relate to; it becomes their story too. I think it’s important to give them that and then it feeds back to my band and me and then we’re all just together in a room sharing something. I mainly just want people to have fun and go home feeling like their night was special in some way.
What is it about making music that makes you want to create more of it?
What I get out of making music is largely self-expression. It’s a good way to vent and get my feelings out of my head and into something else.
Music career-wise, what are you looking forward the most this year?
I love festivals. British festival season is beautiful. It’s just a lot of people in a field together dancing. I guess the thing I’m most looking forward to is getting the album out though.
If you can tell your past self what’s the greatest thing about your present self, what would it be?
I wouldn’t tell myself anything specific. I’d say, “You don’t need to know, just work hard, don’t worry so much and smile more. It’s going to be alright.”