BRITs nominee and chart-topper Kenya Grace talks Strangers, dance music and going viral

BRITs nominee and chart-topper Kenya Grace talks Strangers, dance music and going viral

Kenya Grace is nominated for Song Of The Year at the BRIT Awards 2024 with Strangers.

The South-African born British singer, songwriter and producer hit No.1 with the single in October 2023. Strangers (FFRR/Warner-Parlophone) has sales to date of 698,793, according to the Official Charts Company.

Speaking to Music Week, Kenya Grace described the past few months as “crazy… very intense, but absolutely amazing”. Last month she inked a publishing deal with Warner Chappell.

Here, the rising star talks dance music, going viral and new music…

“When I first started posting on TikTok [in 2022], a few labels reached out to me and my management. We went for a bunch of different meetings all over London and one of them was with FFRR. We met [label boss] Andy Daniell and it all came together.

“It was quite tough to decide who to sign with. Everyone we met was so nice and great at their jobs, and I had good connections with other people, but I’m very happy with my decision. My experience is so small – this is the first time I’ve been with a major label – but I love my team and they are so supportive. 

“I’ve been writing since I was so young, it’s my favourite thing to do. I was born in South Africa and then I moved to the UK when I was a tiny baby. We first moved to Basingstoke [in Hampshire] and then when I was in year four, we moved to where I live now, which is a little town just outside Southampton. It’s nice, it’s cute, it’s very wholesome. 

“I got into musical theatre at school when I was about 10 and I fell in love with it. I used to sing in all the shows, so it was a different vibe to what I do now, but still great. I’ve always liked playing keyboard and singing and then I progressed to production. I started teaching myself when I was in college and have loved it ever since, but I’ve been really focused on it in the last year or two. I was like, ‘I want this to be my job, please!’

“I wrote Strangers very quickly about four months ago. It came out a month after I wrote it, so it was very fast. I spent half a day on it and posted it that evening. People were commenting on it and seemed to really like it. 

“A week later, I noticed that lots of people were making videos with the sound. That had happened to me before, but never that fast and it started climbing the Instagram Reels Charts. It was quite shocking; we would check every day and it would just be like, ‘Oh, 10,000 more people have done it.’ 

“Another thing I noticed was that loads of people were ripping the video, making bootlegs and uploading the song before it came out. So I was like, ‘Something is definitely different with this song, I didn’t expect it to be this big.’ [Spending three weeks at No.1] was amazing and unlike anything that’s ever happened to me before.

“I think Strangers cut through because of the lyrics and the theme of the song [break-ups]. It’s a relatable topic and a lot of people have been through the same thing. I speak to people after my shows and they’ll tell me that it’s helped them through a situation or the break-up of a relationship.

“I’m always scared right before I sing that song. I’m like, ‘You better not mess this one up!’ There is definitely a bit more pressure now, but [the success] has brought so many more people in and that’s just the coolest thing ever, so I can’t complain. I get quite bad stage fright, so I’ve been working through that and trying to get more confident. I did four shows for a little European tour and already feel much more confident. You just have to chuck yourself in and work through it.

“The UK dance music boom has been great, especially with so many female producers, writers and artists coming up, so I hope I’m part of that. I see other artists who produce and sing doing well, like Venbee, Charlotte Plank and Issey Cross, and then I go on TikTok and see so many more female artists doing their thing and I just love it. It’s a cool time and it’s definitely needed.

“I love dance music; I listen to it all the time and am always drawn to it, so I will probably always stay connected to it in general. But I love slower songs and ballads as well, and I want to share more of what I can do, so I probably will branch out. I don’t want to stay in one lane.

“I’m finishing an EP that will show more of the genres I want to do. I just want to get out lots more music so that people can see more of my artistry. 

“I’m not chasing another moment like Strangers – I feel like it would be a mistake to try – but I want them to be able to see more about me and about what I do and what I make.”

Interview: James Hanley 

Photo: Hannah Diamond


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