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Ria Ritchie: "Simon Cowell Looks Quite Intimidating"

EXCLUSIVE | MTV.co.uk meets Plan B's protégé...

The name Ria Ritchie may not mean anything to you yet, but the talented songstress from Norfolk is destined to be a huge star in the coming months - with the likes of Ben Drew a.k.a. Plan B already showing faith in the singer.

After discovering Ritchie's talents on YouTube, the She Said hitmaker waved his magic wand and invited Ria to London for a writing and studio session, setting the singer/songwriter off on a fairytale journey with five songs as the end result.

With over 10 million views and 35,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, Ritchie is nothing short of an internet phenomenon - one who has already had meetings with Jay-Z's business partner Jay Brown and had a taste of fame after supporting Tinchy Stryder on tour.

We recently sat down with Ria to find out more about her rise to superstardom, working with Plan B and how her rejection from The X Factor turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to this Lowestoft lovely - we just bet Simon Cowell is kicking himself now….

Q: For those who aren’t familiar with you or your music, what can you tell MTV.co.uk about Ria Ritchie?

A: I’m a singer/songwriter from Lowestoft, Suffolk. I play the acoustic guitar and I’ve been singing since I was about 12. I taught myself the guitar from the age of 17 and then just started putting videos on YouTube – that’s how it all started.

Q: Is there anything we might not know about you?

A: Well, I went to uni for a week to study sport before I decided to carry on with my music. I went to Freshers Week and then I left.

Q: Can you describe your sound in three words
?

A: Acoustic, pop and soul.

Q: Who would you say are your main musical influences?

A: Growing up, my mum and dad always played old Motown records like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin - they are my main influences and even now, I still listen to them. There is a lot of new stuff I like, I’m quite into pop music as well like Rihanna, and rap artists like Drake and Jay-Z but mainly, I listen to the old school stuff, it’s my favourite and I’m always influenced by it.

Q: Not only can you sing but you also write your own songs and play the guitar – do you think that sets you aside from other female acts out there to date?

A: I don’t know to what extent other female artists have input in their writing but I just think it’s really good to be able to write for yourself and get your style across. I think it’s good to do co-writes and bounce off other people but I think when you’re writing yourself, it’s you at the end of the day and people can believe in it.

Q: Artists such as Adele and Jessie J, who write their own music, are doing amazingly well at the moment – do you aspire to be like them?

A: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s a lot more credible to have input in your songs as well, it's important. It’s like I said before, people can relate and believe – especially if you’ve been through these things or know someone who has and your not just making stuff up - like Lana Del Rey. She’s brilliant. I have had a few people send me messages saying that they can relate to my songs – it’s nice when that happens.

Q: Plan B spotted you after seeing one of your covers on YouTube – how did you feel when he got in touch?

A: At first, I didn’t actually believe it. I thought it was a fake and someone had got my email address off my YouTube and sent me a message. He said he’d seen a cover, which led him on to one of my originals and he saw I wrote and that’s what made him email me. He then said he’d like me to do some writing with him and that his band were available whenever I wanted.

Q: Tell us about your time in the studio with Plan B.

A: It was really nerve wracking. I went down with my brother to Premises Rehearsal Studios in Hackney and when I got there and he wasn’t there yet – it was just his band. I met them before I met him and I was nervously waiting for him to get there. He was really cool and down to earth. We went out for a drink that evening and a few days later we were writing together. We got on really well.

Q: Did Plan B give you any valuable advice?

A: Yeah, he just said even if I write something and I don’t really like it or I’m not sure about it just keep it, as they always come out in the end and you use them. It was a good bit of advice as I used to write and think ‘Oh, that was rubbish’ and ‘I’m not happy with that’ and just put it to one side, but it’s good as I’ve now got all these different things and although I’m not completely sure about them, I might still use them.

Q: Are you still in contact with Plan B? Any more plans to work together?

A: Well, he’s really busy at the moment but we keep saying we are going to do some writing together - it’s just when he can find the time. He’s always there and I know I can always phone him if I need him. He will always help me out and give me advice. I can always email him lyrics or things I’m unsure about and he will get back to me. He’s a good little mentor to have.

Q: What can you tell us about your free download track, Blow Back?

A: I wrote that record with Sam Frank and it was written in a very cool way. He just made a beat on a really old drum kit and it was amazing. It didn’t take that long to write, we just sort of got an idea and then just wrote the lyrics together. It’s quite a different song - one everyone can relate to and interpret in their own way. I thought it would be cool to put it out for free. It’s quite different to what I’m doing at the moment but it still fits in with my sound. It’s nice to give the fans something for free as they’ve been so supportive of me on YouTube for ages.

Q: Your debut single is entitled Only One, what made you pick that as your first official single?

A: That song sort of came out of nowhere. The guy who I wrote it with is one of Plan B’s best friends and we’ve been writing together with just an acoustic guitar for a while. The main hook then came about as there were about seven musicians in the room and we just jammed and came up with the song. It just seemed like the best one to go with because it was really catchy and people seemed to like it. It went through quite a lot of people before we got the final version -  it was good to do.

Q: How did you find your first video shoot?

A: We shot it back home in Norfolk in a forest and on a beach in Wales. It was like the perfect day – it was freezing but also really sunny. It was weird as I’ve never done it before, I was used to just sitting in my room playing the guitar so I was a bit nervous, but once I settled into it, it was all good. The director and the whole team were really nice and made me feel comfortable. Now, I’m looking forward to the next one.

Q: You supported Tinchy Stryder on tour - did you enjoy the experience?

A: I toured with Tinchy and it was really good fun as got to play in Liverpool, Manchester and back home in Norwich, which was nice as I got a lot of local people who knew me to come and watch. It was good getting my music out there to people who hadn’t necessarily heard me.

Q: Any gossip from touring with the Stryderman?

A: He’s probably one of the most humble popstars I’ve ever met. He was really nice and really supportive. He watched my set every night and gave me feedback. He wasn’t just on his own in his dressing room – he got involved.

Q: We read that you have also been in talks with Jay-Z’s business partner Jay Brown, he’s signed the likes of Rihanna and Ne-Yo before, so how was it meeting him?

A: I met him once, it was a while ago now. It was a cool meeting, it was quite intimidating as he’s this really big business man but it was really cool and relaxed. We just had some food and drinks and he was playing me stuff on his iPad, asking me if I liked the songs. We literally just talked about music and what we liked and what we were in to. It was quite surreal.

Q:  You have covered songs by the likes of B.o.B, James Morrison and Lady GaGa – what sort of music are you listening to at the moment?

A: Like I said earlier, mostly just soul/Motown sort of stuff but I listen to a lot of rap music and hip-hop – like Jay-Z and Drake. I also like Lana Del Rey – I think it’s just deep lyrics that I’m into at the moment and with Drake, I think his lyrics are amazing and the way he says things are really interesting. That influences me and makes me want to say things in a different way.

Q: If you could work with any artist in the world right now, who would you pick? What sort of song could you see yourself making together?

A: It would be Drake. Maybe record something similar to Over My Dead Body on his new album. Or maybe like a Take Care – the one he does with Rihanna. It would be like an R&B ballad with a really cool hook.

Q: The Voice and The X Factor are incredibly popular right now, would you have ever tried out for either of those shows?

A: I did try out for The X Factor a good few years ago now. It was an experience and a bit of an eye-opener to what it’s all about. In the first audition, you’re in the O2 Arena with thousands of people and you can’t hear yourself sing. I think in a way it’s good, but at the same time it’s not good. You have to do like three auditions before you see the judges, and I didn’t get through to that but I did learn a lot in the process. A year after I auditioned, Plan B got in touch with me so I was chuffed and was happy that I didn’t get through in the end, because of all the stuff that’s happened now.

Q: Do you like The Voice?

A: I think it’s brilliant. I like what it’s all about. They also played my single, Only One, on one of the VTs.

Q: The X Factor also has younger judges like Tulisa and The Voice has Jessie J, do you think that encourages younger people to audition?

Definitely. Simon Cowell looks quite intimidating and when you’ve got people in front of you who have worked hard and have done what you want to achieve, like Jessie J and Tulisa, they can relate to the youngsters more and act more of a coach, instead of telling them what to do. 

You can find out more about Ria over at her official Facebook page here!

By Joanne Dorken