If, like this author, you're currently swept up in the penultimate season of Game of Thrones, then you may find something familiar about the visage of rising singer Raleigh Ritchie. Yes, Ritchie (alias Jacob Anderson) is indeed an actor, and yes, he does play Grey Worm, the right-hand military man of Daenerys Targaryen.
But Anderson is truly a Renaissance man, as evidenced by his debut LP as Raleigh Ritchie You're a Man Now, Boy, released to high praise just last year. And though his acting prowess is substantial, any one of his songs demonstrates what a rich, consummate musical talent he is, spreading his honeyed tones over songs full of palpable heartache.
We also happen to have the premiere to his latest, a collaborative track titled "The River" with Chris Loco. Take a listen to the song below, and read on for our interview with Ritchie to discuss juggling his artistic careers, his musical background and whether his Game of Thrones-castmates are aware of his alter ego.
Tell us a bit about your musical background. Did you have any formal training?
Nah, I didn't have formal training exactly. I kind of taught myself how to write songs by just listening to things I liked and working out that the music I liked most was stuff where the artist wrote about what was in their head, confessional type stuff. That was probably the best thing I ever learned, that a song was basically just somebody's perspective. I went to a local group every Thursday though where we were encouraged to write a song and then perform it to each other. That's what gave me the confidence to actually share what I'd written.
What three words would you use to describe your sound?
Raleigh Ritchie's Head.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in creating your first album? The greatest reward from the experience?
I think the greatest challenge was convincing myself that people would care what I had to say and convincing myself it could be as good as something I'd want to listen to myself. The greatest reward was putting it out and hearing from people that felt something about it - whether they liked it or not - just knowing they felt something about it or related to it was the biggest reward.
How did your collaboration with Stormzy come about?
I can't remember exactly, but I think he tweeted about me or something just after he put out Dreamer's Disease and my friend told me to check him out. I bought the EP and thought it was really special, like it felt like a really coherent body of work, and he was talking about real shit in a really smart and concise way. It was refreshing. That guy operates on a lot of different levels. I was embarrassed that I hadn't listened to him earlier. I asked him if he would do a remix for one of my songs, he said yes and that's how we got to know each other.
You have a very distinct visual style, both in your album artwork and in your music videos. What would you say informs that?
I watch a lot of films. Like, a lot of films. I own about 1500 DVDs. I go to the cinema once a week, more or less. I got into films in a really obsessive way when I was about 14/15 and I've just built up a library, so it was always really important to me that my videos felt cinematic, or at least had a narrative.
A big part of how I relate to the world is visually. Even writing a song, to me it's about describing a feeling in images. I usually come up with some kind of visual, or a straight up video treatment as I write a song. And with artwork and that side of things, I love things that contradict themselves. Because I think I'm like that, my brain is like that, so the logo for instance is in this messy kind of violent font, but it's usually in this super bright pink. I like bright color palettes hiding some sort of dark shit inside them.
Do your castmates in any of your film and TV projects know about your alternate career? Have you ever sung for them?
We don't really talk about it, no. People say nice things about it though, and [Game of Thrones showrunners] David Benioff and Dan Weiss came to my show in LA, which was really nice and supportive. A few people - who will remain nameless - have taken control of the AUX cord, played one of my songs and locked me in the car on the way to set. I'm not good at dealing with that. I just block my ears and hide. It's weird hearing your thoughts and stuff out loud in public. When you write a song you never expect to be in public with other people listening to it with them, unless you're performing it for them.
As its a natural combination of your film and music backgrounds, have you ever done any musicals? If not, would you ever?
I was in Guys & Dolls at school, does that count? I'm not really one for choreographed dance routines. That could be a problem. I haven't been tempted in my adult life. I've been asked a few times though. Maybe one day. I think I'd rather write one than be in one.
For more of our premieres, take a look at this wild video from rising emcee Dai Burger right here.