Rae Morris: The first time I played here everybody had a real blast
Rae Morris is back in Belfast after supporting George Ezra last year. It's great to return with her own show, she tells Andrew Johnston
According to her bio, English singer-songwriter Rae Morris has found the holy grail of musicians - never to have received a bad reception. And to be fair, her debut album Unguarded has been met by the kind of fanatical fervour more commonly reserved for the latest Star Wars trailer. The Sunday Times called it "amazing", Q magazine branded it "astonishing", while The Sun and the Daily Mail lavished the record with more stars than you'd find at a Band Aid reunion.
But the 20-year-old stresses it hasn't been quite the fairytale journey her press release would suggest. "It makes me sound like such a diva," Rae laughs. "I definitely have had a bad reception at support gigs, not going down super-well or people not really listening, especially in the early days when I was doing open mics and gigs in pubs."
As she says, Rae's ascent hasn't been without hard graft, and she has toured widely since bursting onto the scene with her Kate Bush-like piano pop in 2011. Tomorrow night, she headlines Belfast's Limelight 2, but it's far from her first visit to Northern Ireland. "I played Belfast on my first ever tour, in 2012," Rae recalls. "It was a tiny, little place, but it was such a novelty for me to be coming over to Ireland."
In 2013, Rae performed at the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, and she was here again last October, supporting George Ezra at the Limelight 1. "I think it was the first gig of the tour and everyone was so up for it," she smiles. "We had a real blast."
But the ebullient tunesmith is looking forward to finally playing her own show. "It feels like my first proper one, to be honest," Rae remarks. "It'll be nice to go out and know that people have come to see me."
Unguarded is aptly titled, as Rae's lyrics focus on extremely personal matters, principally in this album's case the break-up of a previous relationship. Did she have any hesitations about putting her feelings out there? "I really didn't," she insists. "When I started writing, that was the only thing I knew how to do, and that was the only reason for writing, really - to put across my feelings and to use it as an outlet."
Rae was born in Blackpool in 1992, and chose to remain in her native city as her career took off, instead of locating to London. She believes it's untrue that artists need to move to 'the Big Smoke' to make it. "I feel that's a myth," Rae says. "'Making it' is something that doesn't really happen overnight anymore, anyway, unless you go on a TV show or something."
As for her family, with her grandfather, father and uncle being amateur musicians and her brother also playing piano, Rae at least partially subscribes to the notion that musical ability can be genetic. "I definitely think you can have music in you," she opines. "I also think it's really important when you're in the womb and when you're a baby that you're surrounded by music, and my mum and dad would always play loud music."
Despite her heritage, Rae confesses she still experiences butterflies before gigs. But with a summer of festival dates and a headline UK tour lined up for the autumn, Rae is warming to the big time: "I am finding that I do like the spotlight perhaps more than I once thought I did."
Rae Morris plays the Limelight 2 in Belfast, tomorrow. For details, visit www.limelightbelfast.com