Becoming Reinel Bakole

With our new interview series ‘BECOMING’ we aim to zoom in on the person behind the music and go back to where it all started. While touching on topics such as their creative process, their childhood & their surroundings, we will try to give you a look inside their world. First up is Reinel Bakole, a young Belgian-raised, London-based singer/songwriter who just released her latest single ‘507//Bird’ taken from her forthcoming debut EP which is slated to drop later this year. We talked about how her love for dancing inspired her to become a singer, what inspired her to move to London & much more.

Which music was played in the house when you were young?

My parents got divorced when I was three so I really got immersed in both of their worlds. My mom loved Whitney Houston, Phill Collins, Bob Marley & a lot of Michael Jackson. My father was more into Gospel & African music.

How did that music influence your art?

In many ways but what influenced me even more was the music I heard at the dance school: a lot of electro, house music & classical music. It really opened a lot of doors because I always listened to a lot of genres and my taste was very diverse. Most of the time I make soul & jazz but recently a friend of mine asked me to be on one his tracks. Mind you, he makes house music but I was really excited to try this because it’s challenging.

Which albums have had a big influence on your music?

Voodoo by D’angelo, For Emma by Bon Iver & a lot of Billie Holiday’s music.

When did you first fall in love with music?

I went to France every summer to attend a dance camp. There was this one teacher and I was really intrigued by the way he listened to music. He really taught me how to deconstruct a track and hear every note, bassline, every tiny particle of a track. It was like a whole new world that opened for me.

When did you feel the spark to make music yourself?

About two years ago. When I studied in Amsterdam, I went to a concert of IAMDDB, one of my favourite artists, by myself. I loved her perfomance and at a certain point she started talking to us and encouraged us to dare, to do what you love without fear & to listen to your inner voice. When I got home, I decided that I was going to be an artist.

Who was the first person who believed in your music?

My mom. I always sang at home but I was shy and my mom really pushed me to chase that dream.

What’s a piece of advice that’s had a big influence on your carreer?

Who dares, wins. I used to be super shy when I was young. When I was eight my dance teacher wanted me to audition for a company but I froze and started crying. For five, six years I was always hiding myself & later my best friend gifted me a shirt that said who dares, wins. That made me realize I needed to put myself out there much more.

What’s a piece of advice you’re glad you never took?

My mom once told me, you need to make music that makes people dance. And I was like mom, what kind of advice is that. I’m just going to make the music I want to make. Art is very personal and I think it’s very important to be authentic. I really want to follow my inspiration and trust it.

What have been some of the most pivotal moments in your carreer?

Last summer I performed in Berlin and it was one of my best gigs ever. I really succeeded to mix dancing & singing. I created this 35 minute set that really represented me and my music very well. It clarified how I want to share & grow in terms of my artistry.

How do you create your art?

I love to observe, talk with different people, reflect on my personal experiences and trying to find a way to deal with those things. Going to nature also inspires me a lot. Before I go to the studio I Always drink a cup of hot water with lemon & then I go for a run. When I have to do something important I need to relieve the stress & then I can start my day.

When is a song finished for you?

I feel like music is infinite but at a certain point you have to let go of the track. Mostly when I start to focus on the tiny details I realize that it’s time to release the track.

How do you feel when you get on stage?

It’s such a mix of feelings. I stress a lot but at the same time it’s such a nice feeling. That moment when I put my first step on stage, it feels like home. I always loved being on stage.

How crucial is travelling & embracing other cultures to your artistry?

It has definitely played a big role in me becoming the artist I am. I’m Congolese so that’s a big part of me & I grew up in Europe so that’s already two worlds that have come together inside of me. Because of my job, the dancing and singing, I travel a lot and it really helps to get different insights and to learn the history of different countries/cities. I also feel like I travel through my friends. When I was in Amsterdam I met a lot of people from all over the world and they would share their journey & culture with me and that has also influenced me a lot.

You’ve moved a lot throughout your life. What’s the city that has inspired you the most?

Definitely London, where I’m living right now. The vibe there is really good. People are very curious and want to know all about your background. A lot of artists I love live there and it’s very important for me to be in the same dynamic of the city. When I lived in Amsterdam I always walked faster than most people and it would irritate me. It’s too laid-back for me. London is a whole different story, people are Always busy and are used to the fast life just like me. I love to be busy.

Who or what inspires you?

People and their strength. My friends are really important for me, they are my family. They have taught me so much and the way they deal with life and certain situations inspire me and force me to reflect on myself.

When was the last time you were in total awe of somebody?

Last month. I went to an open mic event in London and there was a guy who was singing blues. I literally took a chair and went to sit right in front of him so I could fully focus and be in that moment. He blew my mind.

How do you stay grounded?

By going to nature. I recently went camping with some friends of mine and I need to do it more. We don’t take enough time to just be in nature and put away our phones and get off social media. It really feels good to hit that reset button once in a while.

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