U.K. pop newcomer Rudie Edwards arrived fully formed last year with the release of her debut solo single "I'm Not Her," drawing comparisons to likes of Mariah Carey and Donna Summer.
Aided by a degree from The BRIT School in London -- the famed music institution that calls Adele, Amy Winehouse, Imogen Heap, Jessie J and more as alums -- Edwards first earned her stripes behind the scenes as a songwriter for top artists including CeeLo Green, Erik Hassle, Beatrice Eli, Benga and more. After inking a solo deal with Atlantic Records, the mulitalented writer/producer is now making a play for pop stardom of her own.
On the hells of her second euphoric disco-pop gem "Lover Like You," Billboard caught up with Edwards to chat about her evolution from songwriter to solo artist, signing to Atlantic Records and shaping up her debut EP.
Take us back to the beginning. When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician? Was your family musical?
I grew up in Dover, a small town in Kent, England. Dover is rough and tough, but also extremely beautiful. It's one of those small towns that people never really leave, if you know what I mean; they just get stuck. When I was 8 or 9, my granddad asked me what I wanted to be and my response was "a singer," and my answer never changed. The music scene growing up was mainly drum and bass, I guess. I used to go to these chavy under-18 nights. I used to gig around Dover with my music teacher's jazz band too, back in the day. He introduced me to the likes of Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles. I was obsessed with jazz through most of my early teens, couldn't get enough of it.
Obviously The BRIT School has a huge legacy. How did being there shift your ambitions?
I was 15 turning 16 when I started BRIT. Being around all those musicians was the best feeling I'd ever had and those were some of the best years of my life. I just kind of took it as it came. I try not to look too far ahead or I just lose focus on what I'm doing in the moment. I make music because there is no pressure, there's no boss telling me what to do, how to write, it's all my own work.
You've penned tracks for CeeLo Green, Erik Hassle, Beatrice Eli, Benga and more -- how did you first get involved in songwriting for other artists?
All of that came from writing for myself. I don't really write songs with other people in mind. I always think I'm writing for myself, about me and my experiences. Sometimes another artist relates to the song and wants to sing it. I love that. [When writing for others] it has to be real. I don't see the point of singing a song if you don't feel it. If I'm involved in writing a song for someone else, it's important to me that they feel every word.
What's your favorite song that you've written for another artist?
Beatrice Eli's "The Last Time." It sticks out to me because it reminds me of the time I was in a crappy relationship and feeling like shit living out in L.A. It was the first time I met Beatrice Eli. She swooped in and turned everything around, and she's now one of my closest friends. We wrote "The Last Time" full on rum and ginger beer and cigarette smoke. We wrote it about leaving our exes. I eventually left mine a year later.
As a budding solo artist in your own right, what artists do you look up to for inspiration?
Prince. The way that guy made music amazes me. Constantly taking risks and pushing boundaries. A true artist.
The video for your single "Lover Like You" is very dance-heavy. Have you always been a dancer?
Dancing is my second favorite pastime. I'm not sure if I'm any good at it, but I know it makes me feel good, so I just do it. I think the style of the song determined the style of the video. We shot a lot on film to keep that classic, retro feel. The video was very Soul Train inspired. I saw the Jamie T "Zombie" music video and knew I wanted to work with James Slater, so we reached out. He had an idea for a futuristic disco theme for the video, which I loved, so we just cracked on with it and shot it all in London. It was a lot of fun.
In the industry, music production is a fairly male-dominated sphere. Do you feel like the tide is turning?
Some of my female friends are the best producers I know. Soon everyone will know what's up. There's so many great females in this music industry, not just producers. I'm excited to be a part of it. I wanna bring more funk to the table and take it as far as I can go.
Tell us about the new EP. How's it coming along?
Right now, I'm in the mix process and just focusing on that, but the whole EP is about love and all the turmoil that comes with it. I'm still deciding what to call it. I have a bad habit of leaving things till the last minute. All of the songs on the EP tell different sides of the story, the love and the hate. At the moment, I'm deciding which side to release.
If you could pick one thing, what's at the top of your career bucket list?
I'd love to play Jools Holland. I grew up on it and always found new artists through watching it. I first heard Bon Iver on the show. I'd love to collaborate with Angel Olsen; I think she's an incredible lyricist. They get me every time.