RIKKI LEE: TOO HOT TO HANDLE
Summer's here, and on top of the gorgeous weather, singer Rikki Lee's back, his trademark smile as bright as ever. He's got plenty to smile about too, as he's just released a banging dance track that's so catchy it's guaranteed to have you singing along to it right after the first listen. He may have been keeping a low profile these past few months, but his name, and particularly his music wasn't thanks largely to his last single Feel Alive, which occupied a good chunk of the airwaves, both here in Malta and abroad, after having been picked up by international label CAP-Sounds. Michael Bugeja caught up with Rikki Lee to talk about his latest single 2 Hot 2 Handle, recorded in collaboration with Austrian producer Johnny Vincent and his plans for the summer.
You've been fairly quiet these past few months despite Feel Alive's success. What have you been up to?
First of all, I have to say I'm really pleased with Feel Alive's performance. It was quite a difficult challenge to follow up (last year's) Smile, which had gone down remarkably well. Fortunately, collaborating with Mr. M was the right move as it yielded another great tune that received a lot of support from many DJs, further to which being picked up by the CAP-Sounds label in Europe certainly gave the song a bigger boost. I was deliberately keeping a low profile because I was busy building a recording studio and of course, exploring new sounds for the music I’m currently writing. This single is just the beginning, believe me there's plenty more to be revealed this summer.
New single 2 Hot 2 Handle is another collaboration, this time with Johnny Vincent. How did the two of you hook up?
Johnny Vincent and his production crew contacted me off the back of Smile as it was doing well in Europe at the time. They wanted to get together and produce a track which I was thrilled about. It's an upbeat track with a lot of energy and it's been very positively received already despite only being out just over a week, which we're all obviously happy about.
It's more than evident you like working with different people, but what about it do you find so engaging?
As a solo artist, I have the freedom of working with whomever I choose without upsetting anyone. It's one of the good points of not being in a band, although I have to say I really do miss my band days and the tours we did. But anyway, this is a new chapter that needs my full focus, although I would easily put another band together is the need for it arises.
Collaborating with other artists brings new light, a new energy into the studio which one might probably never think of. The different backgrounds, different tastes all merged together can lead to a great and productive way of working. On top of that, I find working with new people makes me more creative as there is more space to bounce ideas off one another without being stuck in a box, which can happen if you work with the same people all the time.
Clearly, despite coming from a rock background, your last few releases indicate a distinct shift towards dance music. What attracted you to switch direction and who would you say inspires you in this genre?
That’s true, last year after Feel Alive I was going to walk away from electronic dance music and fall back onto something that was more in line with my roots. That said, if someone has something great in mind regardless of genre or style I will always work with them. I'm in the fortunate position of being able to work in any genre of music which also gives me a wide spectrum to choose from. Music is a very passionate thing and if you feel it you have to run with it regardless of what category it falls into. I’d do a jazz/blues number tomorrow if I could; I’m completely open.
Going back to your new single, the accompanying video is your first to feature animated graphics...
Yes, the idea was actually a concept from Johnny Vincent based around the lyrics I had written. The message and portrayal was pretty simple really, a strong fascination that the main character had fallen in love with and his desire to meet her, which practically turned him into a stalker. As the story unfolds, it takes a twist, but let me leave it there so as not to spoil it for everyone. The video, which is currently also being played on MTV, can be streamed on both my YouTube channel and my Facebook page, which you can find at www.facebook.com/rikkileemusic.
Last but not least, what's next in your plan?
It's a very big next, actually! Now that my production studio is ready, my aim is to knock out a track every two months, so after current single 2 Hot 2 Handle has run its course, I'll be releasing another single, which I can exclusively reveal here will called Naughty Girls and features Maltese entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti. This is a track I’m very excited about because it's taken me back to the music I used to write, a funk-pop style with catchy melodies and big hooks. We're working on a really sexy video lined up for this one and I have to say Hugo really surprised me with his vocals and professional approach in the studio.
This article was first published in The Sunday Times of Malta (21 June 2015)