Exclusive: Kenya Grace on her Top 2 debut smash Strangers: "Disclosure changed my life"

The London based vocalist shares the secrets to her rise and what we can expect next.
kenya grace strangers interview

Kenya Grace had one hell of a September. 

Her major label debut single Strangers - an elegant drum'n'bass track all about the heartache that occurs when someone you're close to suddenly leaves your life forever - has burnt a bright trail up the Official Singles Chart.

Originally becoming her first-ever song to chart in the Top 40, Strangers has so far peaked at Number 2, and has been one of the main challengers seeking to de-throne Doja Cat and Paint The Town Red from Number 1. 

Right before Strangers entered the Top 10 for the first time, we connected with Kenya to discuss the genesis of the song and - as an artist who writes and produces all her own material - her greatest inspirations. 

MORE: Who is Kenya Grace?

Kenya, first of all - congratulations, the rise of Strangers on the Official Singles Chart has been insane to witness. But take me back to when it made its Top 20 debut, your first! What did that feel like?

It was crazy. I actually didn't really know much about how the chart works...sorry! Like, I didn't know or think it could happen [for me] at all. This entire experience has been amazing. 

But to take it back right to the start...where were you born? 

I was born in South Africa, but we moved to Britain when I was a baby and I was around Southampton. It was amazing! But then I moved to Guildford to go to uni, then I moved around London for a little bit for like, three years. Basically, right in the middle of COVID. But I've only recently moved back home, just so I can concentrate on music, and it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made.

I'm a big proponent of moving home to focus on your dreams

Honestly, it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I was really scared at first, because it does feel once you've moved out and then come back, you're moving backwards a little bit? I really thought that at the start, but it's actually been life-changing.

You went to ACM Guildford - please tell me it was like Glee, I'm seeing people dancing on tables

Honestly, I met people I still work with now there. It was basically a massive networking event. I did a songwriting course at uni, and that's what made me realise that I wanted to get into production. So, while I was studying songwriting, I was back at home teaching myself how to produce my own music. I needed to do it. I kind of wish I had a done a production course...

Honestly, I think all the best producers are self-taught

The best thing I learned [trying to do it all myself] was when I was going into sessions with people I'd never met before. They were so much better than me, so I just ended up watching them, and thinking how I could do that myself. It was like, OK, that's how you do that. 

Production-wise, who are your artistic touchstones?

When I was at college I was massively influenced by Disclosure and Flume. They kind of changed my life. I knew that was the kind of music I had to make. 

What was the initial idea that sparked the genesis of Strangers?

I don't really sit down and mean to write things, if that makes sense? It really fascinated me how you can have a relationship with someone, romantic or platonic, where you go from literally seeing them every day for months and months and then you just never speak again. It's quite sad! And I don't know about most people, but I could never handle being friends with my ex. But I didn't even mean to start writing about this! It just happened. I just felt so strongly about how sad it is. 

My favourite thing about the song is that the production is completely banging, but the lyrics are, like you say, about a really sad situation

The juxtaposition there is my favourite thing too. It's really vibey and it makes you want to party, but at the heart of it, it's really sad. If I'd made a sad version, you'd literally be sat alone in your room crying.

This is your major label debut single - was it clear from the time you finished it that this was the track to lead with?

No. It wasn't! I wrote Strangers in February and actually...this is quite funny...I was originally [going to lead] with a different song. It's very trance, I was leading that across all my socials and that is coming out soon, but I wrote Strangers as a filler post. I wanted to keep people engaged! When we actually finished it, though, I think everyone knew this was the one to go with. 

I think this has come at such a great time for women in dance music - drum'n'bass as well, which is seeing such a resurgence. Becky Hill and Chase & Status just scored a Top 10 with Disconnect, too. There's also so many women in pop writing and producing all their own stuff - Charli XCX, Eliza Rose, PinkPantheress...

I honestly think this is such an inspiring time for women in general. There are so many sick girls out there right now smashing it. We're feeding the narrative of girls absolutely slaying it, as they should! I actually love it, and I'm so happy to be a part of it. 

Are there are dream collaborators on your list right now?

I really want to collaborate with Skrillex. Or maybe Fred again..

Strangers is out now. 

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