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Jordan Rakei Finds Freedom in ‘The Loop’ of Life

The Tokoroa-born musician captures life’s contrasts—big and small, vulnerable yet strong—on his fifth studio album

Jordan Rakei


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For his fifth studio album, Jordan Rakei went all out. 

“If a song needed to be huge, it had to be massive. If it had to be raw and stripped-down, I had to cut everything back,” Rakei tells Rolling Stone AU/NZ. “So you’re left with an album that’s very musically ambitious and big sounding, but at the same time one of my most vulnerable and personal ones.”

That’s what sets The Loop apart, Rakei’s boldest and most cinematic project yet – which also happens to be his first with major label backing (Decca Records, under the Universal umbrella).

Breaking away from his usual DIY sound, Rakei recorded The Loop live at London’s prestigious RAK Studios with a full orchestra and an array of other musical collaborators.

The idea hit him when he found out he’d be playing at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in October. “I thought, I can’t go into that venue and play a really minimal, ambient album; it’s got to sound big. I’ve got to fill that venue,” Rakei recalls.

But Rakei knows that big things often start small, spiralling outwards like the loop of life. With expansive symphonies of strings, horns, and soul-stirring choirs, The Loop balances grand orchestral arrangements with sparsely intimate ballads, showing off his most direct songwriting to date.

Since his last album, a lot has changed for Rakei.

Having moved from Brisbane to London in 2015, the multi-instrumentalist quickly made a mark in the English capital’s soul-electronic scene, collaborating with artists like Tom Misch, Loyle Carner, and Barney Artist. Over the past decade he’s released four studio albums, refining his soulful groove-based sound on each one. From his debut Cloak (2016), delving into anxiety and introversion, to Wallflower (2017) under the legendary independent label Ninja Tune, and Origin (2019), his most commercially successful LP, to What We Call Life (2021), reflecting on personal growth and lessons from therapy sessions, his music has steadily evolved.

Credit: Supplied

At 31 and a new father, Rakei’s outlook has softened naturally. Parenthood has made him more empathetic, a theme echoed throughout the album as he explores inner growth and parenting. Lately, he’s caught himself looking at strangers at his local coffee shop or on the train to central London, and thinking, “Everyone has parents who did their best.” 

He admits to holding onto some childhood resentments, but now he understands the struggle of balancing career dreams with being there for his toddler. “I’m just trying my hardest, you know, to be present everyday.”

This shift is reflected in his songwriting, now more akin to personal diary entries. “In the past, I worried about what my band, managers, or friends thought. Now, I don’t care what anyone thinks; this is how I feel. I’m not hiding behind my metaphors or production tricks anymore.”

One song, “Hopes and Dreams”, particularly marked a turning point. Written after his son’s birth, it evoked tears—an unusual occurrence. “But then, I realised something really real was happening here,” recalls Rakei. “The fact that I’m alone, with no one watching, I found myself in tears, reflecting on the distress in the lead-up with the pregnancy. When the day finally came and he was born, it was such a relief. Even now, whenever I sing that song live, it still triggers those emotions, but in a good way.”

This song, along with others like the powerful “Friend or Foe”, which addresses the break-ups of friendships, and the tender finale “A Little Life”, which delves into the shadows of his past, marks a maturing lyrical expression for Rakei.

With this newfound freedom, Rakei assembled a team of musicians to expand the scope of The Loop, pushing beyond the confines of his impressive self-built home studio or usual solitary recording sessions.

“I found myself in a room with six strangers. It was scary, but their talent and suggestions pushed me. Working with them helped me grow musically,” he says. 

Reflecting on the spontaneous studio sessions, he remembers, “We had these moments where someone did something, and we all just started laughing. That’s how a song like ‘Trust’ came about—it’s a lot of fun. In the past, I might have judged it as too traditional, but now I’ve embraced it. It’s about tapping into that childlike sense of exploration.”

Rakei’s reputation as a respected music creator has solidified recently, and he earned the prized title of Abbey Road Studios’ first-ever artist in residence.

“They’ve basically given me the keys for a year to use it whenever I want, which is pretty crazy,” he grins. “I want to use it to make more music. It’s a great place to collaborate with different people and provide a platform for grassroots artists who can’t afford such venues. Hosting camps, workshops, writing weeks, and production sessions would be so fun to bring people who would never dream of being there.”

Looking ahead, Rakei anticipates a European tour this year, with the pinnacle being a career-defining moment at the Royal Albert Hall. “It’s one of those classic world venues that I’ve always dreamed of performing in for the last ten years,” he shares. 

While he still identifies as culturally Kiwi, there’s a bittersweetness to being so far from his native roots during these milestones. But he hasn’t forgotten his fanbase Down Under, confirming plans for an Australia and New Zealand tour in 2025.

“When I go back to New Zealand, it feels like home, but I’m culturally drawn to this part of the world. It’s hard to balance. You know, that’s why I stay busy, working and trying to distract myself from missing home.”

Amidst the excitement of this impending spectacle, Rakei equally cherishes the quieter, personal moments, especially the family reunion the show will bring. 

“About 16 of my family members from Australia are flying over for the [Royal Albert Hall] show, including some new babies,” he chuckles. “It’ll be chaotic, but it’s always fun when the family comes on tour. I’ll be in work mode, trying to stay focused, but then we’ll take a break and have a barbecue right before my biggest-ever gig.”

Jordan Rakei’s The Loop is out now via Decca Records.