How did it feel to Rexha to release her first full-length album into the wild? “I was really nervous,” the pop singer-songwriter says. “But I was excited. I went into a Target with my mom and we bought all the copies. That was kind of emotional for me. That was a really cool moment, you know? It kind of feels like you're giving birth, you know what I mean? I mean, I've never given birth before. [Laughs] My version of giving birth. I was having panic attacks the day before. I had cramps too.”
She says it's kind of notable how her new single, "I'm a Mess" -- which is an emotionally charged song that she wrote shortly after finding out a guy she liked “played” her and broke her heart -- follows the success of the sweet and hopeful "Meant to Be."
“I feel like in music, it's all about contrast. And with this album, I really felt like I wanted to combine everything that I've never done, and I wanted it to make sense. Like, with ‘Me, Myself & I’ [her hit with G-Eazy], ‘The Monster’ [Eminem's smash, featuring Rihanna, that she co-wrote] and ‘Meant to Be’ and all my records -- I wanted to take that, and then also take things that inspired me from the past. Like No Doubt and Lauryn Hill. I was like, 'How do I put it in an album?' I think it just happened naturally.”
As for “I’m a Mess,” she co-wrote the song with hitmaker Tranter, who has helped pen hits like Halsey’s “Bad at Love,” Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” and Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.” “Mess” is Rexha’s 12th hit on the Pop Songs airplay chart.
“I walked into the studio [the same day she got her heart broken], and I just felt terrible because I've heard of Justin Tranter, I knew what he did, I know all of his incredible work. And here I am walking into the studio like kind of unstable…
“I didn't feel like I was in the mood or in the state of mind to write a record,” Rexha says. “The one thing that's so incredible about him is that I think he's able to take that out of an artist. I walked in there and I was like, I just literally started crying and I was like, 'I'm sorry, I'm a mess today. Like I'm really a mess.'
“And he was like 'Come sit next to me.' You know what I mean? He sat me down next to him and we just started talking, and little did I know that everything that I was saying he was processing in his head. I was like, 'I just feel like a loser sometimes, and I was obsessed with this guy. And I'm also like upset with myself 'cause like why did I let this happen? Like I don't trust myself, I need to learn to love myself more, but I always think of the negative. And now I can't trust anybody around me.' … And then he's like, ‘OK, we're gonna write a song about this.' And then we just wrote it.”
When they finished the song, did it feel cathartic, or did she feel like she couldn’t release the track because it was too personal? “Both. I felt so good. So relaxed and happy. My fans… they'll say they feel really bummed or anxious or depressed. And a lot of times it's really hard for them to find that in musicians.”
Rexha says that when she was younger, she admired artists like P!nk, Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morissette, as they were honest and emotional in their songwriting.
“And I feel like with my fans too, they tell me all the time that they feel bummed and there's nothing for them to… listen to, you know? Because everything is so perfect all the time, especially with social media. So when we wrote the song, I was like, 'This feels so good to finally be able to be honest with what I go through every day.'”
Our chat with Rexha happened to come during the week of her five-year anniversary on Billboard’s charts, as she debuted on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart dated Aug. 3, 2013, as the featured artist on Cash Cash’s “Take Me Home.” Does it feel like she’s having a moment during at this point in time? Considering the journey she’s had, and how she’s steadily gained more notoriety with her hit songs, and now she’s enjoying the release of her debut full-length album?
“I definitely feel like there's an energy,” Rexha says. “I feel like when you start to accept yourself… [because] for me, it was always kind of a battle -- being the underdog and trying to always prove something. And at a certain point, I was like, 'Ah, fuck this. I'm just going to write great songs and I don't give a fuck what anybody says, and I'm just going to try to make the best music I can.' And I think that's when I was finally able to put out the album, instead of overthinking it.”
Also on the Pop Shop Podcast, Keith and Katie discuss news about DJ Khaled, Demi Lovato, Robyn, The Greatest Showman soundtrack, the 60th anniversary of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and more.
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