In the past year, Bebe Rexha has catapulted into international fame, and it’s been a long time coming. The Brooklyn-born, Albanian artist has been writing music since her teen years, and established herself as a musical force behind-the-scenes, writing hits like Eminem and Rihanna’s “Monster,” and touring as a singer for Pete Wentz’s band, Black Cards.
After working in the industry across genre and discipline, Rexha cemented herself as a pop artist in her own right with her 2018 solo debut studio album, Expectations. The album nabbed her Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Country Duo/Group Performance (for the endlessly catchy track “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line). All this is to say, it’s Rexha’s time to flex.
Her latest collaboration combines her ability to make music in multiple genres with America’s love of snacks. She partnered with Lay’s to create the synesthetic “Turn Up the Flavor” program, by writing a new song called “Right Here, Right Now” and remixed it in pop, hip-hop, and rock musical genres to coincide with three new Lay’s flavors. Each bag of the new flavors includes an exclusive download code to unlock her remixes.
HelloGiggles talked to Rexha about the Grammys, her songwriting process, her all-time favorite snacks, and her spiritual practice.
HelloGiggles: What is one of the first songs you connected with emotionally as a child?
Bebe Rexha: I think it was “Reflection” by Christina Aguilera from Mulan. It’s such a beautiful song, and I just loved the way that she sang. She was one of my first favorite artists, and I just loved what that song said.
HG: Do you remember the first song that you wrote, and what it was about?
BR: One of the first songs I ever wrote was called “Boy You Know I Love You.” That was literally the title, I didn’t really love anybody, but I’d heard all the songs on the radio and they were all about love. So it’s like, obviously I have to write a song about love. I was 15 or something, I probably thought I was in love, but it was mostly lust. It’s so crazy when you write about things that aren’t real, versus when you actually fall in love, how different the song actually becomes.
HG: This Lay’s campaign is very linked to snack nostalgia, since most people remember growing up with Lay’s chips. Do you think food can elicit the same emotions as listening to an old favorite song?
BR: Yeah, definitely. I remember when I was younger, I would ask my mom for a quarter, because our school would sell sour cream and onion chips. And every time I eat sour cream and onion, I get memories of sitting in the cafeteria and just eating that. It’s crazy how it immediately brings you back.
HG: Do you have a favorite snack you bring into the recording studio?
BR: It’s hard, because I try to find a balance, because I don’t wanna eat bad all the time. So I’ll have fruit, and then some snacks. But I love chocolate too. I’m like an old lady. I love dark chocolate with candied oranges. I like when there’s actual piece of orange inside the chocolate, it’s amazing and Lindt has a really good one.
HG: How do you unwind after a busy week? Do you have a spa routine or favorite face masks?
BR: I have my puppy, Bear. She’s not really a puppy, but I call her that. I also have my therapy session in the mornings. Honestly, I hate going on the road sometimes when I don’t have my dog. I feel so sad because I’m so used to her sleeping next to me, and I’m always petting her. I’ll wake up sometimes on the road and I’m looking for her, and she’s on the bed. Worst feeling ever, but she’s my therapy.
HG: Does Bear recognize your music?
BR: I don’t know, but when I sing to her sometimes, it’s weird, but she’ll just stare at me for a long, intense time. I don’t know what [dogs] think, but she just looks at me in the eye, and I wonder if she knows that I’m singing to her.
HG: What’s your skin care routine? Do you have favorite products?
BR: I never do anything special. I’m bad. I’ve gotten better. I’ve been using this balm, it’s amazing. I don’t know what it is, but it’s this oily balm that you put on your face, and I literally put it all over, and then I wipe it off with a towel, and it comes off immediately. It takes everything off, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever used in my life.
HG: What was your first reaction when you found out you were Grammy-nominated for Best New Artist?
BR: I just broke down into tears. I was a weird sense of calm, and then I got over it and I was like, ‘I want more!’ No, I’m just joking. But it was incredible; it was an amazing moment. My whole family was there and I just literally felt like I had no bones. I felt like everything in my body was just mush. It was the most epic moment ever.
HG: What’s the vibe of being at the Grammys? Is it really fun or is it tense?
BR: They don’t serve drinks, so I was a little bummed by that. It’s a little tense and very conservative, but everybody’s excited to be there, so you don’t care. You’re like, “fuck it.” But next time I’m bringing a flask.
HG: How does working with different genres affect your songwriting process? Does it change it?
BR: It doesn’t. A lot of times I write the song on guitar or piano, and then go in and change the sound based on what I feel. If you have a good foundation for a song, you can tweak it easily. So, it doesn’t change the process for me. It just depends on who we’re working with, you know? Sometimes when you go into the studio it’ll change. I never know what genre it will be. I just write it. I’m in a mood. Sometimes I’m inspired by certain artists. Like, lately I’ve been really inspired by Queen, so we’ve been using that inspiration. But, you never really know, you can go into the studio trying to write Queen, and you can end up writing Prince.
HG: I feel like your fashion sense has as much range as your musical sound. What’s your process of picking clothing for music videos?
BR: Just whatever makes me feel good, and whatever fits on my body at the time. I like a lot of structured outfits. I love corsets, like old, vintage Vivienne Westwood stuff. It’s just whatever I feel, and whatever I’m in the moment to wear.
HG: Do you have a fashion icon?
BR: I’m definitely all Blondie, all day. Debbie Harry. That’s my fashion icon.
HG: Did you set any resolutions for 2019?
BR: I set a resolution to be more patient, and I don’t think it’s working. I’ve been meditating and listening to podcasts about self-love. I like Joel Osteen. He is actually a pastor. But it’s spiritual, he’s not telling you what you have to believe in. I also listen to a lot of meditations on how to be grateful.
HG: Do you consider yourself spiritual? As in, do you have a personal spiritual practice?
BR: Yeah, I think that I do. Not to bring religion into it, but I think that I don’t judge people based on what they believe in. I judge people based on how they treat me and other people. I just think if you have an open heart and you’re an amazing person, that’s all that really matters. But I’ve been trying to be more spiritual lately, and it can get hard sometimes when you’re so busy because you can just get so busy with life. I think it’s more about energy and just being focused and being centered. Whether you believe in God or believe in energies, I think that what you put out, and the thoughts that you think really come back to you, whether you’re spiritual or not.
HG: What energy do you want people to pick up from you and your music?
BR: It’s hard because I think that I have so many different energies every moment of the day. My energy changes drastically. The energy I want people to get is gonna be angsty no matter what, but I want it to be a good-angsty, the kind that people can really grasp onto and relate to. I want it to be positive-angsty. Standing for something, you know? And not all people are gonna like me for that, but I don’t care. As long as I can help people that feel the same way as me.