I met Rationale in a rustic, basement restaurant in Soho. We spoke more than we ate.
Teasing out lifelong themes of inspiration, artistic integrity, and the pivotal moments that make us who we are is far more compelling than any quinoa bowl or artisanal sandwich. Hindsight is a crystalline looking glass. When you are busy living, the moments that direct the course of your life do not always jump out the way they do after time and reflection. Upon closer examination, reappearing threads and patterns emerge. For Tinashe Fazakerley, music has always been a medium to communicate and connect with other people, document his life, and grow as a person.
While no one else in Fazakerley’s family is musical, he said that music was always present as a part of celebrating things in life. “We always used to meet up and dance our socks off. It was just a fun, fun thing that I remember about my childhood,” the Zimbabwe-born artist recalled. It wasn’t until he moved to England at the age of eight that he took an interest himself. “I remember starting school and being that kid who nobody talked to for ages because I had a super thick accent and I didn’t have a grasp on the English language yet,” said Fazakerley. He was first mesmerised by music when he witnessed a teacher playing guitar at school. “From then on, I used the instruments to kind of give myself some expressive license, to be as far away from people who didn’t want to speak to me as possible.” This initial interest turned into a love of everything to do with music. Not just playing, but writing and the recording process. It was this same teacher that introduced him to a 4-track recorder. “I can always remember wanting to write what was going on in my life, but I never had the guts to do it,” he said, adding that he became obsessed with recording after the introduction. “From then on, I was recording myself as a way of expressing myself.” These recording became like a journal to Fazakerley.
When he was fifteen years old, he told his mother that he wanted to be a musician. The conversation resulted in Fazakerley being kicked out of the house. “I can understand it now. I don’t blame her for it,” he shared. “I come from a very hard background. It was more that we were meant to carry everyone with us. You can become a doctor or a lawyer because you could help everyone else out in the family.” He stayed on friends’ sofas for 3-4 months, applying for the music course anyway. “It wasn’t even about the course, it was just to be around music,” he added. For Fazakerley, it was about access. To be surrounded by everything he needed to learn and hone his craft. “I remember doing about 4 years worth of, I wouldn’t call it nothing, I was growing. I was developing. I like to call it filling up the tank with experiences you’re going to end up writing about. Even in some of my recent songs, I think it’s in there.”
After college, he began playing more gigs but soon found himself losing sight of the purpose. Finding inspiration in people like Quincy Jones, Fazakerley began learning everything he could about the producers and songwriters he admired. “I started reading into how they created songs with purpose.” It was shortly after this point that he signed with a record label to record his first album under the name Tinashe Fazakerley.
“I signed a deal…and got dropped really quickly. And I was left with this weird hole where I’d been dropped by this record company and I didn’t understand,” he recalls. The volatile ups and downs of being a recording artist proved difficult. “Realising it’s wonderful when it’s wonderful, but my god when it’s awful it can be absolutely depressing. So I took a step back and thought, ‘What am I really good at? What do I enjoy?’ It went back to childhood.” He returned to his first love of documenting through recording. For the next few years, he wrote songs and produced the work of other musicians. “If there is a ladder, this is the very beginning. Eventually I was working with better and better artists,” he added. It was after this that he made his return to the public eye with a new name – Rationale.
“I didn’t then come back as Rationale like, ‘I’m back. I’ve been reinvented,’” Fazakerley said, asserting that the term reinvention is a misnomer. So why the change in name? The change had a lot to do with himself and his songwriting rather than an intentional rebranding. It allowed him to break through external expectations for his music that he had internalised over the years. Like his time as a late teen getting experience and taking in the world, it was the break that propelled his music forward. This time, it is about creating music on his terms. “The other side of recording is making so much music and it’s music you won’t remember tomorrow,” he asserts. “It’s a tough thing to try and navigate what you want. You are always required to make money. It’s easy to succumb to that and to make things that aren’t much like yourself. I’m trying to stay away from that.”
Knowing what music has meant to him throughout his life, it is clear that Rationale is but one step in a preexisting journey to create something meaningful and lasting. “I love what I do, but I just enjoy the craft. Nothing is more fun than being in a room with a few other people and making something,” Fazakerley said of his work. Rationale is an outlet and a way to channel himself in a way he believes is more fitting of where he is at now.
“The moniker can allow you to think differently. The separation, the reinvention, it’s all part of the same journey.”
Words by Sarah Midkiff