Ever-expanding expression is the stuff of great artists. Sometimes these evolutions occur in singular, transformative moments, a sudden burst of energy as bright and brief as a supernova. For others, it happens gradually, building on creative momentum until reaching a turning point. For musician, artist, and DJ Rahill Jamalifard, her debut solo album, Flowers at Your Feet, has been a steadily amassing starburst on her journey worth waiting for.
Music is the practice that defines Rahill’s life. Some people pivot, they sell their instruments and record collection to finance something new and shiny. As for the singer-songwriter, she wouldn’t dream of it. “There was this point where I realized I’m a lifer,” she says, “in the sense that, as an artist, I’m alive for this. I’ll always need this facet of creativity.”
That realization came just three years after founding her first band, Habibi, with Lenaya “Lenny” Lynch. The two Michigan natives bonded over their appreciation of 60s-era Iranian rock, a genre that spontaneously emerged during a period of rapid social upheaval and change throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Habibi carved out a line of its own, drawing on Rahill’s auditory odyssey and the Detroit scene during her formative years in the early to mid-2000s. Those early influences manifest in her music. Her family record collection was a treasure trove of sonic gems that transported Rahill to far-off lands. Going on to work at Academy Records, she built upon those beginnings, opening her ears to new possibilities as she was exposed to a “library of knowledge” that she didn’t have growing up. “It was so incredible to have coworkers and a boss who are just ready to exchange information and put you on,” she recalls. “Especially with an Iranian background, first child; I didn’t have an older sibling, and we didn’t have cable. I didn’t know what MTV was until went to my uncle’s house and I turned it on in secret.”
No stranger to the world of myths and fables, some of her earliest memories are of her dad reading to her from the pages of the Iranian epic poem, “ Shahnameh.” “That really like started this broader imaginary world of lore and fables,” says Rahill. “I feel like my dad really planted that. These old stories and the art of storytelling and myths, which always have this silver lining, or lesson to share. And I think that is so important.”
The songwriter’s lyrics are similarly overflowing with significance, exploring themes of identity and self-discovery. Her early appreciation for literature comes through and seems at the forefront of her creative process. “It starts with words,” she says when asked about how she begins to work on a song. “Lyrics come really easy to me.” Sometimes inspiration strikes in the midst of conversation when a certain phrase catches Rahill’s ear or falls from her lips. She’ll toy with the words in her mind, molding them into a melodic mantra. The title for the track “Bended Light,” was born of this process, captured on a voice memo during a drive, and sent off to her producer.
As part of Flowers at Your Feet, Rahill collaborated with Beck on the single “Fables.” She met the singer while watching a mutual friend’s band perform at Zebulon in Los Angeles, eventually bubbling into a genre-bending ripper. “This is very full circlet o have this song,” she says, “because [Beck is] a great influence, especially his earlier work. I abused that CD [Odelay].” Beck’s kaleidoscope of sounds that blend folk, hip-hop, and rock to create a genre-defying mix had a clear impact on Rahill’s music, attributes of which feature throughout the album.
Flowers at Your Feet is one of those special records, culled from years of hard work—a steady boil of expansive self-expression. This feels like a meaningful step in Rahill’s boundless talent and output—the universe is limitless after all.
Photographed by Jason Rodgers
Written by Isaac Dektor
Styled by Ayala Chocron
Hair and Makeup by Regina Harris
Location: Eden Studios