Erin Rae interviewed by Lesley Hastings

I always make a point of arriving at gigs in time to catch the support act and have ” discovered” some fantastic artists in this way. One that really impressed me late last year was Erin Rae who opened for Cale Tyson at London ‘s Borderline. Now a Nashville resident, she was born and raised in Jackson, Tennessee, and as well as collaborating with other artists has her own band ” The Meanwhiles” although they were not with her on this visit.

Initially it was her mesmerising vocals that attracted me , then her intelligent, thought provoking lyrics became evident and I was immediately a fan! Chatting to her afterwards ( she kindly gave me a copy of her latest album ” Soon Enough” , described as ” new music for old souls” on her website, which I have been immersing myself in ever since) she agreed to answer a few questions via email for Belles and Gals. I hope you enjoy her honest, interesting answers. If you are a fan of the folk/Americana side of country please check out her music and catch her live if you can….she’s back here later this year and I’ll definitely be at one of her headline shows! Keep an eye on her website ( and on Belles and Gals!) for more info
As mentioned in the introduction, it was through the recent CaleTyson UK tour that I discovered your music ( I know you also played some headline shows while over here too) .
Had you played here before or was this your first visit as an artist?This was my first official visit! I had been to Scotland before and shared a show with members of Admiral Fallow. This was my first tour, and definitely the most official one 🙂

How did the UK audiences differ ( if at all) from those back home? Several artists have commented on how attentive we are…..

Yes! Audiences here are very attentive, and I also think that for us that was because we typically play in bar/venue settings instead of listening rooms. It makes such a huge difference to have people sitting and listening, also puts the pressure on=].

I gather that as a young child you used to sing in your local church back in Jackson TN, but when did you start playing guitar and writing?
What was the first song you ever wrote and what inspired it?
I didn’t really grow up singing in church, but I did grow up hearing my parents play music. My dad has always been in bands, since middle or high school i think (since The Beatles), and he and my mom played as a duo for much of my growing up. I think I learned what to listen for in my own guitar playing and singing because of them. Both of my parents have these rich, soothing voices, and I think i tend to want to recreate that feeling in myself. Singing is comforting to me.
I started playing guitar after i turned 18 and graduated highchool. My dad got me a Martin guitar as a gift, and its the one i still use today! I started playing then, and later that year started guitar and voice lessons. I think I wrote my first song around then, so I’d have something to sing at Cafe Coco’s open mic night.

The folk music influences you got from your parents are hugely evident in your compositions, but can you tell me a little more about
other genres of music that have helped mould your unique sound? Are there any particular artists ( any style!) who you inspire you?

I have loved Feist for a long time, artists like India Arie, Outkast, Bon Iver, Gillian & Dave, some of my favorite music has come from movie soundtracks; again like Elizabethtown, and O, Brother Where Art Thou?, Holes.. It’s wild how much I spun those albums over and over and over again.

The move to Nashville…..how was that for you? Did you know many people there and did you find the musical community supportive as a newcomer?

I actually grew up here! We moved as a family when I was 11. So I went to middle school and high school here. But when I started playing music out, I lucked out because there were a couple of people I knew from high school that were hanging out at my first open mic who were super encouraging. It was a rich and eclectic bunch that hung out there, and I was really inspired and encouraged, and met SO many people through hanging out there for several years.

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that all bar one of the tracks on your debut album are solo writes ( the exception being ” Spitshine”, a co-write with Andrew Combs I believe?” )
Is this because the subject matters are often very personal, or there other reasons you chose not to collaborate with other writers?

Writing alone just comes more naturally to me, and a lot of my songs are from very personal places. I don’t hate co-writing, but it’s not comfortable for me yet.

Is there anyone whose writing you particularly admire, and/or would like to get the chance to write with?

I love when I get to sit down with Andrew Combs to write- he is such a disciplined and thoughtful writer, both with words and melody. I really admire so many of my friends. Big Thief is probably my favorite band right now that I don’t know personally- Adrienne Lenker’s writing is SO beautiful and evokes so much feeling. I’d be too nervous to write together, but I do really admire her!The album’s instrumentation is wonderful in my opinion, some classic country sounds in there with pedal steel a big feature……..and it was recorded in two days I gather! Was that due to practical/financial constraints,
or the desire to capture a live, raw feel ( as opposed to an over-produced studio sound) or maybe a combination of the two?

I really wanted to capture what we had been doing over the couple of years leading up to the recording as a band. It was a really magical combination of energies from each of the players and before we moved on from that, I just wanted to have it. It is also much cheaper to do it that way, but I did want to try doing it all live. Even the vocals are tracked live with the band and guitar, which was a challenge I wanted to try. It turned out okay!

It was self-released in the States but the UK’s Clubhouse Records have picked up on it and put it out over here. That must have been exciting for you?
Does the support for country music here in the UK surprise you?

I was and still am extremely excited that I have a label in the UK. When clubhouse reached out it was cold and dreary here in December 2015. The album had been out for a few months already, and I was just kind of wondering what in the world to do as the new year came about, and then I got an email from them. It has meant a lot to have that support, and has created some incredible memories already in the touring we did last fall.

One thing I love about the album is that although there’s a lot of heartache in there and you tackle some tough subjects ( such as death and mental illness) the overall
feeling I got from it is (thankfully!) one of optimism. Does that sum up how you are as a person, always looking to the future with a positive attitude?

I think I am very fortunate in that I was born into a family that, although there were some heavy, heavy things that each of my parents dealt with, they also worked hard to transform those things in their own ways, so my sister and I were raised in a house where people were working to take care of themselves emotionally and the tools they used were passed on to us. Among other things, I feel that more than one thing can be true at a time. I can have depression, or mental illness, or addiction, AND I am also afforded this great opportunity to heal, and connect with others in a deep way as a result. I think the optimism comes from experiencing both sides personally, and from witnessing both the light and the dark in the people I love.

Do you have a favourite track, or maybe one that gets a particularly good response when played live?

It seems like Clean Slate has been a favorite! I love that song, as well as Rose Color. Jerry likes that song a lot.It appears that the tide is turning and it is now female country artists who are getting a lot of attention after seemingly being in the shadows…..there’s a lot of excitement
for emerging artists such as Margo Price, Cam, Maren Morris and Kelsey Ballerini to name just a few. Do you think that’s a fair comment ? Anything you’d like to add to that?

I think, theres more where that came from! It’s an exciting time to be a woman playing music in Nashville, because there are soooo many incredible artists. We all get to champion each other and be inspired by each other.

So what’s on the cards for you in 2017? Can we expect some new music, and are there any plans for a return to the UK ?

We are actually going up to The Refuge Foundation for the Arts (run by Cory Chisel + Adriel Denae) in Appleton, Wisconsin on Sunday to make a new full-length record. Should release it in the fall. We are coming back to the UK in June! Dates should start being announced soon via Clubhouse UK.

Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings.
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