Chatting with Erin Rae

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Erin Rae’s album debut album Soon Enough, released on Clubhouse Records earlier this year was a reminder (as if we needed one) that Nashville is not only an inexhaustible well of talent but it also has the ability to surprise us. I don’t think that anyone would categorise Ms. Rae as typically Nashville, a song like the excellent Clean Slate seeming to cling more to the era of LA troubadours.

With some excellent reviews for the album under her belt Rae is embarking on a major tour of the UK over the next four weeks (all dates here) which will include some shows with her label mate Cale Tyson. On the eve of embarking for the tour she took some time out to talk to Blabber’n’Smoke.

Hi there,
Can I ask you about the opening and closing tracks on the album? They bookend it really well but there’s a different feel, I think, to them than the rest of the album, the vocals more elaborate. Was that deliberate?

Hi! Yes, Light Parts 1 & 2 I think came from a different side of my writing from several years ago. My friend John Furr initially created this beautiful arrangement of the song on his own and surprised me with it. So when we started planning a record I knew I wanted to use that song to tie the whole thing together. The sentiment of the song is empathy for another person’s experience, which is a lot of the basis of the entire record. Cori Bechler, one of the first people I collaborated with creatively, wrote the vocal parts for Part 2. There is also a nod to the first EP Crazy talk. 

You seem to mix an “introspective” type of song writing with a sweet, countrified rhythm, a sound that really comes to the fore on the title song to Soon Enough. I was reminded of Janis Ian and The McGarrigles at times. Are these artists you’ve listened to?

I have not heard The McGarrigles as yet though since the release of our album in the UK I have heard a few folks say there is a similar feeling. I’ll have to listen to them now before we arrive. Janis Ian was not someone I was super familiar with until I was 20 or so. My voice teacher and mentor Phoebe Binkley was a friend of hers and I actually have a signed copy of Janis’s autobiography on my shelf that she gave to Phoebe. The more I’ve learned about her, the greater the compliment of a comparison is. What a brave artist. I hope I can channel some of that. 

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The album was apparently recorded “live” over just two days. Had you and the band been playing the songs for a while?

We had! Most of the songs we had played for at least a year, some of them a little longer but on a couple of them we hadn’t played them before. However, we had been playing together for about 5 years at that point, so even on the newer tunes they felt good pretty quick.

There was a five year gap between your EP release and the album. Was this a case of trying to get a record deal or getting enough songs together for an album?

I think it was a case of early “adulthood”:) Or late childhood depending on the perspective. I was in the midst of writing songs while also living out my early 20s and learning a ton about how to be a person. It’s a messy age, so it just took a while. I think it took about that long for me to shape complete ideas and live those stories out enough to write them. And I think it was just a three year gap! Maybe four for the UK audience. 

Are many of the songs “autobiographical?” I’m thinking of Sleep Away and Minolta for example.

For sure. Most of the songs are, with the exception of Pretty Thing which is a story built from a feeling. 

You grew up in a musical family. What are your earliest memories of hearing music and can you say who your main influences are?

My earliest memories of music are my dad playing with his friend Willie X at Davis Kidd and events around Jackson, TN, and then with my mom in our kitchen. My dad used to do this song called “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke” and I got up at Davis Kidd to sing with him when I was five. “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that cigarette. Puff, puff, puff until you puff yourself to death! Tell Saint Peter at the pearly gates, that you hate to make him wait, you just gotta have another cigarette”. Hahaha! These little old ladies laughed so hard and tipped us like 20 dollars each.

I think my main influences are my parents along with Greg brown, Kate Campbell, Gillian & Dave, and all those artists that my parents sang songs by. There’s also Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Kate Wolf and Doc Watson. So many! 

You are touring the UK soon. Have you played here before and will you have a band playing with you?

I have only played a couple of shows in Scotland (with Louis of Admiral Fallow) and I played in Switzerland in years past. This will actually be my first time to England and my first official tour in Scotland and I’m so excited about it. I’ll have my trusted friends and players Dominic Billett & Jerry Bernhardt with me for all the dates. Can’t wait!

Erin Rae’s tour starts October 25th in High Wycombe and it concludes with four Scottish dates in November where she will be appearing with Cale Tyson.

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