Whether or not it’s a frequent occurrence in Nashville or entertainment in general, the scenario of a bright eyed and bushy tailed youngster getting their major label break at eighteen proves to be a more and more like a recipe for disaster. Sure, the initial cash flow is stupendous (especially on an eighteen year old’s budget, assuming your tastes are that of the average teenager), but the quick hits and constant production can take a toll fast. If there’s one upside to the scenario of hitting it big when you’re a teenager, it’s that there’s plenty of life to gather perspective, granted, that might come later than one would like, but perspective is gathered either way. Take Rachel Reinert, for example - she was a long-time member of a major pop country act (Gloriana), penning hits, winning awards, basically the whole kit and caboodle, but even despite all of those accolades there was a void needing to be filled; a sense of self that remained unknown. So Reinert, like any reasonable individual, jettisoned all of that to find herself. Granted, it was no easy feat. No instantaneous solo success. Quite the opposite, actually. Over the past three years, Reinert has toiled away in co-writes and demo sessions carving out her place in Nashville. It’s been an arduous process, but in putting in the sweat equity, Reinert’s returns look to be more promising than those of any other point in her career. While she’s no longer a bright eyed bushy teenager making her way in Music City, she’s just as energized and invigorated to take the city on once more on her own.
Now/It’s met with Rachel Reinert at Dose Cafe & Dram Bar in the Riverside Village neighborhood of East Nashville.
N/I - Are you back in the throes of publicity cycles now? Or are you easing back into things?
Rachel - I’d say it’s kind of half and half. Obviously, I’m doing way more now than I was a couple years ago, but I think we’re easing our way back into it. I wouldn’t call it a “full swing” but it’s definitely good to get back into what the last three years have been like and of course, what’s going on now.
N/I - Have you started to find yourself talking about the same thing over and over again already?
Rachel - Yes [laughs].
N/I - [Laughs] Oh boy. The reason I ask is because I’m always fascinated by the process of publicity and being an artist - obviously, you have the things you want to focus on, but at the same time, you also want to keep things interesting for yourself. Do you have ways to keep an interview or conversation interesting when someone is obviously going through a one-sheet of “Here’s “Cool,” here’s “Dark Star,” here’s the next single…”
Rachel - I think for me, what keeps it interesting is the fact that I finally feel like I have a sense of myself and I finally feel comfortable in who I am. My biggest thing that I want for [people] to have as a takeaway [in an interview] is a sense of who I am. So every interview has been different, but it’s all similar in what the path has been, what the journey’s been like. Where I’m coming from versus where I am now, but it’s definitely inevitable that you do find yourself talking about some of the same things. But that’s just kind of part of it.
N/I - Sure. But at the same time, that sort of coincides with you being a solo artist now, you have finally found your “voice” and things of that nature. How has that felt - to finally know that this is what Rachel sounds like and you don’t have one, two, three, however many people that you don’t have to account for.
Rachel - It’s been the most liberating creatively, personally…. All across the board, it’s been so liberating for me. I really had hoped that after I left [Gloriana] all these things were going to start happening for me, but at the end of the day, I’m so glad that it didn’t work out that way, because I needed the time to really, in some ways, mourn the death of that whole situation where I went through all those stages of grief. Anger, angst, grief, and ultimately, some relief. But in the midst of all that, I was figuring out who I was as well, because the band was something I had been a part of since I was eighteen years old.
N/I - And it’s so much different than most people when they first get to town.
Rachel - My path here in Nashville has been so different than most artists that come to town and develop years of self-discovery and meeting people and figuring out their sound and all that. I came here when I was sixteen, my mom stayed with me until I was eighteen, and then I jumped into a van with a bunch of people that I didn’t know, and then I was just gone. When you talk about having that time to discover yourself, it was non-existent for me pretty much from eighteen to twenty-six. So basically my entire adult life was infused in my identity being a part of a band. But eventually stepping away from all of that and getting some of that time that people get when they first move here to town, but still having to fast-forward through all of that in three years, was so necessary. It was so good for me. I dealt with everything.
N/I - Define “everything.”
Rachel - Anybody that I worked with in the past, anybody that I wrote with in the past, anybody that had any sort of association with Gloriana, I had to be done with. Part of it was out of necessity, but part of it was also because some of those people just couldn’t be reached anymore. They didn’t have the time for me. That sucks, but it’s also okay at the end of the day. I really found my creative partners, and I experimented a lot, I knew what I wanted the sound to be, but I didn’t know how to execute it. There was a lot of trial and error involved.
N/I - So within that period of time - the beginning of those three years - you’re discovering yourself as opposed to self-preservation. I’ve talked to people have been in similar situations, and it seems like when you are that young and thrust into this situation where you have to be on the road with someone for two-hundred days out of the year, you can’t always sustain that naturally. So you don’t get to be your “true” self. But in that feat of getting to finally discover “yourself” and your “sound,” what were some of those initial obstacles? Other than people just not answering the phone. Say I’m a songwriter, would you approach me and say “Hey, I’m Rachel from this past project,” or is it “I’m Rachel, and I’m just trying to figure things out?”
Rachel - That’s always kind of been this weird push and pull for me. My past is what it is.
N/I - You don’t want to lean on that too much, obviously.
Rachel - And that was such a big thing for me. I did not want to go around saying “I did this!” or “Remember that?” I didn’t want to rely on that. But at the same time, I didn’t want to pretend like it never happened and do away with it altogether. It wasn’t I’m this new and different person with a totally non-existent past. It’s definitely been a learning thing for me to figure out what’s appropriate and what’s not. Especially with social media, too. There’s been plenty of times where I could have posted about this award that I’ve won, or this plaque that I’ve won…. So for me, it’s never been about reminding people about the things that I’ve done. That for me feels so ego driven. But at the same time, that was a long time ago.
N/I - Right. It’s living in the past - why would you keep harping on that.
Rachel - Exactly! I can’t do that. I can’t keep on doing that. The last big song that I was a part of was in 2012. So you’re talking about seven years.
N/I - Almost a decade at this point.
Rachel - It’s a long time. It’s a really long time. I didn’t want to be that person. I didn’t want to be constantly reminding people of accomplishments from a long time ago. I knew that if I was going to have people really take me seriously, this was a starting over thing. So it’s not like I try to hide that, but I also try not to rely on it.
N/I - Sure. There’s an acknowledgement of it, but you’re not hanging your hat on it. You do see situations when people first come to town - especially when they’re younger - the first thing that hits is the only thing associated with them lasts for a long time.
Rachel - And to have that be so attached to you can be a detriment. That’s why it was important for me to clean that slate and start all over. It’s definitely been a big point for me to figure out how to respond. When I’m meeting with people and they ask what I did in the past, I’m open and honest, but it’s not about those accomplishments. It’s not about trying to remind people “I was important once.”
N/I - And at the same time, you did link up with a pretty solid group of people on your own. Davis Naish comes to mind. I know he did a lot of production work with you. How did that come about.
Rachel - We fell into that. He was writing a lot with me. He was one of the first people to really focus on being consistent in writing with me. I think it’s because he and I really hit it off. He and I are about the same age, and our parents raised us on the same kind of music. So there was this same love for all these artists who came out of Laurel Canyon in the seventies, so Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Linda Ronstadt. Having the music painted like that in our landscape, but we also managed to keep it fresh and modern. It was a mix of old and new. But how it all came to be was that he’s a good friend of mine, who I had met through mutual friends, and one of our mutual friends was like “You guys should write together.” So we tried it and instantly hit it off. We were writing consistently, and he was turning over these demos that sounded like records, and I just looked at him one day and said “You should be producing this.” And he was like “I agree.” It just sort of fell into place so naturally. At the time, I was trying to seek out producers, and it was this thing that smacked me in the face, because he was right there. But he’s turned into such an instrumental part to all of this, because he knows me so personally and we’ve done so much work together. I have a vision and he was able to tap into the musicality of it so perfectly. We trust each other. That’s the other thing, too. I was so used to these relationships where you’re an artist and you have this big producer who has accomplished all of these amazing things and you’re just left to bow down to them, because you’re like “They know better than I do.”
N/I - Especially when you’re a younger artist, or still green.
Rachel - Exactly. So with Davis, we were just so synchronized and trusted each other, I could be honest with him and vice versa, and there’s no ego involved. That’s such a big thing for me. I love that. We’ve just been in lock-step with each other. He gets it. He pushes me in the best ways.
N/I - What are some of those ways?
Rachel - When we’re writing together - I’m a very lyric driven person, and I will throw out certain lines, and he is the one who will crack the whip on me by saying “That’s good, but that’s not great. It’s not memorable enough.” Or he’ll say “We have a lot of songs in this vein, but what about writing a song from this perspective?” I love that about him, because I need that. I need someone who’s not going to settle. Because for me, it’s about greatness. I need someone to tell me it could be better. That’s why we’re writing these songs I’m so proud of and so excited about. It feels like me.
N/I - So when you meet someone like Davis or another songwriter as you’re getting back into things and figuring out who you are as a lyricist and a writer - was there a period of learning to put your foot down, or not be deferential to the process? Because at this point, it’s you you’re working in service of, as opposed to a group outside of yourself.
Rachel - That’s probably been the biggest learning curve for me in the past few years, is getting to that point of being comfortable in being who I am and what I have to say. So much about my life prior to that point was centered around the fact that I was the youngest, so my default was to always want to please everybody and make everyone happy. That’s part of being in a band….
N/I - It’s very democratic, in certain senses.
Rachel - There’s so much compromise. And now to me it’s not about me being right and knowing everything, but it is definitely about being firm and knowing what I want to do. I’ll be thirty soon, so I think that’s part of it too - being secure with yourself. I’ve done the baby artist thing where people dictate what I need to do, but now I’m open to other things. I had to learn how to deal with things and be more firm about the things that matter.
N/I - Have you started to recognize the path that you’re going down? Or manage to see the “beats” so to speak? This is what you do after “Dark Star” and this is what the next song will be after the next.
Rachel - I that’s sort of the weird spot that I’m in right now….
N/I - Oh sure, I get that there are things that have to stay under wraps for now.
Rachel - It’s okay! I’m borderline about to finalize some big things, so I’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern where we’re sitting and waiting to finish what our game plan is. It’s so important to me that this music be heard and that my audience see where the music is and where I’m headed. I’m very clear on what that is. I do have a song that I just came back from the mixing session in Berry Hill. The song feels very me, but at the same time, it feels like it could live on radio. So we’re going to have to figure out what our game plan is, so that’s where I feel relieved to have a team of people behind me.
N/I - And at the same time, I would imagine that gives you a little more flexibility in figuring out what you have in mind. You have more say.
Rachel - Yes! And what’s so great about that is that they’re coming into this from a standpoint of “We don’t want to fuck with it, you just do you and we’ll help out where we can on this record.” But at the same time, I think we’ve got a lot of figuring out to do. I’ve got to finish up the album - I have five more songs to record. I feel like it’s done with the writing side of things…. It has been three years. I want to record it and put it to bed. So I think that there’s going to be a lot of molding here in the next few weeks in terms of what’s going to happen. That’s the interesting and cool thing that’s happening with this project, you have a song like “Dark Star” and you have a song like “Cool” and they’re organic and building something, but then I’ve got this other song called “All We Have” that’s still me and has that integrity of what I’m doing, but does feel like it could live on the radio. We’ll have to sort through all of it sooner than later.
N/I - And that’s where having new people helps…. Where you are now, how do you think the sixteen to eighteen year old version of yourself who first came to town would view you?
Rachel - It’s funny to think about, because when I first moved to town, I wanted to be a solo artist, so in my mind, I had this idea that everything was supposed to be a certain way, but in the midst of that, I got the offer to join the band. At first I was really resistant to it because I wanted to be a solo artist. But at the same time, I was out of money and about to be pulled back home by my parents and they were about to send me to college. It just felt like this one in a million opportunity, which I think it was, and I’m so glad that I took it, because it taught me so much I need to know about this world. But in terms of thinking about myself and how I would have envisioned my life - could I have imagined it going through this path? No way! No way! But I am so happy that I took that path, because I am creating the most fulfilling music in my life, and that’s because I’ve learned so much from my past. I’m proud of what I’m doing, and I’m one of the very few lucky ones to say that I’m still doing it after all this time, because trust me, I knew the odds were completely stacked against me. I knew that. I’d imagine myself as successful by now, but what is “success?” The definition has been changing for me over the years. I’ve had to think about that, especially recently. I’m about to sign a deal and do all these things that I wanted to do as a solo artist, and that’s huge. So to be here and still be doing this, that’s huge. Am I headlining arenas or making millions? No. But that’s okay. You never know what can happen in life, because it can change in a crazy moment, and it’s ever changing, that’s the one constant that I learned. I have to take a step back and quit trying to plan every moment. And that goes back to ego. So there’s been a lot of letting go for me over the past few years. But it’s been good. It’s been really healthy for me.