Rachel’s music was born in Virginia but travelled with her around the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France and other distant lands. This has given her music a very eclectic and distinct flair. She has also been blessed with a rotating band of international musicians.
By the age of seven Austin had already recorded three full-length cassettes of her own music. She also handwrote a book of short stories and created portraits of a townful of characters that she and her sibling’s played with instead of dolls.
In an exclusive interview Rachel Austin talks about making music and the run up to the release of her EP.
Could you tell me a little about your songs, what they’re about and what inspired them?
We tried to reflect the theme of Wisdom in the song choice. I wrote Traveller almost 9 years ago when I was in need of some motherly comfort and was pretty homesick for something that doesn’t really exist. I guess Traveller’s about that search for somewhere/someone to call home. Table Light is about a conversation I had with my brother & sister when we were snowed in together over Christmas last year. We’d all been through a lot, and we were sharing experiences over a bottle of wine. The theme that comes out of that is that you can’t really let anyone take away who you are, no matter what they do. All That I Lose is like that, too; it reflects a determination to continue & to succeed despite loss.
Could you describe your music-making process?
Sure! That’s a bit more straightforward than the last question. : ) I usually write the lyrics and tune together, picking the melody up from a tune stuck in my head. Table Light is the exception – it was an experiment based on a series of haikus and trying out a different scaled I’d never tried before. A very successful experiment, which I shall be doing again.
As for the recordings, a lot of the inspiration comes out during rehearsals & recording sessions with the folks that play on the EPs. Sometimes it can be a bit intense and everyone works differently. Fortunately I know a lot of great musicians who play and improvise intelligently. That’s what I like!
Did your songs evolve much from being written to being recorded or did you try and keep them as pure as possible?
Yeah, the arrangements changed a bit, and when recording I get the opportunity to work on the vocals a bit more. So as far as instruments – yeah – that definitely changed, but I feel like the sentiments in the songs are captured really well.
(Rachel’s music has already been incredibly well received by critics, but for any musician it can be daunting finding out how an EP has been received). Do you enjoy reading reviews of your music or is it quite nerve wracking?
It can be nerve wracking at times, and you have to figure out what you’re gonna do with that person’s opinion. Sometimes I just wanna hide in the woods, which isn’t very realistic if I wanna eat or shower, or play to an audience.
How long have you been playing music?
Music? Wha? Yeah, I’ve been playing since my opera trained hippy boyfriend convinced me to buy a crappy guitar about 15 years ago. I think I’ve improved a little, certainly lyrically and vocally.
Did you always think it would be a career you would pursue or did you have anything else in mind?
Honestly, I wanted to be a singer since I danced around the pool deck at my parents’ house when I was a wee Tiny. So yeah, it’s cool to be doing exactly what you’ve dreamt of doing. Little girl dreams seem to take the shape of ponies, butterflies and fairy tale weddings, but I dreamt in the vocabulary of melody.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
My folks listened to a lot of metal and new wave growing up, but as soon as I could I started listening to jazz – eating up the likes of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I loved Pedro the Lion, Björk, and various East Coast USA hardcore and punk bands. Since befriending Devon Sproule, I listen to Paul Curreri. Most of the music I love has often come from the Seattle area – Poor Old Lu, Sunny Day Real Estate (and Jeremy Enigk), Damien Jurado, David Bazan, Fleet Foxes, etc. I also listened to a lot of old folk field recordings in the past year which also lead on to ingesting quite a bit of Wovenhand and 16 Horsepower. I think that comes out in this EP.
Are you looking forward to the EP release?
I am indeed! I just finished pinning a load of covers and started inserting the CD cases into the fabric covers today. I’m excited about the songs on this EP – some of my best yet – and even more excited about recording Age of Love and Age of Reason.
Age of Wisdom is available from today on iTunes.