Rachel Louise Taylor – Solo Artist Interview

Country singer-songwriter and guitarist Rachel Louise Taylor will release her full-length album “Sunflower” on Aug. 26. Today, Rachel spoke with ETV about her musical influences, the lyrical themes behind her upcoming album, and her plans to play more shows. Check out the track “I Got Mud” from the album here:

Rachel’s discovery and interest in music begins at a young age. At around age 7, Rachel would go on trips with her dad to see her uncle, who was a lead guitarist in a band in Wichita, Kansas, perform live. She remembers thinking about how cool it was to see her uncle perform, and soon after, Rachel asked her dad to get her into guitar lessons. She learned to play guitar in 2nd grade but it wasn’t until 4th grade that she started writing her own songs and soon after she began performing live.

Rachel’s influences early on include every girl’s favorite star, Taylor Swift, as well as a little bit from what her musical family listened to.

“I grew up listening mainly to Shania Twain,” Rachel said. “I nearly had her entire album ‘Come On Over’ memorized, listening to it over and over. I did grow up on a farm, but my dad listened to more oldies music back then. I feel that between Shania and Taylor Swift, that was enough inspiration to help me develop and discover my genre.”

At age 12, Rachel played at a coffee shop in Topeka with her guitar teacher, who invited her onstage to play a song with him. Rachel said she got nervous and froze when she was supposed to sing and play guitar at the time, but she only played guitar. The brightness of the stage lights and the whole experience would normally discourage an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, but Rachel continued her path to becoming a professional musician.

“I think the coffee shop showed me the worst that can happen – not being able to sing, and be frozen,” Rachel said. “Due to that happening to me early, I was able to convince myself that I didn’t want that to happen again. I was able to experience it and grow from that. My advice is to never give up. If performing or being in front of stage is what you want to do, never let go of that hope. One obstacle can be overcome to make way for so many other opportunities, if one takes the effort to do so.”

Rachel continued to perform on stage and soon businesses and organizations took notice of what she was capable of. She performed at the Texaco Country Showdown 2012 and Topeka First Friday Artwalks and was getting know, but the biggest surprise was when Rachel’s song “I Got Mud” was played on the radio.

“The radio host had e-mailed me, so I was listening to the radio, filming my friend on skype, as she was filming me through skype,” Rachel said. “I believe the video is still on YouTube, but I actually cried happy tears. I will never forget that ‘aha’ moment.”

Rachel’s latest album “Sunflower” is the culmination of her journey so far but it’s only the beginning of a whole new chapter. The writing for the album took about a year and a half with some songs taking longer than others to write. Rachel has become confident with her writing style and took the time she needed to make sure the songs were as perfect as they could be before releasing them. The album was recorded and co-produced in Wellington, Kansas, at the Green Jean Studios.

One of the songs on the album, “In Your 85,” was featured on national and international country radio and topped the Ullplay music chart in the U.K. for three consecutive months. Check out it out here:

“My main lyrical theme is not to take life for granted,” Rachel said. “Whether or not it’s being in love, it is just as important to take in the current moment before it passes by, as well as looking for the future. I heard a quote somewhere that says, ‘If you dwell on the future, you will lose out on living in the present.’ I truly believe in this, and I intend to live that way.”

In addition to making her latest album, Rachel also keeps busy by teaching guitar lessons since 2015. She said it was a lot of fun and has allowed her to re-learn some of things she learned back when she herself was younger.

“I decided to teach guitar lessons because I wanted to give back to younger artists just starting out,” Rachel said. “I want to potentially stand as a role model for younger girls who have goals in life, to look up to and know that anything is possible, and they can do anything they set their minds to. I have also given them multiple performance opportunities joining me on stage, where they are in the spotlight and are able to showcase their new learned talents.”

With her album complete and coming out this month, Rachel looks ahead to the future. She plans to continue performing and broadening her touring destinations.

“My plan is definitely to play more shows!” Rachel said. “Although I am in college, I plan on being more busy next summer with festivals, etc. I also hope to broaden my 3-hour radius circle to be able to travel farther and open more performance opportunities not only for me, but to connect and be able to meet with my fans.”

To stay up to date with Rachel be sure to check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes, and her official site.

Sydney Lauren – Solo Artist Interview

Sydney Lauren has recently released a new EP titled “Left in Motion,” a five-track record that covers both happy and sad songs. Sydney spoke with ETV today about the making of her EP, the meaning behind her songs and her plans for touring. Check out the track “Haunt Me” here:

Sydney grew up in a town called Harrison outside a New York City, a place that no doubt left an impression on her.

“I was definitely influenced by New York, living so close to the city gave me opportunities that opened my eyes to different music, art and experiences,” Sydney said. “It has an energy to it that will always influence me, I love it!”

Sydney wrote all the songs on “Left in Motion” in about five months, with another five months to fully complete the recordings. Sydney’s lyrics and melody found a home with co-writer Tad Kubler from the band The Hold Steady, who wrote and produced the music. The result is a collection of pop tracks and introspective ballads that showcase Sydney’s distinct vocals and hard-hitting lyrics.

“I’m so happy to finally have the music out after sitting with it for so long, now people can hear what I was working so hard on!” Sydney said.

The making of the EP was both challenging and liberating, as creativity and concentration became the focus during the recording sessions.

“I like the creativity that is constantly happening during recording,” Sydney said. “You have all the tools to test out new ideas which is always really fun. I found the hardest part to be the final vocals. It can be hard to fully emote when you’re singing in a silent room by yourself. We weren’t going to stop until they were the best they could be!”

One listen of the EP will evoke a multitude of emotions for any listener. “Haunt Me” is a song about leaving the past behind and not letting it linger on to haunt the present. The universal appeal is enough to hook new listeners, but it’s the deep meaning that goes beyond the surface that will keep them coming back for more. Sydney spills her heart out on this track and although she can write a happy song, she said the sad ones come out much stronger.

“I always like to make sure there is a big message or lesson learned in a song,” Sydney said. “It should make a point!”

A song on the EP that is more on the political side is “Save Us,” inspired by the 2016 Orlando shooting. See the video here:

The lyrics are in reaction to the terror that many felt after the incident occurred and how love and compassion will always outweigh hate. Her lyric “One shot to the masses / Builds stronger passion” demonstrates the real-life response of how people came together to comfort those in pain. The depth in Sydney’s lyrical approach is her greatest talent and we look forward to what’s in store for her next release. In the foreseeable future, Sydney plans on touring to share her songs to a greater audience around the world.

“I am hoping touring will occur in the next 12 months!” Sydney said. “I love performing and want to share these songs with people every day!”

To stay up to date with all things Sydney Lauren, be sure to check her out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and her official site.

AJ Steel – Solo Artist Interview

Melbourne singer-songwriter AJ Steel is an upcoming talent from down under who is turning heads with his catchy tunes and pop rock style. Today, AJ spoke with ETV about his early influences, the making behind his latest single, and his writing style. Check out his single “Love You When It’s Bad” here:

Some of AJ’s influences growing up were Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and classical music, even going so far as falling asleep while listening to the 1812 Overture back in the day after a morning in the waves. So, it’s no surprise that he would enjoy the likes of “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys. He’s also a fan of The Beatles, U2, and Bob Dylan, all artists who are known for their memorable and deep lyrics. Although he is a skilled performer today, he stated that he didn’t start getting into music as early as most musicians do.

“I was probably a bit of a late starter when it comes to music,” AJ said. “I used to play the piano by ear when I was about 10 or 11, then I got side-tracked into surfing. I lived on the coast and it was a real beach town.  Everyone seemed to surf there. So, I didn’t get serious about it until I was about 16.”

Since then, he has established himself as a prolific songwriter. His songs have been added to satellite radio with more than 3 million listeners, have been used in independent films out of Los Angeles, and have received national airplay on commercial radio in Australia along with numerous internet radio stations worldwide.

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Photo via https://www.ajsteelmusic.com

AJ’s music is a mix of the alternative rock sound mixed with the endearing qualities of a good pop song. “Love You When It’s Bad” is an introspective track tinged with hope hanging on each note of the piano ballad. The song soars high in the second half with a full band sound and lyrical inspiration about how much people are prepared to go through to chase after the one they love.

“The song probably took about four months to do,” AJ said. “I’d work on it then have to put it away and then come back to it. I just couldn’t nail down the story for that one. I kind of knew what I wanted to say but it took some time to reveal itself. Some of them come quickly and some of them just take time. There’s not much you can do about it, you just have to keep working on it if you believe the idea has integrity. The recording and production process took some time as well. I tried all sorts of instrumentation and arrangements until I found an arrangement that worked.”

Indeed, it worked, and the story does present itself naturally as the song develops. Like many songs, parts of the production were easy to work on while other parts were either challenging or difficult. One challenge was making a song that covered new ground while also retaining elements of what made his previous work stand out.

“I don’t like to go over what feels like old ground, but sometimes you have to if you want to bring a song to life,” AJ said. “Sometimes you just fight it, you shouldn’t, but sometimes you just do.”

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Photo via https://www.ajsteelmusic.com

His latest song is just one of many songs he has done before. As a solo artist, AJ has released an EP and four singles, and from his previous band, he has released an EP and an album. To create his songs, he mostly creates them in his studio but is open to collaborating more.

“Music is more fun when there’s other people in the process, but so far I’ve kind of locked myself away,” AJ said. “After going solo, I really wanted to find my sound, what I wanted to say as an artist and that took a lot of time to dig right down and find the real artist I wanted to be. So, I had to lock myself away to do that.”

Overall, AJ Steel is a name to lookout for. He is currently working on two brand new singles, with one of them due out this month and another in the writing stage. As time keeps ticking, AJ will keep writing, recording and releasing new songs that will touch the hearts of many. His next big hit is just around the corner, and we hope you’re there when it arrives.

To find out more about AJ Steel, be sure to check him out on Soundcloud, YouTube, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and his official site.

Kathryn Claire – Solo Artist Interview

Singer-songwriter Kathryn Claire released her fourth full-length, 10-track album “Bones Will Last…” that is a listening experience filled with both classical and folk influences. ETV spoke with Kathryn about the making of her half-vocal and half-instrumental album, the story behind her music video for “The Fugue,” and she offered advice for other musicians who are also interested in learning to play the violin.

Kathryn is based in Portland, Oregon, and has created a unique style of music that combines her skills as a violinist, guitarist, and singer-songwriter to deliver fresh chamber and folk experience. Growing up, Kathryn listened to a lot of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell who helped shaped her style, and she was also a big fan of classical violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg who astounded her with energy and vitality with the violin on stage.

Her new album “Bones Will Last” contains five instrumentals and five vocal tracks, providing the best of her talents for everyone to enjoy. She worked on the record for more than two years, trying to find a cohesive sound between instrumentals and lyrical songs that proved to be problematic. Ultimately, it was the violin’s strings in each song that tied everything together.

“Initially there were going to be a lot more songs and not as many instrumentals,” Kathryn said. “Over time I realized that I actually had two albums on my hands. ‘Bones Will Last’ and another more lyrical driven, electric album ‘Eastern Bound for Glory.’ It was a process to realize that I couldn’t put everything on one album. Once I realized that, I was able to listen more skillfully to myself and to what ‘Bones Will Last’ was becoming. I realized that I wanted to place the violin at the center of the album and strip away all percussion or harmony vocals or really anything that I felt detracted from the violin compositions and my voice on the album. It was such a cool process and an exercise in trusting myself as an artist and having faith in what was wanting to come out musically. Technically speaking, my favorite aspect was tracking the multiple violin parts. I love doing that and having the ability to harmonize with myself and build entire string sections. It is amazing!”

Kathryn has played violin on many albums and with many performers, and along the way she has learned how to listen. For this album, she captured what was in her head with the violin and found the melodic and lyrical lines she kept hearing. Once she came up with the compositions she wanted, she worked with Portland musicians Zak Borden (mandolin), Allen Hunter (upright bass), and Don Henson (piano) who all brought their own style to create the album she wanted to create. She has even performed and toured extensively with all three artists.

The theme of the album is about mortality, loss, love and transformation. Kathryn admits to thinking about death often, but more often to ponder rather than thinking from a place of preoccupation. The title of the album “Bones Will Last” refers to what people leave behind when they die in the literal sense, but in the figurative sense the bones represent personality and the other essential things that live on after death.

“I like the idea that at the core each of us have this essence, and as an artist, there is a core voice or aesthetic,” Kathryn said. “I sought the “bones” of my creative being through the creation of this album. I wondered how I would feel if this was my last album, if this was the last musical thing I left behind. I needed to make sure that I said and expressed everything I wanted.”

Kathryn is not sure if her future albums will also be a split between instrumental and vocal tracks. “Bones Will Last” was an experiment and she believes it worked out for the best on this album. Kathryn is already at work on her follow-up titled “Eastern Bound for Glory,” which is a collection of songs she wrote on electric guitar with her current band that features drums, bass, and strings.

“‘Bones Will Last’ is a very special album to me and I feel it stands on its own in my musical catalogue,” Kathryn said. “I could see myself doing more instrumental composition for sure. I loved creating the instrumentals. It really opened a part of me that I would like to explore more. So, the violin and strings will always be a part of my musical voice, I think.”

Several of the tracks on the album received the music video treatment. “The Forest Flower Will Set” is a traditional song that features Kathryn walking into a barbershop and was shot in Tournai, Belgium, by T. Raznor at Christiane’s salon. The spontaneity captured on film is in tune with the liveliness of the song and it’s a nice representation of ok Kathryn’s spirit. Another song on the album with a video was “The Fugue,” a very whimsical-driven song with visuals to match. It was the first official music video for Kathryn and was directed by Martin Vavra of Galaxy Sailor Productions shot in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

“Because ‘The Fugue’ is an instrumental composition, we didn’t have to contend with lyrics that we were trying to somehow represent in the video,” Kathryn said. “That was so liberating. I worked with film-maker, Martin Vavra on the project and he contributed a lot to the vision of the video. The initial idea came from an image I had carried in my head for a number of years. It was a woman on the beach with her hair tied up in drift wood and staked in the sand with shells and feathers all around. A couple friends helped me to make that image a reality and we took a bunch of pictures and documented the process. It was beautiful. When Martin saw that image, he said, ‘That should be a video’ and we took it from there. For me personally, I feel the elements of death, rebirth, transformation, the passing of time, and longing are all elements of the video. The thing I love the most is that everyone has their own interpretation of the images and the video. I love that it is open for people to respond to in their own way.”

Most recently, the title track of “Bones Will Last” received a video of its own that was shot in Director Park in downtown Portland, Oregon on March 8. It was also directed by Vavra and filmed by Phil Anderson and captures the heart of this song and album with a public performance piece.

Overall, for anyone looking to listen to a singer-songwriter with an emphasis in violin playing, look no further than Kathryn Claire. She is clearly one with the violin, and she hopes others will pick up on the instrument. She offered advice for those up and coming musicians who want to take up the violin for themselves.

“I would say, ‘Don’t give up!’” Kathryn said. “The violin is such a beautiful instrument and truly a joy to play. But it takes a lot of practice and perseverance, especially right at the beginning. It is difficult to get a rich tone in the beginning, so the sound can be a bit challenging right at first. Like anything else you might be starting for the first time, I would say, start slow, practice frequently but for short amounts of time, and really fall in love with long notes and playing the open strings. I think making a beautiful sound and loving the voice of the violin is essential before you begin to be able to play anything complex or flashy.”

To stay up to date with Kathryn Claire, be sure to check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, and her official site.

Gayle Skidmore – Solo Artist Interview

Folk and indie singer-songwriter Gayle Skidmore recently released her 20th independent release, which also happens to be her first full length vinyl album. She described the album as “whimsical, melancholic music for the romantic intellectual.” After following trends and chasing after deals to be successful through the industry channels, she has moved on to find something that works out for her, and “The Golden West” is about finding her own voice and creating music straight from her soul. ETV spoke with Gayle about the making of her album, creating adult coloring books, and her plans for touring this year.

Classically trained on the piano from the age of 4, and having written more than 2,000 songs since age 8, Gayle was destined to achieve a prestigious musical career no matter how she went about it. Her toolset includes a majestic voice that is delicate enough to accurately portray her penned musings and strong enough to portray the feeling behind those words. She also plays a number of varying instruments, ranging from electric guitar, banjo, ukulele, flute, marimba, organ, mandolin, ocarina, accordion, trumpet, percussion, and many more you’ve probably never heard of. Gayle believes anyone can learn any instrument if they dedicate the time it takes to learning music theory, confirming that even with her exceptional musical ability, it takes time to be great in your craft.

Gayle writes original material about the highs and lows in life with musical inspirations coming from Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, and other artists who are are bold in their songwriting or elaborate on-stage antics. This has clearly left an impression on her and has opened the door for self-expression to the fullest. Gayle’s talents have attracted other top-tier musicians who enjoy touring or recording with her, as she has opened for the likes of Jason Mraz, Lisa Loeb, Steve Martin, Sean and Sara Watkins, Sam Phillips, Coeur d’Pirate, and many others and has recorded with such artists as The Softlightes, Bushwalla, Jason Mraz and Tyrone Wells.

Her impressive music career is an outlet to express the different stories that come from a tumultuous life, an experience that she finds personally fulfilling. It has led her to winning multiple awards, from Best Pop in the 2015 San Diego Music Awards, Best Pop Album for “Sleeping Bear” in 2014, and Best Singer-Songwriter in 2013. However, despite her successes, her new album was written as the roadmap of moving on from heartache and loss. Gayle’s first full length vinyl album “The Golden West” (her 20th independent release) was originally planned to be an E.P. but quickly turned into a full-length in 2015 following her extensive touring across the U.S. The personal journey that Gayle went through is beautify captured in the 10-track indie pop album that was recorded in legendary studio Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, Singing Serpent in San Diego, and at Ninkasi Studios—a recording studio built right inside a Eugene, Oregon brewery.

“Eugene has felt like a second, though much weirder, home for the past few years since I have been collaborating with Ninkasi Brewing, so recording at Ninkasi Studios felt super comfortable right from the start,” Gayle said. “It doesn’t get much better than having Ninkasi on tap right outside the studio door, as well as nitro Stumptown coffee for a nice pick-me-up during late night sessions. They have a killer setup there and it was so much fun to work with James Book on the album.”

All the songs on the album make up the story of how she overcame loss, from the opening track’s “Pale Ghosts” that deals with the struggle of letting go of people we’ve lost and feeling afraid to move on to “Beautiful Soul,” a song about falling in love and working up the courage to confess your feelings. As the album flows on, lyrical themes cover topics about leaving the past behind, feeling nostalgic of what was left behind, and the fear of moving forward but having the commitment to journey with a trusted companion.

“I penned the chorus to a song I’d been working on while the sun set on the old mining town of Sonora, California,” Gayle said. “I knew immediately that this would be my single and title track for my upcoming album. The chorus’ lyrics, ‘Let’s bury all we put to rest in the golden west,’ captured the spirit of the record. Since I was contemplating a move to Amsterdam at the time, it seemed only fitting that this album about letting go would be titled after the song that talked directly about leaving California.”

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Photo via Gayle Skidmore / In Music We Trust PR

The first song on side B is considered a turning point in the ongoing narrative with the track “How to Let You Go,” which is about getting rid of nostalgic memorabilia that hinder us from taking hold of our future. Following that is “Honey Bee,” a pop song about the first pure happy day after long years of pain with “Moving On” serving as a celebration to completely let go of painful parts of the past. The final two songs, “The Hallows” and “Only Ever You” deal with making peace with the ghosts of the past and finding a different way to look at the painful years in the rear view mirror. Overall, the record was a dissection of a troubling time and the recording of it took its toll on her, though it eventually became a very cathartic experience that saved her perseverance.

“The week before my wedding I was still finishing vocals for the album, which was pretty insane,” Gayle said. “One year, four cities, and four producers later, we finally had an album. Finishing it has been one of the most challenging things I’ve done.”

The album was also released as a full-length vinyl, making the listening of the journey an intimate one.

“It’s been a dream come true for me to release a full-length vinyl album—especially one that comes in all different colours,” Gayle said. “I have always preferred listening to vinyl albums. I know that there is still a lot of debate about the quality of sound on an LP versus a CD and that it’s very subjective. For me, it’s the comfort that comes with the experience, the magic of nostalgia and the familiarity of the crackle that make it extra special. When I was little and dreaming of being a musician, I never imagined that I’d actually get to hear my own album on vinyl.”

Gayle was proud of everyone who worked on the project because she said they brought their best effort and caught the vision of what the final product could be. During the recording process, the sound of the album had changed from its original intention but at the same time, that was exactly what she was hoping for.

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In addition to music, an important part of the Gayle listening experience is the appreciation of the artwork featured on all her albums that she does all herself, even going so far as releasing coloring books to go along with her music. “The Golden West” is her third album to feature an adult coloring book with each picture depicting a different song.

“My artwork has become increasingly important over the years and I’ve begun to focus on it a lot more, especially with The Golden West colouring book,” Gayle said. “I began creating adult colouring books with my albums in 2010 with my first full-length, ‘Make Believe,’ and at the time it was more about having something interactive than really making an artistic statement. Since then I have invested a lot more time in my artwork as I did more and more research about the benefits of colouring. For this last colouring book, my third, I actually won an artist grant, which felt like a huge affirmation for me. I have worked hard to create my own special aesthetic to complement my music, and I feel inspired to pursue that more and more.”

With the album complete, she sets out to go on tour and share to the world the songs she has finished. Gayle recently moved to Amsterdam from San Diego and is still building a steady lineup in her new homeland. She has been on tour with her San Diego band and still performs with them when she is in the States.

“Blalock and Erdis Maxhelaku, who’ve played on several albums and countless shows, are my cellist and violinist in the states, and I’ve got Daniel Crawford on lead guitar, Dave Carano on bass and Danny Campbell on drums,” Gayle said. “All of them have been with me for several years and I’ll be performing with them again in the fall when I tour the States again. I’m hoping to bring them to Amsterdam soon!”

Gayle is planning to tour in both the United States and Europe, making it quite the finale to a busy 2017.

“I am planning another tour in the States this fall, but before then I’ve got a bunch of European dates on the books!” Gayle said. “I’m pairing up with my pal Arlan Feiles, who’s heading to Europe from L.A. for a few shows, and then heading home to head up the west coast. I’m also releasing a new music video for ‘Pale Ghosts’ very soon.”

Gayle has moved on from an aching past that was tough to endure and we appreciate her making an album about her experiences and taking us along with her. Only time will tell what venture lies ahead for Gayle but one thing’s for certain: we want to take every step along with her no matter where she goes.

To stay up to date with Gayle Skidmore, check out her Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bandcamp, and her official site.