Rachel Platten

At the start of her career, she was asked to open up for incredible acts such as Derek Trucks, The Strokes and Rusted Root. At the start. At the FRIGGIN’ START. Sound absurd? Obviously you haven’t heard the imaginative, ambitious and heart grabbing tunes of Rachel Platten, one of the most promising talents that PEV has ever had the chance to throw XXQ’s at. The team here is smitten with this singer/songwriter – from her laid back answers to her a capella voice and her outstanding actions on the ivories, Platten is more than a “next big thing”. She’s golden. She’s set.

No surprise, Rachel comes to us from Rock Ridge Music with a new record that has a who’s who of teams producing it (including Fredrik Thomander, Jerry Abbott and Grant Black and the Wizardz of Oz) – an album entitled “Be Here”. No one describes the effort better than Platten herself, nailing her target dead on: “I wanted to create something that was easily accessible and joyful, but upon further listening, had deeper meaning. Lyrics are very important to me, and on this record, I truly worked, and toiled and dug hard for these words, so that my message was one I really believed in. That message is to remind people and myself mainly, to be more present, to be more at peace with what is, and to celebrate what we have already.” I’ve seriously listened to about 8 tracks from the collection alone in the past hour – and it’s made the thoughts of a fast approaching Monday morning just drift away. It feels good, but doesn’t need to dabble in bubblegum pop to get where it’s going – it’s just really, really excellent music. And I can’t tell you enough times to go pick it up. So do it. Check out “Be Here” and keep reading for so much more in the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Rachel Platten

PEV: How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Rachel Platten (RP): It's soulful, Indie pop...maybe with some classical sprinkles on top. More than anything, I just want to spread love with my music. I want people to walk away from a show feeling like they just got a giant dose of Prozac, and to alleviate people's worries, just a little bit.

PEV: Calling New York City home, what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

RP: Well, Boston was truly my home growing up, I have to be careful of the Boston/NYC mixup - I was playing at a radio station in Boston the other day and got called out on calling NYC home! Anyway, growing up I listened to my dad's music, which consisted of classic rock and roll, the Stones, Beatles, Kinks, and my mom's music, which was confessional singer/songwriter stuff, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Carly Simon, Carole King...but my biggest influence was who I found on my own, mainly Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, and Billy Joel. I got hooked on artists who were classically trained pianists and songwriters.

PEV: Having played in the business for a good time now, what was it like for you when you first started out?

RP: It was lucky on one hand, and then tough. I got very lucky at first, and got asked to open for Derek Trucks for my first real concert as "Rachel Platten", and then the Strokes, and Rusted Root followed... but then upon moving to New York City, things slowed down a bit and I realized how blessed I had been that first year.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

RP: Oh man, I don't know if I remember the first time...but I do know that gradually my confidence started to build as I played live more and more. When I started out, my live performance was always stronger than what I was able to record, which was frustrating, but also rewarding to know I could really kill people's expectations when they saw me live.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Rachel Platten show?

RP: Hopefully, to feel uplifted, and exhilarated, and taken on a journey of sorts. We pride ourselves on never playing a song the same way twice. I learned that from Aretha Franklin, who said she'd never sing a song the same way twice because other wise, she wasn't creating on stage. I love that approach and thankfully, my talented band can keep up with my changes, so live shows are pretty exciting. Not even WE know exactly how we're going to play the song...and sometimes we get lucky and are lifted to incredible places within the songs, and other times, maybe not so much. But either way, we have so, so much fun.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

RP: How incredibly blessed I am to be able to do this.

PEV: Any preshow rituals before going on stage or do you just wing it?

RP: My drummer and guitar player and I like to kind of remind each other of how lucky we all are, and we do some pretty cheesy pep talks at times, and other times, we are telling dumb jokes about something that happened that day literally right up until the first chord. Most importantly, we keep the mood very light, and never put pressure on each other.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

RP: Song ideas come from everywhere for me, it's hard to pinpoint a place. When I've been given a particularly finished concept (ie: I can hear almost the whole instrumentation and know automatically where the chorus wants to go and lift off), I feel like I didn't really write it...but that it was channeled. I write with my voice mainly, a capella, and only take it to the piano once I've fleshed out most of the melody, it feels freer somehow like that, and not constricted to set chords. Cause once you pick chords on the piano or guitar, you're sort of boxed in, in a way.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, "Be Here". What can fans expect from this work?

RP: I am very, very proud of this album. It's been made across the world, and it is, upon first listen, instantly uplifting. Or at least, I hope. I wanted to create something that was easily accessible and joyful, but upon further listening, had deeper meaning. Lyrics are very important to me, and on this record, I truly worked, and toiled and dug hard for these words - so that my message was one I really believed in. That message is to remind people, and myself mainly, to be more present, to be more at peace with what is, and to celebrate what we have already. Life is hard, yes, but there is so much beauty in what we already have, and I wanted it to be a reminder of all the love that surrounds us already.

PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?

RP: Oh yes. Definitely. But, I have my little musicians bible of sort - The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron as my guide. If I feel myself becoming particularly blocked, I start the exercises again, and I'm freed pretty instantly. I totally 100% recommend this book for anyone who wants to be more creative in any field :)

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Rachel Platten?

RP: Hmm... If I didn't have to get dressed up for my career, I would be in sneakers and sweatpants all day long. I am kind of a tomboy. I love sports, am an avid fan and I try to play as many sports as possible on the road. But, on the flipside, I'm a total klutz. Maybe because I insist upon playing sports with guys, I always end up getting hurt. I think my ankle has been sprained 3 times this semester. Lame, I know.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

RP: Yep, while studying in Trinidad. I had an aha moment when on stage for the first time, and I was hooked.

PEV: What one word best describes Rachel Platten?

RP: Sunshine baby. Oh crap that's two words.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

RP: I freaking love touring. I am sure a day will come that it gets old, but now, I'm having the time of my life. Best part, meeting so many new people every night. I've always loved making new friends, and this feels like 365 first days of schools (where people are nice, not like middle school first days - those blew.) Also, I love hotels. I love rooms that are cleaned for you and hotel hot tubs and room service.

Worst part. Getting sick of the clothes in your suitcase. My drummer is wearing the same hoodie every show this spring in protest and I'm pretty jealous. I hate wearing the same outfit so many times.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

RP: Yes, west coast. I want to do much more touring out there this fall. I'm in the midwest and south and northeast a bunch, but I need to get some Cali time in.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

RP: I love playing in Boston & New York, which from above, you know I consider both as my hometowns ;) New York feel truly like home to me when it comes to music, and shows, as I have a wonderful and loyal fanbase. It's kind of amazing to play in NY after being on the road for a while and realizing I have all these people who have been telling their friends, and getting excited for the record release...etc, and ofcourse, I love playing with my full band - which I don't get to do on the road very often.  My family and close friends are so incredibly supportive, I feel too lucky, really.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

RP: Lots of yoga, tv watching, restaurant exploring..on and I love to be outdoors, skiing in the winter and soccer and tennis in the summer.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

RP: Darlingside. I love them...they contacted me about two years ago and asked if I'd ever need a 5 piece string backing band, and I stupidly didn't take them up on the offer at the time. I saw them play at sxsw after my set on 6th street and they totally killed it. Definitely check them out!

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

RP:  I'd probably be a therapist. I love listening to my friends and helping people figure out hard situations...my mom's a therapist, and I think I have it in me.

PEV: So, what is next for Rachel Platten?

RP: World domination, yo.

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