Rachele Lynae

by Amanda Flinner

To really know Rachele (pronounced "Rochelle") Lynae is to listen to her music, and that's just how she likes it. With her self-titled debut album, the rising country music star offers a series of carefully selected snapshots from her life. As a co-writer on each song, she tackles heavier themes as the church-going "rebel daughter" who embraces her faith in "Words in Red" and the heartsick girl trapped in an addictive romance in "Cigarette," and lighter fare with party anthems like "Til the Cows Come Home" and "Out on the Floor," along with the soaring love song "Touch the Stars."

The album, produced by platinum recording artist Jamie O'Neal ("There is No Arizona," "When I Think About Angels," "Somebody's Hero"), is set for release on April 22, 2014 through her Momentum Label Group and will be available at select retail stores and online retailers like Amazon and iTunes (with exclusive iTunes bonus tracks like "Scar" and "Hurricane").
Amanda Flinner (Songfacts): You grew up in Alaska. Was there a big country music scene there while you were growing up?

Rachele Lynae: I wouldn't say there was a big country music scene. The people who loved country music in Kodiak were hardcore country fans, but it wasn't a huge country music scene. I grew up with country music, though, because that's what my dad listened to and that's what he would play on his guitar. So that's how I got into country.

Songfacts: So it kind of runs in the family. Did he do that for fun or did he actually pursue that as a career?

Rachele: It was just a hobby for him. He taught himself how to play guitar in college and just kept it up. He still plays for fun to this day.

Songfacts: Who were some of your influences when you first started getting into country?

Rachele: Well, early on the first person that I was a super fan of was LeAnn Rimes, because she was just so young. As a young person it was really inspiring to see someone putting out such great music at such a young age and thinking, "Wow, it's possible that I could do this really soon!" I was 10 years old going, "I have three years!" [Laughs] So she was probably the first huge influence. And then Reba and Shania Twain were other big influences for a young Rachele.

Now, as I grew up, I found people like Jamie O'Neal. She was the first person that I was a fan of not just as a singer and an artist, but as a songwriter, because that album Shiver came out when I was getting really serious about songwriting. So she is a huge influence for me when it comes to songwriting.

Songfacts: And that's really something, that Jamie O'Neal ended up being the person who would go on and produce your debut.

Rachele: Yeah. [Laughing] It's kind of unreal when you think about it.

Songfacts: When a lot of people talk about Jamie, they usually bring up "There is No Arizona," but you had mentioned in another interview that you were inspired by "Shiver." Can talk about that?

Rachele: Well, it was the whole album. It really wasn't just that song. That song is obviously a fantastic song; it's really well-written. But it's just one of many great, great songs on there. "Shiver" was an incredible track that made you feel like you were in that moment, that you had those butterflies in your stomach, that you were the one that was shivering by the influence of this person.

The first song, though, that was also on that album that I listened to that I was just, like, "Oh, man, I wish I wrote this," was "When I Think About Angels." Because I was fairly young at that time... well, I guess I'm still young. [Laughing] But I was really young then. I was around 13. And I remember just thinking, "I totally relate to those lyrics." You're talking about the color of the coffee matching your eyes and all the ways the person you're infatuated with is a distraction like that. It's a fantastic song.

Songfacts: It's interesting that you just pulled that out about the coffee being the same color as the eyes. I found listening to your songs that there are a lot of visual details, so when you're listening to them, you can really picture a lot. Would you say that was an influence from some of those early songs that you listened to?

Rachele: I'm sure it was. All the songs are very visual. And for me personally, that was a new thing for me. Because as a really young writer I would write specific situations, and I didn't think as much about the visual thing. But then when I started looking at these songs, like Jamie's songs and some other really great country ones, I started to realize that the ones that really getcha are the ones that you can picture the whole thing. You know what colors are going on. It gets your imagination going and it kind of wraps you up in the song.

So it made me really excited, I got a big smile on my face when you said, "Your songs are so visual." I'm like, "Yes!!" Because that's a goal that I have when I'm writing is to really paint a picture.

Songfacts: Country, especially traditional country, has always been a strong storytelling genre. Is that, as a songwriter, part of the reason why you're drawn to country in particular?

Rachele: I really love the fact that you can tell stories in country music. Because sometimes the more specific you get in a story, the more universal it becomes. And it's hard to explain why that is. But when you tell all the details, I think it's because people can picture it. And when they can picture it and understand that whole story, then they can relate to it on a deeper level, and I just love that. I absolutely love that about country music.

Songfacts: You had a hand in co-writing all the songs on your upcoming album. Is there one that you connect with the most or that has the most of yourself in it?

Rachele: This album is just full of tracks from my life, so it's so hard for me to say. "Touch the Stars" was inspired by talking about what it was like to grow up in Kodiak. And we ended up coming up with the idea, like bonfires on the beach, and I just created this whole thing that ended up being "Touch the Stars."

"Words in Red," I had that idea for a long time because people kept asking me, "What keeps you grounded on the road?" And it's reading scripture.

"Cigarette," I was in the middle of a really unhealthy relationship when I wrote that song.

All of these are just little pieces from my life. So it's really hard to pick one.

I guess "Old Fashioned Love" has some lyrics in it that came directly from my journal, which is kind of a fun and interesting thing.

Songfacts: Were all of the songs written specifically for this album, or did you have some already written that you brought to the table?

Rachele: These songs came from all over the place. Some of them are really new, some of them I wrote during college. And then all in between. So some of these tracks I can say I was definitely writing hoping that they would end up on the album. But there's so many songs that I wrote that didn't make the album that just, for whatever reason, didn't take the best snapshot of me that we wanted for this album. I'm a songwriter probably just as much as I'm an artist, so when I'm writing, I'm not just thinking for the album. I'm thinking, "Let's tell the story the best way we can." So we weren't necessarily writing thinking about the commercial product, but I think that it actually turned out better that way.

Songfacts: You had said that there were some songs you didn't think were going to work until you heard them come alive in the studio. Was there any specific song that you could talk about that was like that for you?

Rachele: Sure. Actually, there are two specifically that stick out. One is "Words in Red," and one is "Old Fashioned Love." Both of them were songs that I appreciated, because they were definitely true for me. They were absolutely true from my life. But I just couldn't picture the final produced product, because all I had was me kind of dinging around on the guitar and singing it. So I couldn't picture the whole thing. But when Jamie heard "Words in Red," she went, "Oh, my gosh, this is going to be brilliant!" And I'm like, "Okay. All right."

Then when we got in the studio and everybody got that really kind of a gritty rockin' country feel, it just completely came alive, and I was so glad because it's one of my favorites. Well, it's hard for me to pick any favorites, but it's a really great song, and it turned out so great on the record. I'm really glad that she could have the vision for it as a final produced product. I don't even trust myself anymore on picking what songs are going to be the best produced. I just give them all to her. I'm like, "Here, I wrote another one. You tell me."

Songfacts: Speaking of "Words in Red," and then also "Clean," those are both faith-driven songs. Did you come from a strong church background?

Rachele: I grew up in the church, but more important than that, I grew up as a believer. So I think a lot of these songs are going to tell a little bit about that.

Songfacts: On both of them you talk about how easy it is to stray away from the straight path with all the pressures and temptations in the world, but you can always come back. Obviously it's a struggle you can relate to if you've written about it. But was it important to you to have your faith included on the album?

Rachele: I've always felt from the beginning that I wanted to do country music. But it was kind of like, well, is it okay for me to do country music and not to do Christian music? Am I serving God best with my talents this way?

And what I came to realize at a real young age is that what's more important is to be telling the truth. And the great thing about country music is that there are so many country listeners that, whether they have the same faith base as you or not, they want to hear about it. They're open to hearing about what your faith is and what your story is, because it's a story format. So I feel like what's most important is to be telling the truth, so I want to tell them all these things.

And "Words in Red," it doesn't say, "I walk a perfect life." It talks about the reality of it: "I was baptized as a rebel daughter." I have a tendency toward being rebellious. Don't we all. [Laughing] But I think it's important to include that when it's such a big part of my life.

Songfacts: It must be hard sometimes to be that honest when some people don't want to admit that they're struggling because they think that would somehow make them a lesser Christian or something. I mean, that's not true, but to just come out with a song like that, a lot of people can connect to that struggle.

Rachele: Yeah. Because sometimes it may be hard for people to admit. But then if they hear someone saying, "Yeah, man, I'm right there with you," then they feel more comfortable saying, "It is not always easy." So when I tell my story, it gives other people the freedom to tell their story, which is one of the coolest things about songwriting.

Songfacts: I had mentioned "Clean" in there, too. That's about being away from home and there are a lot of memories of childhood. Am I right in saying that there's a homesick quality in there? You moved so far away to go to Nashville and pursue your dream.

Rachele: I did. And my co-writer [Justin Halpin], as well, moved to Nashville - we both know that feeling. There's something about when you go home and you've been gone and you've built your own life, and sometimes you just do the best you can. But sometimes it's hard, you kind of get off center. So there's something about being able to go home. And when you walk in the door of the place you grew up, or even if it's not the place you grew up, but it's your parents' house, it's like a restart. You go in and it's the same stuff. It's "help your mother set the table," and it somehow refreshes you back to the innocence of being a child and also just remembering who you are, what you stand for. There's something about that. It kind of gives you a fresh start.

And so, yeah, I think that there's a little bit of that homesickness. Although I have to say I do love Nashville.

Songfacts: Well, you've been there for a while now, right?

Rachele: Yeah. Oh, I've been here a long time. Actually, I went to college here and I have stayed.

Songfacts: Just to backtrack a little bit, how did you first connect with Jamie O'Neal?

Rachele: I met Jamie through her dad (Jimmy Murphy). He lived in Bellingham, Washington when I was living in Lynden, Washington. There was one really great studio in our area, so we naturally both ended up there. I was either 12 or 13 when I first went there to that studio. His other daughter, Minnie, was working with the same producer that I was working with, and his name was Chip. Chip kind of introduced me to Jimmy, kind of saying, "There's this girl that has a really good voice. I want to get your opinion. I'm thinking of investing some extra time in her and teaching her how to be in a recording studio." And he had Jimmy come in. And he was like, "Yeah, she's great."
Jimmy Murphy is a music industry veteran. In addition to being a recording artist in New Zealand and a star on the Australian Bandstand, his songs have been featured on the Desperate Housewives soundtrack and America's Funniest Home Videos. He also serves as General Manager for his daughter Jamie O'Neal's label, Momentum, and manages the music career for his other daughter, Minnie Murphy.
So I ended up staying in touch with Jimmy, but he hadn't actually heard me sing since I was 13 or so, until after college, when I was looking around trying to figure out what my next big step was going to be. I ended up calling some people and taking them out to coffee to pick their brains and hopefully get some criticism. So I sat down to coffee with him, we talked music for a long time and found that we had a lot of things that we agreed on. Then I handed him an EP that I had worked on in college, and was just, like, "Here's the deal, take it and listen to this, and if you like it, if you get what I'm doing, if you believe in what I'm doing, then help me out. If not, then give me some criticism, and that's great, I'm looking to grow."

So he took it and he called me within 10 minutes of leaving. He'd popped it in his CD player. He was like, "Rachele, I had no idea." And he ended up taking that CD to Jamie, and she ended up really liking it. So she set up a meeting for the two of us to get together.

I went over to her house with just my guitar and myself. We ended up jamming, and I played her a bunch of stuff I had written. It wasn't long until she started producing me, and then they started talking to me about starting a record label and they would like me for me to be the flagship artist. And I'm, like, "Well, let me see - yes." So it's really been a great ride.

Songfacts: And you actually got to perform a duet with her, that was "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Rachele: Yeah. With this album, there's a second duet that we've done that will be on there. So it was amazing getting to do the Christmas duet with her. Now we actually have one that we wrote together that we recorded on this album.

Songfacts: "Two for One Special," did she co-write that?

Rachele: Yeah. She did. That's the one that she and I sang together. It's really fun song. It was inspired by a situation I had with a friend where we had both starting dating guys - this was a while back - and we started talking about what they were like and she would say, "Oh, he's just like the guy I'm seeing." And then we ended up finding out in our conversation that they had the same first and middle name. And for half a second there, we were like, "What?!" So we thought we might be dating the same guy. And then we realized we weren't.

But we ended up joking about it, saying, "Oh, gosh, can you imagine what we would do if we found out we were dating the same guy?" So I came up with this song idea out of that situation called "Two for One Special." And Jamie and Shaye Smith and I got together and wrote this. And it took us forever to write this song, because we spent so much time laughing and coming up with lines that we could never actually put in a song. [Laughs] But it was just so fun. It's like a fantasy of what you would do that you would never actually do, because no one's that crazy. But still.

Songfacts: You also have a lot of high-energy party anthems on the album, like "Party 'Til The Cows Come Home." Are those the most fun to play live?

Rachele: Yeah. I would say they definitely are. I love just being able to skip around the stage. I just love that high energy stuff. I want to be able to flip my hair around. So those are the most fun for me. It's also fun to have the more intimate moments and just really put all of your emotion into them and just tell the story through your emotional performance of the song. But, yeah, I love the party anthems.

Songfacts: Does that seem to be the fan fave? Or "Fishin' For Something," I could see that one being really popular with the crowd.

Rachele: Yeah. Different crowds are different. "Fishin'" usually gets a good reaction. And a lot of times, it's funny, because I'll tell them about the song and I'll say, "You know, girls, how we like to do this, going out and whatnot. And there's always that one guy trying to break up our girl group." And as soon as I say that, there's always at least one guy in the audience, if not multiple guys, that are like, "Oh, it's me!"

So it just turns into this fun thing. That's definitely a favorite. And it depends, too. We've played some places that are heavier into the line dancing. So for them, it's anything that they can line dance to. "Fishin'" has a line dance party, I think that someone even made up one for "Sticky Summer Lovin'." So it just depends on the crowd.

Songfacts: For anyone who doesn't know, there's a really funny video of the Best Worst Pickup Lines on your YouTube channel.

Rachele: [Laughing] Yeah.

Songfacts: Were those ones that you actually heard or did people just vote on which ones would be the top ten?

Rachele: Oh, my gosh, literally, the guys that were in the video, as well as everyone on the team, were throwing out the worst things that they had heard.

Songfacts: It's hard to believe that some of those were actually said, that people would think that would be successful.

Rachele: [Laughing] Exactly. It was hilarious. And the funny thing is we recorded more than even just those. And the list they had was just ridiculous even more so than the ones that got to be in the video. It was so funny.

Songfacts: And do you have a story about the actual writing of the song, "Fishin' for Somethin'"?

Rachele: Yeah. I actually really love line dancing. And there was a period of time right after college but before everybody got really headfirst into their career. We were all working hard, but we still had the ability, because we were in town more, to go out consistently. So we were going line dancing at least once a week. It was me and one of the writers that you'll recognize from the album, Hannah Bethel, and a girl named Tiffany Tilmartin. We would go out dancing and we would just stay until it was almost time to close. So this was a regular part of our life.

And we found that almost always there was someone coming up and just harassing one of us. It could be a different person every time, but there was always something. And it was pretty consistent, too. It would be about that time of the night where the guy probably had too many drinks or something, and they'd come up like, "Hey, what are you doing?" And I'm like, "Dude, it's 12:30. So after this, I'm going home. I'm not hanging out. No, thank you, I don't want to go mudding in the middle of the night with someone I just met. But thank you for asking."

So Hannah and I wrote that song sitting down going, "We've got to write about these guys." So we wrote this and we laughed a lot and giggled and felt like we were pretty clever.

Songfacts: There are a lot of love songs on the album, but they're all really unique, because they cover all different aspects of a relationship. Some of them are carefree and others are really about heartbreak. How do you approach them emotionally when they're so different?

Rachele: Well, I think that I've been fortunate enough in my life to have kind of experienced all those different places. So I just take myself to that emotion. I know what that emotion is, and I take myself there and put myself in the shoes of the song. So even if I'm not there right now, I've been there before, and I try to draw on that emotion. And I just take myself there when I'm performing it. It's really not any different than acting.

Songfacts: And you've done acting before, right? When you were in high school, you did some musicals.

Rachele: Yeah. I did some musicals. When I was younger I did even more of that stuff. I would even enjoy getting back into it if I had the opportunity. Right now it's all music, music, music. But I think someday I might do a little more. But it's the same type of thing where if they're in a scene, they may not even know what the character's going through, but they find a place where the emotion was in their life. And then you take that and put it into the scene. So it's kind of the same thing with performing a song.

Songfacts: And did you know out of all those love songs that "Touch the Stars" was going to stand out as a single?

Rachele: "Touch the Stars" I thought was a really fantastic song from the time we wrote it - it's really good. It's probably something everybody can sing along to with the "whoas" and it's kind of a little bit anthemy, so everyone can get on board with it. But I didn't really know that it was going to be pushed to a serious consideration or anything like that until Jamie heard it and loved it.

Songfacts: Anything else you can tell us about the album?

With the album coming out, there are also a couple of songs that are iTunes exclusives. One of them is called "Scar," and one of them is called "Hurricane." "Hurricane" I wrote by myself. There are still some songs that didn't make it on the album in any way that I just love and I'll probably try to get onto another album. But the exclusive thing was kind of a fun thing. It's a fun thing to be able to give iTunes a couple of extra songs, because they appreciate that. But it's also cool because I get to put a couple more songs out there. So that's kind of neat, getting my babies out into the world.

April 18, 2014. Get more at rachelelynae.com.
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