Devin from our Summer Promotions Team got the chance to sit down with Thu and Rachel of The Singer and Songwriter. Read their interview below!
Devin: How did you get your start in music?
Thu: I picked up guitar and taught myself in high school and I was listening to, kind of like lot’s of emo – Dashboard Confessional and whatever was on the radio –
Rachel: Thu, this is on-the-record, so you should try to keep it cool.
Thu: No, I have no cool-factor at all. So, I was doing a lot of singer-songwriter stuff and into college I would just write music. We went to school in San Francisco and that’s where [Rachel and I] met. Rachel had much better music taste; she liked jazz and indie folk bands that I’d never heard of. So, she gave me a musical education. Very shortly after that we moved to L.A. and started playing together there.
Rachel: And I grew up in choir, for years and years. But I didn’t really do any other singing besides in a group like that, so, this was the first band-type setting I was in. I guess we’re not sure the exact start date of our band – we think it’s maybe eight years that we’ve been at it.
Devin: That’s awesome! Since you’ve started, have there been any artists that have shaped your music?
Rachel: Well, my most favorite artist in the world is Fiona Apple. I’m very obsessed with her. When I discovered her I was in college and I grew up listening to like, “The Divas,” like, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston—those big, belty voices. And I didn’t see myself fitting into music at all because my voice doesn’t have those big notes. So when I discovered her, I suddenly saw quiet voices as valid—that people would want to listen to a lower, quieter singing voice and I could actually pursue that.
We listen to all sorts of music. We listen to old-timey jazz—and I listen to the voices and Thu listens for the guitar. But we also listen to bluegrass and in the car we listen to top 40s pop, like Rihanna. Aside from metal, we really listen to everything.
Thu: I definitely went through a metal phase in high school though.
Rachel: True! So, maybe just everything.
Devin: Your sound has been described as both modern and vintage. How do you try to keep a balance between the two?
Thu: When we write, we try to write stories that are honest and feel true and straightforward. We want people to understand the things we are saying, which maybe isn’t a novel idea, but it keeps the music modern because we live here and now. We don’t try to veil anything. As far as the sound, I think there is a quality of Rachel’s voice that harkens back to a vintage kind of a time, in the way she sings and the phrasing. I play a guitar from 1949. We almost exclusively try to write in a modern way and it ends up being kind of vintage-y, somehow.
Devin: What draws you to jazz folk?
Rachel: I think what draws me to jazz is the ease in the playing. They’re trying very hard but that’s not coming across. And it’s the stories and the lyrics that draw me to folk.
Devin: How has your music evolved sine you first started?
Rachel: Well, Thu used to sing! That was different. It was a lot cuter. It was when there were a bunch of guy/girl duos and so we were dipping into the “Cute Factor.”
Thu: She and Him-esque.
Rachel: But we reject cute now. Our songs have gotten a lot more melancholy and story-based. More adult, I think. We wrote a song called, “We’ll Get By,” and Thu sang on it and it was a back and forth dialogue. It didn’t make it on the first album. And then when we were doing the second album, we really liked it, so, we rewrote it and I just sang it.
Thu: And it got much sadder.
Rachel: And much more authentic.
Thu: More introspective, with more color.
Devin: When you’re writing, is there a process you always go through, or does it change from song to song?
Thu: It’s changed a lot and it’s really all over the place. A question we get asked the most often is ‘Who’s the singer and who’s the songwriter?’—
Rachel: Thank you for not asking that!
Thu: I guess when we met, I was mostly writing songs and Rachel was mostly singing, independently of each other, so that’s why we named it that. But as we’ve been together, sometimes I have a song that I’ve written and I bring it to Rachel and she edits, puts it in her own voice, and changes things around. But then other times, some of our favorite songs are songs Rachel wrote. One was a poem with no music to it that she handed over to me. Or another way we do it is if Rachel just gives me a prompt. Or I have a time constraint and have to write something in 30 minutes, so, we build it off of that. The process is almost little games that we play to figure what will work for writing.
Devin: That really keeps things interesting! So to wrap up, do you guys have any projects coming up that you want us to know about?
Rachel: We just recorded some new music; it’s really like pop music. And we’ll probably release it sometime this year.
Thu: Mostly just the tour. We’ve got about three-quarters of the dates left and we’ll be on tour through the end of July, if people want to check out the rest of the dates. We’ll be down in Greensboro and Asheville, too!
Devin: That’s great! I hope some of our listeners will get a chance to check out the shows.
Check out The Singer and Songwriter on their website and don’t miss a chance to see them play this summer!