Interview with Rae Chriss
The music of Rae Chriss is moody, rich, delicious dark Indie PopRock with a poetic base.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My mother and father both sang. Mom sang in the car, she sang while doing yard work, she sang while cleaning the house, pretty much all the time. Lol
Dad played a handful of songs on guitar and sang to me growing up. Most notably "Take It Easy" by the Eagles. From there I pretty much picked up their singing habits and ran into the school choir.
If I hadn't gotten into music... seems like such an odd concept to verbalize for me. I suppose I would just be leaning on my current full-time job in software more.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Outside of music, the tour, the album, and my full-time design job, I barely have time for other hobbies right now, BUT when I can, I also try my hand at interior design, gardening, painting, modeling, camping, yoga, meditation, and philosophical/ religious studies.
I've always been a person to dabble in many different things. It keeps my perspectives versed and my mind challenged. My soul also needs many different facets of fulfillment in order for me to feel balanced. This influences my creativity because it gives me many pools to draw from when considering what I want to create, it balances out some of my views, or gives me a unique edge to analyzing the world around me, and most importantly, it keeps me thoroughly cleaned out so I can have space to produce.
How long has music been your career?
I'm not sure when to say it started? This past year has definitely been a hard plunge into my music though.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I am based out of Cary, NC. The music scene here in the triangle is vibrant, eclectic, and supportive. It's hard to find all those in one place. It is very saturated, but instead of tearing down or pushing people out, every musician you meet here will support you and help you out. It's done a lot to encourage me and create what my music is today.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
The best show I have ever played was earlier this month for the Carolina Music Awards Fest. It was a full-band, 30min set at Pour House the night before the Awards Ceremony for people to hear some of the nominees and local talent. I'm honored to have been a part of it and totally gushing that I have such amazing friends that I can pull together certain types of musicians for certain stages depending on the vibe. We had a blast playing on that stage together after only one practice to get our set ready. We rocked it and I hope to play another set sometime with that same group of fella's. They are dear friends.
The worst show? Oh boy. I would have to say my high school talent show. I won solo competitions for choir, but wasn't the best stage presence or pop singer. I tried out every year, but never made the talent show for a solo act. Eventually my mom asked the coordinator "What gives?" and I was given a slot for my senior year. I made it through with some Norah Jones, but I'll just say, I'm very glad I don't have a recording of it. lol
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Because I have been focusing on my career in software design for some years now, I would mostly play at open mics to keep it light, and do a couple larger gigs a year, or catch an opening/break gig for a friend somewhere.
I frequent the Niche Wine Lounge open mic in Holly Springs hosted by another dear friend, Maverick Rose, quite often. It's been a great place for me to try out new material and meet some very supportive people. It's intimate, it's lively, it's artsy, it's chill, and it's just an easy place. I do have social anxiety, which on the tour I've learned to manage a bit more, but when choosing open mics before I definitely had to calculate how much energy a place would take. Niche was always an easy go. Usually I would play acoustic, indie, blues stuff there, but then I started additionally frequenting Mac's Tavern open mic hosted by Mike Sedito (alternating Tuesday nights). This open mic is more of a band roulette of sorts, so I was able to put down my guitar to focus on my classic rock/pop vocals and stage presence with a full band.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I would love to play at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, The Cary Theatre, or Koka Booth amphitheater. My gut is telling me, I'm not too far off. 🙏🏻 I'll keep my wishful thinking and maybe we'll manifest it. 💖
This question gives me analysis paralysis. lol Maybe a ticket with Tove Lo or John Mayer could be in the cards?
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Don't wear yourself out. It's a journey, not a sprint. Just because it's not happening right this second, even if you're giving it all you can, doesn't mean it never will. Keep faith and get what you can in this moment.
Giving myself space and time for everything to happen when it should was crucial for me.
Also... identify, but don't listen to the haters, we all get wherever we're going in our own unique way. There's no right or wrong path as long as you've got your head and heart in the right place. 🙏🏻
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
That I can actually go after my dreams and not starve.
But honestly, I wouldn't change any of my past because of this. My success in music has manifested exactly as it should, and I'm content with this reality. I feel very blessed.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Oh man, that's really tough. I suppose it would have to be "Skin". I found the entry in one of my journals in 2011. It looked like I had drifted out of a dream and written down some scribbles. I turned those scribbles into a song and that was the first full song I had ever written. It's been with me the longest from a really dark and confused time in my life.
Even now, over a decade later, I still get choked up sometimes from it. It's such a relatable moment for humans. I didn't know it at the time, I thought I was just expressing my own thoughts and feelings, but over the years I've seen just how impactful this song is for many many different people. We all evolve and change and that process can be scary and painful, and can affect our close relationships. Highlighting it in a public atmosphere that's safe and understanding, I now think, is so very very important for us. So thanks for the past self! Good lookin 'out!
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I actually like playing covers more than my originals. They are a little more palatable for audiences, they're not as dark and dense, and I don't have to be as vulnerable with them. Fiona Apple- Paper Bag and Jewel- Who will save your soul have been with me since I learned how to play guitar in high school. And believe it or not, so many many years later, I still really enjoy playing them. I like that I know them so well I can focus on the delivery and emotion in every word.
Right now, my single "Robots Don't Get High" gets requested the most. Which is very flattering. I wasn't sure what to think when pouring myself into this album, but I certainly didn't get as far as thinking people were going to request for me to play my music for them... ha! I was just writing it for myself as a bookmark of sorts-- the closing of a chapter. If no one liked it, I was prepared for that.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
I write first. And nothing in particular inspires me to write. It's more like I'm required to write in order to continue functioning properly. Sometimes it's just oddball thoughts too! Like I remember one of my very first journals, I quickly started it off by questioning, "Why do some people like oatmeal raisin cookies and some like chocolate chip?". Totally out there. So whenever thoughts like that circle around enough times, I have to vomit them out so anything else can occupy the space.
Then I suppose when the time is right, I dig back through those writings, compile similar patterns and themes, and write an album. Thinking back at the process for compiling Liberated Density... it could have totally looked like madness. I had poems taped up on the wall in all sorts of wacky patterns. Some grouped here, some grouped there. Pieces cut from one page and taped to another. And then I wrote them out again neatly, filled in the holes, and created song structures.
Later, after they were just about all written (I think I had around 9 new songs for the album?) I sat down with each of them to add guitar and melody.
One of my favorite stories to tell about my songwriting process is from building the composition for "Robots Don't Get High". I had gone home to West Virginia for a break, some family, and to focus on the album. I was sitting on the front porch of my dad's trailer drinking coffee and trying to hear what this song should be. My step mom came out to join me. Unfortunately not much of the music had formed yet, so she got to here F and G relatively for about 10min as I composed the verse in my head-- maybe a few slight mumbles here and there. Eventually she got up quietly to go back inside and said, "That sounds real good. Keep it up!"
Anyone else would've said F And G?? Enough already! Play something else.
It sounded shitty at that moment, but it grew and blossomed, and now has its own life. Little moments of encouragement like that go a long long way.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Gooooood question! It really depends on the song for any direct messages I may be trying to convey. I actually play in abstractions and metaphors a whole lot. My poetry is pretty far from literals.
I remember in Jr. High being made fun of because a friend told me my writing didn't make any sense and I should do something else with my time. And now I use those same poems in my songs today. It's a little odd to think I can use stories and thoughts from years when I was that young and they are still valuable.
If I had to pick an overall theme though... introspection and the sublime? Navigating through a strange world in order to find the impossible true unfailing love.
Here's the description of Liberated Density:
LIBERATED DENSITY is a Pandora's box filled with two decades of journaled secrets that has recently been unhinged. From a young bullied teen, to a successful young adult-- carrying the same fragile heart through failed relationship to failed relationship-- I begin to question what or who really deserves the power that comes with owning another's heart. As fickle humans, we are incapable of loving or being loved purely. Pain always seems to accompany human love. Eventually, in a dream-like trance, I find myself pining for the unknown, the great beyond, the inhuman and immortal, the One comforter, and the One solace.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Oh yeah! It's pretty much inevitable when working with other people. I usually try to find their motive, and see if I can try to appease that while still requesting a bit of what I want too. But sometimes it's just plain old patience that has to be stretched a bit. This album has been a huge learning curve for me with many obstacles with many different people, and at each turn it's just seeing the person as human, feeling what they're feeling, expressing that you understand, and then communicating the gap. There's almost always a way to keep going if you dig far enough for it.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Well, I'm finishing up the tour for the year next. That involves flying out west for a few weeks, coming back for the album streaming release, and then heading to Nashville & Nola. Rounding it out with a couple months back home in West Virginia to make up for some missed family time this year. Two music videos are planned for 2023 with potentially a couple bigger stages in the works. It's all kind of mind blowing, but I'm tied into this ride for the foreseeable future, so I'm just gonna keep blazin.