Interview with Raine Stern
Raine first picked up a guitar at 11 years old and found a home for the stories she always felt the need to tell. Whether writing, producing, or performing live, her impressive talent is met head-on with an undeniable sense of purpose. Her lyricism is potent and poetic, and her arrangements succeed at filling the cracks that language can’t. Raine is beloved among fans for her face-melting guitar solos and timeless sound.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I”ve always been a storyteller, and words have always been important to me. I used to write persuasive speeches in my free time as a child, used to notice the subtleties in the way people interact with each other. I would pick up on what others would miss. When I was 11, I got my first guitar, and the observations and huge feelings I had within me found a means to be communicated through. I’ve been writing songs ever since. If I were not a musician, although difficult to imagine, I think I would enjoy being a teacher or professor. I love sharing what’s important to me and helping initiate changes in the perspectives of the people I care about, and I think teaching would be a great culmination of those qualities.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
It is very difficult for me to not think about music - even when I don’t have my guitar in my hands, I have melodies and lyrics running through my mind at all times. I enjoy connecting with others - sharing a conversation, learning about how their mind works, discussing whatever comes to us. I also enjoy making and editing videos, which can be a similar process to making music - seeing your vision come to life and watching it have an influence. The more I lean into my creative flow, the better every aspect of creation becomes.
How long has music been your career?
When I was 18, I decided I would make music my full time career. I was in my first semester of college, and I was sitting in class. I realized college wasn’t the place for me. I was meant to be dedicating myself to music, working on my craft, and writing. I walked out of class that day and have been supporting myself through music ever since.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I am currently in Los Angeles, but the majority of my career has been based in Madison, Wisconsin. I grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin in a tumultuous home life, leaving me a lot of time to write about everything I was going through. Being so musically isolated, I developed my own music style that still holds true for me today. I had a lot of experience playing at blues jams in Madison with players 3 times my age, and I do love the emotion behind blues music. My music is meant to be felt, not just heard.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
The worst shows have been small bar gigs where there are only a few older men that might not even be there for you, that make snide comments about how you’re “good for a girl,” and talk over all your songs.
I know I am not alone when I say the best shows are when your audience has come to see you, and are invested in everything you do. I played at Des Moines Pride recently, where the audience of young queer people had an incredible infectious energy, and were so supportive and engaged with my music. Those are the shows I feel like I have truly had an influence. They keep my faith in myself and my mission high, and of course, they're just so fun to play.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I really loved playing at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI. I’m from Madison, so my favorite venues that I’ve played many times are in the midwest. I saw this really cool venue called The Troubadour in LA that I would love to play. Of course, everyone keeps telling me I gotta play at the Hotel Cafe. I’m down to play any and every Pride fest, colleges, or places where people would love to be inspired. Wherever that is, count me in.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I would love to play a show with a diverse and passionate lineup. My music spans genres and I love lots of different artists, and I would love to be a part of a show that celebrates variety. I’d love to play with Coldplay, Remi Wolf, John Mayer, The Internet, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, to name a few.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Accept what you have it as you have it. Maximize what you can do in the now. Don’t let too many cooks into your kitchen when it comes to making decisions - you will become paralyzed. What I just said is something I’ve faltered on. It’s a blessing to be brilliant, but a curse to recognize your potential and not have all the resources/money to capture it. Accept it, do what you can now, put it out, and move on. Shut out the world enough to hear your own inner voice and know what it is you want to say. Don’t study other people’s music to the point where you’re derivative. This is something I’ve done well. I don’t make music a certain way because other people have. Most of the time people try to draw comparisons to me or say “you must be inspired by ___” I’ve never even heard of them - which is cool. This makes my sound my own, and there’s not really a point to being your own artist unless you have your own distinguished voice. Basically, do your best, put the dang work out, and come back to it and make it better later if you want. But don’t wait 5 years to put out a hit song because “I don’t have money” or “The horns could be louder” or anything. Let it all be a documentation for how rad you’ve been all along. Say “this is me with nobody’s help” and then when you get the help and support, you can be radder. But you’ve always been rad, if you’re rad.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
If I could speak with a younger me, the me who decided to pursue music above all else, I would tell her not to overthink. She has everything she needs within herself. She is gifted, and sensitive, and intense, and all those qualities make her the musician she is. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are too much, and trust your instincts, because you have them for a reason. Release your music, make time for yourself and the people you love, and, oh yeah: Join Tik Tok right away.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Just like I refuse to stick my sound inside a box and I write to service the message, I also cannot possibly answer this question concisely. My favorite songs of mine are all unreleased, but then again, I’ve been sitting on records for 1-8 years in hopes of being able to fund/market them to the degree they deserve. I’ll speak into fruition that my song, “So Precarious” is a timeless, funk-pop record, my song “Something Like A Dream” is an ethereal, suck-you-in, tearjerker and headbanger all in one. All these records are self-composed from start to finish, top to bottom.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I lean into reggae, metal, pop, jazz, etc… So my music appeals to a wide range of people, and therefore, it’s pretty spread out which songs are people’s favorites. “Zodiac” is such a summer, pop song that’s kind of cheeky; I can see it getting requested by people who love Ed Sheeran for example. “So Precarious” is just such a tasty big band funk record that people who dig Earth, Wind, and Fire and Bruno Mars will like that one hands down. “Something Like A Dream” I have yet to hear a single person not love this song because it’s got the dreaminess, it’s got directness, it has beautiful lyrics, a catchy chorus, and a cutting, rock bridge that takes the listener by surprise. “Lumen” is a boppy, beautiful, indie-rock song with a gut wrenching guitar solo at the end. “I’m Not Them” is one of the songs I’ve actually put out at this point (though written/arranged when I was 15), and it’s indie-rock-jazz-pop sound honestly grabs most people. Young and old alike love that song. It’s like how Stevie Wonder writes pop songs that are tasty and consumable by damn near everyone and yet high-brow and entertaining for even the best musicians. I love writing songs that sneakily have 15 chords in them and are simultaneously not intimidating to pretty much any listener.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
While the creative process can look different for me depending on the day, the times I create my best, most true work are when I can achieve a kind of flow state. I am someone who feels my emotions to my core, and when I write from that place, from the core of who I am, I can tap into something far beyond myself, passing the mental blocks and technical aspects of composing to flow directly from feeling into music. That moment is now represented outside of myself, forever, and when the timing and the atmosphere is right, I can tap back in when I play the song live.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I want my audience to know themselves and to love themselves, and by feeling the empowerment that comes from truly loving themselves, they believe they can change the world for the better. I want a care and love for the Earth, for the people around you, and for true equality to be represented in my music. I want the capacity of human emotion to be felt through it, and I want to be known and understood through it.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
I am very particular yet extremely good at receiving feedback. I take everything with a grain of salt, respect everyone’s perspective (consider where it’s coming from too), and I will try anything once. For these reasons, I think I am very easy to work with. I want the art to be the best it can be at the end of the day no matter whose idea or song it is. It just needs to translate and reach its potential, and so long as that’s everyone’s goal - you’re set.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I plan to continue my mission to unite my audience in self love and community, and do what I can to create a better future for all of us and our planet. I want to play all over the world, and visit places that have been negatively affected by climate change and bring attention to them. I plan to continue to build an audience that I am connected to and who connect to each other. I am currently working on releasing much more music, and would love for people to keep an eye out for a single in the near future! I also recently auditioned for the Opening Act at the Hollywood Bowl 2022 and could potentially play in front of 18,000 people opening for some bigger name artists. I need all hands on deck, so please go vote here: https://theopenact.com/2022/raine-stern
TIK TOK: https://www.tiktok.com/@rainestern