The songs and voice of Rachel Reese resonate with truth, passion and the lessons learned in life. An Oklahoma native who resides in Austin, TX after time honing her craft in Nashville, she creates her distinctive artistry within the stylistic realm where country, pop and rock converge into music that transcends genre.
Or as Do512 observes, Reese “weaves songs that combine Midwestern sincerity with pop sensibility, and delivers them with a soulful voice that moves between strength and vulnerability with confidence.” You can hear it in her new single, “A Dozen Roses,” which nods to the drinking song tradition, flips around romantic gestures, and gives a girl power kiss-off to a faithless lover. Produced by her husband and musical partner Jesse LaFave at Austin’s famed Cedar Creek Recording, it’s an enticing taste of what’s to be found on her upcoming first full album, West.
Rachel grew up on a dirt road in Enid, OK with her grandparents next door and great-grandparents down the street, and started singing at an age when most kids were still learning to talk. “My Mom said every time she’d play a song for me, I’d just soak it up and sing it back,” she recalls. That soon led to singing in church, school, county fairs… basically wherever she could take a stage. “It was just something I did naturally.”
“I didn’t really realize how lucky I was,” Rachel now says of the near-picture-perfect setting of her youth. But there were still cracks in the facade. “I always knew I was gonna leave.” Her drive to not simply write her own songs to sing but the best songs she could compose naturally led her to Nashville for two extended stays.
“It’s the place where the craft of songwriting is still something that people take really seriously,” Reese notes. “The fact that the city’s many great writers could really turn a phrase and do the things that they do and had worked hard to become great at it was something that became a huge part of who I am as an artist.”
Other parts of who she is as an artist draw from the life she’s lived. Though young in years, Rachel has known challenges and adversity, such as arriving in Nashville for the first time with all she owned packed into her car, knowing no one. And being widowed at 22, to cite just a few instances. There’s also been triumphs. like getting up to sing on the stage of the world famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a spot graced by country music’s finest writers and singers, on that lonely first day in Music City.
Along her way Reese studied audio production at Pyramind in San Francisco and fronted her own band in the Bay Area. A move back to Nashville found her immersed in studio recording, making her first EP. She continued to hone her songwriting, both on her own and with co-writers, and met and first befriended LaFave before the two became genuine partners in love, life and music.
In 2014 Reese landed in Austin, a musical city where artists can truly be themselves, when Jesse was invited to work with his uncle, the late and acclaimed singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave, on some of his music and ventures. After settling in, she released Siren, a six-song EP hailed by Austin American-Statesman critic and No Depression magazine co-founder Peter Blackstock as an “auspicious collection of pop-leaning singer-songwriter material” marked by her “immediately appealing voice” and “a versatility of character that serves her songs well.” She followed the 2017 release with her first overseas tour in Holland.
With a broad and diverse palette of influences and inspirations that resembles the record collection of an avid music fan, Reese translates it all into what Blackstock identifies as “her own identity…although she left Nashville for Austin, it’s not hard to imagine her making inroads in mainstream country with material that’s both well-written and smartly produced.”
In the end, Rachel believes, it all boils down to one central tenet: “You’re either telling the truth or you’re not telling the truth.” As a result, says Do512, she now “takes her place among the rich landscape of Texas singer-songwriters with a voice and a vision that’s all her own.”