A jazz trio playing modern songs.
Q: Tell us a bit about your musical background.
I grew up playing music, taking lessons and performing with my family. My grandfather had a Western Swing band which I played in over the summers, and that helped plant a seed of love for old standards and swing. I grew up with jazz, country, rock/grunge of the 90's, and a deep obsession with songwriters like Dylan and Joni Mitchell. I pull from all these sources creatively, but it is very important to me that I push outside those boundaries and create something that I feel pushes me to grow, both musically and personally. I want to mean everything I play and sing, and I want to keep doing something different.
Q: You recently released your album, Songs From A Cave, in 2015. The project gained amazing local response, can you tell us about what inspired this album?
This album is a set of songs all written within a 2-3 year period. There are some incredibly personal themes, experiences I had to write through, but also some broader perspectives. I have always considered myself a pianist before a guitarist and I had been waiting, or putting off, this piano based album for a few years. These songs being more personal, I felt that the band needed to reflect that, as well as the way we recorded - live at the UCO Jazz Lab. I had been looking for an upright bass player and was lucky to find Aaron Tomasko, who is wonderful. He contributed alot to the sound, as well as the amazing Michael Trepagnier, who co-produced and mixed the album. My drummer Robby Andersen has been with me for a few years and I was so happy he agreed to take on this project even though it was a creative departure from what we'd done together in the past.
I have played a few shows recently - particularly the Overholser Mansion show - that have had amazingly attentive audiences. The Midtown Songwriter Series at City Pres was also wonderful. I feel like there is a growing body of support for music in OKC that is being reflected in better shows with better audiences. In turn this really feeds the performers and makes for better shows all around. This intimate setting allows my band and I to relax and really focus on the playing and emotion of the songs without the distraction of beer bottle clanging and chit chat in the back. I feel like we've had some great moments because of that.
I also recently got to sit in on a song with John Fullbright and my pal Kyle Reid at a Myriad Gardens concert - which was so much fun.
Q: You are a brunette, but choose blonde for your shows. Tell us about your performance look and what it brings to you as an artist.
All performers feel the pressure to maintain a certain look to succeed, women even more so than men. I find it frustrating that it takes so much of our energy and attention, so I found that wearing the wig instantly transformed my image into something people will question and talk about - allowing us to broach the subject of image. The wig to me is fun, funny, and a conversation starter. It allows me to say 'does it matter?' 'isn't it all a bit silly?'. Plus, its a great wig. I also like the fact that it sets this project apart from previous projects. This is a new sound, a new me in a way.
Hard work. I just never stop working. I love what I do, I live for music, so performing, studying, and teaching music is better than anything else I could be doing. Being a single mother is never easy in any field, especially a field that is male dominated, but there is nothing else to do but work hard, try to do great work and prove that it is possible. The hours are hard and there is definitely sacrifice, but there is nothing better to do for fellow women and our children than pursuing success and happiness with passion. I am also fortunate enough to be surrounded by wonderful friends and family that encourage me.
Q: People are eager to hear more from Rachel Brashear, what's next for you?
I am still performing this new material and feel like it still has quite a bit of life left in it - so I'm not in a huge hurry to start the next project, but there have been talks with my band and producer about what direction we might go next. We have been including creative arrangements of jazz standards in our set for a few months and we might put together a set of songs like that - but there are also new songs on the horizon. Songs From a Cave was definitely something I feel proud to have done, and I want the next project to continue to grow into something new. I'm hoping to release something next summer, as well as tour to promote it.