Q&A's

Q&A with Rachel McIntrye Smith (2022)

 

East Tennessee native Rachel McIntyre Smith has made a strong name for herself within the music community by endearingly diving into the rich sounds of yesteryear, while finding unique ways to inject them with fresh, modern kissed styles and the flare of her own personality to give her a uniquely distinguishable sound that you know is her the moment you hit play. With her singles "The Woulds" and “Miss Highfalutin” out now and acting as the latest previews of her upcoming, debut EP Glory Daze, we had the chance to catch up with Rachel and talk about her new music, what we can expect from the EP, go behind the scenes of making the music video for “Glory Daze,” the impact of working with producer Dran Michael, and much more!

(Photo Credit: Rachel McIntyre Smith and Margie Smith)

TCM SINGLE REVIEW: The Woulds

TCM SINGLE REVIEW: Miss Highfalutin

TCM Q&A with Rachel (2021)

www.rachelmcintyresmith.com

1) The last time we chatted you had just released your song “Blue Hawaii.” A lot of great stuff has happened for you since then, which we want to talk about starting with your single “Miss Highfalutin.” Tell our readers a little bit about the song.

“Miss Highfalutin” was the first country song I ever wrote. It was 2016, and I was absolutely obsessed with the album “Pageant Material” by Kacey Musgraves. I think its influence is really evident in the lyrics. “Miss Highfalutin” is a cheeky song, much like my other originals “Blue Hawaii” and “Baggage,” but unique at the same time. It has a swampy, honky-tonk vibe to it that’s really fun. I wrote it about people who get a little bit too big for their britches once they get a taste of city life. My favorite line in the song is: “I hope you find your happy place and I hope that’s far away from my face.” I think anyone who has encountered a highfalutin person will smile when they hear it. 

 

2) You started performing the song for live audiences a few years ago, but how do you feel this newly released, recorded version of “Miss Highfalutin” represents a new chapter of your vintage sound?

Have you ever tried having a conversation in a language you don’t know that well? You have so much you want to say, but you can’t find exactly the right words. Maybe you’re able to get out a rudimentary sentence, but there’s so much that’s just left up in your head. You can’t figure out exactly how to pull the ideas from your brain out. That’s how it felt recording the demo of “Miss Highfalutin” by myself in 2016. I had just written this song that I had a huge vision for, but I could barely use Garageband. I was recording it in the audio studio inside the library at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, so I didn’t want to be too loud and get a noise complaint. There was so much left up in my head for that song that I wasn’t able to communicate in that demo. 

I really enjoyed performing the song because it always got a laugh or two (especially the “I hope you find your happy place and I hope that’s far away from my face” part), but I felt like something was missing. I knew that it could go somewhere else, but I didn’t know how to get there. Then, I started working with my incredible producer, Dran Michael. He knew exactly how to pull the ideas from my brain and translate them into production. Beyond that, he came up with his own amazing ideas that gave the song its cool vibe. 

I think that this recording process oddly plays into the theme of my EP and the new chapter of my music. “Miss Highfalutin” was something in my past that I always thought could’ve been done better. I had regrets on how I had produced the 2016 demo. With Dran’s help, I was able to pull it into the present and make it a whole new thing. 

3) The song follows your previously released single “Glory Daze.” Why did you feel that “Glory Daze,” the title track of your upcoming debut EP, was the best song to first tease your new music with?

Great question. I actually didn’t really think it through that much. I wasn’t planning on releasing “Glory Daze” as a single at all. Writing the song put me in a daze (which I guess makes sense given its name). I couldn’t really think straight for a week or so. There’s something really eye-opening about articulating a complicated emotion. It made me realize the depth of it in ways that I hadn’t really connected before. I kept listening to a voice memo of the song over and over. I had very specific harmonies that I wanted in parts of the song, so I decided to make a demo of it. Since I was going to the trouble of recording the demo, I decided to film it. I had challenged myself to post at least one TikTok promoting my music each day. I was running thin on content since I hadn’t released a new song in several months. I edited the footage and posted it without really thinking that much about it. The next day, I suddenly was getting thousands of views every minute on the video. A whole lot of people connected with the lyrics. It only made sense to release it first since people were waiting on it to be released. Now that I have had more time to think it through, I do think that it was the best song to lead into this new era of music for me because it was so different from anything I had previously released. It showed people an entirely new side of my music that I explore in this project while also introducing the overall theme. 

4) Talk to us about making the “Glory Daze” music video. It looks like you had a whole lot of fun creating it?

Oh my, the “Glory Daze” shoot day was an absolute mess. I’m not sure that I would describe it as a whole lot of fun, but it certainly was interesting. We shot all the high school pictures at Oliver Springs High School, my alma mater. The evening before the photoshoot, my photographer got really sick and couldn’t do it. All the pictures and videos that you’ve seen from that shoot day were taken by my mother or me using the self-timer on my camera. The shots on the football field were taken at the end of the day, so we were pretty exhausted at that point. We had been lugging around my lights, cameras, microphones, and outfit changes all day. The lyric video main shot (where I’m sitting on the bleachers) was the very last thing I filmed that day. Mom had gone to get the car so we could start loading up. Even though it was a long day, the weather was really nice on the field, and I remember soaking in the fact that I got to be there alone. I made so many memories on the field and in that school. It was nice to get one last look at everything exactly as it was when I was in school. They are currently building a new high school, so the building where I attended will be torn down within the next year. That added another layer of emotion to the shoot day, but I think it made the significance of “Glory Daze” come to life. All in all, the shoot day didn’t go as planned, but we ended up getting some cool shots. I’m so grateful for my mom. She was so much help that day. I’m so lucky to have her in my corner. 

5) The song did quickly become a viral hit for you on the TikTok platform. Did you expect that kind of immediate impact when you posted the song? And why do you think it resonated with the fans the way that it did?

I didn’t expect that sort of reaction since I had been posting my music for a really long time on TikTok without getting much of a response. It was encouraging, though, because it was one of the first vulnerable songs that I had shared on the platform. I usually keep those songs to myself because I like being the fun/happy/pink and purple singer-songwriter, but I’m so happy that I shared it. 

On TikTok, it’s all about grabbing the audience’s attention in the first second. I think this song hooked viewers because of the first line of the first verse: “I’m still surprised when girls my age have babies and when folks I know tie the knot.” I’m getting to the stage in my life where everyone I’ve grown up with is engaged, pregnant, or married. Meanwhile, I’m single and nowhere near financially stable enough to bring a new life into this world.  I think there is a subset of my generation that feels that way too, so they felt like I was telling their story through my lyrics. 

6) Jumping back a few questions, we mentioned your upcoming EP Glory Daze. What can we expect to hear from the EP that neither of the first two song releases showed us?

I’m looking forward to people listening to the project as a whole from start to finish. I was very intentional about the track order. I think the EP unfolds like a story, and with the singles, people just got an excerpt. It sort of explains how I fell into the  “Glory Daze” and how I eventually came to accept it. The last two unreleased tracks fill in the gaps of the plot line. One is heart-warming. One is heart-breaking. Overall, it will introduce listeners to the different flavors of country/Americana songwriting and production that I love and want to make a career creating. This EP will give a very up-close and personal insight into my mental state over the past two years.

I usually make friends by having heart-to-heart conversations with them. This EP is my half of that conversation. Hopefully, listeners will resonate with my story and share their half of the heart-to-heart with me. I’d love to connect and make friends with my audience. 

7) You’ve mentioned that an overall theme to the EP is growing up and letting go of your childhood. In what ways did your own life experiences inspire this theme?

Growing up is so weird. From kindergarten to high school (plus four extra years if you attend college), everyone your age is on the same track. Kids have different hobbies and interests, but they’re all in school doing pretty much the same thing. Once you graduate, everyone shoots off in a million different directions. On one hand,  it’s cool that people can start working toward their individual goals. On the other, it’s isolating because you don’t have that common bond anymore. Part of the reason it’s easy to make so many friends in school is commiserating and being stuck in the same spot.  

When I graduated from college, I was so focused on my goals that I didn’t pause to look around. I started my new job and played shows around town, then the pandemic hit.  I moved back home with my parents. Suddenly, there was nothing I could do but pause. I saw on social media that many of the people I grew up with were engaged or married or pregnant. Meanwhile, I was in the exact same twin bed that I had slept in my whole life. I started reliving my memories in my head. I spent hours looking through old pictures, watching home videos, and reading old journals. It sent me into a really weird headspace. 

I had so many complex thoughts and feelings about it that I couldn’t articulate. I started writing songs to help explain my emotions, and pretty soon I realized I had a collection that all fell into that theme. I wrote every lyric in this EP by myself, so it’s 100% autobiographical. 

8) Is there a song on the EP that we’ve yet to hear, that you can’t wait for your fans to get a taste of? If so, which song and why is that one in particular important to you?

There are two unreleased songs on the EP, and I’m so excited for people to hear both of them! One is called “Queen of Our Hometown,” and it’s an upbeat song about the comforting feeling of being around people who care about you. The other is called “First Love,” and it’s a vulnerable look on the lingering effects of lost love. They have very different vibes. I think people are going to like them a lot. 

9) We talked a bit about the impact that producer Dran Michael had on your music the last time we chatted. What techniques and uniqueness did Dran bring to producing this EP that helped it find its overall sound?

I think the trust we’ve built during our time working together was crucial. I wanted “Glory Daze” to be consistent and have a theme. In my mind, consistency meant having the same exact instrumentation on every song. Thankfully, Dran disagreed with me and kept me from making this same song six times over. He made me realize that a project can be cohesive without being the exact same in each song. He explained that even though these songs were going to be on an EP together, they still needed to be given production that brings each song to life in a unique way. I’m really proud of how it turned out. I think we were able to tell this EP’s story in a cohesive, but not repetitive, way. It might’ve been easier and quicker for Dran to just slap the same production on each track, but he really invested in each song. I’m so lucky to have collaborated with him on “Glory Daze.” 

10) What one piece of advice can you offer to someone who is just starting out and trying to break into the music industry?

I really don’t think I’m at a place in my career yet where I can give that much advice. However, one thing that really helped me is focusing on just taking one step at a time. It doesn’t have to be anything big. The step could be creating a social media posting schedule or contacting performance venues. Those small steps really add up over time. Sometimes,  I get caught up in thinking about my big career goals, and it can get discouraging because it seems like I’m not making progress. Then, I think about how, just a few years ago, I didn’t have a producer helping me, I didn’t know how to book shows, and I had never even posted a video of me singing online. I’ve just been taking small steps. I’ve made progress. If I had gotten overwhelmed by the big goal, then I may not have even made it to the place I am now. 

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