NEW ALBUM: Rachel Cousins - This Fire
By: Pamela Hodder
I was very lucky to sit with this vibrant singer/songwriter. A young face, but the wisdom of an old soul. She is for sure a girl on fire. 16 years old and smoking up the music scene. She just released her first EP, This FIre, and has her album release party this coming Thursday, August 31. So we took the opportunity to chat with her and get the inside scoop on what makes Rachel Cousins.
Rock Eden: It’s your first EP and you’ve chosen the title This Fire with an album cover that is pretty much on fire. Please share with us how you chose the title.
Rachel: When we were in studio recording that actual song I had a moment and said, “this would be a really sick name for my first EP!” It really stands out and it probably wouldn’t be what’s expected from me for my first EP. So let’s surprise people!
RE: Would you say that song represents the overall theme of the album?
Rachel: I didn’t want it to be about love or relationships or things like that. It is saying that young people, whether in high school or not, and a lot of people in general, struggle with being afraid of doing things, and not wanting to step out because it has a risk to it. I’m also that person sometimes who can be very anxious…but it’s so important to live in the moment and be present. This Fire says everything can change when you take that first step, and that’s the vibe to the album and the message I would like to put out there for my first album.
RE: Share with us a little about the journey from the start of the album to where you are now?
Rachel: That’s my favourite thing to talk about! When I finished my first demo it was two originals and a cover. As soon as I got out of the studio from finishing that album I said “ok I want something with all original material” and that became my goal! At that point, I was still in junior high and so over those years I was writing a lot …so I did the Bob Dylan Tribute with Chris Ledrew. At this time I was starting to think about who I would want to be my producer for the EP. So I met with a bunch of different producers, but Chris is the one who I figured would be the best teacher, he’s very patient, and we have the same sick sense of humour. I knew it was going to be a really good partnership so I chose him as my producer.
RE: What music has influenced your songwriting?
Rachel: I listen to just about everything. I love listening to undiscovered artists. Locally, I like Hey Rosetta!. When it comes to genre though it can be a little bit tricky. When I went into the studio I said I don't want a genre. I feel that would have limited my creativity so I said “whatever comes out comes out”. That's why I listen to just about everything, and I pull inspiration from every artist that I listen to. Don't get me wrong, I think pop is an art on its own and it’s amazing, but for me I like a more homegrown kind of sound which is why I listen to Hey Rosetta!, and Ben Howard and Bon Iver and Serena Ryder, and I view all of those artists as very strict songwriters.
RE: Tell us about your sound.
Rachel: I often find myself writing songs that end up sounding country, but I myself don't listen to country music and I don't want to be a country artist. However, it is what it is and in the end, I end up loving the song! So, if it's country it's country! However, this album doesn’t really reflect that sound. When I was younger I actually listened to a lot of Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. Those were the people that made me want to be a singer-songwriter. And, I love the whole electric guitar percussion sound. Now that I think about it, I still listen to a lot of those artists, like Hey Rosetta!, because there’s a lot of that going on like in their song Yer Spring. My song This Fire has a lot of that similar kind of vibe to it.
RE: I believe I heard you say previously you collaborated for all of your songs?
Rachel: Yes! This Fire, In Pieces, and Arrows of Love I wrote with Chris Ledrew, the song Waiting, I wrote with Chris Kirby, and For You was with Kellie Loder.
RE: The first time I heard you sing was at the MusicNL conference almost a year ago. Would you say you've grown a lot in this past year?
Rachel: [laughs] Oh my gosh yes! Honestly, when I was doing music back then I was still in junior high, and during that time... well I always say junior high was horrible for me... it was an experience that was shaping me into someone who I really wasn't wanting to be. It started to take over and affect my stage presence quite negatively. I was afraid to put myself out there because of what the kids at school might think of me. But now, I'm at Holy Heart High School and it's a different kind of school! I realize how important it is to choose selectively the people you surround yourself with. It really makes a difference. One day I just said, “I'm sick of just living for other people, so I'm just going to do what I want to do…and if it works out it works!” If I choose to live under other people's expectations I just won't be happy. So I started writing a lot and started putting myself out there on social media. It is very necessary to put yourself out there on social media. A person shouldn't be ashamed in any way to put themselves out there especially when it's something that you love to do! Yeah, people don't have a problem loving a singer-songwriter, but they also need to respect the process that a singer-songwriter has to go through in order to get to the place where they want to be, the place where people start loving them as an artist.
RE: Tell us about your training to be a singer/songwriter?
Rachel: Yes! I was with Melanie O'Brien for many years, actually since I was just a little girl. I wasn't really a healthy singer when I first started and she taught me a lot. She was also the one to get me into songwriting. She's the one who kind of kick me in the butt and said “you know what? You're going to do this! So learn your theory, start songwriting and pick up your guitar!” She was definitely one of my big influences as a kid. Later I was with Kelly-Ann Evans and she taught me so much about theory and stage presence. She's the one who helped me step out of my box and not care about what anyone else thinks because she's that kind of person.
RE: You’re going to grade 11. Do you know your plans after high school?
Rachel: Haha yeah I've known my plans for a while. I want to go to Toronto because Toronto is my happy place right now and at this point, I consider it my second home. So I'll be going back up there. I will go to Ryerson and do music production, performance and that kind of thing. I love sound engineering and the production side of things. I don't really plan on settling down in one place at any point. I just want to be traveling and touring. That's my goal, but I do want to get my education first!
Tickets are available at the door for $10 or Fred’s Records. Or just email: firstname.lastname@example.org