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Country Singer Rachel Reinert on Leaving Gloriana, Finding Her Voice

Songwriter finds inspiration in the California country sound with latest releases “Cool” and “Dark Star”

Rachel Reinert

Rachel Reinert discusses the creative process that led to her new songs "Cool" and "Dark Star."

Madi Clark

In 2016, Rachel Reinert made the difficult decision to leave Gloriana and venture out on her own, having spent most of her 20s alongside brothers Mike and Tom Gossin as a member of that group — which had scored hits like “(Kissed You) Good Night” and opened shows on Taylor Swift’s Fearless Tour. But getting her solo career off the ground took considerably longer than she expected.

“Thinking that I was going to turn around and all of these things were just going to happen for me — when it didn’t happen that way, it was the biggest blessing in disguise,” she says, acknowledging that many people thought she’d quit music altogether.

After selling her home and downsizing, a humbled Reinert assembled with collaborators like producer Davis Nash and new songs began to emerge.

“That was a huge turning point for me. Because I think, without even knowing it, I had identified so much of myself with what I had and with what I had achieved through Gloriana,” she explains. “Detaching myself from all of that through this process was such a huge breakthrough.”

Reinert zeroed in on her California upbringing and the classic sounds of the Golden State for inspiration, layering her new compositions with dreamy, reverb-heavy backdrops that feel equally spacious and generous. In her single “Cool,” she makes peace with an ex, while in her latest release “Dark Star,” she makes reference to her long absence and return. She’s hopeful that she’ll have even more music — possibly an entire album — out in 2019, now that she’s taken a beat to sort out where her artistic ambitions would lead.

“I needed this time to really just get in touch with myself, to figure out my sound, to not have anybody in my ear saying it needs to be more this or it needs to be more that or it needs to follow in this artist’s footsteps,” she says. “It ended up being a great thing for me.”

You’ve talked about feeling inspired by the “California country” sound in some of your recent interviews. What does that mean to you?
When I joined [Gloriana], because we were so polarizing and had this unapologetic, contemporary pop-country band, a lot of what we battled all the time was this, “You’re not country enough” thing. What’s been really cool over the last few years is seeing that dissipate and seeing the genre become a lot more open-minded. It was a good time for me to start exploring different concepts and this different sound and the kind of music that made me most excited. My parents raised me on everything from Fleetwood Mac to Jackson Browne. I’m a huge Stevie Nicks fan. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. All the music that came from that era was such an inspiration for me, so I wanted that to be the landscape. As well as my roots of being a native to California. I spent my formative years out there. But I’m also deeply rooted in the Nashville songwriting world. I wanted to find a way to marry those two concepts together. I didn’t have a true sense of myself outside of the band, which his why I walked away from everything. I didn’t want to have that safety net.

What did you end up doing in that time period between then and now?
Cried a lot. [Laughs] It was hard. It was a really, really tough time. I laugh at myself now, but I’m serious. It was the harshest slap of reality possible. I had to sell my house. I had to make a lot of necessary sacrifices to survive. I don’t think I imagined that’s where my life would be at that age, with the trajectory I had been on prior to that. I spent a lot of time going through the emotions, but I also spent a lot of time writing. I felt this flood of inspiration during this period of time that I had not felt before.

With these new songs, your voice as a singer and songwriter is at the center of everything. You had your solo moments in Gloriana, but it never felt like things were being constructed around what you could do.
That’s very accurate. That was part of my frustration as well, was just feeling — it’s not anybody’s fault, it’s not about placing blame, but I did feel like it was being sort of squashed, and I came to town to be a solo artist. To feel a little bit, I don’t want to say an afterthought, but a little pushed to the side, was hard for me. It was a hard adjustment for me especially in the beginning. I eventually settled into what my role was in that band. But it was a big reason for me needing to go, because that wasn’t what I set out to be. I set out to be on my own, to be a solo artist. I always knew that day would eventually come. I just knew when it did I was going to have to chase after it and I was going to have to put a thousand percent of myself into it.

You alluded to this earlier, but when Gloriana came out, it was this transitional phase ahead of Florida Georgia Line and the bro-country era. And now we’re at the end of that period, and it’s opening up in new and interesting ways. If you look at what Kacey Musgraves or Ashley McBryde did with their albums this year, they feel really fresh, and you’re reintroducing yourself in the middle of that.
Yeah, and I was so inspired by that album that Kacey put out this year. It was so telling to see her win album of the year [at the CMA Awards]. If she hadn’t won that, I was gonna be really upset and disappointed. I was happy to see that because it goes to show that [with] great music, the cream rises to the top. Even without her having any true support from country radio, it’s like, holy shit, people want to hear real stuff right now. For me, having my blinders on and trying to do what I do and create the best songs I possibly can and not having any budget for radio and being this independent artist, you definitely get inspired seeing other artists like that doing what they do and people really receiving it.

That seems liberating. Having financial constraints is a pain, of course, but not having to concern yourself with what a radio programmer is going to think might be pretty freeing for your creative process.
I think so. The tough world of radio is also that you’ve got all these artists fighting for a spot. It’s over-saturated at this point. When we’ve gone into the studio with all these songs, the last thing we’ve thought about is, “Um, we need to target this as our potential radio hit.” It’s never been about that for us. It’s just been about, let’s just have this come from the most authentic place possible, which is where we started when we wrote it. That’s the honest-to-God truth, because look how long my songs are! They’re all like 4 minutes long, with these crazy long outros. I’ve got my manager going, “We might need a radio edit.” I’m like, “Nah, it’s fine.”

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