Spotlight | Rachel Jack

Credit AG Wylie

You probably haven’t heard of Rachel Jack yet but you definitely need to look her up. Jack is one to watch as one of the most promising emerging songwriters to come out of the Scottish and wider UK scene.

Hailing from the rural North East of Scotland, her musical journey began by winning the inaugural Paolo Nutini Songwriting Scholarship from the University of the West of Scotland back in 2018, leading to the realisation of her raw talent and inspiring her to release her music. Fast forward to early 2020 and Rachel was set to release her debut EP “The Calgary Tapes”, an intoxicating collection of songs showcasing her breath-taking vocal abilities and lyrical craft.

After months of hard work, her debut single from the EP “Nowhere” was due to be released in March and then – well, we all know what happened in March. She didn't let the global pandemic slow her down though and ploughed on with the release of "The Calgary Tapes", which has gained recognition and airplay from the likes of BBC Scotland, BBC Social, The Scotsman, and Amazing Radio.

The EP itself is a stunning show of masterful storytelling and pure emotion; compelling the listener to feel heartache and angst but then be uplifted by the lyrical master class on display.

We had a chat with Rachel this week to find out what it’s like releasing music for the first time during a global crisis and what she has in store for the future. See the interview below.

So tell us a bit about your story and how you came to be a songwriter. I’ve enjoyed solo travel for around 8 years now and when travelling I’d reflect on my experiences and thoughts in journals. As time went on, those journals became blogs, and then those blogs became ideas for songs. It’s only in the last 18 months or so that I’ve made song-writing a priority, but the stories in the songs span a lifetime.

How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before? Floaty, acoustic storytelling.

What inspires you musically and creatively? Most of my writing happens when I'm on holiday, relaxed, and enjoying nature. In terms of inspirations, I grew up watching musicals like Mary Poppins, Annie, and Sound of Music so I think that's where the storytelling style comes from. I'm mainly inspired by real-life experiences and my sound is born from the limitations of my musical abilities. When I wrote this EP, all I had was a voice and a guitar, so I had to make the most of what I had.

What is your creative process like? It changes all the time really. Sometimes a song will come to me fully formed when I’m playing around with the guitar, other times it can take years for an idea to come together. I constantly collect ideas in the notes of my phone; they then get added to this library of ideas which is organised into themes. When I make time to sit down and write, I look back on those as a starting point.

Credit AG Wylie

You have been busy releasing your debut EP this year, what was the process like and what else have you been up to? It’s the first time I’ve released anything and so it’s been a steep learning curve. I released a song every month between March and July and so it’s been good having those releases to focus on during the pandemic. But I’ve also felt quite bad about self-promoting while some people are going through a really tough time. I feel like I’ve been in a bubble throughout due to the business of my day job and promoting my EP. I feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with the real world now.

How are you finding being an independent artist and making music in the current global pandemic? As this is my first EP, I've had nothing to compare it to. I'm doing everything myself so I've had a lot to learn and releasing my EP has felt like a full-time job. I did a couple of live streams and I find them quite stressful because you have so many other things to think about like WiFi signal, lighting, sound… so it’s hard to relax. I’m looking forward to live gigs now, which historically I’d have shied away from.

Who would you most like to collaborate with? I don’t really have a collaboration wish list. I think the most important thing is that you get on with people, and trust each other. Recording with someone kind of binds you together for life, and I only want to be bound to good memories. I’ve written off songs with people in the past because the experience hasn’t been pleasant and I don’t want them to be a part of my future. And so collaboration always needs to be an organic thing with me.

If you could support any artist, dead or alive, who would it be? I would love to support Paolo Nutini. That’s if he ever releases another record, haha.

For the people reading this that haven’t heard Rachel Jack before, why should they check you out? If you feel like you are stuck in a bit of a rut then you might resonate with my story which is a narrative of my journey from corporate Claustrophobia to fulfilling childhood dreams of releasing my first record.

What can we expect from you in the future? I’ll be releasing an EP later this year, called Magazine Girls which I’m very excited about. As soon as that one is out I’ll be back in the studio working on the next record. I think there might be a 3rd EP before I fully commit to an album but we shall see.

What is the most useless talent that you have? I can twist my pinky finger on my right hand

Do you sing in the shower? What songs? Recently it’s been The Mammas & Pappas – “Dream a Little Dream of Me” on repeat.

What is the best advice you have ever been given? Start where you are.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that people may not know. I’ve got a scar on my tummy that I’ve had since birth and I call it my shark bite.

What other interests do you have outside of music? Time with family and friends, being in nature, drinking tea, blogging, taking pictures, travelling, reading self-help books, and listening to podcasts.

You can listen to “The Calgary Tapes” on Spotify or you can follow Rachel on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram.

By Darren Hay