Take Five with Erin Rae on new album ‘Putting on Airs’

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Nashville indie singer-songwriter Erin Rae’s latest album, Putting on Airs, has been receiving rave reviews from media outlets nationwide. The album was released June 8 under Grammy award winner John Paul White’s Single Lock Records based out of Florence, Alabama. White says, “When I first heard Erin’s compelling voice, I knew nothing about her. It was live, with no intro (she was opening for friends of mine), and I was instantly transfixed. I couldn’t wait to engage, and that’s something I very seldom feel, much less do. I was thrilled to find out her personality was as engaging as her voice and songs, and that she was looking for a home. I couldn’t be happier to be hitching our wagons together.”

Putting on Airs is a deeply personal record with lyrics dealing with mental health, addiction and her struggle to understand her own sexuality. In a press release announcing the new album, Rae says, “this album was born out of a need to do some healing work in my personal life, to address some fears, and patterns of mine and allow my true feelings to come to the surface.”

Recorded during the winter at the Refuge Foundation for the Arts in Wisconsin, the former monastery turned creative artist space provided Rae and her bandmates the opportunity to collaborate without interruptions and to immerse themselves into their music and explore the different sounds that could be created within the walls of this magnificent sanctuary.

The end result? A magnificent collection of 12 songs steeped in raw emotions and displaying the sweet, beautiful voice of Erin Rae. She blended traditional folk, indie-rock, and 1960s psych-rock to create the unique vibe and sound heard on Putting on Airs. Engineer Dan Knobler (Rodney Crowell, Tift Merritt) and multi-instrumentalist Jerry Bernhardt co-produced the album, with Dominic Billett adding his touch to the final process.

Currently on tour, Rae will be in the Atlanta area tonight and tomorrow performing tonight (8/1) at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur and tomorrow (8/2) at the Georgia Theatre in Athens. She has several more shows in the US before heading to the UK. Tour dates can be found on her Facebook page.

Rae fills us in on the background, writing and recording process, along with the guitars she played on Putting on Airs.

Your recently released album Putting on Airs has received rave reviews and discusses issues like mental health, addiction, and coming to terms with one’s sexuality. You are credited with all of the songwriting on this album. Share with us your songwriting process in terms of addressing such emotional topics and putting them into words that will connect with the listener.

I’m usually just writing for me, and it turns out that all those issues are things most people have experiences with in some capacity, so it connects. Rarely on this record was I attempting to write something that people will relate to; I was more just trying to work through my own experiences and get honest about some things with myself. Hearing the feedback from people that connect to it though has been a big motivator for playing live and connecting with folks in person on our shared experience. That is special to me.

Putting on Airs has a more psychedelic folk-feel as compared to your previous album Soon Enough. You assembled quite an impressive group of musicians and instrumentation for this project. Tell us about how these collaborations evolved and the choice of instruments used to create its unique sound.

Well, Jerry Bernhardt, Dom Billett and I began touring together shortly after Soon Enough came out in 2015, and spending all that time with them, I got to know them and their influences, and I knew I wanted to make a record together. Dan Knobler and I had also talked about it, and we decided to all four collaborate when we were given the chance to use The Refuge Arts space to record. It was kind of a match made in heaven.

Recorded in the dead of winter at The Refuge in Appleton, Wisconsin which is a former Capuchin-Franciscan monastery that has been turned into a creative space for artists, how did that environment influence the recording process?

It was incredible having that space to immerse ourselves in. We woke up and had coffee together, and then worked all day into the night, and went to sleep and did it again. No interruptions or seeing friends out in Nashville; we established an energy, I think, all together and stayed there. It would have been entirely different without that. Obviously, a lot of the reverb you hear is from the chapel as well.

Living and working in the music industry in Nashville and given some of the news surrounding the lack of performing female artists and the “tomato-gate” scandal, do you foresee a change? There are several organizations helping to lead this charge including CMT’s Next Women of Country and the Songwriters Suffragettes, to name a few, as well as female country artists that are addressing this issue. I was at CMA Fest where Cam was discussing this topic.

I think there will be a change eventually. Obviously, there is a lot going on in this world that needs our energy and attention. I’m not really always up to date on what’s going on with country radio because that’s not really what I play or what I listen to. But I think special events like Brandi Carlisle’s festival and women taking out other women to open their shows on the road is an example of intentional change from within the community.

Lastly, what guitars did you play on the album?

We used a whole bunch of different stuff! For electric, I used this funky old Kay Vanguard, and then we had this hybrid Danelectro Convertible guitar. Jerry used his Epiphone Casino as well as an old Silvertone Jupiter that was hanging around the studio. Acoustic-wise, we had a big old beautiful Gibson Dove and a J-45 too.

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