“We are gifted the chance to have a bit of freedom to question our own patterns of thinking.” – Erin Rae
On the night of June 19th of 2019, singer-songwriter Erin Rae took the stage at Rough Trade NYC live music venue in Brooklyn, New York. Standing with the audience, I watched her intimate performance, just Erin Rae and her guitar, feeling the vulnerability and authenticity within each lyric sang.
The relatable nature behind Erin Rae’s songwriting is translated through her gift in blending her own personal experiences into her creative expression. It was in the moment I heard her sing that I understood exactly why Grammy Award winner John Paul White signed her to his Alabama-based label, Single Lock Records. With a southern twang and warm smile, you feel both comfortable and captivated from the very start of the show.
I personally felt connected to Erin Rae as she performed “Bad Mind”, a deeply personal song about her struggles with fears surrounding her sexuality, and the witnessing of discrimination toward her gay-identifying aunt while growing up in the South. The rawness, the realness, the mirror that was brought to my own story… all brought me to a place of feeling exposed. As the tears dripped down my cheek, I felt Erin Rae’s music not only resonate deeply within me but she also reminded me that I’m not alone in my experiences.
When speaking with Erin Rae, she opened up to me about her fears; things we all face on a daily basis, but are not so quick to expose to those around us.
“Fear for me takes on so many masks. My fear comes in with critical thinking of myself. And then I get self-obsessed, and I can’t get out of my [own head]. I can’t just experience living.”
As a little girl, Erin Rae remembers hearing her family discussing something that would stick with her to this day. Her aunt lost custody of her daughter after an Alabama supreme court ruled her to be an unfit mother simply because her aunt identified as gay. Erin Rae reflected that it wasn’t until she reached adulthood that she realized the impact her aunt’s story had on her upbringing. Although she has deep Southern roots on both sides of her family, she remarked that her family was always loving and supportive of her own sexual identity. However, the support of family did not create a block from the rest of the world’s judgements.
Erin comments, “I was so afraid to be different and to stand out… to be rejected. I’m still understanding my own sexuality because of how that fear manifested… Our safety, a lot of the times, comes from the approval from our family and our surroundings.” She goes on to say, “we have fears because we’re human beings and as humans, our brains are crazy; they are just firing neurons all the time. Thoughts are going to come up and pass. I just try to allow them to exist and not identify so closely.”
“The way my fear or creative blocks manifest is through a really critical voice, ‘you don’t need to be writing about that’. I know I’m not the only person who has felt any of these ways, or had any of these experiences. I’ve just been given support and a platform to talk about them.”
When writing songs for her critically acclaimed record, Putting On Airs, Erin Rae felt worried that the band would think her lyrics were too personal to address in their songs. Upon facing her fears to share what she wrote with the band, she was met with an abundance of support. Having the support of the people who closely surround her is a key factor for Erin Rae, as her recordings are very dear to her and it is important to her for them to flow naturally.
“Songwriting and singing has given me a vehicle to process through stuff and connect with other people. At the first open mic I did about 10 years ago, I thought, ‘This is where I want to be.’”
I asked Erin what she would say, if could give her younger self a word of advice. She answered, “Figure out what you want and pay attention to it. Don’t be afraid to act. Don’t try to figure things out, just be active and aim for what you want to be.”
The 29-year-old singer-songwriter performs Indie Folk music, with Southern influence. Categorizing her sound and style into a music genre feels like taking away from her distinct sound and presentation as an artist. In a way, just embracing her individuality challenges stereotypes.