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Interview with Rachel Collis Special

By Adrian Peel     Sep 15, 2014 in Music
The quirky Australian singer-songwriter has just released her second album, and pretty darn good it is too. She tells Digital Journal all about it.
Rachel Collis is unique among many of her peers in the Aussie pop/folk scene in that she's classically trained and even has a Master's Degree in Music in Composition and Music Production from the Australian Institute of Music (A.I.M).
Her new album is called Nightlight and is made up of ten tracks, six of them written by Rachel alone and four with the help of two trusted associates. The first single, "
If I Could," displays the kind of endearing warmth and unassuming charm for which this supremely talented artist is fast becoming known.
Ms. Collis spoke to me from her home in Sydney, New South Wales on the day the new LP was released. She was gracious, gregarious, good-natured and clearly proud of the follow up to her 2012 debut, Ever After. I was intrigued to discover that 'Nightlight' was in fact not her first choice of title...
"I was originally gonna call the album 'Naked Dream'," she reveals, "which was one of the other songs on there. 'Nightlight' was actually the very very final song that I wrote for the album, and when we started recording in the studio, Sean, the other producer, said, 'This album's not called 'Naked Dream', it's called 'Nightlight''.
"I think that his reason for saying that is that a lot of the songs are just about life... I think the album is really about hope and finding hope and comfort, I guess, in the sometimes difficult thing that is the experience of being alive. So I think that 'Nightlight' sums up the quite melancholy flavour of the album. But there's also an element of comfort in that title, which is why we thought it was the perfect fit."
Ruminating over the differences between this record and her first, and highlighting just how far she's come since then, Rachel remarks, "Well when I did my first album, I was studying my Master's at the time and I produced it by myself. It was the first thing I'd recorded and I was just randomly trying out ideas...
"I didn't have a whole lot of focus; I was writing prolifically and writing just a whole varied bunch of songs. Some were funny, some were serious - the style varied quite a bit... I think that that lack of direction kind of came across in the production and at the end of it I was proud of it as an achievement, but I thought, 'I really need to work out who I am as an artist and stick to that'.
"The songs that matter most to me are the songs that are about things that matter, and so I wanted to create with Nightlight an album where every song was deeply personal. I feel that it is much much more focused; that I've worked out who I am as a songwriter and that Nightlight reflects that discovery."
Returning to an earlier theme, the multi-instrumentalist is more than happy to divulge who wrote what: "There's ten songs... Six I wrote by myself and four of them were co-written, either with a friend of mine called
Peta Van Drempt, who's a really great songwriter and possibly one of the only people that I would trust with one of my songs!
"And my husband, Steve, he is co-lyricist on two of the songs as well. So there's a bit of 'just me' in the songs and there's a bit of the influence of other writers in four of them."
The aforementioned "other producer Sean," is one Sean Carey, a major player on the Australian music scene and a former member of Thirsty Merc, a band who have performed with the likes of Maroon 5 and Matchbox 20. What did he bring to the proceedings?
"Working with Sean was an absolute privilege and such a buzz. I think he and I are exactly the same age and we talked a lot about which artists we liked and what sound we liked, because it was really important to me that we were on the same page about what we were achieving.
"I never really had to persuade him. I'd say, 'I really love what this artist does, but I don't like this' and he would be, 'Oh totally, I completely agree'. I think that that made it exciting because I felt that we were both striving for the same thing and for the same effect... He's also hyper-talented, so I got to exploit his amazing ears and his wonderful guitar playing!"
As indicated already, the new CD consists of ten tracks and I wondered which particularly stood out for their proud author.
"That's a really hard question... There's a track called
'Wired And Awake', which I wrote with Peta. She wrote the music and that melody inspired me to really dig deep and write a song about the things I value, so that's particularly meaningful for me...
"One of my personal favourites is a song called 'Those Words'. Again, it's not the single - it's kind of buried on the album, but it's a deep and personal song about kindness and how it changes the way we perceive ourselves."
I concluded by asking the vivacious songbird, set to play a number of shows around the Sydney area starting later this month, whether she would like to take her music further afield, perhaps to America and the UK, over the coming months and years.
"Oh absolutely," comes the enthusiastic reply. "Yeah, I'd love to share my music with as many people as I can. I love connecting with other people's songs and lots of songs have become really meaningful for me, so I love the idea of other people finding that connection listening to my songs."
Nightlight is out now.
For more information, visit Rachel's official website.
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