Not only is Rae Fitzgerald’s Popular Songs for Wholesome Families the best title of anything to come out this week, but also the best studio album to hit shelves this Friday. While previous work from the Missouri-based singer/songwriter tended to be categorized securely in the folk pop/Americana genre, her latest has her boldly exploring electronics and various sub-genres of indie rock. The album rings of much of the best balladry of the ‘90s, but pulling in equal portions from the alt country and dream pop bins… The majority of the songs could have easily soundtracked the most emotionally-hard-to-digest/best scenes from My So-Called Life. Earlier this week Rae took some time to tell me about her recent history, her process, and what she’s hoping for the future.
Izzy Cihak: Not to ask a huge question, but what do you consider to be some of the highlights of your musical career thus far?
Rae Fitzgerald: Playing Daytrotter a couple weeks ago was definitely a huge dream come true. I’ve also gotten to play a lot of shows with some amazing friend bands, including Dubb Nubb, Valley Maker, and Susto, who are really making their own way in the music industry. It was a real pleasure working with Lucas Oswald (Shearwater) on this record. We’re close friends, and he’s an amazingly talented musician and producer.
Izzy: Have you had any particular favorite reactions to your work?
Rae: About five years ago, a student publication released a review of one of my albums in which she likened me to the love-child of Melissa Etheridge and Hayley Williams… which was comical because I sound nothing like either of those women. I was pretty amused by that review, which also misquoted my lyrics. I really like it when fans tell me that my music evoked a strong emotional response or flashbacks to their own experiences–that’s how I know that I’m really connecting.
Izzy: Is there anything you think is especially important for fans and potential fans to know about your process of making music, or just your aim as an artist?
Rae: I guess it’s important to know that I write autobiographically. My albums are really just catalogs of my experiences. I’ve always felt that sharing experiences, even sorrowful ones, add a bit of honesty to the world. Also, though my music is generally considered pretty heavy and sad, I’m a pretty happy person [laughs].
Izzy: So your latest album, Popular Songs for Wholesome Families, seems to explore some new sounds (or at least new compared to previous releases). What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?
Rae: When I was recording this album, I was listening to a lot of DIANA, Warpaint, Kurt Vile, Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell and the electronica Bright Eyes album, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. As far as people in my life who helped push me to a newer sound, definitely Lucas Oswald, who produced the album, and also my bandmates, Emma Tinker-Fortel and Ian Vardell.
Izzy: “Magic Town” is one of my favorite tracks I’ve heard this year, which reminds me a lot of Hope Sandoval balladry. How did that particular track come about?
Rae: I’m so glad you liked that song! It was initially a b-side, and I wasn’t going to put it on the album. In fact, I wasn’t even going to record it. But I was in Good Danny’s studio (Austin, TX) one late night with Lucas Oswald, and while we were taking a break from recording a different song, I grabbed a guitar and played “Magic Town.” The mics were running, so we captured it. It sounded really cool, so we kept it. It’s about my stepdad who lives in Bakersfield, CA.
Izzy: How do you hope and plan to spend the second half of 2016? Is there anything you’re particularly excited about? Any chance we might get to see you on tour in the near future?
Rae: Definitely! I’m in the middle of planning an extensive Midwest tour for early fall, and then some east coast dates for later in fall. I’m hoping to make it to Philly!