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Up-and-Coming Country Star Rachel McIntyre Smith on Kittens, Live Shows + 'Blue Hawaii'

Photo Courtesy of Rachel McIntyre Smith

If one thing's for sure, it's that singer-songwriter Rachel McIntyre Smith will always be taking the high-road.

Shifter Mag sat down with country music's newest up-and-coming artist to talk about her upbringing, songwriting process, musical inspirations, and cats (yes, you heard that right)!

Without further ado, here's Rachel.

SM: Hi Rachel, So nice to meet you! Can you tell our Shifter Fam a little bit about yourself? Where were you raised and how did that influence your music taste?

RMS: Sure! I was born and raised in a small town near Knoxville, Tennessee called Oliver Springs—it’s right next to the town that made the atomic bomb in World War II, so it’s like the red-headed step-child of that town. Growing up there, obviously, a small town in the South, a lot of people were into Country Music, and I guess it’s because I’ve got that ‘hipster brain’ where it's like “if everybody likes this, then I don’t like this,” I really didn’t start listening to country music until I was in college. I obviously knew a lot of the greats and had heard them, but I hadn’t really sunk my teeth into an album or really thought much behind the genius of a lot of country music songwriting. My gateway to country music, if you will, was the 'Pageant Material' album by Kacey Musgraves. I’m a huge Kacey Musgraves fan. I fell in love with her songwriting and with the musicians that had influenced her writing. I had a totally different perception of what country music was. That was the beginning of me falling in love with country music.

SM: We heard you learned piano to one-up a classmate, What's the story behind that?

RMS: I was always that kid that was trying to get the best grades and be the teacher's favorite —I'm sure that was really annoying to a lot of my classmates—and there was one girl in particular who transferred into my school when I was in like second or third grade and suddenly she was getting these awards. She started taking piano lessons and we would be in computer class and she would say 'you need to sit up straight. I learned in piano lessons that you have to have good posture.' I'm sure she only mentioned it a few times, but in my head, I was like this is what's giving her the edge. So I was like if I'm going to reign superior of third-grade, I need to start taking piano lessons— and I did and ended up finding a life-long passion.

SM: Wow! That's too funny! So, what does your songwriting process look like? Do you sit on the piano and just start making music?

RMS: Well usually I start with the words. I know that each songwriter has a different process that they have, but usually, whenever I'm writing something, some incident would happen or I'll be journaling and I'll have this moment of reflection and realize this lightbulb has gone off. When I get inspiration, I try to jot down a line of lyrics in my phone or a word pairing that I think is fun. Whenever I start writing I'm really trying to think of what is the situation I'm trying to write about and what is an interesting take on it.

SM: What inspired your latest single, "Blue Hawaii"?

Photo by Sara-Anne Waggoner

RMS: Well that song happened within a 12-hour period. My favorite drink to order when I go out with my friend is a Blue Hawaiin. This particular night, I was out with my friends and I was flirting with this guy and I thought he really liked me and was going to ask me out on a date...he went to the bar to get a new drink and came back with this other girl on his arm and completely ignored me for the rest of the night. I was like 'wait, what just happened?' The next morning I was sitting at breakfast with my friend and I offhandedly mentioned 'oh, I should write a song that's like a beach-country-ukelele song called Blue Hawaii and figure out all the ways I could roast him only using beach terminology.' By the time that the night came, I had finished 'Blue Hawaii' and I had played it for my friends and we were cracking up.

SM: Have you gotten any fan reaction to your "Blue Hawaii" single or your "Baggage" single? How has that been?

RMS: So "Baggage" has been really fun. I just recently played my first show in 2021. I got to open up for Paul Thorn at The Signal here in Chattanooga and "Baggage" was so fun because I taught the audience the words to the chorus and they started singing the chorus back to me. So that was really fun to have that sort of interaction with the crowd especially after a year of not getting to perform. Then, I performed "Blue Hawaii" there for the first time and they laughed at all the right spots and I was like this is my crowd of people.

SM: What do you hope people take away from "Blue Hawaii"?

RMS: My dream is that [Blue Hawaii] becomes a song that best friends listen to when they're going on a beach trip together. I could see two best friends with their feet in the sand and they've got Piña Coladas in their hands and they're laughing about this guy they used to have a huge crush on. I hope, if anything is taken away from the song, I hope that it is trying to find the humor in bad situations and looking at the positive.

SM: We saw that you were touring various Cat Cafes in your state. How was that experience?

RMS: So, I love playing in cat cafes! Before the pandemic started, I launched a 7-state cat cafe concert tour, and the reason for that was because a while back I was obsessed with this kitten that we had rescued and I pretty much wrote a love song to this cat, and I started thinking 'who would like this song?' and then I realized that cat cafes existed. I was like these are my people. It was so much fun! I had the best time playing those shows. I made little custom coloring sheets with the lyrics from the song so people could color while listening to the music. It was just a really fun experience.

SM: What should we be expecting from you next?

RMS: I will hopefully be playing a lot of shows! Hopefully, we'll have more shows on the books, soon. Fingers crossed, we'll have a new single out in the Fall. I already have it written, have the vision for it, I just have to get it recorded and get the photos made for it. So, that will possibly come out in the Fall, if it doesn't come out then, then early 2022. But, I'll just keep putting out music and keep doing my series that I have online, and start laying a lot more sows. That's what coming up!

To keep up with Rachel, you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. To listen, stream her on Spotify and YouTube. Be sure to look out for the release of "Blue Hawaii" on Tuesday, July 20.

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