Imagine a rainbow-streaked unicorn wearing a tutu and a septum ring, prancing in a meadow of daisies. Is it in your head? Can you see it? That’s Rachel Kate, Charleston’s boho singer-seamstress dynamo.
“I try to stay as positive as I possibly can in life and try to make everyone around me comfortable.” Rachel Kate says. “But sometimes I get down and I feel hurt and I don’t display that all the time because why would I want to project that on to someone else? Songwriting puts it out there and helps me cope. And maybe it’ll strike a chord with someone else that feels the same way.”
After breaking from her former bands the Shaniqua Brown and the Local Honeys, Kate released her debut solo album Rachel Kate with Love and Hate in September. “Being solo is very different, but in some ways it’s the same. I mean, I get the final say in things,” Rachel Kate says. However, being a solo artist isn’t a solo affair. “I enjoy having the support of other musicians on stage and being able to give them that artistic freedom to be themselves and create. They can run with a song and organically create something new though it’s using music I’ve already written. They can make it their own.”
Rachel Kate also needed an assist when it came time to record her debut.”I have a hard time asking for money, but I realized that people wanted to give it to me,” explains Kate. “This is something I want to do for the rest of my life, and I could save forever working at the Early Bird Café, but it just wouldn’t cut it. It was the best option so I could maintain complete creative control over it.” In the end, Rachel Kate raised over $9,000 using Kickstarter.
And considering that her album is titled Rachel Kate with Love and Hate, it should not come as a surprise that her debut disc focuses on dark times. The haunting lead-off track “Hell Is Your Home” criticizes a former lover. Rachel Kate’s voice trembles on lines like “Thanks for teaching me to hate,” all the while a somber violin plays. “Lost,” on the other hand, explores the struggle of rebuilding yourself after being torn down by someone else: “Why don’t you tell me what you think I am/ A silly girl with no thoughts of my own/ And an awkward fear of being alone.”
“My goal was to take this collection of songs and record them and share them with the world, and I hope that the things I have to say benefits others,” Rachel Kate says. “I’m interested to see what my songs will be like when I’m in a serious relationship. It’s an ongoing thing. I sense it changing.”
The most surprising track on Rachel Kate with Love and Hate is “Dancing Shoes,” an upbeat pop-country number written by her father Dave Gillon about raising two daughters. “He’s an incredible songwriter and deserves to be acknowledged as such. He’s paralyzed on his right side, so he can’t play as much anymore,” she says. “It was my way of paying respects to him as a human and as a musician. He deserves to be heard.”
Rachel Kate is already writing new songs and thinking about her next project, and at this point, she has no plan to join a band. “This is a challenge, and I want to spend most of my energy on it for a long while,” she says. “If I do too much of something at one time I get disinterested. I’m keeping it spicy because this is something I want to do forever.”
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