Jay Van Raalte’s latest EP is due this fall, and a solo LP is scheduled for an early 2022 release | Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol

Lowcountry native Jay Van Raalte has assembled quite an eclectic resume for a 22-year-old. Competitive surfer, math teacher and master musician are among her many accomplishments. It’s the last endeavor, however, that Van Raalte considers to be her true vocation. 

“Way before I had the technical skills or vocabulary to understand it, I was fascinated by how songs fit together, what makes a good lyric and how to craft arrangements,” Van Raalte said.  

Although she is carving out recognition for herself currently, Van Raalte was into big names like U2, R.E.M. and Green Day before she started taking lessons in middle school with local guitar aficionado Scottie Frier. 

Van Raalte credits Frier with expanding her worldview and giving her a much needed push in the right direction. Within a few months of connecting with Frier, the underage songstress found herself sitting in with his (as well as other people’s) bands, and soon thereafter she began to fashion her own style of music-making out of a diverse palate of influences. 

The longest-running and best-known example of Van Raalte’s work is Jump Castle Riot, a four-piece ensemble she co-founded with vocalist Nina Murchison when they were in high school. 

“My relationship with Nina was also hugely influential,” Van Raalte said. “In addition to being one of my closest friends, she was an amazing artistic foil. She’s an incredibly instinctive artist, so blending my very analytic approach with her more intuitive approach was both fun and challenging.” 

This popular blues-based act won six City Paper Music Awards and carried on for several years, affording Van Raalte the opportunity to gain plenty of crucial hands-on experience along the way. 

“I was the manager and the booking agent and the marketing person for the group,” she said, “so I was learning how to make each next step happen as we got there. I’m proud of the fact that we rarely ran into a stumbling block that we couldn’t scale, sometimes very creatively, and I am thankful that I have more knowledge to take with me into the future.”

Van Raalte is crafting an EP due out this autumn and a solo LP scheduled for release in early 2022 with a little help from her father, sound engineer Derk Van Raalte, and her fellow collaborator, producer Matt Megrue. According to Van Raalte, the sessions have been taking place at her in-house studio, affectionately dubbed the Van Raalte Sonic Laboratory, in an effort to find a home for her many “orphans.” 

“I’ve been writing songs for years, and not everything was a good fit for whatever project I was in at the time,” she explained. “So there’s a whole back catalog of songs I really love that just fell by the wayside. The idea was to record them, give them their due, and then be able to move on and start fresh. But I got so inspired by the process that I found myself writing more songs while working on the project. I love the older songs and can’t wait for them to finally see the light of day, but I’m also fired up about the new songs, which I think show how much my writing has improved recently.” 

Van Raalte said the depth of talent in Charleston encouraged her to find her own lane as she came of age.

“There are too many people around who are great at what they do for me to ever want to try to be a better version of them,” she said. Instead, Van Raalte prefers to focus on being adept at doing her own thing — which most definitely includes tasteful vocals, song-serving guitar playing and a serious passion for performing. 

In the end, her philosophy is simple: “I just want to create music that I think is good with people I like.”

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