During Rachel Kate Gillon’s summer tour, the spirited folk rocker spent a night sleeping in the world’s only sci-fi- and monster-themed ice cream shop in Quincy, Ill., Ice Scream. Decorated in movie and comic book memorabilia, it’s the kind of place that serves up ice cream called the Blondo Calrissian (vanilla) and the Storm Trooper (Oreo) and other icey treats like Alien Eggs (brownies and ice cream) and Kong’s Dong (a massive banana split, natch). Of course, when she woke up in the a.m., she did something truly horrific. “Yes, I did eat ice cream for breakfast the next morning. Sorry mom,” Gillon says.
Ice Scream wasn’t the only oddball place Gillon caught 50 winks. She also slept inside a barn in an old apple orchard in east Tennessee. “Not too far from there, we played a pit stop near by. We just set up in front of the beer cooler and had all the PBR and pulled pork sandwiches our bellies could handle,” she says. Clearly, Gillon isn’t one to let the lack of a comfy bed and a couple of plush pillows get in her way as she attempts to make a name for herself in the music biz.
Like countless musicians before her, Gillon was surrounded by music from the time she was born. “My father was a musician and my mom worked in the business,” Gillon says about her early years in Nashville. “I remember when I first learned how to read, I would drive my mother nuts by singing every single sign I would read on the highway,” she says with a laugh.
A few years later, on what Gillon calls “that fateful X-mas day,” six-year-old Rachel Kate was given a ukulele by her parents. “I think it all technically started then, even though I wasn’t trying to pursue it for a living,” Gillon says. “It wasn’t until after college that I realized I must play music for the rest of my life.”
Eventually, Gillon left Nashville to head to the East Coast for a stint at the College of Charleston. She hadn’t been in the Holy City for more than a weekend before she decided to make the town her permanent home. Eight years later, she’s still here. “Naturally, I fell in love with this place, and it’s been real good to me since,” she says.
A former member of the now-defunct Shaniqua Brown, which won the 2011 Charleston City Paper Music Award for Metal/Punk Band of the Year, and a current member of the Local Honeys, Gillon is giving the solo thing a serious go. Her entrancing, old-soul wail is positively goosebump inducing. “My music writing process is kind of like a fickle friend. These melodies and phrases float around in my head one day and want to hang out. Then the next week, they totally hate me and they are nowhere to be found,” she says. “I tend to come up with a melody and short phrase first, then build around that.”
The 10-track Rachel Kate With Love and Hate features an eclectic blend of feisty folk, grungy blues, and classic country. Gillon revisits some of her earlier songs in the compilation, including a few from her days in college. Her father also penned a track, the lone song on the album Gillon didn’t write herself. “My Painting” is reminiscent of softer Stevie Nicks, while “Oh My God” channels the good ol’ Delta blues, complete with a little gramophone static thrown in for good effect. The spacey “Actress” slows things down a bit, whereas “Dancin’ Shoes” is a speedy blast of country.
Gillon is celebrating the release of her album with a show at the Charleston Music Hall. With a little luck and a whole lot of touring, Rachel Kate With Love and Hate just might earn the plucky songstress a little love from the Americana world.
“I guess if I’m remembered for anything,” Gillon says after taking some time to think, “it would be that I tried my hardest to accept and love everyone I encounter. If we just take a moment to try and understand where people came from, it’d be a heck of a lot easier to put up with each other. Live by the golden rule y’all! Oh yeah, and that I was a good songwriter and musician.”
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