10 Questions with ... Rainey Qualley
August 30, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Exuding passion and embracing wonder in every endeavor may well be the most defining quality of Asheville, North Carolina's native-daughter and rapidly rising star that is Rainey Qualley. She moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting but quickly embraced her desire to entertain, and she is now the flagship artist for the new label Cingle Records. Born in New York, NY, Rainey's family moved to Missoula, Montana when she was two. Living on a farm in the Big Sky state with her parents, older brother and younger sister afforded wide open spaces to roam and play. Her love of the outdoors and animals were firmly entrenched by the time the family moved to Asheville, North Carolina when she was nine. Rainey began creating her own songs as a young child, and her father taught her how to play guitar. Her love of writing and performing eventually led her to Nashville, where she immersed herself in the creative community. Her first release, "Turn Me On Like The Radio," began hitting airwaves in January 2015, and SiriusXM The Highway added the single as their "Highway Find." After signing with booking giant CAA, Rainey had two dreams come true; she opened for one of her musical heroes, Willie Nelson, at his two sold-out concerts at the famed Ryman Auditorium. Her "Turn Down The Lights" EP was released June 2, 2015.
1. Growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, you had a wide array of musical influences. As the title of your single suggests, Johnny Cash was one of those. Who else would you say you consider high on the musical influence list?
I've always been drawn to older Country music like Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton, but I don't only listen to Country. I also love Neil Young, Etta James, Kate Bush, The Temptations, Diana Ross, Van Morrison, and newer more obscure artists like Nikki and the Dove, Shura, Purity Ring, Broods... I just love music.
2. Your styling and voice are very distinctive. How did you hone your craft and develop your skill?
The tone of my voice is just the way it is. There isn't anything I've done to make it that way. But I sang in school choirs as a kid and started taking vocal lessons when I was 17.
3. You co-wrote all seven of the tracks on your debut EP, "Turn Down The Lights." Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting process and how long it typically takes you to formulate the perfect song?
I don't think I would say any of my songs are "perfect." Each song happens a different way. I always carry around a notebook to jot down lyrical ideas, so sometimes it's a culmination of thoughts that took place over a span of months. Or sometimes I have a writing appointment in the morning, and we will write something in a few hours.
4. You come from a bit of a famous family; your younger sister, Margaret, is on the HBO television series "The Leftovers," and your mother is Andie MacDowell. With a family so strongly rooted in acting, how did you decide to break away from the mold and pursue music?
I knew I loved music and loved to sing from a very young age. Both my parents are artistic and put me in piano and dance when I was a kid. I am drawn to the performance arts in general, but singing and songwriting is my passion.
5. Besides your budding music career, you've also spent time on screen. I'm a big "Mad Men" fan, so I have to ask - how did the cameo on the final season come about, and what did you take away from that experience? Was Jon Hamm nice, and did you get to keep that fur coat?
I auditioned for the "Mad Men" role right before I moved to Nashville, and I booked it. It was an incredible experience. Everyone was very nice to work with, and it was special to be a little part of such an iconic show. No, I didn't keep the coat, but I wouldn't have wanted to. I'm a vegetarian and anti-fur, ironically enough.
6. You recently had the chance to open for Willie Nelson at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. What was it like to get that call asking you to play, and how was the experience?
Opening for Willie at the Ryman was such an honor. Looking back, I still can't really believe I got to do that. The Ryman is a very special place, and Willie Nelson is an absolute legend. It was a very humbling experience.
7. You are a unique beauty and have a great personal style! If we gave you $100, where would you shop and what would you buy?
I like shopping at vintage stores. I think it's fun to find unique pieces that have a history and a story to them. So it's hard to say what I'd buy. It would depend on what I found.
8. You've been out on radio tour in support of "Me and Johnny Cash" and your debut EP as the flagship artist on Cingle Records. What has been the biggest takeaway from your time visiting radio folks out on the road?
The radio tour has been a learning experience. I didn't really know the way the radio business worked prior to the tour. It has been so much fun getting to travel the country and meet with as many stations as we have. (About 90 so far.) It's been a pleasure getting to know the people that will (hopefully!) be playing my song.
9. Much has been made about the lack of women on Country radio. Do you feel at all handicapped by being female when you're out presenting your music to new audiences?
I feel very confident as a singer and songwriter. It doesn't do me any good to play in to any negativity about women in Country music. I think women are going to make a huge comeback in this genre, and I want to be a part of it.
10. SiriusXM The Highway has shown you a lot of love. How did that relationship begin?
John Marks heard the very first demo I recorded in Nashville for my song "Turn Me On Like The Radio," and he loved it. So once we were ready, he made it a Highway Find! I'm very thankful he liked what he heard!
1. Now living and working in Nashville after growing up in Montana and North Carolina, how have you adjusted to living in the city and away from a farm or outdoorsy setting? Has the change of scenery changed your songwriting at all?
I have also lived in New York and LA, so I was pretty used to city life. But I have certainly been influenced by my surroundings. There is no place else like Nashville, Tennessee. I've been so blessed to work with highly talented songwriters and musicians here. It's a great place to grow as a musician.