Interview with singer, songwriter, musician and composer Rae Hering

photo from
photo taken by Jonathan Morse

Rae Hering, who is based in Nashville Tennessee, is an exceptionally gifted artist.  At first listen, you’ll think that you’ll have heard her before with her sweet, sultry voice.  She will impress you with her smooth piano and guitar playing.  With an album already under her belt, Rae is only just beginning.  She writes in her WordPress blog titled, “Shy Gemini,” which she uses to share her music and post stories behind her songs, as well as, glimpses of her life.  She is a gemini, however, she is far from shy when it comes to her passion for music.  Early on, Rae exhibited musical skills that surpassed her peers, which lead her to work closely with one of her life mentors.  There are many artists out there who don’t hold a truth and honesty that Rae exudes in her work, songs and performance.

The music that Rae Hering plays is refreshingly unique and original.  Her song titled, How the Wind Blows, starts with a powerful melody that demands attention.  Another, Dollar in My Pocket, is whimsical and sweet that you can’t help but smile and sing along to.  One in particular, Watercolor, which she recommended I hear, is one of my favorites.  Her voice is simply amazing and this song was meant to be.  This is only a small sample of her music.  For more information, check out her official website.

photo from
photo taken by Jonathan Morse
photo from
photo taken by Jonathan Morse

I am lucky and honored to have the opportunity to interview Rae for this first the portfolio – in progress interview.  As I mention in my “About” page, I deeply value artistic admiration and “I am also a lover of the stories people tell in interviews, documentaries and the like.  Everyone is very interesting..”  I think that we all are artists in our own way and to have the chance to work on my interviewing and writing skills with such a passionate artist, I feel beyond happy and appreciative of that.

connie n. w.: You play many different instruments (piano, guitar, accordion, sorry if I missed any).  I know that it must be hard to choose, but which one do you most enjoy playing and why?

Rae Hering: You’re right, sometimes it is hard to choose simply because each instrument has its own unique quality.  If I pick up my guitar, I’ll write a song with a different vibe than if I was fiddling around with my accordion.  But if I’d have to choose one I most enjoy playing, I’d have to go with piano.  I started playing piano when I was seven, so I have a level of comfort when I sit down in front of those keys that isn’t going away any time soon.  Piano is also the instrument I studied at Belmont University in Nashville, so I have a level of understanding here that allows me to really open up musically.

As well as being a singer, songwriter and musician, you are also a composer and you’ve worked on some short films.  How did you get involved with these films and how does that compare to performing live on-stage in front of an audience?

I got involved with writing music for short films such as “without” and “The Once Mighty” in a way that most of the music business operates – having a circle of creative friends who are working on awesome projects!  We all help each other out, you know.  We exchange our creative disciplines – be it music writing, videography, photography, wardrobe consulting, music engineering and producing – because we’re all excited about what we’re all doing and want to be a part of each others’ projects! The beautiful thing about this is that other opportunities often arise from helping each other out.  For example, I was involved in the 2011 Nashville 48 Hour Film Festival and one of our team members liked the music I was composing and offered me the opportunity to write the music for a Singer Sewing Company advertisement.  I thought that was pretty cool!

Writing music for film/advertisements is a completely different experience than live performance.  Writing for a project entails nailing one specific feeling or ambience in order to enhance the scene on screen.  Performing live is all about creating an experience for audience members by taking them on an entertaining journey that includes the atmosphere of the venue, the music I’m performing, and personal connection.

I learned that you consider Rufus Wainwright as one of your heroes.  What qualities do you admire about him and is he someone you’d want to work with in the future?

Rufus Wainwright is uncompromising in being himself.  Musically, he has developed a unique sound that is unmistakably his, and his fans love him because of his quirks and idiosyncrasies, not because he sings with perfect technique or he has a song on top ten radio.  In fact, Rufus’ career, as I understand, is not based on radio play, which is very encouraging for an independent artist such as me.  Rufus tours internationally because he has found a strong following that loves his songs exactly how he writes them, even if they are not “commercially acceptable” and don’t nicely fit into a genre.  Would I want to work with him in the future?  You bet!!

What are your thoughts of one’s image and how important is it in the music industry?

This is a really good question.  Image plays a huge part in the music industry, whether you like it or not!  Even though it is an industry that focuses on sound, we can’t deny that the look of a performer will speak volumes when making a first impression on a potential fan.  But a good image doesn’t mean having a perfect body with a model-esque face.  This may still be true by big industry’s standards (meaning major labels – the guys who mass market music).  While big industry still emphasizes youth and sex appeal as necessary selling points where artists still reach an inevitable expiration date, there’s an emerging hunger in music fans for something that digs deeper than looks.  These days with how many avenues there are to get your music heard, all sorts of musical artists, regardless of their age and “sex appeal,” are finding their niche.You graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Do you feel that the experiences you had in college play a role in your music career, even today?Most definitely.  I studied commercial piano and composition at Belmont – which I describe as a program which teaches musicians to play popular styles starting with jazz and stemming off into other genres; however, it also teaches musicians navigate the industry as well.  I firmly believe that I wouldn’t be the musician I am today if my professors at Belmont had not pushed my musical boundaries.  Also, at Belmont I was able to freely develop and express a raw but true form of songwriting.  It was an integral part of my formation as a songwriter and has brought me to where I am today.

On your website, you are described as having an “eclectic songwriting style.”  Can you describe your process for writing and composing music?You know, it’s always a little different for every song.  Sometimes a song will begin with a cool instrumental riff I like.  Sometimes I’ll start the lyrics without touching an instrument, or even having a melody in mind.  I think the running theme through my writing process is that I get to the point where something clicks and I know the emotional content of the song without knowing how the song will turn out in the end.  That’s where the fun really begins for me – it’s like the song is already there, running ahead of me, making me chase it down and catch it.  It feels more like a game, like fun, than anything else.

Also, in my earlier days of writing I resisted writing from my life experience.  I think this was just a personal hang up I had.  I wanted to be different and out there and I thought that I needed to come from left field in my lyrics.  I’ve since really embraced writing from my life experience because it’s so important to be relatable!  And being relatable doesn’t mean being boring or unoriginal.  Actually, it’s the opposite.  To be emotionally impactful, I strive to say the familiar in an unfamiliar way.For many of us, we haven’t yet figured out what we want to do in life.  How and when did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in music?I knew I was in love with music when I was seven when I first started Yamaha Method piano lessons.  I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music when I was in high school when I couldn’t imagine doing anything else more fun and exciting than writing songs!  Songwriting was the one thing I could spend an endless amount of hours getting lost in (and that’s still the case), so it was no mystery that I needed to dedicate my life to music.

What is one thing you would say to the sixteen year old Rae?Well, speaking of my high school years!  I would say to myself that you can’t please everybody, so keep forging ahead and the people who dig your music will find you and stick with you.  I would say that there is going to be a lot of dead ends and dashed hopes, but those are necessary steps to truly earning and owning your music career.

Love is major theme for many songs out there.  What are your thoughts on love?

Love certainly crops up in a lot of songs, doesn’t it?  For a really long time I didn’t allow myself to write love songs.  Once again, I thought that love songs were entirely too conventional! (Oh, silly me…)  Now, I think a good love song has an amazing power.  And, on a personal note, I’ve got lots of inspiration in the “love” category because I recently got engaged!  So, believe, there are many, many songs to come from this… J

And lastly, who or what inspires you?

The style of music I happen to be listening to at the moment has a huge influence on how my own music comes out.  If I’m listening to John Mayer, I’ll unconsciously create a melody line that reminds me of his.  If I’m listening to Sly and the Family Stone, I can hear similar grooves in my piano playing.  Lyrically, I’ll get inspired by a big life experience but sometimes it’s just the sound of two words put together that get me going.

Thank you so much Rae!

Here is Rae’s official video for her song, “Leaky Umbrella.”



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