Rachel London is a singer-songwriter creating a genre all her own by infusing contemporary pop with authentically raw and unapologetic lyricism. Rachel’s work exudes soulful depth and charismatic charm. As a recording artist and songwriter, Rachel has received accolades from many top industry professionals including Quincy Jones. Career highlights include working with powerhouse writers and producers like Rudy Perez, Wendy Starland, Mike Gonsolin, Mark Hudson and Troy Remi. Other favorite mentors and co-writers include the legendary Mark Hudson (Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Cher, Celine Dion), Troy Remi (Timbaland, Sean Paul, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj) and JBeatzz (producer to Big Boi of Outkast). Rachel has opened for notable acts such as Jon Secada and Alien Ant Farm at esteemed venues including the House of Blues and Viper Room in Hollywood and the Hard Rock Live, Van Dyke and Marlin in Miami.
You may also recognize Rachel from television and film. She has appeared in shows like “24” on FOX, “Greek” on ABC Family, “True Jackson VP” on Nickelodeon and in the Universal film “The Rocker.” In a recent interview she gave us some insight into her world.
- How long have you been in the music business and how did you get started in the first place?
Rachel London: I began doing musical theatre at a very young age before dabbling in TV and film. Eventually I circled back around to my first love, which has always been music. Every step of the process, from songwriting and recording to visual conceptualization and performance, nurtures me in different ways. I’ve been focused on music professionally for the past four years but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have my hand in some creative project or another.
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Rachel London: My first musical influences were based upon being exposed to what my mom listened to, so this speaks more to her taste in music than my own. Artists such as Madonna, UB40 and Pet Shop Boys created a preliminary framework for my musical palate.
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
Rachel London: I have a tendency to find new music I like and then mildly obsess over the production quality, the instrumentation, the vocal treatment, the mix, etc. I’m loving Banks right now, excited to check out ZZ Ward’s new album, Hozier is a favorite for his soulfulness, Ed Sheeran and The xx. I’ve also been revisiting a lot of Amy Winehouse lately. With the release of “Amy” I feelre-inspired to keep giving from my heart in regard to the way I make music. As far as collaborations are concerned, I’d love to work with Hozier, Ed, One Republic and Sam Smith. My upcoming album embodies much more live instrumentation and musical soulfulness akin to their stylistic tendencies. Aside from doing features on tracks for notable DJ’s, the people I often think about collaborating with are producers like Mark Ronson, Jason Evigan and Salaam Remi or songwriters like Sarah Hudson.
- Have you suffered any ‘resistance’ from within the industry, and if so how have you handled that, and how do you handle criticism and naysayers in general?
Rachel London: I think most creative artist types tend to be fairly sensitive. I am no exception. Though getting roughed up a bit by the industry can be discouraging at times, I still remain grateful for the process because I’ve learned how to put on a game face and be firm when necessary. I’ve learned I can’t make music I “think” “they” will respond well to; rather I really have to rely on my intuition as a guide. I’ve learned how to stand up for myself no matter how successful or powerful the person in front of me may be. There are many gatekeepers I’d of course like on my side, but those decision makers are often unwilling to take risks or nurture emerging talent the way it would be necessary at this stage of my career. Taking it back to the basics by writing songs and singing live always centers me in the face of resistance and naysayers.
- What is your relationship with visual media and Youtube? Do you think being an actress gives you and extra edge in your videos?
Rachel London: While I absolutely love getting to curate and create visual media components, I think being an actor is both a blessing and a curse! It definitely gives me an edge, but because I have worked with incredibly talented actors, directors and producers I tend to have exceptionally high standards, often making it difficult to get on the same page to create work that truly honors the artistic vision. I do enjoy being in front of the camera very much. There’s something profoundly beautiful about being witnessed and captured in moments of truth.
- Which do you ultimately prefer? Entertaining a live audience or creating songs in a studio environment?
Rachel London: I really have a hard time choosing between the two when I feel so strongly about them going hand in hand and enjoying both so much. In the studio I love the intimacy but I can be very self-critical. During live performances I see the fruits of my labor realized, which is rewarding, but in either scenario the common thread that makes them equally special is how present I can be in each moment. That’s my high.
- When writing songs do you prefer the freedom of doing it alone, or the challenge of collaborating with somebody else?
Rachel London: I love the rawness of writing alone. I’ll sit at my piano and play until I find the right words, melodies and chords to unearth the depth of emotion I want to express. At that point, I’ll take it to a co-writer or producer and share the loose idea with them to see if they also get excited and want to build upon what I’ve begun. That’s my favorite way to write because it’s never contrived. It’s personal and it’s collaborative.
8. Can you tell us something about your upcoming EP co-written and produced by Grammy nominee, Marthin Chan?
Rachel London: Yes! This EP serves as my declaration that I’m tired of playing by the pop rules. This project is more about being authentic than trying to make a pop hit. It’s still pop but it has a more indie vibe. Marthin’s motto is “keeping it indie, getting major results.” That’s what we’re going for. It’s soulful. It’s edgy. It’s real. It’s sultry and playful. The lyrics are daring and poetic and I can’t wait to share!
- Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as a performing artist in a genre thriving with newcomers and wannabes?
Rachel London: Dame Judi Dench said something I love. “You’re only as good an actor as you are a person.” I spend time probing into the far reaches of my heart, mind and soul to be the best version of myself, doing more for people and the planet. I spend time in wonder and gratitude. I spend time seeking meaningful connections, letting them unfold without expectation. Then I write about it. Then I sing about it. No one else will ever have the same lens through which I interpret the world. I’m fairly confident that’s pretty special.
- If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to be a part of this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
Rachel London: Stubbornness? Kidding. Passion. I’ve never been able to say no to the true longings of my heart. Sometimes that works in my favor and sometimes I get hurt. Even when it hurts I have the best outlet in the world to turn it into something productive.
- Which aspect of being a music artist and actress excites you most and which aspect of being in the entertainment business discourages you most?
Rachel London: Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad news is I’m often terribly discouraged by the lack of passion and vision and the abundance of ego and money- mindedness. The good news is, I’m constantly challenged to pave my own way, which I imagine is infinitely more fulfilling in the scheme of things.
- How do you market and manage your music career? Do you have a management team to do everything for you or do you control everything by yourself?
Rachel London: I’m definitely in the market for a manager. I’ve been approached many times but feel it’s important to find the right fit. Benny Blanco once said to me “your relationship with your manager should last longer than a marriage,” and I’ve taken that to heart. I keep working to get to the next level so I can attract the managers who will make a difference. I’ve managed my career solo with the guidance of the producers I’ve worked with. I have a few management mentors, namely Rebecca Lambrecht, who manages Steven Tyler and is on Britney’s management team. She has been a great supporter and resource.
- What are the major things you have learned, working with people like Mike Gonsolin (Snoop Dogg, Limp Bizkit ,Billy Ray Cyrus), Mark Hudson (Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Cher, Celine Dion), Troy Remi (Timbaland, Sean Paul, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj) and JBeatzz (producer to Big Boi of Outkast)?
Rachel London: Not to be afraid. To share ideas openly without attachment or a need for them to be well-received. Most importantly, every producer has his or her own style that influences the final product. The material we create together is not something they will be singing their entire lives but it is something I will be. The artist has to be proud to sing and promote the material. I used to want to make the producers happy because I assumed they knew better than I, but I’ve come to realize the mark of a good producer is one who puts their ego aside to focus on bringing out the best and most unique qualities of the artist. It’s rarer than one might expect even among top tier producers. Last but not least, I’ve learned to be ready for anything. When I was working with Jbeatzz at Stankonia Studios in Atlanta, Big Boi of Outkast sat in on our session. There was no time to be nervous, just perform. Or when I was working with Troy Remi and a film crew popped in to interview us. They interviewed Troy, Rick Ross, Kanye West and me. I kept thinking, ‘of all the people in the world, how did I make it in this mix?’ Another example, one night in Miami right before I went on stage, I was introduced to the executive producer of American Idol who was in the audience. These are just a few of many circumstances that have taught me how to thrive under pressure.
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Rachel London: The advice I’ve been given is to write that one big pop hit and run with it. It’s everyone’s underlying goal but it often takes the fun and freedom out of the process. I’m really glad I listened for the first couple years of my career because it drove me to work with some of the best in the business and learn the trade by jumping in head first. My songwriting teachers are people like Rudy Perez, Mark Hudson and Wendy Starland. It doesn’t get much better than that. What no one tells you is what to do once you have a great song and the truth is there’s no right answer or perfect formula. Advice I’ve been given and have not yet accomplished is to build a strong team around myself. It’s coming little by little, but I’m still filling in major pieces of the puzzle. I’m very independent, particular and have high standards but no one can “make it” in this industry alone. We all have strengths and weaknesses and need allies to attain a cohesive picture.
- On first waking up an opening your eyes in the morning, do you feel like a singer- songwriter or an actress?
Rachel London: My dad says the only thing I let define me is my inability to be defined. Upon waking I feel like a flawed human being trying to do my best. Trying to make sense of the world. Trying to turn internal chaos into poetic sanity. I am a multidimensional artist. Music is presently my main focus but I do have some exciting acting and writing projects in the pipeline as well.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and music in general today, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
Rachel London: When people tell me, “just put it on youtube, you never know, it could become a huge hit,” I think it’s wise to have more than a few backup strategies. It’s difficult to break through the mediocrity because of the massive amount of content. On the flip side, if you’re not engaging an audience online through social media, it’s nearly impossible to become or stay relevant.
- Which so far, for you, have been the absolute highlights in your musical and also your acting career?
Rachel London: In my acting career, one of my favorite memories is smoking a cigar, the only cigar I’ve ever smoked, with the director of 24 and Kiefer Sutherland at the holiday wrap party to celebrate the season I worked on the show. Another good one was being on set with Emma Stone while working on a Universal film together before she became a household name. The director was becoming frustrated with my scene partner and I used some very unconventional techniques to get the performance out of him. After that we got it in one take and they were all pleased. Being on set with Christina Hendricks, joking about how similar we are, then losing our cars in the parking structure after a long day of shooting, wandering around in the middle of the night, laughing together. Moments like these are very special to me. In my music career, the highlight has been, being approached by major labels, major publishers and major managers. Knowing I’m on their radar tells me I’m doing something right.
- Of all the things you’ve done until now, artistically speaking, is there any one of these that you would do differently today if you were given the chance to go back and do it again?
Rachel London: I always say if I knew then what I know now, I would write and write and write with different people until I found my clear sound. I’ve self-financed productions when I wish I had more clarity in regard to my direction prior to doing so. I’d also be more confident from day one, trusting my creative intuition rather than trusting someone because they’ve previously had great success.
- As you work your way through your musical career, which more than any other fires-up your imagination – A Grammy award, Platinum music sales or some other tangible milestone?
Rachel London: I get fired up thinking about touring the world and continuing to collaborate with people I believe in as creative talents and human beings.
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
Rachel London: I refuse to be the type of person who will hurt or betray others to get ahead. Also, I will not work with people who disrespect me or are intolerant of others. Life is too precious to work with a**holes 😉