If you’re looking for spit-fire and honesty, strength and vulnerability, and dynamic vocals that connect it all, take a listen to Faren Rachels, whose talents have impressed crowds while opening up for Luke Combs on his current tour. She’s got Miranda Lambert meets Miley Cyrus vocals, with a live presence that recalls the energy of Gretchen Wilson. Rachels just released her debut EP, a collection of rocking party anthems and honest confessionals.
“This is going to be the first project that a lot of people [will ever hear of mine] so I really wanted to make sure that all five songs represented me,” she says backstage at Nashville’s Exit/In, where she’s opening a sold-out show for Riley Green. “[I wanted to make sure] the project as a whole told people who I am.”
Rachels’ debut EP features five songs, four of which she wrote, and two of which served as a lead-off two-pack: “Free Drinks” and “If It Ain’t Fixed.”
“Cole Taylor, Jared Mullins, Tommy Cecil, and Jaida Dreyer wrote it,” she shares of the latter. “You hear so many songs here in Nashville but it’s been one of my favorites for a couple years.”
Rachels is herself a prolific writer, with a style that she says tends to begin with the lyric and lets the melody follow from there.
“I’ve always been drawn to songs with just pictures,” she says. “You hear it and you know exactly where they’re talking about or you can just see the person in a song. That’s always been my thing.”
Rachels also had 90’s talents like Reba, Martina McBride, and Pam Tillis on loop, and counts new albums from Cadillac 3 and Jon Pardi among her favorites. “I listen to a little bit of everything honestly,” she says, “but I’m always just drawn to real southern rock or fiddle and steel.”
“My number one favorite is Trisha Yearwood,” she adds. “She’s from a small town right down the road from me and I just remember growing up being like, if she can get out of here, I can too.”
For the sold out crowd treated to Rachels’ set later that night, her energy and style are impressive and bold. It may just be that badassery is in Rachels’ blood: as a kid, she drag raced, and was, well, pretty damn good at it.
“My dad drag raced my whole childhood,” she explains, laughing. “They had a junior drag racing league and he bought me a car. I whooped serious ass for for a while… I was only 12 and the boy I went to the finals with was 15.”
“A few weekends later my dad sold the car because I chose to go to a middle school dance, he said I wasn’t committed,” she continues. “Still pissed off about that. But it was fun, and people don’t realize it’s a lot more than just line up and go … you have to predict your time, and if you get to the finish line quicker than the time you predicted, then you automatically lose. There’s a lot more thinking that goes into it.”
“Mine had a go kart motor, so it’s not like I was going 200 miles per hour,” she continues, laughing. “But it felt like it.”
Buy Rachels’ debut EP on iTunes, and stream below: