Musician Rachel Levitin embodies passion. She is passionate about her music, life, and friends and is grateful for everything. When she sings, her whole body is enraptured in the music. It is a beautiful thing to see someone so present and engrossed in her music. Having lost her father, Steven, her last year of college, after he endured a heart transplant, you see someone who values the here and now. Rachel spoke excitedly about her new album Nearly Broken, her next steps, her favorite DC music venues, trying out for The Voice and the process of making her album.
Marlene: What has been the response for your new album?
Rachel: Extremely supportive! The Nearly Broken EP was a project that helped me cope with the grief related to losing several family members plus our family dog all in my last semester of college. That EP represents the “first chapter” so to speak of my music career. Some of the songs on that album were written while I was still in high school. Now…I’m quite a few years removed from high school and college so I view it as a time capsule. One of my favorite quips from a fan was that they knew how specific the stories on the album were, especially the title track which was written in my late father’s memory, but they still found their own ways to relate to the song/songs. That tells me that there’s a universal quality to the human experience and that continues to encourage me to continue down this path.
What has been your musical highlight so far?
Before my new single “Get Back Up” made its world premiere on the radio on October 18, my biggest musical highlight was the 2014 Off The Record Music Festival in Charleston, SC. At the festival I not only got to perform the song I wrote about that same festival in front of some of my favorite artists, but I also got to share the stage as part of the big group performance that closed out the festival with all those artists rockin’ out together. That was a legitimate dream come true, no exaggeration, and I’ll never forget it for as long as I live. But… hearing a song I wrote make its world premiere on the radio is something I’ve dreamed of for a long time so… I’d say it’s a tie between those two accomplishments right now.
What do you like about performing?
The stage is a place I feel comfortable. The lights, the audience, and energy in the room … there’s something special about it all and I feel quite at home there. I started performing at a young age and after working to get over stage fright in the earlier days, I’ve grown to appreciate the adrenaline rush. It’s a natural high that I cherish.
What is next for you all creatively? Touring wise? etc?
First Up: I had a new single out on October 21 called “Get Back Up” which I’m super stoked about. But there’s still so much else I want to do. I want to tour. I want my band to open up for bigger acts at DC-area venues. I want to release a new EP, new music videos, the whole she-bang. Next up is probably planning out the next two years worth of content to release and then taking it one day at a time.
Who is your musical inspiration?
Rachael Yamagata, Tony Lucca, Matt Duke, Anna Rose, and The Beatles – I’d say those are the top five at the moment, in no particular order.
How would you describe your music?
Energetic, upbeat, introspective, and emotion-driven.
But a friend of mine also described my music as being about the relationship with yourself and not necessarily relationships in general. That stuck with me and I agree with her.
Best places to see music in the DC area?
Jammin’ Java, the 9:30 Club, The Hamilton, The Birchmere, and The Kennedy Center are my personal favorites for live music in the area. All five of those selections are quite different from each other and each provides a unique experience for concert attendees.
My love goes to Jammin’ Java though because of how many unforgettable nights I’ve spent there. The venue, music school, and café there in Vienna, VA just turned 15 this past year and I’m happy to see the place continue to succeed. There have been many late nights where I got to know a lot of my favorite artists on a more personal level. I’ve performed there with friends and grown as an artist. It’s by far my favorite if I had to pick one out of the five venues I named as my overall favorites in the area. Most definitely.
How old when you started playing music? How did you learn? What instrument?
I started playing guitar and trumpet within a few weeks of each other at age nine in the fourth grade as part of my grade school’s extracurricular afterschool programs.
How was it trying out for The Voice?
That was definitely an experience. It was one of those giant cattle calls, like the ones American Idol used to air on their first few episodes of each season. I have a few friends who’ve been contestants on The Voice and I’m proud of them for their success before, during, and after they completed their individual runs, but I’m not sure if that type of outlet is something for me.
I go back-and-forth in my mind about music competition shows. Of course, I’d love to be mentored by industry professionals and perform on live television. What you learn by being on those shows are things that cannot be taught otherwise. The experience in and of itself is 100% unique for each contestant. So, if I ever got the call, I’d likely accept.
The audition process itself was pretty straight forward –after arriving at the audition location during the wee hours of the morning, you stand and wait for quite awhile until you’re eventually called into a room to audition with a small group of people. Everyone I met from the show’s staff was very nice and supportive.
What has been the best thing about playing music?
The friends I’ve made, the places I’ve been, and the experiences I’ve had. Every day is an adventure and because of music, my adventure has had quite the soundtrack so to speak. Plus, it just FEELS good.
What is the process of writing and recording music like?
It’s a time for contemplation, storytelling, and fun. Music is always fun for me, even if there’s work involved with it. Being in the studio and recording songs that were essentially born out of thin air will always fascinate and excite me. I find it thrilling to be in a recording studio. I remember watching VH1 and MTV as a kid and being mesmerized watching artists, who I admired, show behind the scenes footage of them recording tracks and all that jazz. Now, to be one of those people, I cherish every second taking a song I wrote and bringing it to life in the studio. It is, for lack of better terms, my natural habitat. I always feel 100% comfortable in those spaces. It’s like coming home in a way.
How would you describe the music industry today?
It is ever-changing and constantly evolving. The most important thing for artists in this current landscape of having to forge your own paths is to know that there is no standard way of doing things anymore. You have to be malleable to survive and know that there is no certainty. As long as you stay true to yourself and your art, though, that’s what matters most.
What is a dream you wish to see come true musically?
I’d love to do a co-write and/or tour with Rachael Yamagata and Tony Lucca. Right now, that’s the next “dream come true” I’d love to cross off my musical To-Do List.
Rachel Levitin will appear on Facebook Live with Alex Touzinsky on February 10, 2017 and on March 23, 2017 at Tortoise & Hare Bar & Grill – 567 23rd Street, in Arlington, VA. For more information on the performance, call the bar at (703) 979-1872.
Information on future performances can be found here.
Please check out her website for her upcoming performances and buy her album!