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5 Questions With Rachel A. Brown '10

Courtesy of Rachel A. Brown

Rachel A. Brown ’10 recently released her first EP, “Building Castles.” Brown was named one of Fifteen Minutes’s “15 Most Interesting Seniors” in 2010, when her mellifluous voice and newfound guitar skills were just beginning to take shape and gain attention. Her talents have since been recognized by the likes of Wyclef Jean and Perez Hilton; she has produced multiple singles, a handful of YouTube covers, and a soon -to-be-released music video. With Brown busy on her tour, Fifteen Minutes caught up with her over the phone to talk about her EP, music video, and fond memories of Harvard life.

1. Fifteen Minutes: You just released your new EP, what has been your favorite part of the project so far?

Rachel Brown: Wow, it’s been such a long process. We started well over a year ago. But I think my favorite part was sitting down and kind of talking through the songs of the people I work with, sort of coming up with all the sorts of layers and textures we wanted to add to fully realize the songs. So through the brainstorming, getting excited about a portion, and then flashing forward to the end once everything started coming together. I mean the last thing you do is the vocals. You work on everything, piece by piece, and it can kind of get a little abstract at times, but once it all becomes a real song then I get real excited about it.

2. FM: Your sound is so effortless, and it often syncopates against the rhythm, running with a melody distinct from that of your guitar or ukulele. The outcome is wonderfully unique—nestled somewhere among the unlikely crosshairs of Lauryn Hill and James Taylor. Where did this sound come from? Were you mimicking other musicians or was this something you came up with all on your own?

RB: I don’t know, I just sort of started singing and that’s what came out. I’m sure, I guess if you did a study on my brain you might be able to track back all the different influences I’ve had. I’ve sort of always been drawn to interesting voices, probably in part because mine was a little different. And also because I was attracted to things that are a little bit off. But I don’t know. I started off singing quietly in my bedroom. I listen to my old tapes that I’d recorded, and I sound the same—maybe a little more confident.

3. FM: At Harvard you concentrated in VES and studied filmmaking. You also recently finished shooting a music video for your song “Bumblebee.” Did you help to produce the video at all, beyond your performance in it?

RB: I actually stepped out of this one. I had this really amazing director, Ian Wolfson. I loved his stuff. He knew what I wanted to do. So I felt totally comfortable letting somebody else handle it. I studied documentary anyway at Harvard and it’s totally different than what we did. I don’t think I’d have the patience for all that storytelling and what not.

4. FM: Do you think anything you did at Harvard really prepared you for a career in music?

RB: I think so. You work hard there and you learn how to manage yourself and be constantly working and trying to get ahead. I think that really prepared me. I don’t know what comes first: the drive to do [things] that brings you there and then you go along with it sort of nurturing you.

5. FM: Would you ever consider coming back to Harvard and staging a live show for your alma mater?

RB: Of course, I’d love to do that. Yeah, its funny I’ve been doing this college tour. I’m doing one tonight. And I’ve played at, I don’t know, this is probably my fiftieth college show and none of them have been Harvard. But I think that would be really fun.

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