Women’s History Month: Alternative Folk-Pop Singer and Songwriter BRASSIE

Rachel Brassfield, also known as BRASSIE, a singer-songwriter from Washington DC who creates alternative folk-pop music that feels like a warm hug with it’s soft, graceful vocals, gorgeous instrumentals and well-written lyrics. Before the pandemic, she spent some time at a box office at a concert venue which she describes as “the coolest job ever and I remain eager to return to it if/when life allows.” When she’s not creating music, you can find her outside – especially in the forms of snowboarding in winter, being by the water in summer, and walking the family dog all year round.

We are absolutely honored to feature this amazing artist on For The Punks, check out the interview below!

How and when did you get started in music? Was there something that really pushed you to pursue it?

I’ve been singing and making up songs for as long as I can remember. I decided I wanted to become a professional musician when I was about 7 years old. Somewhere in between childhood and teenhood though, I lost the faith that I could make that dream a reality. I still kept music close to me as a hobby. I sang in school (and afterschool) choirs. I picked up the guitar and started writing songs more seriously in high school. Then it was an open mic here and there, even 1 or 2 paid gigs.

Eventually I started pursuing a career in the music industry, but on the business and marketing side of things. I took a few internships and realized the industry is competitive and hard to break into no matter where you enter it. (You especially have to be skilled in the art of networking – which I am not.) I figured if it’s going to be difficult no matter what, I might as well do music the way I really want to – as a musician. Singing, songwriting, and performing are what I do best and love most. So finally, about 3 years ago, I chose to reclaim faith in my childhood dreams and officially become BRASSIE. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make but it should have been. I haven’t looked back since.

Who are the women that inspire you? Who has been the biggest influence on your music?

My mom probably had the biggest influence on my music just because her love of music was always such a strong force in our household. Some of my earliest memories are of her playing Beatles tapes in the car and having the whole family sing along. (Honestly not unlike that scene in “Step Brothers”; my family is corny and incredible.) It’s the vivid memories and strong emotions like these that really drive my music today.

I’m also very inspired by my Aunt Joellen. She has such a carefree attitude and lives a beautiful life with her husband (shout-out to Uncle Mike) surrounded by the things they love. Their lives are filled with art, music, travel, food, wine, and adventure. My aunt made her own way in this world (with music as a focal point) and I’m just very inspired by her particular path. I aspire to live a similar way; making life beautiful by following my own path in music and creating the art I wish to create for myself.

I would also like to mention the artists that inspire me. A vocalist I really admire is Amy Winehouse. When she sang, her voice was an extension of her soul. You can hear and feel all the emotion, experience, and pain in her life. To listen to a voice like that is transcendent. While I’ll never be able to sing like Amy Winehouse, she inspires me to sing with my heart and soul. I want to feel what I’m singing so that I convey truth and enhance the experience for myself as well as my listeners.

I’m also very inspired by today’s artists like Billie Eilish and Lizzo. Both are women who appear to be forging their own artistic paths as their most authentic selves – regardless of societal expectations surrounding genre, age, appearance, race, and gender. I’m not sure what’s more inspiring than bad b*tches giving society the middle finger and creating the art that they want to create – maybe just being incredibly successful at it? I would say I hope to follow in their footsteps but they inspire me to make my own.

How has COVID impacted you as a musician?

Before COVID, my career as a musician was based entirely on live performance. I’ve had to make the difficult and dramatic shift from performing in person to performing solely online. Obviously this is a huge loss for me and for many musicians, both financially and emotionally. However, this shift has pushed me to be more creative and perhaps even more ambitious.

For example I’m creating in new ways (most notably with videos on TikTok); exploring new topics to write about; and learning more about recording, arranging, and producing music. By developing my online presence, I’m finding more and more opportunities that can elevate my music career. I am eager to pursue these opportunities and excited to share the outcomes with my friends and followers. While I long for the day live music returns, my break from gigging has allowed me to focus my energy on creating more and dreaming bigger.

What advice would you give to women who are starting out in the music industry based on your experience?

In my experience, navigating the music industry as a woman isn’t much different from navigating the world as a woman. It’s important to trust your instincts. If something feels off, it probably is. Music is an incredible, unifying force but it isn’t free of assholes and predators. At one of my very first gigs as BRASSIE, I was treated like a potential hookup rather than a hired professional by the venue manager. It was the classic scenario; he tried using his position of power to influence me, but instead he wasted both my time and his and lost my business forever. As women in music, it shouldn’t be our responsibility to rid the industry of creeps, but we can be aware of the reality that they exist. Know your worth and don’t compromise it!

Believe in yourself – but don’t ever let arrogance cut you off from a learning experience. Try to surround yourself with better musicians who challenge and elevate you. Accept guidance where you need it. Maybe you’re a talented songwriter but you need help from a producer – or even advice from a more experienced songwriter. There’s no room for ego if you want to grow in music and create great art!

Finally, I would say to support other women in music. Don’t view a similar artist as your competition – but as your colleague or potential collaborator. Jealousy is wasted energy. Be happy for others’ success and use it as motivation rather than discouragement. Understand that everyone is on their own journey and timeline. We’re stronger when we support each other and we’re all here for the same reason – a love of music.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?

My art lies first and foremost in the songwriting (i.e. lyrics and melody), which I would describe as dark, introspective, and structured around varying rhyme schemes and wordplay. The music I’ve officially released to online streaming platforms I would call “alternative folk-pop.” I’m specifically referring to my 4-song debut EP, “The Airstream EP.” When creating it in 2019, I was heavily inspired by Shakey Graves and other artists like The Lumineers, Delta Rae, and Lewis Del Mar.

When it comes to producing my songs, I definitely rely on the talent and expertise of other creators, but I like to think I captain the ship and control the overall direction. I have plenty of more songs I’m eager to record and, moving forward, I hope to explore whatever sounds and genres suit each song best. I believe my songwriting will always be the defining feature of my music (maybe along with my voice).

Do you have any goals set for yourself this year? Also, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

My specific goal this year is to record and release one single with the help of artist, producer, and my friend, Elijah Cruise. Elijah is a talented, imaginative producer and I’m very excited about what we’re creating together for BRASSIE. One song may seem a bit underwhelming, but I am still very new to having my music produced as an independent artist. As grateful as I am for recording an EP in 2019, I made many first-timer mistakes in the process. It was a valuable learning experience that influences my decisions on current and future recording projects. Unrelated to that, I’m also very protective of my songs and naturally cautious to collaborate. I’m still learning to allow others into my creative process but I look forward to what art eventually comes of it. (I’ll still be writing songs and sharing demos in the meantime!)

In 5 years, I see myself making music! I hope to have recorded another EP or a full-length album by then. I also hope to be performing frequently and touring occasionally. Maybe I’ll have a few songs licensed to film or TV. All I know for sure is that I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing – sharing music and pursuing whatever opportunities arise from that. No matter what happens, music will always drive my life. I made that choice and I’m happily, gratefully, eagerly in it for the long haul.

Brassie is releasing a single soon and here’s what she had to say about it, “Artist/producer, Rench, recently remixed my song “Tomb” and he did an insanely cool job with it. Rench uniquely fuses country and hip-hop music and his biggest flex might be that he created the Emmy-nominated theme song for the FX series, “Justified.” What he did with “Tomb” is really special and I’m excited to release the remix sometime this spring. Keep an eye out for it!”

Make sure you follow BRASSIE on all social media links, check out her music and make sure you keep an eye out for the remix of her track “Tomb”!

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