Catch an interview with Rachel Potter and get the new album, Not So Black and White, out now.
What got you interested in music?
Rachel Potter: I was just born with the music gene; my parents were rock n' rollers, they met in a band in Alabama. I grew up with my mom being a singer in church to start off with and she became a voice teacher when I was about ten or eleven and she herself put out records, Christian albums, while I was growing up. Music was just always part of life and I guess I just never really saw myself doing anything else.
Were there artists whose work inspired you?
I grew up studying Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey's voices and then, once Celine Dion came along, hers as well. I was always fascinated by their vocal abilities, but the artists that really inspired me were always country artists. Martina McBride, Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks, to name a few of the female; there's a big list of men as well, including The Rascal Flatts and George Strait. I think I always really loved the vocal abilities of pop music and the storytelling of country and I've never really been able to get away from the dream of being a country singer.
How would you describe your sound?
Big mix of pop and country. I love the vocal abilities of pop singers and so I think I've always loved to be able to belt high and sing riffs and all that kind of stuff, so I incorporated a lot of those kind of vocal stylings into my country music with storytelling so, yeah, I would describe my sound as similar to what Carrie Underwood is doing but maybe a bit more pop.
What was the best thing about having been on The X Factor?
I think the best part about The X Factor was just the fans. The exposure was so invaluable that now I can put out an album and people actually care and want to hear it, so that was probably the best thing about The X Factor. Also, I've never done anything more stressful in my life; I've never been more nervous than I was on that show so now I sort of feel like I can do anything cause it's like, hey, it can't be as scary as that was.
How does performing your own music compare to performing someone else's words on Broadway?
Yeah, that was a big part of why I decided to move to Nashville and go after this dream, this goal, because I loved my opportunities that I had on Broadway and it was some of the best times of my life, but there is a point where, as an artist, you really feel that you have something to say, that you want to say it with your own words and I just - I'm a songwriter as well as I play the guitar - so I just really wanted the chance to share my art instead of sharing other people's for a change. Both are extremely satisfying, but I'm really enjoying this piece of life to be able to say what I want to say.
Where do your ideas come from when you are working on new songs?
I feel like I'm sort of, like a method actor, I'm a method songwriter, and generally I don't really write about anything unless it's happening to me. I guess I'm sort of a selfish songwriter, I just write about what's going on in my life, so if I'm going through heartbreak, that's most likely what I'm going to write about or if I'm needing to hear some inspiration that day or whatnot, that's going to happen in the songwriting.
Do you have a favorite track from the new album that's coming out?
I don't know that I have a favorite, but I will say that one of my favorites is - I'll give you two and why - I love "Not So Black and White". That one's really like the kind of flagship song of this record. I knew that I wanted to name the album Not So Black and White and didn't even have a song titled that yet, but it was just my sort of vision of what I wanted to represent, to be able to touch on the things in life that are not black and white, relationships and love and career and sexuality and dreams and all these things that we are sort of all trying to figure out in life that really don't have an equation and so that's sort of life the mission statement song of the record, so I love that one. Then, a surprise song that I actually wrote maybe a week before we went in to the studio is a song called "Try". It came out of a real life heartbreak but turned out to be one of my favorite songs on the record.
How would you describe the album, as a whole?
Well, I think that there's definitely a vast array of feelings and moments and I think that the overall tone of the work is kind of just real life, there's not a whole lot of sugarcoating things. There is one song on there that's really meant to be inspirational called "Worth It" but, for the most part, each song kind of lives in the moment of the emotion that was happening when I wrote the song so kind of, I guess, a snapshot of what I've been going through the past few years. My goals for it, just overall with my music, I've always thought that if it touches one person, if it helps one person get through the day, then it's worth it. Hopefully, this record tells people that none of us really have it figured out and just maybe make people feel less alone and that we're all just muddling through and sorting out how to get through all of this stuff, love and life.
What inspired "Worth It"?
It was right after I got kicked off The X Factor actually and it was the first song I wrote when I got home and I think I've always seen myself as a hero, like I really identify with Katniss at the Hunger Games like, yeah, if I ever got put in the arena, I'd totally win, that's how I like to see myself, but then, when I was actually thrown into this real life arena I, quote on quote, failed. If you look at it, you can't really say that I failed, I didn't win, but I did a pretty good job, but I was really down on myself when I came off the show. I had higher expectations of myself, I was disappointed in my performances, I was just really beating myself up. I wrote that song for myself to try and pick my own self off the floor and get it together. Another thing that happened when I was on the show was I was all of a sudden exposed to all of these young kids on Twitter and the internet, collectively as it were, that were all suffering in different ways and kind of sharing a lot of stories about self harm and depression and bullying and things that these young people were going through, and I guess it was a lot targeted towards them. If I could impart any of my, quote on quote, adult wisdom on these kids that all of a sudden looked up to me, those are the things I wanted to say and, as simple as it is and perhaps cliche that everything's going to be alright, sometimes that's all we really need, is for somebody to say, 'hey, it's going to be okay'. Even though that's the most simple statement, sometimes I feel like that's all I want is for somebody to just hug me and say 'it's going to be okay' and so that's sort of like my hug on the record.
I'm actually going to be performing on a cruise ship that leaves from West Palm for two weeks called Bahamas Paradise Cruise and I'm going to be doing all my country music on that cruise. I just like randomly booked this gig so, if anybody down in South Florida feels like taking a cruise and listening to country, then I will be cruising the Bahamas from March 21st to April 2nd, I will be on that cruise.