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INTERVIEW: Van Plating

Hi Rachel, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi there! Thanks for having me. I’m good. It’s been a wild, busy year and if things go according to plan it’s going to be a season of more of the same. I’m excited to chat with you about the album. How are YOU?

Can you talk to us more about your latest single, “Standing Still?”

I’d love to. This song is one of my favorites on the record. We sort of started off in one direction in the studio, then changed our minds, scrapped it and started over. It was inspired by a Shins beat (“Phantom Limb,” I think it was). We ended up with sounds along the lines of Kacey Musgraves meets The Eagles, and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s a fun one to sing and play.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Yes, in a way. I was going through a time where all the people closest to me were far away, while I was still in the same place every day, working away in my little basement practice room on songs, day in and day out. I was leaning into hard things and hard conversations. Everything was new all the time, and I found myself faced with the choice to be vulnerable to a few chosen souls or to keep hiding and protecting myself and my heart, which let’s be real–that wasn’t working anyway. You can’t write beautifully honest, vulnerable songs without being honest and vulnerable yourself. At least, I can’t. It’s a song about what happens when you find people in your life who see you for who you really are, and love you with all they’ve got. Those people are worth keeping around. Intimacy in relationships is hard to come by, and it can be scary. When you find it, you gotta fight for it. So that’s what the song is about. It’s a conversation between two friends leaning in, even though maybe they’re scared or wondering if the other person will stick around. It’s a reassurance that you’re here for each other, no matter how far you are away, no matter what happens. 

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Should I make one? We actually do have a live session up on FB right now (link below), but no plans for an official video just yet. 

Van Plating – “Standing Still” live from The Greenhouse in Lakeland 

How much did taking the time to do things right work to your advantage?

It was everything! Taking a year to write, every single week. Building writing time into my day and then not letting other things bleed into that time. Every couple of months my co-writer and I would take the pile of what we’d made so far and slash and burn, down to just the best of that batch of songs. The best ideas would go on the track list for the record, and we’d focus on finishing those while we came up with new melodies and ideas for the next songs. I cannot stress enough, how worthwhile it was to be deliberate and disciplined. It allowed me to hone in on a sound and writing style that felt authentic to me as an artist and to push myself not to settle on any one song, just because I had a deadline or I had to fill out the record because I was making an LP. Every song that made the final cut is there on purpose. And I’m an independent artist, funding and resourcing everything myself, so every song had to count. I saved my salary for a year and we lived on what my husband makes, and then when the time came, I quit my job to finish writing and go record and pursue this thing wholeheartedly. I’m broke, but I’m doing what I’m built to do so that’s amazing!

How was the recording and writing process?

I wrote 8 of the 10 songs on the record with Bradley Walden (Emarosa). This was a first with co-writing for me, and I loved every minute of it. Collaborating every week was inspiring and he kept me accountable, and encouraged me not to doubt my instincts and just go for it. We’re both melody writers and sort of unorthodox when it comes to our approach to melody & chord structures, so it was an easy fit. We had a blast. Recording with Courtney Ballard (Emarosa, Tori Kelly) was inspiring and so much fun. He’s super creative and has a very organic approach that I really appreciate. He’s known for making perfect sounding records, so it was really cool to watch him enter into my raw little love songs and make them shine, while keeping the humanness of them intact. He added polish to it but was so careful to keep the vibe intimate for the listener. We built a world for each song. Didn’t worry about genre or fitting it into a certain category. We just let the songs take us where they wanted to go. He kept the production simple, with a few really good musicians, and made it all about the vocals, melodies and lyrics. I’m thrilled with it, and I can’t WAIT for everyone to have the whole thing in their regular rotation.

Would you call this a departure from your previous musical work?

Yes and no. If you were familiar with my old band, you’d definitely hear hints of my trademark wandering chord progressions/key changes and lyrics that are more poetry than pop, but the overall sound is totally different. That was a band, and this is my solo project. And my voice and writing has grown exponentially since my indie girl days way back then. I’m not an indie girl anymore. Maybe now you could say I’m an indie woman? Took awhile, but I’m all grown up. Ha!

What role does Florida play in your music?

I mean, I guess I do mention oak trees in the lyric to one song…Florida is definitely a part of who I am, and it’s a place that’s moody and unpredictable. Equal parts wild weather and sunshine. But I don’t know if you can really hear that in the music. 

How have Emily Haines (Metric) and Brandi Carlile influenced your writing?

Emily Haines is someone I’ve always looked up to as an artist that puts in the hard work and never holds back in her lyrics or her performances. She’s been at it for years and never ceases to push herself and put out songs that sound one hundred percent like herself/her band, and no one else. Her album, Knives Don’t Have Your Back, by Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton is one I go back to, repeatedly. The lyrics and melodies are so brooding and broken. I love it. Brandi Carlile’s unabashed honesty and raw power/vocal range have been a huge influence on me as a vocalist. Songs like, “Wherever Is Your Heart I Call Home,” “Turpentine” and “The Story” are some of my favorite  melodies of hers, and some of my favorite songs to sing. She’s one of the best singers of our time, hands down.

What aspect of your own life did you get to explore on this record?

It’s a record exploring all the different ways we try to love each other and fail. We fall, get up and lean into the hard things, and try all over again. It’s a record that explores the cost of intimacy, the great risk of exposure–which is really the only way to reap the reward of authentic, abiding relationships–with the ones we love most. Those themes touch every aspect of my life as a human, a woman, a wife, mother, sister and friend. So it’s all of it, in ten songs.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

My biggest lyrical inspiration comes from favorite authors. Annie Dillard (The Writing Life), Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter, Jayber Crow), and Mary Oliver (Upstream), are all writers that got me through this painful, beautiful year of pouring myself into my art. 

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes! Absolutely. I have a handful of fall dates planned as of now, a date later this month in Tampa, my release show in my hometown of Lakeland FL, a festival in Orlando in November, and more plans coming up in the Spring. Who wants to take me on as support?!?!? Email me. I’m so down. I’m a good hang and I have the BEST playlists for long drives. Let’s go!

What’s next for Van Plating?

Putting out the LP and hoping + praying that it explodes! I want these songs to find their people. Touring when it makes sense. All my skin is in the game. I’m ready. Follow me on all my socials to stay in the loop as things progress (Spotify for streaming and show listings, Instagram, Facebook, etc. I’m easy to find). Thank you so much for reaching out, VENTS!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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