Rachel McIntyre Smith has spun her own quarter-life crisis into an EP, “Glory Daze,” that anyone of any age can relate to. It’s a look back, a look forward, and an assessment of the now, all wrapped up in her honeyed vocals and vintage country instrumentation. With wonderful word play — cheek and sass co-exist comfortably alongside deep emotional heft — the songs on the EP weave deeply into the soul of the listener, leaving them better for having listened to her wisdom and perspective. “Glory Daze” might just be our favorite new collection of songs and a definite contender for release of the year.Vents Magazine sat down with Smith to talk about the new record, and we took a deep dive into the bittersweet, answer-seeking nostalgia and the impact of choices made in the song “The Woulds,” including its inspiration, and the writing and production process. We chatted about her sound, the impact that living in Eastern Tennessee has had on her music, and what’s next for this exciting new artist.
Hi Rachel, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’m doing great! So excited to finally be releasing all this new music. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me!
You have an amazing new EP out in September. What can you tell us about it? How did you come to gather this collection of songs together?
I’m so glad you like it! It all started with track number three, “The Woulds.” I planned on releasing it as a stand-alone single. Then, I played it for Erin Anderson (CEO of Olivia Management), and she loved it. She said if I really wanted to give this song a chance of being heard, I needed to release it in a longer project as opposed to just a single. She challenged me to start thinking of a longer project that would flow with “The Woulds.” After about a week of brainstorming, I landed on the concept of “Glory Daze,” because I could include upbeat tracks and more pensive slow tracks within that theme. Of the six songs on the EP, I had written three before I had the concept, one in the middle of coming up with it, and two afterwards. Then, I contacted my incredible producer, Dran Michael, and he was on board with the project so I headed into the studio to record!
One of the songs on your new EP, “The Woulds,” is really special and caught my attention right away. It’s a great listen. Can you talk to us more about this song? How did you come to write it? What was the inspiration behind it?
Writing “The Woulds” was a really unique process because it sort of started via an exercise for anxiety management. Often, before I have an anxiety attack, I have swirling thoughts. One way to stop the thoughts from swirling is to write them down. This particular anxious spiral stemmed from a question my best friend asked: “Have you ever thought about reaching out to your ex? If so, why haven’t you?”
Weeks after she asked me that question, I still hadn’t moved past it. All these questions were swirling around in my brain, so I started writing down everything. I ended up writing down a VERY long list of questions. I realized that there was a song in the midst of those questions but wasn’t sure what it was. I took my guitar to my parents’ front porch and started singing through the questions. I looked over at the woods next to their house, and the hook hit me like a lightning bolt: “I know I could maybe I should but I never will so I live in the woulds.” The rest of the song fell into place really fast once I had the hook.
How was the recording process for that song? Any great stories from the studio? How did the song come together?
I was kind of nervous to show “The Woulds” to my producer, Dran Michael, because, prior to this, we had only worked on cheeky, uptempo songs. However, when I played it for him, he really liked it. I didn’t have the instrumentation envisioned for the song, but I did know the feeling that I wanted it to have. I wanted the song to feel like walking alone through the woods with a bunch of falling leaves on a autumn day. I am a huge Kacey Musgraves fan, so right off the bat Dran started producing the song to have kind of a “Golden Hour,” reverby, country vibe to it. After a day or two of working on the song, there was about a two-week gap before our next studio day. During that time, I started listening to a whole bunch of Alison Krauss and bluegrass music. When we met back up in the studio, I told him that I wanted the song to have more of a focus on acoustic instruments and three-part harmony. We changed directions, and I’m so happy with how it turned out.
Do you have a favorite lyric line or two in this song? What about those words really works for you or speaks to you?
I like all of the lines in that song, but I’ll tell you about two of my favorites. First of all, the hook: “I know I could maybe I should but I never will so I live in the woulds.” I think this line has haunted me more and driven me to action more than any line that I’ve ever written, because it applies to so many different things in life – not just romance. It really made me evaluate my life decisions. I don’t want to be living in “the woulds” when I’m 80 years old, so I’m trying to make choices now that won’t send me to “the woulds” later. I’m also trying to rectify decisions from my past that have sent me to “the woulds.” Just from a writing perspective, I’m also really proud of this line because I love twisting words and phrases. I was able to articulate so many feelings in that one lyric.
My second favorite line is from the second verse: “Now I call this place home no black and white just walls of green – cause it never dies and it grows like a weed.” Until a few years ago, I was a really black and white thinker. I was right. He was wrong. I was the hero. He was the villain. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything is that simple anymore. The more I thought about all the nuances in life, the more space it took up in my brain. It was like kudzu. It started overtaking my brain and didn’t stop.
What do you hope listeners get from hearing the song?
I think “The Woulds” is a really common mental state for people to be in, but there’s not really a word or phrase to communicate it. So I hope when they listen to the song, they feel understood and like they finally have something they can show someone and say, “This is how I feel.”
Your sound mixes up different genres — there’s a rootsy, Americana side, your singer-songwriter side, and, of course, country. The result is really fantastic. The music sounds classic but also really fresh at the same time, which we love. How did you settle upon the “Rachel McIntyre Smith sound”? And how would you describe your sound, using one sentence?
I’m so glad you like it! I don’t think I’ve ever really sat down and thought, “What do I want my sound to be?” I was just drawn to it. I wanted to make music that I wanted to listen to, and I didn’t want to have one standard form of production or songwriting that I used for all of my tracks. All of my different influences blended together, and this was the final product. I was heavily influenced by the albums “Pageant Material” by Kacey Musgraves, “Heart Like A Wheel” by Linda Ronstadt, “Tapestry” by Carole King, the self-titled album by Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real, and “Hell on Heels” by Pistol Annies.
I think the phrase “comfort twang” really sums up my sound. It’s comforting in the sense that there is a lot of classic country production that will sound familiar to them, like three-part harmony, steel guitar, mandolin, and banjo. But I think it’s still fresh though, because I’m writing it from my perspective as a 25 year old going through the same problems a lot of folks in my generation experience.
You are based in Chattanooga and grew up not far from Knoxville in a small town. How do you think living in those places has impacted your sound and your music overall? How has it shaped your music?
I think living my whole life in East Tennessee has shaped who I am as a person so much. It’s so ingrained in me that I’m not sure what would be left if you took out its influence. I find the sounds of the banjo and the mandolin to be extremely comforting, and I really attribute that to bluegrass being so prevalent in the area. I incorporate them in almost all of my songs. Just like I talk with a southern twang, the music that pours out of my soul has a southern twang.
What else is happening next for you?
So much! I’m going to be playing this EP at a bunch of shows, so stay tuned for tour dates! I’m so excited to have my first physical CDs and merchandise. I’m launching my first radio campaign with “The Woulds,” so make sure to call in to your local Americana stations and request it! I’ll have some new releases out at the beginning of next year. There’s a lot going on, and I’m very excited and grateful for all of the opportunities. Make sure to follow me @rachelmcintyresmith on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok so you don’t miss out on all the fun. I’m very excited and optimistic about this next chapter in my life.