Singer/Songwriter Encourages Fans to Take “53 Steps”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 10:59

An Interview with Rachel Platten

by Casey Pukl

Songstress Rachel Platten is celebrating a very important milestone in any musician’s career— she’s embarking on her first ever headlining tour. After opening for artists like Regina Spektor, Ziggy Marley, and The Strokes, it’s been a long awaited accomplishment.

Platten’s latest tour, “53 Steps,” comes with a unique picture campaign that encourages her listeners to see the world right outside their door a little differently. Read on to find out what Platten is most looking forward to about returning to Anthology, what inspired her “53 Steps”, and just how writing with her drummer has changed her music…

CP: Tell me about this latest record and 53 steps campaign you’ve got going on! 

RP: Sure! I had the idea pretty much since I wrote the song. I started working with my manager on this idea. The idea was that I had been kind of trapped in New York City, and I couldn’t figure out how to take my music on the road. All I wanted to do was tour. There’s this idea in this industry that you have to wait and do things the right way. I kept thinking that I needed a label and a band and all of these things to tour. But finally, my drummer and I were like, “We don’t need any of those things!”

We have a lot of friends who are independent musicians, and so we just kind of followed the model that they’ve set and made our own tour. We sat in a coffee shop for a few weeks and I’d just contact clubs and say, “This Rachel Platten is fantastic! You definitely want her at your club.” (Laughs) And of course sometimes I’d just tell them it was me! But we did everything that way until finally we got to where we are now— heading out on my first headlining tour!

But the song was written before all of that, and I was envisioning what it would be like to be able to see the world. I was really into imagining and envisioning things, and I thought that maybe if I wrote a song about it, it might come true (laughs).

The campaign is really about if you’re not there yet, and you’re not at a place where you can just go yet, then take a small step— or 53 steps (laughs). Change the way you see something that you see everyday. Go and find a special thing on the street, at home, at work, and snap a picture of it or envision something that you want to be going to.  So that’s what it’s all about!

CP: How did you wind up finding Madi Diaz for this tour? 

RP: My agent gave me a list of possible openers, and I had actually heard her before at the Cutting Room at some CMJ showcase like four years ago. I liked her music a lot, so it worked out well. I’m really glad I got her to join me on this tour.

CP: Is this tour going to be acoustic for the most part, or are you bringing a band?

RP: A little bit of both! I’m bringing my drummer who I’ve been playing the last year and a half with, but we’ve changed up the show a little bit. I like to say our equipment had babies (laughs) because I now have a baby keyboard, and he has some toys that he’s been playing with. We have a big sound for the two of us. It’ll sound a little like a full band in some places, and then more stripped down and acoustic in others. 

CP: What’s your musical background like?

RP: I took classical piano lessons since I was 5. I took a lot of piano lessons. With my voice, I was pretty much self-taught. I was in the choir for a little while growing up, kind of dorky (laughs). I did that through high school and college, and then when I moved to New York City I took some voice lessons for a little while. I was singing for commercials, and I wanted to train my voice a little better. I had a lot of lessons! 

CP: Let’s talk a little bit about your songwriting process— are you more the type of writer who waits for the inspiration to come, or do you give yourself little songwriting assignments and things like that?

RP: That’s a great question. I think at different points I’ve worked different ways. Sometimes I’m very diligent about writing every day. The more you use that muscle, the stronger it gets. That’s when I can just write at will, and it comes easily. Other times when I come back from touring, getting back into it can be a challenge. I think that I’ve found pretty consistently that it really is like training any other body part or any other thing you’re working at. If you’re doing it consistently, it’s easier.

For me, it’s the lyrics that I have to work harder for. The melody comes pretty easily to me. I think it’s really a matter of whether or not I’m paying attention to it and listening. Sometimes I will hear a melody and have to dismiss it like, “Not right now! Come again later.” (Laughs). But other times, I’m in a place where I can record the thought or jot it down.

Lyrics come at random intervals. Sometimes it will be a couple of words that will then shoot off. But the lyrics are usually last and the melody is first.

I just recently started involving my drummer in the writing process, and that has been really fun. It’s great to start the song with beats, especially since that matters so much. I think for the next record, I’m going to have a new writing process.

CP: Writing with a drummer is really interesting to me— have you found that to lead you to a more upbeat and dancier place? 

RP: That’s a really cool question! I don’t think dancier would be the word I might use, but definitely more beat-driven for sure. We’re getting really creative about the way that we’re shaping the song. I think the set that we’ll be doing at Anthology will have a little bit of that in there. We just finished a brand new song, and I was like, “Holy shit! This is exactly what I want for the new record!”

It’s going to have some heavier beats for the new record, and it’ll be really fun. I think it’ll be kind of a tribal beat kind of feeling to it. 

CP: What are you most looking forward to about coming out to Anthology on Friday?

RP: I absolutely love the venue. Actually, there’ve been a couple of times when I’ve been asked what my favorite venue is, and Anthology is it. I think it’s one of the most gorgeous rooms, and it was really one of the first real big proper rooms I got to play my own music in. Last fall I came out to the West Coast touring, and it was just gorgeous. It was the first place we played, and I thought that the tour was just going to be gorgeous, and then of course, I learned that most venues do not look like that (laughs). But I’m so excited, the room is great, the sound guys were great— they just paid so much attention to the sound of the room. I also think San Diego is an awesome place as well. 

Be sure to catch Rachel’s appearance on Fox Friday morning, and don’t miss her and Madi Friday night!

Rachel Platten on Spotify

WHAT: Rachel Platten: 53 Steps Tour ft. Madi Diaz
WHEN: Friday, May 11, 9:30pm
TICKETS: $10-$26 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile