Interview: With ‘Cool’, Rachel Reinert Rediscovers Her ‘California Country’ Sound
When Rachel Reinert announced her plans to leave the country trio Gloriana in January of 2016, the singer admits, she first thought pursuing a solo career might be relatively easy.
"I really thought that after I left the band I was gonna turn around and all these amazing opportunities were gonna come my way," Reinert tells The Boot. "It didn't work out like that at all."
Formed in 2008, Gloriana -- Reinert and brothers Tom and Mike Gossin -- found their place in country music with their first two studio albums, a self-titled debut and the platinum-selling sophomore project A Thousand Miles Left Behind, the latter of which includes the No. 2 hit "(Kissed You) Good Night." That success afforded Reinert her first home at the age of 24. As a solo artist, she had to sell that house to make ends meet.
"All these people that I used to work with in the past just didn't have time for me anymore," she shares. "A lot of people I thought were gonna help me out suddenly disappeared and couldn't be reached."
Reinert embarked on a journey of spiritual discovery, reading self-help books and digging deep to find her new identity as a solo artist.
"I had to strip away this identity of awards and platinum records, all of these things that I thought made me who I was," she says. "I started writing the way I used to write when I first started out at age 15. I just wrote a lot of poetry and had these spurts of creativity."
Although many of those she thought would help her disappeared once Reinert left Gloriana, she says that going solo helped her make important new connections: "I weeded a lot of people and things out of my life that I didn't need anymore," she admits.
"I lost a lot of friends, but I also gained a lot of new ones: people who don't care what I have going on in my career, they just care about me as a person," she adds. "I started working with these amazing songwriters who just believe in me."
The first product of her two-and-a-half-year journey into solo work comes to fruition with her new single, "Cool." Reinert officially released the song on Friday (July 27).
In some ways, the process felt like a homecoming. Reinert moved to Nashville as a teenager, with dreams of a solo career. She signed a publishing deal at 16 and tried to make a name for herself as an artist, but after two years with no major success, her dad suggested it might be time to start thinking about a backup plan. Two weeks before she was going to move back to her California hometown, Reinert joined Gloriana.
Reinert was excited and grateful to join the Gossins in the trio, and loved the eight years she spent as a member. "However," she admits, "I always knew in the back of my mind that there would come a day where I would feel like I needed to go back to that original dream." That day came at the end of 2015, and by January of 2016, she was on her own.
For the following two and a half years, Reinert went on a sort of hiatus from the industry. Although she never stopped working on her career, she didn't release new music, nor did she keep up with much of what was going on in the country music world. Instead, she immersed herself in the process of discovering her sound, and at the end of that journey, Reinert found that the sound she was chasing was pretty similar to the music she came to Nashville wanting to make in the first place. She calls it "California country": music inspired by the landscape that surrounded her growing up, broader than classic country and more diverse in its influences.
In 2008 -- and during the following years with Gloriana -- that style didn't play well in Nashville, though. Constantly pegged as too "modern," the group struggled to prove their chops in a genre that was running full tilt to the height of the bro-country era.
"At that time, [people would say], 'Oh, this isn't country,'" Reinert recalls. "There was this natural knee-jerk reaction for all of us to fight that and prove our 'country-ness.'"
In 2018, however, not only has the country format broadened exponentially, but a whole school of successful artists who speak to that "California country" sound have emerged. Devin Dawson and Brett Young, for example, both came into the genre with decidedly non-country backgrounds (in metal and soul, respectively), and both grew up in California.
"I think there's a broader audience now of people who wanna hear something that's different, because that's music," Reinert explains. "Music is ever-changing and constantly evolving.
"I'm so glad that I'm now on the verge of coming out of this little hiatus, because ... There's so much opportunity for people to listen to all formats and hear a little bit of everything," she adds. "I think that's awesome, and I'm excited to see what comes of it."
"Cool" is available now, via various digital retailers.
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