Inside the Songs: Raina Rose’s Labor of Love
I’ve worked with Texas-based singer-songwriter Raina Rose before, and I have to say that she’s one of the most delightful folk musicians I know. Hard working, hard touring, and hard traveling, she makes no excuses for her music and strives at every show to really communicate her songs to the audience. Plenty of songwriters sing their own songs, but she really connects her songs to her audience. If you’re looking for the true heart of the American singer-songwriter movement, Raina would the key, and that’s just what the filmmakers who made the documentary FOLK found out. They followed Raina (plus her two friends/collaborators Anthony da Costa and John Elliott) and two other singer-songwriters, tracking them on the road and at the Folk Alliance Conference, among other places. Raina was pregnant at the time and touring heavily with hubby Andrew Pressman who left a lucrative career at Apple to play folk music. You can check it out HERE. Raina and Andrew live in Austin, Texas now, raising their boy Emmett and continuing to play and record. She’s indefatigable!
But all this to say that Raina Rose’s new album, Caldera, sounds very different from her previous work. The new album is much more atmospheric, more relaxed for Raina vocally, and beautifully beautifully produced. I think it’s her best album yet. I wanted to get at the heart of the new album, to find out why it sounded so new and fresh, so I invited Raina to take part in an Inside the Songs feature! It turns out the album was a true labor of love.
Inside the Songs with Raina Rose
“Caldera is the first album I have ever made with any sort of budget. We took our time and even re-tracked some things that weren’t working. We recorded in a beautiful workspace as opposed to a basement or someone’s repurposed apartment. I feel very proud of this album and hope that it ends up having meaning for other people as well. It would not be possible without my husband/bass player Andrew Pressman who also produced it. He hired amazing musicians and worked his ass off to make my songs as highly evolved as possible.”
We were on a 10,000 mile, 2 month long tour summer of 2012 with our then 7 month old. It was wonderful. We drove from Texas to California to Oregon and then took a ferry into Canada to play a few Canadian folk festivals with Sam Baker & Carrie Elkin. A good friend came along for the ride to help with the baby. We drove through some amazing territory and I was really trying to grasp at inspiration and use the extra freedom that having a tour nanny had afforded me. We had a day after the Calgary Folk Festival where we had nowhere to go and lots of time to kill, so we lounged around a park for 8 hours. I ended up writing the lyrics to this song while pushing the stroller as we were leaving the park. Maybe I was feeling pensive. Or trying to explain how I think I may be holding things close to my chest while fully aware that I am very easy to read and a terrible liar. I wrote the music to this song in Dallas Center, Iowa in an apartment that our hosts lent us for 3 whole days. They stocked it with good food and I was able to spend some time writing. It’s funny how I used to drowsily wait for the muse, now as a mom, I set appointments with her and if she doesn’t show up, I work anyway.
Swing Wide The Gates:
I wrote one song while I was pregnant, and it was written before I knew I was pregnant. It seemed that once I knew Emmett was coming, my entirety of my brain capacity and creative energy were focused on decoding pregnancy, reading about labor, and trying to maintain my zen. It was very hard for me not to be able to write. I have always thought of myself as a “SONGWRITER” before anything else, even woman. I was terrified that “MOM” was going to push “SONGWRITER” out of my heart. At our baby shower some friends gave us a huge amount of wildflower seeds. In late October we sprinkled them in the front yard and forgot about them. Emmett was born in November. In February, I still hadn’t written a song. Then the wildflowers started blooming. They grew taller than our heads. They became a jungle. It was a sunny February morning when I wrote this song. It is all about how transformative labor is, from girl into woman. Woman is made to cry. Oh Mercy Me. There will always be a sunny morning again. There will always be hope for wildflowers.
I Lost It:
We have a friend whose family owns an enormous bison ranch in Texas. They have a house in Telluride Colorado. For years, all our traveling musician friends would camp on their couches during the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It’s a really good time up there. Beautiful is a word that barely covers it. I used to take my dog Hopi on tour with me everywhere. She got spayed right before Telluride and she may have ripped up some of their carpet. From then on we were relegated to sleep in the laundry room. I wrote this song sleeping on a foam mat that was my bed for 3 years, between the washer dryer, the water heater and the cans of paint. I had just broken up with the man who would become my husband (and was still my bass player at the time) for the second and what we assumed was final time. Post break-up, we still embarked on a 2 month summer tour in a 15 passenger van with 3 other people and 2 dogs. I was so scared of committing to ANYONE. Let alone someone who was obviously so good for me. The bridge is really the meat of this song, I think. “It was good, and I longed for it dearly, but my two arms couldn’t carry it all”. The tour fell apart in a firey blaze and we fell back together. I am so grateful for how bad that tour was, because it made me realize how great the man. I have fun singing this song now, mainly because now, I am home.
Thanks to Raina Rose for her lovely responses! You can buy Caldera on CDBaby Now:
Photos by Jen Hellow, except photo of Raina/Andrew by Rodney Bursiel.