Rachel Allyn is an Americana singer/songwriter making a name for herself through her powerful and expressive vocals, skilled songwriting, and engaging live performances. Her first two releases, Late Nights and Early Mornings and Do It Yourself, saw song placements in national television shows on CMT, the National Geographic Channel, and the Discovery Channel. Next Year’s Girl, Allyn’s third effort, is set for release in April 2016. Typically performing over 100 shows per year, she has opened for Kenny Rogers, Brett Eldredge, Sara Evans, Trace Adkins, Lonestar, Travis Tritt, Randy Houser, and Tyler Farr, among others. Allyn graduated with honors from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and is now based in her home state of New Jersey.
Expressive Vocals, Skilled Writing, and the Comeback of a Lifetime
“You’ll know next year’s girl not by the talent she commands / she’ll be the one with the scissors in her hands,” sings Rachel Allyn on the title track of her new EP, Next Year’s Girl. The song leads off the album, and by the time this scathing yet somehow comical line hits, you’ll realize you are listening to a writer who sees and hears the world just a little differently than most.
Allyn is following the path that artists like Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgraves, and Ashley Monroe are currently forging ahead of her, but she’s taking some elective and scenic detours along the way. “John Lennon once said, ‘You see? You just write what you feel, even if you don’t know where it’ll take you.’ I didn’t read that quote until sometime in college, but it embodies everything I had always thought to be true about music and songwriting. As long as it’s meaningful,” she says, “I don’t care what anyone wants to call it.”
“Americana Country” is what Allyn is choosing to call her own music these days, though she enjoys watching lines blur and genres shift with each passing day. “Country music, Americana music, and alt-country music, however you want to define each of them, all come from the same place. They were all born of the same kind of storytelling, and I feel like they’re all converging again. This is a really exciting and interesting time for country music, and consequently, for myself as an artist.”
Rachel Allyn’s music career began in the dive bars of New Jersey, where her parents brought her to sing in karaoke contests (at her insistence) beginning at the age of ten. The artists that shaped her early life were varied to say the least; the Beatles, Shania Twain, Elvis Costello, and even Jane’s Addiction were staples of her upbringing. At eleven years old, after hearing of Belmont University in a CMT feature chronicling Lee Ann Womack’s career, Allyn decided she would move to Nashville after she turned eighteen. She did just that. After graduating with honors from the iconic Music City school, Allyn made her way onto big stages to open for Brett Eldredge, Sara Evans, Trace Adkins, Lonestar, Travis Tritt, Randy Houser, Tyler Farr, and Kenny Rogers, among others. Rogers enjoyed her performance so much that he requested Rachel as his opening act in 2013, 2014, and 2015. While logging countless hours in front of audiences (and countless miles on her Jeep), Allyn was able to place her music in television shows on CMT, the National Geographic Channel, and the Discovery Channel.
The momentum Allyn built came to a halt in the fall of 2013, when she encountered some unprecedented vocal struggles. “A couple times, lying in bed and almost asleep, I jumped awake and gasped for air,” she says. “I thought, ‘That’s it—I will never sing again.’ It was incredibly scary and so defeating.” Through the thick of uncertainty and fear, Allyn was forced to continue singing for her livelihood. She played 132 shows that year. “I wasn’t going to quit, I knew that and I never wanted to. My goal the whole time, even when I doubted its possibility, was to come back better than ever. And smarter than ever.”
Next Year’s Girl was born of a woman who had confronted her greatest artistic fear – that her dream might be outside her reach not because she hadn’t worked hard enough, but because she was no longer good enough. She overcame it.
“Next Year’s Girl is being released a little more than three years after my last album [Do it Yourself] came out, and so much has happened in those years,” Allyn reports. “I have faced down my voice problems, I fell in love, I became financially independent, I got engaged, I have become more interested in politics and the world around me. All of this has given me a new perspective on life and on music and what it all means to me.”
Last August, bolstered by a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign in which she crowdfunded 137 percent of her ambitious goal, Allyn gathered her live band for a marathon three days in the studio. Together they laid down the basic tracks to seven songs—six new originals and one Buffalo Springfield cover, all live without a click track and without rehearsal. “Those were three of the best days of my life,” Allyn declares. “To be in the studio immersed in the music, bouncing ideas off each other, reacting to each others’ musical choices, being exhilarated together when something was awesome, and figuring out how to fix the problems without letting them drag us down too much—it was the most incredible experience. Recording live with my band in one space was a really important goal for me and we made it happen.”
What they accomplished is a cohesive collection of finely crafted and personally reflective yet universally relatable songs. Delicately straddling the line between vintage and modern, and timeless and boundary-pushing, Next Year’s Girl is Allyn’s most artistically realized work to date. “This record is the culmination of a few years of exhausting struggle and determination. I’m so proud of it, proud of my band, and honestly proud of myself. A big part of me thought I would never create again. Next Year’s Girl is the product of that experience and the love and support of everyone around me, and I just want the whole world to hear it.”