Interview: Rachael WebsterPosted by: Claudia Downs
VIBE chats with local musician Rachael Webster, about the emotional power of songwriting, and going solo in Sheffield.
Rachael Webster is an acoustic singer-songwriter based in Sheffield, who describes her style as "ranging from acoustic to indie, with a drop of pop-punk." She has played a variety of shows and festivals around South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and was picked up by the label ComRock Records in 2018.
"I started taking music more seriously when I was about fourteen or fifteen," says Rachael. "I initially used songwriting as a way of getting out emotions that I struggled to verbalise. Then, I was lucky enough to be able to start playing live, which is dope!"
Sheffield is a city full of bands - 'going solo' is less common. "I don't think working as a solo artists was a super conscious decision," says Rachael, "I was writing music that suited just vocals and guitar in a singer/songwriter format.
I did work with a full band on my EP (Find a Place, 2018) with Federico Telesca, and then had a short period of time performing with a band. But I really enjoy working on my own as a solo artist - it gives me the amount of time I need to find the right words. I ramble a lot of emotional nonsense before it becomes a recognisable song format!"
Rachael's sound is eclectic: songs like 'Whiskey & Cream' have a distinctly pop punk edge, driven by emotion - reminiscent of the confessional rock of Paramore and Deaf Havana. But she is also inspired by the introspective lyricism of calmer acoustic music: "some of my biggest inspirations are Phoebe Bridgers, MUNA and Julien Baker. Their approaches to lyrics are indescribably incredible. Any musician that can make me feel super intense emotions - I admire that so much."
Similarly, Rachael's music explores the personal. "I've always said that if people can relate to my songs, then I'm sorry, haha! It can be intense, but I love that people can create their own narratives out of a piece of music. I've found it hard to find inspiration outside of emotionally intense experiences, but recently I've been challenging myself to write more often - so I can create different content."
The Sheffield music scene is incredibly supportive, with artists often sharing and enjoying each other's work. What sounds of the Steel City has Rachael been listening to? "I've been vibing with 'Who Do You Think You Are?' by The Rooves a lot recently - they have some absolute bops. Also, 'Patron Saint' by Thomas and the Empty Orchestra - that song does something to my brain and emotions and I love it."
It's of course hard not to mention the current crisis. With shows cancelled and venues closed, how do musicians pass the time? "I'm currently learning a bass line a day over on my Instagram (@rachael_x_webster) which has been super fun and something to do through this lockdown. I'm hoping to carry on with that for as long as possible and keep writing. I'm super excited to get back gigging when all of this has blown over!" Rachael will also be live-streaming a performance with Riff Media on Monday 6th April (Facebook event here.)