To singer-songwriter Rachel Price, “home” represents a number of very special things. One is her hometown of O’Neill, Nebraska – population 3,700 – to which she’ll always be deeply connected. Another is her memories of road trips with her dad, listing to rock ‘n’ roll in the car, which deepened her love for music. And then Nashville, Tennessee, where she settled almost three years ago to pursue a life in music full time.
It’s also her heartfelt new six-song EP Home, on which Price both acknowledges her enduring bond with her roots on the range, and looks ahead to shape her identity as an artist with new journeys. With her sweet voice tinged with a touch of rasp – both earthy and delicate – and a charmingly off center knack for organically feeling her way through a song with simplicity and conviction, she is smoothly cruising down that road.
Price first got into music through playing drums in her school band. She acquired a guitar when she was 11, and started recording pop, rock and R&B covers, posting them first on Facebook, later on her YouTube channel. When she headed off to college at South Dakota State in Brookings, SD, her plan was to choose studies leading to becoming a veterinarian. She kept posting songs online, though, and her music caught the attention of two producers in Los Angeles. “They asked me if I wanted to come out there and work with them,” says Price. “We wrote songs over Skype, and then I went to L.A. and we recorded four of them in the studio. It was an amazing experience.”
One of those songs was “Little Nebraska Town,” Price’s ode to the communal excitement of hometown Friday night football games, as well as the thrill of Saturday games watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the main college football team in the state. A former teacher of Price’s introduced her to internationally renowned photographer and Nebraskan Bill Frakes, who was working with the Nebraska Tourism Commission on content for The Nebraska Project, an initiative and website celebrating the people, places and stories that are the essence of the state.
“Bill traveled all over to promote unique parts of the state. A video was created for my song, which was used to spotlight the culture of football in Nebraska,” says Price. “It got more than a million views. Having so many people relate to something I wrote sparked my interest in making music for the rest of my life.”
Price took a break from school, and with the support of her parents, moved to Nashville in 2014 so that she could be in an environment surrounded by the music industry. Living by herself in a new city – where she knew only two people – was at first a solitary experience, but as she began to venture out and see shows, she tapped into the pulse of her new community.
With the help of a fellow Nebraskan she met in Nashville, she undertook a “Little Nebraska Towns” tour in the first half of 2015 to ride the wave of exposure that her video for The Nebraska Project was generating. She and an acoustic guitarist played to packed venues in dozens of towns throughout Nebraska. “We’d play for hours each show,” says Price. “And I’d never before seen my name on a poster, that was cool!”
The adrenaline rush from the experience spurred Price on back in Music City. “There is so much energy and so many people to feed off of creatively here,” she says. “There are so many different things happening here now. It forces me to be really uncomfortable on a daily basis – in a good way. In new situations, I’m learning how to adapt. And writing music here is an everyday thing. I love it.”
In 2016, she connected with Australian-born, Nashville-based producer, composer, and musician Michael Flanders. She co-wrote four of the six songs on the new EP with Michael’s wife Chaise – a noted songwriter herself – and son Ben. The title track “Home” is wholly Price’s, and “Falling Off The Earth” is a collaboration with pop/Americana singer-songwriter Luke Wade.
The lead track is the lilting and hopeful “Lemonade,” which she wrote with Chaise. “I had brought my uke over, I was messing around with that,” says Price. “Chaise started playing a reggaeish tune on guitar – we wanted to write a happy summer song. I looked out the window and thought even though it’s raining outside, I’m so happy. On days where it’s not all sunshine, you have to make yourself happy. The song just kind of morphed into what it is now.”
The dark-edged, jazz inflected “Falling Off The Earth,” cowritten with Luke Wade, is about a situation with a guy that went wrong quickly. “I was freshly through that when we got together to write, I was feeling really sad, devastated,” says Price. “Luke said, ‘it’s like you’re falling off the earth, and he’s watching you.’ I thought, yeah, I’m hurting so bad and he doesn’t care at all. We had our song.”
The EP closes with “Home,” Price’s wistfully beautiful love song to her hometown. “I was picturing how I grew up. I thought of bare feet. It was so vivid. That one thing sparked the whole song. It got me thinking about how after you leave, you’re still friends with people you went to high school with, though things will never be the same. You won’t be hanging out with those same people every weekend. But I keep coming back to the fact that even though everything is different, I belong there, and I will always have that feeling.” She wrote the song solo so that no one else’s vision of their hometown would interfere – that being said, Price’s authentic evocation of longing for that special place will ring universally true to everyone who feels the same about from where they came.
With Home completed, Price continues to write songs and make and listen to music. She cites Tori Kelly and Ingrid Michaelson as favorites, along with John Mayer and Jason Mraz. She still enjoys the classic rock her dad introduced to her – Led Zeppelin, Eagles, the Police, Pat Benatar, and ACDC, among others. These days, she pushes herself to listen to a broad range of things, and lots of new music, recently including The Weekend, JohnnySwim, Amos Lee, Melissa Etheridge, Leon Bridges, James Bay, and Bruno Mars.
Outside of music, Price continues taking courses toward her college degree. She’s switched majors and is now focused on interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis on business – the entrepreneurial aspects of making and financing an independent record led her to choose that direction. She’s an avid dog sitter and walker, an avocation that both gives her the animal lover fix she needs, and serves as a reliable “day job” – that is, until she fulfills her dream of “making a living just making music.”
The release of Home brings her closer to that goal. “I’ve never been more excited about anything in my life,” she says. “New songs for the whole world to hear.”