Entertainment // July 15, 2013

Soul artist Raquel Rodriguez is a Los Angeles native with a penchant for emotional vocal runs, a bright, driving style that will get your blood pumping, and for just being one of the ‘guys’. Rodriguez’s influences are a collection of both old and new school soul - from Sarah Vaughan to Adele -- and you can hear elements spanning the decades in all of her music. She blends the best of decades past with a modern surge. And with a seldom-seen-these-days six-piece ensemble, The Big Guys, backing her, Raquel has moved swiftly from self-titled EP in 2012 to debut LP release. An entrepreneur in her own right taking command of her career, Raquel is spirited woman with a mission to get her music out to the world. After recently releasing her first LP, Miss Me, on June 21, Raquel can take a moment to relish in her accomplishment. But just a moment, because there is no doubt that Raquel has plans to check a lot more off her to do list.

1. What made you gravitate towards Soul? Did you always see yourself in the genre, or was it more of a discovery while in music school?

Soul music has always been a huge part of my life. My mom would only play good music while my brothers and I were growing up. In my teen years I definitely gravitated to the pop/hip-hop stuff, but as I got older I found myself going back to my roots. I started to mimic the sounds I used to love and wrote about things that were important to me.

2. How did you and The Big Guys come together?

Destiny. [Laughs] Seriously though, I met all of the (Big) guys pretty much through school. Whether it was because we had a class together or just a mutual friend, I met all of them through USC. It took me awhile to find "my band," but now that I have, I'm so grateful. These guys are what make the music what it is and they're all like family to me.

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3. Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughan?

Tough question, but if I have to choose one, definitely Sarah Vaughan. I love Billie Holiday’s vibe and soul, but Sarah Vaughan has got the voice! Man, I remember when my voice teacher at USC had me transcribe one of Sarah's solos for homework, and after that I just went on a SV craze. She's dope! I definitely learned a lot from her just listening to different albums.

4. There has obviously been a recent resurgence of Soul in the last half decade in pop music - Amy Winehouse, Adele. I mean good music is good music and it should be lauded, but, sadly, good music doesn’t often find commercial success because it isn’t part of the traditional mainstream.  What do you think has spurred this change and the return of Soul?

Change is inevitable, and whether it's good or bad, it's going to happen. I think a lot of things contributed to what mainstream music is now. Technology, politics, location, life, whatever it may be, it's all taken part in what music is today. I love that Soul music is coming back because I honestly believe that it's healthy for people. It's called Soul music for a reason.

5. What’s it like being the token woman around this big group of   guys?

It's awesome! Most of the time it's so easy because I grew up with two older brothers, so I'm used to having boys around. I'm definitely a little bit of a tomboy sometimes. The only thing that's tough about it is that I find myself starting to act like them a little too much. I'm pretty sure I burp louder than any of them.

6. Can you tell us about the new album and what the production process was like?

The album is called "Miss Me," and it has that old school vibe. A lot of music today is so produced, which can also be cool, but we didn't want that for this album. Sam, who plays drums on the album, produced the whole thing and wrote a lot of the music, so he wanted to make sure that we recorded it right. We spent A LOT of time making sure things sounded exactly the way we wanted them to, all while keeping in mind that this record is being pressed to vinyl.

7. “Miss Me” (your most recent single) is a markedly different aesthetic than your first Raquel Rodriguez EP. It’s bigger, brighter, and, in my opinion, is a more modern take on the genre. How did that come about?

The [Raquel Rodriguez] EP was a lot more "calm" in a way, and the recording/production process was MUCH different than what I expected. The EP was made up of songs that I had written when I was younger and I wanted evidence of that. I've grown as a singer, songwriter, musician, performer, basically just as an artist all around, and I think "Miss Me" is definitely a good example of that.

8. You previously recorded with Andrew Scheps, who has engineered for some of music's biggest names: Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Audioslave, Linkin Park, Green Day and U2. What was that experience like for you?

Andrew Scheps was AWESOME! We learned so much from him in the one day we spent recording with him. He gave us so much advice and he was so knowledgeable and passionate about what he was doing. Definitely a huge inspiration. If you don't know what he looks like, just imagine a tall, powerful wizard with a long beard and that's him.

9. Over the last year or so you’ve played a lot of historic venues around LA, including The Roxy and House of Blues. Is there one venue in particular (LA or outside) that you dream of playing?

I dream more about playing in places that I've never been before. I want to travel all over the world in whatever venue that'll have me.

10. If you weren’t playing music where else could you see yourself?


Listen to Raquel’s latest album and check out her site here.

Published in Entertainment
Monday, 05 December 2011 11:37

Made Music | Soul On Wax

December 5, 2011

Take a journey with me through the music of some of the greatest female singers of the last century.  From the '50s to the '90s, I break down my top picks and provide some musical selctions for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!
‘50s – Etta James
Although James’' first hits date back to the ‘50s, her soulful mash-up of gospel- and jazz- infused popular music went widely overlooked until the early 1990’s. With her undeniable influence on artists ranging from Diana Ross to Christina Aguilera and even the Rolling Stones, Etta James has managed to bridge the gap between R&B and Rock and Roll music for decades. Suggestive and sassy--not unlike the artist herself--here’'s one of her first hits , “Good Rockin’ Daddy.”
‘60s – Janis Joplin
With a vocal style beyond compare, Janis Joplin’'s raspy-voiced, folksy delivery and irreverent nature laid the foundation for countless female musicians to follow. She gained unprecedented success as a pioneer in the male-dominated rock industry of the 1960s, until her tragic death at the age of 27. “Mercedes Benz” was one of the last songs she ever recorded--have a listen.
‘70s – Diana Ross
Arguably the reigning queen of the disco era, Diana Ross’' impact has spanned over five decades. The twelve-time Grammy award winner, Tony award winner, and Academy Award nominee (among other honors) dabbled in multiple genres over her career, and positioned herself as a cultural icon.  I’m sure you know it, but you may not have heard the full version of her first #1 pop single and Grammy-winning song, “Ain't No Mountain High Enough.”

‘80s – Gloria Estefan
Gloria Estefan burst into the mix in the late ‘'70s as part of the group Miami Sound Machine, and embarked on her takeover of the 1980s dance and salsa music scene in the US and abroad.  In the midst of her multi-platinum solo career, she suffered a tragic accident that caused her spine to be fractured. A survivor in every sense of the word, she was able to overcome and was back on tour within 10 months with a #1 single and the best debut of her career. There’'s no way you can listen to her 1985 hit, “Conga” and not dance.

‘90’s – Lauryn Hill
Most of us have watched Lauryn Hill'’s career unfold before our eyes, from her years with the Fugees, to her acting stint in Sister Act II, to her solo career--including the masterpiece that is The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Garnering 5 Grammys and solidifying her place as one of the greatest female emcees (period), the poignant LP was an instant classic. It pains me to pick just one song, but I have to go with “When it Hurts So Bad”. 
Published in Entertainment