Rachel West incorporates cross-genre music in debut EP

39

When asked about her start as a musician, Rachel West (senior) can’t help but smile.

“It’s actually really funny—my mom recently found one of the first [songs] I ever wrote in like fifth grade,” West said. “It’s called ‘Falling Down’ and it’s great. I’m just going to go ahead and claim it’s great.”

Although West is entering the final months of her academic career, her music career is just beginning. Last November, she released an EP that reached the top 150 on iTunes, and this past January, she opened for rapper Wale in her hometown of Portland, Oregon.

West knew she was interested in the music industry when she decided to attend school in Los Angeles. She got her start recording demos for other artists, singing songs for the likes of Jordin Sparks and Hilary Duff before booking studio time in early 2012 to record three songs of her own.

“When you’re singing other people’s songs all the time, it inspires you more to want to do your own,” West said.

Last fall, West launched her official campaign as a solo artist. She dyed her hair blonde, took professional head shots for press photos and remodeled her entire social media presence using the name ‘RachelWestOfficial.’ What used to be a fun hobby was suddenly a very real and serious career move.

“Once I [went blonde], it was like me making that promise to myself that I’m actually going to do this,” West said.

West starting working with her current producer, Tadjh Brooks, after they met at a party in North Hollywood. Although she enjoyed the folk acoustic sound of her 2012 material, she decided to take a completely different direction for her debut EP, ‘Aurum.’ She found sonic inspiration from some of the hottest R&B acts coming out of the United Kingdom—James Blake, Jessie Ware and Sam Smith, among others. West wanted to make sure her EP emulated their cross-genre sound while also including lyrics showing the new worldly awareness granted by her Occidental education.

“I’m a CTSJ [Critical Theory and Social Justice] major, and it’s a lot of out-of-the-box critical thinking … it has given me a little more freedom,” West said. “I’ve started thinking about things differently in [the classroom], and as a translation of that, in my writing.”

The lead single from West’s EP, ‘Orange,’ has the artist ruminating on an incomparable love over a skittering electronic beat. She recorded a music video to accompany the single, racking up almost 3,000 views on YouTube.

The other four tracks on ‘Aurum’ also feature West addressing love in unconventional ways. The songs cover a whole range of emotions, from the affectionate ballad ‘Teddy Bear’ to the melancholic ‘Tsunami,’ which likens a break-up to a deadly tidal wave.

Along with recording more music, West hopes to gain recognition through live performances. She has set a personal goal of doing twenty different shows this year to hone her stage presence and live sound. West has upcoming shows at The Mint, a prominent venue in Los Angeles for rising artists, and as the opener at Occidental’s Springfest. She mentioned the possibility of a live show codenamed ‘Anaconda’ in the upcoming months, but the gig would not be confirmed until March at the earliest. According to West, if it does happen, it will be her biggest show yet.

“The ideal would be that by 2016 I’d be doing this full-time and really have the freedom to perform and have that be my job,” West said. “That’s the big dream, and ultimately I see that as an avenue, not only for me to do what I love to do, but also inspire other people to do what it is they love to do.”