Erin Rae’s career has moved into a certain zone.
She’s got some relatively new releases to promote and is ready to move from a role as a well-regarded support slot performer and into the world of full-set headliners, after stints on the road with a blend of known and highly-regarded folks, like Father John Misty, Hiss Golden Messenger, Jenny Lewis, Jason Isbell and Iron & Wine.
Prominent in sets this fall and winter will be cuts from her latest album. Released in 2022, Lighten Up was the sophomore follow-up to 2018’s Putting On Airs. It was followed in late August of this year by the concert album Lighten Up & Try: Live & From The Heart (Thirty Tigers).
“It’s definitely the longest stretch of headlining dates in a row,” the amiable Rae said in a mid-August interview. “We’re excited to go out there and see who wants to come join us. We’re definitely going to be highlighting the newest record, as well as the two records prior to that. This’ll be a good chance to incorporate more songs into the set, ones that I really love playing, seeing how this all fits together.”
As noted, Lighten Up’s cuts should have a key role.
The initial Lighten Up captured a nice amount of critical acclaim, much of it focused on the broader songwriting styles that Rae and company brought to this album. An example is these kind words via Pitchfork: “Produced by Father John Misty collaborator Jonathan Wilson and recorded at his Topanga Canyon studio, Lighten Up is unabashedly influenced by the vintage sounds of a more famous Los Angeles county canyon: The delicate, organic style of Laurel Canyon legends like Joni Mitchell and Judee Sill is all over this album, as is the light psychedelia of late ’60s and ’70s pop-country. Bobbie Gentry, Lee Hazlewood and Don Williams are among Rae’s named influences, and their heavily-produced, laid-back aesthetic is clearly echoed in her work.”
Rae’s touring band for this round of dates will feature: Ryan Keith, keys; Sean Thompson, guitar; Ben Parks, drums; and Alec O’Connell, bass, while James Wallace (aka Skyway Man) fills in on keys in late September and early October. Because the members of Rae’s band are so active in other projects, they will often have the opportunity to play two sets a night, essentially working as their own openers. As an example, Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears will be featured along the way.
Having played with a variety of players over the years, this tour’s allowing Rae an opportunity to actually flip a member of the group mid-run, a unique thing. That’ll also allow for a new blend of personalities and talents to emerge.
“It’s just a different energy,” she said. “James will be getting married a couple of weeks into the tour, so we’ll come home and see him off from there. Switching it up makes sense logistically, and it’s just kind of fun to play with different folks. I’m very fortunate.”
Rae’s interested to find out what she’ll see from fans new and old in different pockets of the country, having been on the road for a bit now.
“I feel like most places I’ve gone have given us a good experience,” she said. “I’m excited for the Pacific northwest. Maybe it’s in my sound; the singer-songwriter thing seems to work really well there. It’s been cool, over the years, to learn about the music scenes in different places. Between the five of us, we have buds pretty much everywhere that you can play music, and we’re excited to connect with them.”
Growing up, Rae lived in a small town between Nashville and Memphis before moving to Nashville. She confessed that Memphis has had a pull on her over the years and that “I’ve considered moving there a bunch over the years. I really love that town.”
Rae also loves her base of Nashville, although the town’s changed as dramatically as any American city over the past decade. Indie musicians, she suggested, are still able to find their place in a music community that sits alongside the larger, commercial country market.
“Growing up there, after moving in during middle school, really makes me feel that I lucked out in being planted in such a music town,” Rae said. “I wasn’t aware of the local scene until high school, when I started doing open mics and house shows and connected with the music community of people my age. Nashville’s grown and changed a lot over the years, of course, and the development’s meant that a lot of us are spread out all across town. But there’re still some central gathering spaces where a lot of weekly shows still happen.”
Rae emerged from the indie rock/folk/Americana scene. It’s healthy, as she noted, since “these spots really hold a sense of community for all of us. Amidst all the changes and the big business development, there’s still something in the local, Nashville scene that’s still there to be found. There’s something for everybody.”
And this fall, Rae will represent that community to the United States, coast to coast.
Erin Rae performs at 8pm, Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Little Saint, 25 North St., Healdsburg. Free.