In the eight years that vocalists, multi-instrumentalists and songwriters Erin Chapin, Caitlin Gowdey and Vanessa May have lived and played together as Rainbow Girls, their collective spirit has helped them grow as individuals, too.
“Playing as part of this collective has given me an opportunity to find harmony in my own life, in the most natural sense of the word,” says May. “To bring that to other people is really important, and has been a driving force for me.”
In November, Rainbow Girls unveiled their first album as a trio, American Dream, which touches on experiences of love, loss and what May calls the political storm going on. “There’s been a lot of dissonance around, people having a hard time finding where they fit in,” she says. “Rainbow Girls’ and my own journey with this is to help people find that harmony in their own lives.”
Named after the so-called Rainbow House where the three first met and hosted weekly open mics while attending school in Santa Barbara, Rainbow Girls moved to Bodega Bay after college, living in a cottage on Gowdey’s grandparents’ property when they’re not touring the U.S. or Europe.
There they continue to cultivate original, richly layered, three-part harmonic folk music and connect to the North Bay musical community through a new weekly open mic series at the house.
“We moved up to the North Bay, and at first felt like it wasn’t home because we were traveling so much and had such deep roots in Santa Barbara, but as soon as we started doing open mics again, we realized we do have friends here and we do have something to contribute to this community,” says May. “And in that, we’ve seen so much of our own growth.”
The 10-track American Dream is a culmination of that growth. The mostly acoustic album was recorded live in the band’s living room over the course of a month. “We were in such a place of deep comfort, and that comes through,” says May.
Though the women often write songs individually, May says the trio’s shared experiences of living and traveling together makes it easy to know where to go musically as a group.
“Sometimes you know exactly where you’re supposed to be, and other times we try to create something that is unexpected, and we like having both of those elements,” says May. “At this point, we can hear a song and know the feeling and essence of the song, and find harmonies accordingly.”