Rachael Kilgour
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Rachael Kilgour

Duluth, Minnesota, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | INDIE

Duluth, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2005
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter




"Rachael Kilgour Artist Spotlight"

Folk Alliance is like old home week, but some of the most exciting moments come when we discover a great artist we were unaware of. This year’s Big Find for me was Duluth Songwriter Rachael Kilgour.
I love her songs. Love her voice. She is very charismatic and unconsciously makes great singing faces. I totally resonate with the progressive, activist message that underlies her songwriting which unequivocally advocates for human rights, income equality, and peace. A lot of current performers are squeamish about ruffling anyone’s political sensibility. This may be safe, but I don’t find it very interesting. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie were hyper aware of the power of music as an agent for social change. Rachael’s songs pull no punches, but she delivers them with an earnest clarity that makes her impossible to dislike.
Rachael plays violin as well as guitar and sometimes tours as part of Catie Curtis‘s backup band. Please give this wonderful performer a listen. I hope you enjoy her music as much as I do! - Big Orange Tarp

"Rachael Kilgour: I can make an impact through my music"

Rachael Kilgour doesn't immediately seem like the kind of girl who would take on the social injustices of the world in a song. She's sweet-faced, fast with a bright smile and sunshine energy. A few minutes into knowing her, though, and it's suddenly impossible to see her in a role besides activist. The Duluth-based folk singer-songwriter has a lot of ideas, and she speaks animatedly, as though she's in front of a classroom or heading up a meeting.

As she talks with Gimme Noise about her brand new EP, Whistleblower's Manifesto: Songs for a New Revolution, out today, Kilgour focuses on the role her music plays.

"My music is the place where I feel like I can make the most impact. I grew up in Duluth in a family that was really activist-y," explains Kilgour. "My older brother is a hardcore activist and has dedicated his whole life to that, specifically to issues of poverty. He runs a Catholic Workhouse in Duluth, and he's done that for many, many years... He was kind of my idol mentor big brother, and I always wanted to live up to his ideals. I spent a lot of time being like, 'I'm not good enough, I'm never gonna make a difference,' and then I started writing music, and felt like that was a really good way to participate."

Kilgour has already released two full-length albums, her self-titled debut in 2008 and her 2011 follow-up Will You Marry Me? Kilgour is a fearless songwriter, combating everything from government corruption to Christian hypocrisy. The songs aren't empty rhetoric: as a gay woman and activist, Kilgour has had plenty of experience in the social injustice realm. Her songs confront those challenges head-on, and Kilgour wouldn't have it any other way.

"I've gotten a lot of feedback that people really love [my political songs], that that's the most inspirational stuff I do, and I've also gotten feedback where people are like, 'Why don't you just do regular songs and write about love?' And that makes me really mad," says Kilgour with a laugh. "I feel like the thing that I really get passionate about when I'm singing and writing are the social injustices, when I can inspire awareness.... It's fun to get people feeling intensely however that comes about, whether they're like, 'Oh my God, that was the best thing ever,' or they're yelling at me."

The three songs on Kilgour's Whistleblower Manifesto are sure to inspire both responses in listeners. The opening track "He'll Save Me" is a satiric play on Christianity, all wrapped up in Kilgour's catchy folk-pop progression: "I earned this life/I climbed to corporate heights/Working and living by His word/A three-car garage and my weekly massage/I only take what I deserve/But see the mothers on welfare?/Think I should pay for their healthcare?/Don't you think I know better/Than to hand out rewards to sinners."

As a modern-day political singer-songwriter, it's fortunate that Kilgour is talented at both the lyrics and the music. It's easy to be self-righteous and preachy when you're taking down flawed American values, but Kilgour deftly walks a fine line, leveraging her excellent vocals against songs that never dance around the point.

"I think the goal in the music industry has been to blank-slate yourself as much as possible, so that you can get as many listeners as you possibly can," reflects Kilgour. "I think about the people who are on the Top Ten Billboard, and no one really knows anything about them, and if they did, they might be horrified by what those people stand for on a regular basis other than their catchy love songs. Might as well just go out and say it, I guess. Why not? It's more fun."

Despite having an arsenal of fiery songs, Kilgour doesn't come across as the soapbox type. She's focused on building her life with her wife, Adeline, and her 11-year-old stepdaughter, Gala, and beyond that, she's focused on making music she believes in and challenging listeners to think more, and deeper.

"I try and play for people who are expecting it," Kilgour smiles mischievously, speaking about the surprise punch her lyrics have, "But it's a little more fun to play for people who aren't expecting it. It confuses them for a second, and then offends them, and then sometimes they go home and think about it... which is what I hope will happen."

Rachael Kilgour releases Whistleblower's Manifesto: Songs for a New Revolution today via Swim Agency here. She's gearing up for a small East Coast tour in May, but in the meantime, bookmark your calendars for her show at the Bryant Lake Bowl on March 14. - City Pages

"Single Play"

Rachael Kilgour, “He’ll Save Me”

Comparisons are kind of a cheat for music critics who have trouble describing a particular “sound” of an artist. I’m guilty of doing it, but in the case of Rachael Kilgour, I can’t ignore a comparison to Maria McKee of Lone Justice fame. Kilgour’s voice is not as helium-sounding as McKee back in the day. However, “He’ll Save Me” has the same earthy sensibilities of a mid-tempo Lone Justice song, but wears its political heart more blatantly on its sleeve. Kilgour’s new EP, Whistleblower’s Manifesto: Songs for a New Revolution, drops on 2/19/13. - Pop Dose

"Rachael Kilgour Wins the NewSong Contest"

Rachael Kilgour, a Duluth, Minnesota-based singer-songwriter, was named the grand prize winner of the 2015 NewSong Contest after performing, along with eight other artists selected from nearly 1,000 entries, during a music showcase and competition finals held January 7, 2016 at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium in New York City.
As the contest’s grand prize winner, Kilgour will receive a performance slot at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival’s ASCAP Music Café in Park City, Utah later this month; an opportunity to perform at Lincoln Center later this year; and a recording session at Echo Mountain Recording Studios in Asheville, NC, produced by Gar Ragland, NewSong Music’s executive director, for an album to be released under the NewSong Recordings label.
A passionate and engaging performing artist whose songs merge the personal and political, Kilgour also was the winner of the 2015 LEAF Newsong Contest in North Carolina and a finalist in last year’s Telluride Troubadour Competition. Noted singer-songwriter Catie Curtis is producing Kilgour’s next crowd-funded CD, which is set for release later this year.
Among the tracks on the forthcoming album is “If I Am Gonna Fall Apart,” which impressed both a capacity crowd and the judges, securing Kilgour a slot in the competition’s final round, along with Blair Bodine (New York, NY), Bonomo (Brooklyn, NY) and Sarah Morris (Shoreview, MN). During the second round, Kilgour poured her heart and soul into singing “Still My Wife” and “In America.”
“Participating as a finalist in the NewSong Music Showcase and Competition was a remarkable experience. I think we were each very fortunate to have had the chance to perform in that phenomenal space to such an appreciative audience,” says Kilgour.
“It can be unimaginably difficult to cultivate those kinds of performance/listening experiences, especially when you are at the early stages of your career. With that in mind, I am in awe of the support that NewSong provides to emerging artists,” continues Kilgour. “I so enjoyed the genre-diverse make up of the group of finalists. It is obvious that NewSong is more interested in helping artists be the best versions of themselves. I have the utmost respect for their integrity in that regard.”
Now in its 14th year, the NewSong Contest showcases emerging performing songwriters. NewSong Music is an independent music organization that aims to build a supportive community of performers and songwriters across various genres of music and skill levels, while identifying truly exceptional artists and introducing their music to a broader, international audience. - NewSong Music

"Rachael Kilgour’s Soaring Lyrical Brilliance Holds a Lincoln Center Crowd Rapt"

“This is satire,” Rachael Kilgour grinned as she launched into He’ll Save Me, the spot-on, searingly funny centerpiece of her most recent ep, Whistleblower’s Manifesto: Songs for a New Revolution, at her headline debut earlier this month at Lincoln Center .She explained that there have been instances where booking agents heard snippets of her music and passed on her, thinking that she was a Christian songwriter. Testament to the power of that satire.

“Mothers on welfare? Healthcare? Don’t you think I know better than to hand out rewards to sinners?” she sang as laughter broke out everywhere. And the punchline,“I know I’ll get my way, when it comes to Judgment Day,” was as subtly sinister as Kilgour possibly could have made it. Considering that she was following a brief performance by a generic folkie from Philadelphia whose own brand of corporate Prosperity Christianity that song lampoons, it made even more of an impact. It’s hard to think of a more deliciously subversive moment on any midtown Manhattan stage in 2016.

.While there are echoes of both Tift Merritt and Loretta Lynn in Kilgour’s resonant, nuanced mezzo-soprano, the closest comparison is Roy Orbison: Kilgour soars upward into the same kind of otherworldly, angst-ridden melismas. And she has the material to match that transcendent voice. The ache and anguish as she hit the chorus of Round and Round – which she sang a-cappella at the end, to drive it home – held the crowd rapt. Likewise, I Pray, a tender wish song for a lost soul, gave Kilgour a platform to swoop up into her most Orbisonesque chorus. Later she went back to simmeringly savage mode for a number that was ostensibly about forgiveness but turned out to be more of a kiss-off anthem. And In America, another satirical one where she finally dropped the smiley-faced Republican ingenue act for reality, drew the night’s most applause.

The two most heartwrenching numbers were dedicated to her stepdaughter. Kilgour herself teared up during the first one, and by the time she was done, there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. Kilgour explained that she’d gone through a divorce a couple of years ago, “And that sucked!” She related how her earlier material has a populist, global focus, and that writing herself through the pain was a new experience, one that she’s still getting used to. Kilgour wants to break down the barriers between performer and audience, which harks back to a hallowed folk music tradition, where pretty much everybody in the village was in the band. Ultimately, that leads to the kind of community-building Kilgour has focused on thus far in her relatively young career.

In context, the gallows humor of the catchy, swaying Will You Marry Me took on new and unintentionally ironic resonance. The rest of the set mixed low-key, simmering ballads with the kind of anthemic acoustic rock Kilgour does so well, many of the numbers drawn from her brand-new album Rabbit in the Road.

These free Lincoln Center Atrium shows, as the space’s program director, Jordana Phokompe explained beforehand, are designed to offer something for everyone. And she’s right – they do. Tonight’s performance at 7:30 PM features ecstatically fun Colombian-American psychedelic cumbia band MAKU Soundsystem. Considering how well their previous Lincoln Center performances have drawn, you should get to the space on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd early if you’re going. - New York Music Daily

"Rachael Kilgour"

“Kilgour is the real deal—a modern troubadour confronting raw truths with a powerful voice and passionate, socially conscious songs that will move anyone who still believes that music can—and should—change the world.” - ASCAP Playback




Rachael Kilgour is a Minnesota-based songwriter and performing artist whose sincere, lyric-driven work has been called both brave and humane. The 2015 grand prize winner of the esteemed international NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition, Kilgour has been featured at NYC’s Lincoln Center and by the ASCAP Music Cafe at the Sundance Film Festival. She was also a finalist in the 2015 Telluride Troubadour Contest. A versatile performer, Kilgour has shared stages with the likes of indie artists Haley Bonar & Jeremy Messersmith as well as folk legends Greg Brown, Cheryl Wheeler & Catie Curtis. 

Kilgour married in her early twenties and devoted the rest of the decade to parenting her stepchild and building family and community. Her work from that time (Self-Titled 2008, Will You Marry Me?  2011, Whistleblower’s Manifesto 2013) chronicled her life as a young parent in a same-sex partnership and addressed sociopolitical issues from government corruption to income inequality and religious hypocrisy. Kilgour’s music career took a backseat during those years as she lived a slow, home-focused life. 

In 2014, divorce brought an unwanted and excruciating end to her role as a member of her family. The sudden shift left her deep in grief. Kilgour spent many months processing with friends and family and found solace in songwriting. Kilgour’s forthcoming album, Rabbit in the Road, was born out of that time: the love, loss, betrayal, disorientation and the profound sense of resilience that followed.

“While I have always felt a strong pull to address social injustices from the stage, this new collection of work requires something new of me,” Kilgour shared. “I feel called to use my platform to address emotion and grief and forgiveness in a way that is not often done in our culture.” 

Though the album was instigated by a particular event in her life, each track explores a different aspect of Kilgour’s emotional journey. “I was taught from a young age that a person’s hurtful behavior is almost always a sign of inner pain and not a reflection of your self-worth. The second track on the album, ‘Deep Bruises’, was my attempt to put that belief into practice under the most difficult circumstances.” 

Later, in “Ready Freddie”, Kilgour professes an unyielding confidence in her step-daughter as she steps into adolescence: 
“I know you can take it 
I believe that you will make it 
On your own somehow 
Maybe not right now 
But I can see you’re almost ready 
Do you think you’re ready Freddie? 
Say it right out loud 
You’re gonna make me proud” 

In the title track, Kilgour examines the dualities of forgiveness. As is true of the album in its entirety, the detailed examination of Kilgour’s relationships and emotions is surprisingly universal: 
“With your hands around his neck 
You spared his misery 
How swift you gave that rabbit 
What you couldn’t give to me” 

Rabbit in the Road, due out March 3rd, 2017 on NewSong Recordings, was produced by Catie Curtis with help from sound engineer Crit Harmon and mixed by Gar Ragland at Echo Mountain Recording Studios in Asheville, NC. The album takes an intimate and often painful look at the failed marriage and loss of family. Kilgour’s writing and delivery cut deep, with resolute simplicity. Sorrow, rage, resilience and compassion exist side by side within a series of honest and memorable melodies. The collection of work stands tall on a foundation of vulnerability and opens the door to moments of profound connection.

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