Rachel Austin
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Rachel Austin

Harrisonburg, VA | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Harrisonburg, VA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Solo Americana Experimental




"Live Review: Sunflower Festival"

Rachel Austin, on the other hand, is one of the most amazing performers I’ve ever seen. She is actually the star of the festival, putting on a more incredible show with just two mics and a looping pedal than most bands could do with a full orchestra and a laser show. She sounds just as gorgeous when backed by a band as well, producing some country and folk orientated songs. Just stunning really. - All Gone Pop

"hello, my uglies review"

Rachel released her first full length album “Hello my Uglies” in the summer. Produced by Declan Legge of Big Space Studios in Newry. The album is a polished and confident production of the type of music we love... There is something thoughtful and intelligent about this album. It is hard to describe, the songs grab your attention and absorbs you in the different layers. This isn’t background music it is too beautiful, this is art.

If you like Shawn Colvin, Bic Runga or Missy Higgins then you will do doubt love Rachel Austin. Story based song writing at its very best. With a debut album of this standard it is easy to say with confidence that Rachel Austin is destined for great things. There are few times when you really get excited about a new release, wanting to explore every song in detail but ‘Hello my Uglies’ is just such an album. This is music gold!

Listen to the first few seconds of ‘They Said’ ‘Cold Store Heart’ or ‘Love won’t fall’ and you will desire every song. We love it! - amuze.me

"Age of Wisdom reviewed"

First up isthe new Age Of Wisdom EP from American born,Belfast-based singer-songwriterRachel Austin. A regular on the local gig circuit for agood few years now, Austin’s latest recorded offering, the first instalment in a trio of EPs, showcases her strong tuneful voice and knack for delicate, memorable songwriting. Lead tune Traveller is a gentle number, an evocative, nostalgic affair picked out on acoustic guitar, double bass and cello with Austin’s smooth, emotive vocal front and centre. Table Light is more explicitly alt-country in feel. Austin lets her voice off the hook in an appealingly sultry, throaty manner, while brushed drums, plucked banjo and a desolate, twangy guitar lick finagled from REM’s Drive create the requisite dust bowl atmosphere. Final track, the mournful yet defiant All That I Lose, adds sombre brass to the mix for a dynamic song that allows Austin to show off her range as timid, plaintive verse evolves into soaring, sing-along chorus.This limited edition EP is released on Monday via rachelaustinmusic.com. To celebrate, Austin is playing a launch show at Blick studios on the Malone Road next Friday. This is part of her current ‘house tour’ which finds her shunning bars for living rooms, kitchens and other interesting performance spaces. Contact her via the website if you want to book your own private Rachel Austin show. - Irish News

"Pick of the Fortnight, August 2010"

Rachel Austin comes to us from Virginia, (USA, not Cavan) via her domicile in Belfast. There's a timeless quality to the songs and sounds on her EP Age of Wisdom. Her approach calls Shawn Colvin to mind. 'Traveller' showcases her wistful vocals and the track is richly endowed with a cello. 'Table Light' has deft touches of bluegrass and the production gives Austin's vocal a detached, ethereal quality, as well as proving that she's got several aces in her deck. 'All That I Lose' almost makes time stand still, with a brass interlude that is rivetingly charming. Austin's blissful voice soaring like an earth angel and a sense of liberation that recalls the late Tim Buckley. Glorious stuff. - Hot Press

"Rachel Austin: Self-Titled (Self-Release)"

This Virginia-born singer-songwriter now resides in Belfast. You can hear the rich blend of bluegrass and Irish folk leanings in her voice, yet her EP isn’t only acoustic; the heartbreaking track “Walls” includes a rich orchestral backdrop, giving Austin’s voice a chance to soar over strings, while “Life” uses more traditional folk instrumentation and clever phrasing to novel effect. Her words are open and heartfelt, and melodies linger, creating a perfect balance of emotion and light. - Sentimentalist Magazine

"Rachel Austin live at the Pavilion"

Rachel Austin is a singer-songwriter, vocal tutor and native of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, USA. Her recent performance at the Pavilion in Belfast brought a flavour of her native country to a grey Belfast night, 13th October 2006.

Whether performing her own accomplished, folk-inspired songs such as ‘Sweet Justice’ and ‘Life’ (which can be heard on Rachel’s current EP) or performing numbers from Les Miserables as never heard before, Rachel’s strong voice and impressive vocal range made for an arresting performance.

Playing with Rachel was Belfast born virtuoso guitarist, Steven McKnight whose playing added depth to the performance whilst allowing Rachel’s vocals to shine.

Hopefully it won’t be too long until Rachel’s next gig. She deserves to gain public attention.

Eve Williams - FastFude.org

"Review of EP for events magazine"

According to her Myspace profile, Rachel Austin sounds like 'Joni Mitchell impersonating Jeff Buckley' which isn't a bad description, or ambition, for any female singer-songwriter.
Standing head and shoulders above any of her contemporaries, if there's any justice in the world it's only a matter of time before Austin commands a higher profile, both locally and internationally. A native of Virginia, she now lives in Belfast and performs what can only be described as ethereal, heartfelt music in the Martha Wainwright or Joan As Police Woman vein. - 24/7 - Belfast Telegraph

"Smells like Scene Spirit: Rachel Austin"

Brace yourself for a bit of a shock, loyal Scene Spirit readers, because this issue’s interviewee isn’t actually from around these parts. Now before you all start burning effigies of our Editor in the streets in protest, hear us out for a second. Yes, it’s true that the uber-talented chanteuse Rachel Austin is from Virginia in the good ol’ USA, but she moved to Belfast seven years ago and her new album ‘Hello My Uglies’ is full of gorgeous whiskey soaked threnodies, so we thought we’d bend the rules a little and introduce you to one of the most exciting artists in the scene today. So without further ado, here’s Rachel…
“Growing up in Virginia was an odd experience,” says Rachel of her previous life. “My parents had moved from New York before I was born and in a way were still adjusting when I was a kid. This naturally set us up to be excluded to some extent from the tight knit Appalachian community in which we lived. To make things worse, they decided to teach us at home after my brother experienced some bullying at school. So, yeah, life in Virginia had its ups and downs. I certainly loved the place – especially the geography of the area where I grew up, but my family history wasn’t there, so I naturally felt out of place. I felt more Big Apple than Dixie.”
This almost constant internal displacement in surroundings led Rachel to start travelling in a quest to seek out a place she could call home. Eventually she found what she was looking for right here in Belfast.
“My itch to travel began with trips every few months to Long Island as little Rachel. When I first came to Belfast I was here to study, but ended up finding musical camaraderie and that was a good enough reason to stay.”
Rachel is one of those artists who has creativity in her blood and it won’t surprise local music fans to learn that she’s been writing songs and performing in some shape or form since she was little. The release of ‘Hello My Uglies’ marks a huge moment for the singer both personally and professionally and without sounding like TV psychic Sally Morgan, we predict great things for her future.
“I would attribute that first inspiration to write songs to a few things,” offers Rachel. :I mean, if we’re talking first songs, I used to swan around on our pool deck making up tunes that sounded more like Rodgers and Hammerstein than my current repertoire actually. But in terms of what I’m doing now when I was growing up I started hanging around with a particularly musical group of people and we would sing in harmony wherever we were, so it seemed only natural for me to express my own ideas and thoughts through song-writing.
“As far s the release of ‘Hello My Uglies” goes, in one sense, I feel quite vulnerable about it,” she continues. “All of my hard work and guts are hanging out there for all to see but on the other hand, I’m incredibly excited because I can still sit down and listen to it and actually enjoy it now.”
Like a lot of modern acts, Rachel has chosen to ignore the world of industry suits who know nothing about music, (but unfortunately quite a lot about ripping off bands), in favour of releasing her own music and distributing it at gigs and online. Well, at least for now anyway.
“As people move and think more globally, I think the internet is certainly the way to go,” she says. “For me, it’s crucial because my sense of place is a bit screwed up and the inteweb kind of releases me from needing to worry about that.”
This summer Rachel has made tentative plans for a full-blown UK tour in a bid to drum up a bit more business for her album. After that, the world is her oyster, but wherever she lays her head, she still considers Belfast her home.
:Looking forward to the next few years, I do hope to stay in Belfast because I consider it my home,” she says finally. “I”ve got a few options for touring, and hope to get more support for the album in the way of distribution, management or whaterver may come along, so we’ll see how that goes. In the grand scheme of things I hope to become and better and better performer and musiciand. Who doesn’t?”
- Edwin McFee, Fate Magazine

"Austin Power"

Rachel Austin is singing about 'Dear Love' as opposed to 'Deer Love'. She wants us to appreciate the difference, because you wouldn't want any confusion, kind listeners. We all smirk at the possibilities of the latter, but pretty soon the crowd in McHugh's basement, Belfast is enjoying a song about personal rapture.

Some of her music is proudly eccentric. She doesn't really sound like Regina Spektor, but they both borrow from classical music and folk traditions to create bold tunes and wiggy statements. A few times, Rachel almost steers us into a power ballad, but revs off to somewhere more exalted.

'Did You Notice' is a fierce dismissal to an unwanted male. She coos like Billie Holiday, but sings about violence and disgust and the sanctity of marriage. Her musician pals are playing the violin, the cello, the mandolin and more, clearly enjoying the mission.

On the wall nearby, there's a slide show of pictures. Graham Smith the photographer has been following the artist for a year or more, and his shots reveal Austin in many stages of gaiety, creative focus and interesting attire. Tonight, she's wearing an ante-bellum ballgown that might have been cast aside by Scarlet O'Hara around 1861.
Altogether then, a top occasion and we all exit with our freshly purchased copies of the new album, 'Hello, My Uglies'. - BBC, Stuart Bailie


Age of Reason - 26 October 2012
Age of Love - April 2011
Age of Wisdom - July 2010
hello, my uglies - May 2008
EP - December 2005



Rachel Austin’s awaited 5-track release, Learning, but never knowing, will be released on March 8. The recording comes in the form of a limited edition book produced in collaboration with printmaker Amira Hegazy (Detroit, MI/Egypt) and photographer Sholeh Asgary (Oakland, CA/Iran). A full website experience will launch along with the book also on March 8, featuring films by Will McConnell (Belfast, N.I.) of Bandwidth and Nova Scott-James (Harlem, N.Y.) of Mothership Alchemy. The website is www.rachelaustinrachelaustin.com.

Austin stretches the borders of experimental folk and grungy pop, reflecting the influences of her childhood home in the mountains of Virginia. With a voice that soars “like an earth angel” (Hot Press Magazine) and song writing that is “at once haunted and uplifting, yearning yet triumphant” (Daily Mirror), Austin adds junk tremolo guitar to create a sound compared to that of Regina Spektor and Jeff Buckley. The diverse list of artists with whom she has shared the stage shows the strength of her work: ​Kronos Quartet, Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, Foy Vance, Duke Special, Florence + the Machine, and the Irish National Symphony Orchestra.

Rachel moved to Belfast from the US and began playing around Ireland, the UK, and Europe 5 years ago. She has opened for and played with a roster of well-known international acts in venues from Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco) to the National Concert Hall in Dublin: Kronos Quartet, Fred Frith, Florence + the Machine, Duke Special, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Devon Sproule, and Hazel O’Connor, amongst others. Her debut album, hello, my uglies (2008) set out her stall with a beautiful collection of songs that drew from a variety of sources including indie and folk, right through to grungy jazz.

The Age Trilogy sees Rachel crafting three separate releases that showcase a different side of her muse. The Age of Wisdom (2010) featured stark yet beautiful arrangements of voice and guitar, allowing her songs to connect in a direct manner only hinted at before. The Age of Love (2011) was a more playful affair, brass, drums and bass all brushing up alongside each other to create a warm tapestry exploring various facets of love and honesty. These intricately presented releases were the work of a songwriter striking upon a particularly fruitful vein of inspiration and exploring it to the hilt. Calling to mind comparisons with the restless creative spirit of Nick Cave, Rachel’s songwriting rarely comes at the listener from the obvious perspective.

Rachel was the Artist in Residence for the prestigious Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (Belfast), at the Kunstuniverstat Graz, UABC (Mexico), and Christ Church Cathedral (Dublin). She has played festivals across Ireland, France, and the US.