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Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes

Composer, Indie Rocker

Kevin Gibson

Rachel Grimes has been a big part of Louisville's music scene since the 1990s, when her band Rachel's burst onto the scene. These days, the pianist is working on a number of musical projects and recently returned from a tour of Europe.

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

King's Daughters and Sons

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King's Daughters and Sons King's Daughters and Sons

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes

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Rachel Grimes Rachel Grimes

During the busy holiday season, we caught up with her via e-mail during her return home for the holidays and talked with her about her recent stint in Europe, discussed her recent release with King's Daughters & Sons, reminisced about Rachel's and looked forward to forthcoming projects.

Tell me about your recent European tour what cities/countries did you hit, and how was the reception by your audiences?

I just returned from a trip to Sicily where I played in Catania and Palermo, a concert of several of my chamber pieces with the Orchestra da Camera Kandinskij of Palermo. They were a very warm-hearted group of musicians to work with and [it was] so exciting for me to hear this new music take shape. We performed several new string trio arrangements I made for them of pieces from Book of Leaves, as well as two works for a 10-part ensemble (oboe, clarinet, strings, harp, piano and percussion): Transverse Plane and Marion County 1938, a film score that was just released on DVD.

I also played two solo shows as part of this tour, which was organized by the new Circuito Musicale Sicilia: http://www.girasicilia.it/circuito-musicale-siciliano/. This cooperative was formed by several independent promoters in Sicily to bring more artists to their southern island. The audiences for these shows were wonderful and enthusiastic. And the food oh my … the fresh buffalo mozzarella, the eggplant caponata, the fennel and chickpea soup …

A few weeks before that, I was in France, Germany and Belgium playing solo shows and doing a week-long residency with the French band Astrid. We had a few days to rehearse and write new songs, then played them in Nantes and Paris. Their band is violin, guitar, clarinet and percussion so adding piano to that was a very natural addition. It was such a satisfying exchange I knew them and their music beforehand and this residency idea was something they had worked on with their local independent radio station. We had sold-out shows of very attentive listeners.

What was the best aspect of the trip, and when do you plan to return?

More and more, I am finding a very engaging energy in presenting this somewhat quiet and contemplative music. It is a great pleasure to meet people from so many different cultures, and so quickly find that we share similar ideas and hopes. It seems that music is a way to begin a dialogue with people and to learn more about where we want to go. I am grateful for the chance to get to know so many interesting people and get a glimpse into their way of life.

I will probably be back in Europe next fall.

Tell me about If Then Not When a project with yet another Louisville band. It's Americana, whereas your solo recordings are more of a modern take on classical piano. How long have you played with King's Daughters & Sons?

I joined up with Joe, Michael, Kyle and Todd in the winter of 2006/7 and soon we were at Paul Oldham's studio, recording a three-track EP of songs they had begun before I jumped in. Over the next couple of years, we had several long gaps where we were not practicing or playing shows, due to other projects and life interruptions. But we managed over 2008 and 2009 to record a full-length record with Kevin Ratterman at the Funeral Home. We finished it last year but were not sure how it would get out into the world, since the music/label industry is in a spinning vortex of confusion and change.

Thankfully, Chemikal Underground from Glasgow, Scotland was interested and we busted it to get all the production and artwork done late this summer [in order] to get the record out in November. We had a blast at our album release show with Seluah at 21c. We really have a great time developing songs together and are headed back to Kevin's in February with a few new ones.

You were first and perhaps best known as leader of Rachel's, a band that gained popularity starting in the 1990s. Do you keep in touch with your bandmates from Rachel's? Any plans for further shows or recordings?

We are all good friends, which was something that made tours and projects have such lasting and fond memories. Jason and Greg had known each other since high school, and of course with my brother and I there was always a lot of closeness and inside jokes. We are all meeting up [last] week during the holidays. We played our last show in New York in 2006. No further plans we did release previous tour EPs (Significant Others and Technology Is Killing Music) into the digital universe last year.

Let's rewind for a moment. It seems every musician or music fan, for that matter can remember when music first crept into their soul. What's your memory of when you realized your love for music?

I got a white toy piano with colorful keys for my first Christmas, and I still vaguely remember that with glee. My dad and grandmother both played piano by ear and sat me down on the bench with them at a very young age, and I gradually soaked it in. My mom occasionally sat down at the piano, too, and all of her sisters sang. So music was always part of our growing up.

And what drew you to piano?

The same thing that still draws me to it endless possibilities in the touch, range and sound. It is a whole orchestra, right in front of you. On a really beautiful instrument, there is just so much color, richness and infinite nuances in the quality of how you can play a phrase.

Your solo work, specifically your 2009 album Book of Leaves , is haunting and emotional. Even without lyrics, each song manages to conjure some sort of emotion. Do you have specific emotions in mind that you want to convey when you write and perform?

I usually have specific images and emotions that I am working with on individual pieces. Sometimes the piece is shaped by a structural idea, or loose story construct, and then I use the emotional imagery to color it. For the whole of Book of Leaves, I was exploring the interior contemplative life as it relates to being outdoors, where nature dictates. I was also looking at the idea of past lives and their present influence, both people we have known or are related to, and those who have shaped our world through their decisions and work.

Interestingly, your piano compositions are typically fairly short like pop songs. Some are not even two minutes long. What is the goal for a short piece such as "Every Morning" or "Far Light"?

The goal for all the pieces in Book of Leaves was for each piece to work as an individual, but also as part of the whole arc. There are three main thematic ideas that are varied throughout the whole, and all the pieces derive their basic material from one of those three ideas. "Every Morning" was one thematic idea a repeating rhythmic figure intertwined with a melodic one. "Far Light" was a variant on the first theme from "Long Before Us" working on the idea of shifting color in sound (the repetition of the first phrase should not be played with the same color and dynamic) and a sense of large space.

What are you currently working on?

I am so enjoying developing arrangements for chamber ensemble of instrumental piano works and popular songs by George Gershwin for a new piece by the SITI Company. "Café Variations" is being developed by Anne Bogart and the company from various scenes by the playwright Chuck Mee.

We spent last week in New York doing what Anne called a creative lab to throw ideas around, make some movement pieces, small scenes and whittle down the musical choices so I can knuckle down on those in January and February. The piece opens in April in Boston at the Majestic Theater as part of the Arts Emerson spring program.

You released Book of Leaves on the Karate Body Records label, making you label mates with bands such bands as Shipping News, Silver Tongues and the Fervor. One might classify those bands as a version of indie rock how would you describe your music to someone who hadn't yet heard it?

Hmmm, if I have to put my solo music in a descriptor, maybe something like neo-impressionist salon music, made with an indie approach.

It seems to speak to the diversity of Louisville's musical talent that we have so many different types of artists gaining notice. Who are some of your favorite Louisville musicians and bands, and why?

The diversity and originality that continues to burst out of Louisville is such a treasure. Whatever crazy combination of factors that allow our hometown to foster the culture of experimentation is wonderful.

What comes next in terms of touring? Any local shows planned?

I will be home for a while, working on the music for SITI and practicing with KD&S. On March 8th, I am co-curating with Jane Halliday another Hear + Now concert at 21c. This series presents new works by local composers. The spring concert will focus on modern works for the harpsichord and will feature a newly-arranged movement of Gerald Plain's "Concerto for Recorder and Chamber Orchestra."