By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Rachel Gollay.
It’s not exactly a rarity when an artist, seemingly out of the blue, discovers an opportunity has appeared on their doorstep. The universe is ripe with chance encounters and moments of synchronicity. But that doesn’t diminish the effect of their stories.
It also doesn’t undermine the hard work necessary to meet those lucky chances with grace and ability.
When Rachel Gollay received the call from longtime friend Russell Jack–inviting her out to his home studio to record some of her music–she was more than ready to greet such fortuity. Fort Worth, Texas was still a relatively new place, and so she welcomed the occasion to rekindle the relationship with an old friend.
Jack also arrived fresh to Texas shortly before making the call. The multi-instrumentalist had just wrapped up a song-writing stint in New York City, and was looking to flex his abilities as a producer. He remembered all of the songs he’d worked on with Gollay during their stay at college together, and knew he’d found a goldmine to hone his craft.
“The whole band met in college,” Gollay tells BTR. “They helped me champion the songs. But over the years we drifted apart. Life happens and people move away.”
The music, however, never stops. While studying to obtain her Master’s degree in teaching film, Gollay continued to pick up her acoustic guitar and sing. She never considered a musical career; it was just an outlet for her to express her creativity.
As time moved along, Gollay started to realize her potential as a songwriter. Learning to teach pushed her boundaries, but she still wasn’t sold on if it was the right fit for her. Not unlike most graduates, Gollay found herself at a loss trying to decide what path was meant for her. No matter what it ended up being, she knew that it had to be creative.
The cards were in her favor. Shortly after arriving in Fort Worth in search of work (“any job, really” she adds) Gollay landed a local position at a big software company. The company, fortunately, was unlike most–they happened to embrace artists and fostered all creative types. While an office may seem artistically sterile, the songwriter found herself not only surrounded by others like her, but also in harmony with an administration that catered to and encouraged those kinds of individuals.
In fact, the company was so supportive that they gave her an influx of financing to create her record with Jack as part of their arts grant program.
“I have to credit progressive companies!” says Gollay. “If there are any CEOs out there reading this right now, give your employees a little bit of cash to work on their side projects. It enriches the atmosphere and empowers people to create.”
Newly empowered, Gollay and Jack set out to rekindle old musical ties they’d once enjoyed in college. Everyone remembered Gollay’s songwriting capabilities, and wanted to give everything they could towards actualizing the potential they all agreed was overwhelmingly present in the music.
With old-friend Taylor Tatsch lending a hand to guitar duties and backup vocals, Jack rounded out the lineup by inviting drummer Joshua Jones to come on board. In turn, Jones brought his friend Bill Naylor to lay down bass on the songs.
All of the songs were written by Gollay during the course of her time in college, but she wholeheartedly insists the band was vital to actualizing their potential. What was once an outlet for emotions had become something rooted far less in a single perspective.
“I started to see music as a bigger force in my life,” says Gollay. “I realized that it was much bigger than me.”
The band set out recording their debut, Built for Love. In the beginning, the process was simple and stripped down. Gollay met Jack in his home studio, picked up a guitar, set up a mic, and played through all of her songs from start to finish. The members then took those scratch takes and listened for where they imagined the arrangements could go.
There was a certain malleability to the songwriting process on the album–something Gollay is very grateful for in hindsight. Take a song like the title track. The listener is greeted by a sprite dance number that playfully jumps back and forth between driving synths and the singer’s spirited layering of harmonies.
It might be hard to believe that the original version of the song was a dark and dirge-like ballad.
The many layers and perspectives put into each song allowed the band to determine what to keep and what to leave behind. Most groups will rush into the studio with a precise vision they are looking to execute and do so unwaveringly. But sometimes a certain level of flexibility can let a song grow in new directions that otherwise might have appeared unreachable.
Gollay is first to admit that the album wasn’t made overnight. The entire process ended up taking over a year and a half to complete. But for the singer-songwriter, time was never an issue.
“Initially, I just wanted all of the songs to be on an album together,” says Gollay. “Even if I only was to make one in my life, I wanted to be able to say I did that. Now that it’s done, we’re not finished. There’s more where that came from.”
To hear the rest of our interview with Gollay, tune into this week’s Discovery Corner.
Or find your own way to interpret Gollay by clicking here.