Courtesy of Rae Fitzgerald
By Jonas Weir
Apocalyptic dreams, perfectly punctuated deliveries, complex allegories, and the occasional curse word thrown in at just the right beat, Rae Fitzgerald’s music showcases vivid imagery and adept lyricism. Crafting highly literate songs has always been this twenty-seven-year-old songwriter’s goal.
“That’s why I started playing guitar,” she says. “I wanted to write songs. Well, I wanted to write poetry, but who reads poetry?”
Although she lives in Columbia now, Rae is about to earn a creative writing degree from Truman State University in Kirksville. Writing is her first love, but she is constantly working on crafting melodies, too, whether that means religiously looking for new artists online, checking out forty CDs at a time from Daniel Boone Regional Library, or listening to her favorite artists: Conor Oberst, PJ Harvey, and Elliott Smith, to name a few. And her hard work shines through on her new album, Popular Songs for Wholesome Families.
After a year of touring, an intensive recording process, and a successful Kickstarter campaign, Rae is on the verge of releasing her most ambitious album to date. Stepping away from the guitar-centric sound that dominated her first two albums—Of War and Water and Quitting the Machine—this new collection of songs employs more drums, bass, Casio keyboards, and even reverb-affected vocals.
To accomplish this, she enlisted Boonville native Lucas Oswald of the bands The Appleseed Cast and Shearwater to produce the Popular Songs. The album has the potential to break Rae into the world of indie rock. However, there was a time when indie rock was a foreign word to her.
Rae grew up in a strict religious household. She was born in Farmington, but when she was six years old, her family moved to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, so she and her siblings could attend a fundamentalist school and church in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
“I spent my adolescence going to church three times a week and going to Christian school, which is like going to church,” she says.
Rae was not allowed to listen to secular music. Instead, she owned Christian rock CDs and fell in love with traditional hymns; dreams of rock stardom were not on the table. Everything changed when she was fourteen, though. Her parents divorced. Her mother moved to Bakersfield, California, and remarried. Her father moved the family back to Farmington when Rae was sixteen. And secular music was welcomed in her home for the first time.
“Both parents got remarried and became totally different people,” says Rae, who is still close with both of her parents. “Those two characters played a fundamental role in my psychological, emotional, and spiritual development. Now, they’ve disappeared into thin air. They don’t exist anywhere.”
Soon after she moved back to Farmington, Rae began writing her own music, skipping the music lessons and avoiding learning covers. Although Rae says she’s not religious anymore, Biblical imagery and those years in Muscle Shoals took root in her lyrics. Snakes and saints, heaven and hell, and good versus evil all play a role in her poetic folk music. Some songs even feature the unofficial instrument of the church, the organ. Listen to her sing, and you can still hear the kid whose parents divorced at age fourteen, the same kid who had trouble believing in God when it was so central to her inclusion. Now, Rae has found her calling, and she’s completely devoted to her craft.
“I’m excited for this album to materialize,” she says. “My only long-term goals are to make this album as successful as possible.”