Lake Street Dive
Photo: Shervin Lainez / Courtesy of Sacks & Co.

Lake Street Dive High 5: Rachael Price, Bridget Kearney Bring “Letter” to Life for New Album

Lead singer Rachael Price and bassist Bridget Kearney reflect on their deeply personal and emotional journey for “Nobody’s Stopping You Now” while helping Lake Street Dive continue to thrive with ‘Obviously’.

Obviously
Lake Street Dive
Nonesuch Records
12 March 2021

There’s no doubt that Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price is one of the best and most versatile rock-pop singers still delivering a smorgasbord of delectable musical delights. Yet the Brooklyn-based artist may finally be realizing her full potential as a gifted songwriter with Friday’s release of Obviously, the group’s seventh full-length studio album.

Any uncertainty about her abilities in that regard after spending years in the recording studio should be erased with the gorgeous ballad “Nobody’s Stopping You Now”, an apropos title for a tune that Price cowrote with Lake Street Dive singer-songwriter-upright bassist Bridget Kearney.

It took the youngest of four children in a family of singers to look back more than 20 years into her past to find the spark of an idea, igniting an emotional flame that will keep Price’s career glowing strong.

Anatomy of a Song

“Nobody’s Stopping You Now” has been billed in press material as “a letter of encouragement” Price wrote to her teenage self.

“That song started because I had found some old journals of mine from when I was like 12, 13, 14 years old,” Price reveals in late February during a lively phone conversation from her home in Brooklyn, the New York City borough where she has lived for 11 years. “And specifically a journal that I didn’t even know existed. Somehow my aunt had it [in her house in Nashville]. And I started reading it and … there were just so many surprises … so many lengthy detailed things that happened that I had no recollection of.”

Price practically refers to the childhood Rachael who went to school in the Nashville area as a totally different girl with multiple sides to her personality. Finding the journal opened a floodgate of memories — and questions. “I was like, ‘I just don’t know who this person is. Who are they?’” she was asking herself. “In some ways, I was very impressed by them and thought they were very funny and cool. I was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know I used to be like that.’ …

“And then there were things to me that were very heartbreaking and sad, like insecurities that I was dealing with. There were just like pages and pages of writing about these things. So I kind of wrote a song in an effort to get to know that person a little bit more again. And also to give them encouragement in the places where I felt like they needed it. So it was me but sort of like a therapeutic exercise.”

Developing an idea began when Price, from a hotel room in Portland, Maine (where the band most recently performed in December 2018), needed to send a submission to her write-a-song-every-week group or else get kicked out. So I wrote the song very quickly and had … no regard for it. I thought, stylistically, I was like, ‘Well, this isn’t a Lake Street Dive song,’” she continues. “And overall, I didn’t really see the song’s potential. But because we had this spirit of sharing any ideas for this record when it came to cowriting, I sent the song. … I sent it to the whole band. I was like, ‘If anyone thinks they hear anything worthwhile in this song, you know, self-deprecating it (laughs) while I sent it. … But I didn’t show it to the band for a while.”

Price found an empowering enabler in Kearney, her bandmate since Lake Street Dive’s formation in 2004, who was so touched by “Nobody’s Stopping You Now” that she was willing — “honored” even — to take a crack at finishing the song.

Kearney, responding to series of questions in a subsequent email about the song and her role in cowriting it with Price, remembers that in the early version, her Brooklyn neighbor “had written some verses (which are close to what you hear on the final recorded version on Obviously) and a slightly different focus on the chorus.

“I think it was called ‘Summer Lullabye’ and it had the lyric ‘nobody’s stopping you now, now that it’s summer.’ I found her conceptual approach in this song, of writing to a younger version of yourself and consoling her through some of the tougher aspects of being a young woman, to be so moving,” Kearney continues.

“She was very open to me doing whatever I wanted to the song-in-progress, so in my development of the idea, I grabbed hold of that ‘Nobody’s Stopping You Now’ line and made it the central focus of the chorus. To me, it’s more like ‘nobody’s stopping you now’ because you’ve grown up and freed yourself of all of these societal expectations of what a woman should dress like and act like and talk like etc., etc., etc. Turns out you can be whoever you want to be!”

Among the heartfelt lyrics are these lines: “Lay down girl and rest your weary head / I know you’ll make it through somehow / Dip your toes down deep into the river bed / Nobody’s stopping you now”.

Understanding Price’s hesitation to share it with the band, Kearney, the 2005 winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for jazz with “Sometimes When I’m Drunk and You’re Wearing My Favorite Shirt”, offers this take on leaving one’s work open to group feedback, whether it’s positive or negative.

“To me, two of the most important components of songwriting are: a) coming up with ideas, and b) knowing which of your ideas are actually good,” she suggests. “Being in a band is very helpful with component b! I have definitely had the same experience, where I fire something off and I’m not sure if it’s good enough for any number of reasons — maybe it is too personal for me to be objective about, or maybe I wrote it so quickly that I can’t believe it could have real value to it, or maybe I’ve spent so much time obsessing over it that I’ve lost all perspective.

“And it’s so helpful to have my bandmates around to listen and say, ‘I really relate to this’ or ‘this song has been stuck in my head for days!’ or conversely, ‘I don’t understand what you’re trying to say in this song’ or what have you.”

Obviously, one strong visceral reaction helped “Nobody’s Stopping You Now” become one of the 11 tracks on the album. And while Price and Kearney have more to say about their powerful collaboration, let’s save the rest of their compelling story for last.

First, get caught up with the latest developments involving the frontwoman, the album and the band that also includes co-founders Mike “McDuck” Olson (trumpet, guitar) and Mike Calabrese (drums), along with most recent addition Akie Bermiss (keyboards). With their own writing and vocal talents, Lake Street Dive bring a generous mix of pop, jazz, swing, blues and rock ’n’ soul to the party.

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