Student and Teacher
Exuding confidence on stage has never seemed to be a problem for Price, since even before she and three fellow students at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston — Olson, Kearney, and Calabrese — met in 2004 to create Lake Street Dive.
Born on Aug. 30, 1985, in Perth, Australia, to Tom and Elizabeth Price, Rachael grew up in the outskirts of Nashville, attending Hendersonville High School, where she was selected most talented in her senior class. Blessed with a lavish, inviting alto, she watched her sister and classically trained mezzo-soprano Emily become a professional opera singer, but preferred jazz and went on to sign a record deal as a solo artist.
“Well, I definitely didn’t set out to be a pop singer,” Price shares. “So, just as a vocalist, I changed a lot. Like I’ve had to just completely change my technique and grow in that way. … I’ve loved singing all the styles, but I grew up singing jazz and just sort of assumed that’s where I would go. …
“There’s no specific genre that anyone’s writing in this band, so I get to wear a lot of hats. Which for me is really, really fun. So I think it’s just made me, being in Lake Street Dive … a really versatile singer.”
Rachael credits her father, who has been a songwriter and orchestra conductor, for encouraging her to pursue a musical career. He currently lives in Australia “probably leading a relatively normal life for a little while now,” she reports, while closer to home “everyone else [in the family] is hanging in there.” So Price these days avoids asking them for musical tips or advice but “I value their support and I value their criticism.”
Meanwhile, she does her part in sharing plenty of guidance to others as a vocal instructor online, noting, “I’ve been teaching a lot, which has been a nice way to use what I know about singing and keep the creative juices flowing” throughout the coronavirus crisis.
Involved with Virtual Lessons for Actual Change, which raises funds for racial justice organizations, Price has also stayed busy while quarantining with her husband and their “very old cat” by “obsessively learning Spanish” online. Married to Canadian singer-songwriter Taylor Ashton since September 2019, she divulges the two touring musicians never thought “we would spend this much time with each other ever. … But it’s been nice. … It turns out we get along really well.”
After otherwise going through “periods of despair, boredom, confusion” during the global pandemic, but finally “feeling kind of adjusted to it,” Price is hopeful that Lake Street Dive will soon play scheduled shows such as the socially distanced Moon Crush event along Florida’s Miramar Beach in late April and Red Rocks in September.
Regarding the quiet time and the couple’s “cohabitation boot camp” described by a friend, she acknowledges, “There’s been some blessings, some things that are nice about having this much rest, but I didn’t need this much.”
Diving Into Lake Street
In 2014, eight years after their debut album (In This Episode …), Lake Street Dive released what many consider was their breakthrough album — Bad Self Portraits. It resulted in rave reviews and spots on many year-end lists while they reached the summit that December as my Peak Performer of the Year for the Huffington Post. Ten months earlier, just as the band was breaking big and Price was spending Valentine’s Day conducting our first interview, she expressed excitement over their travel upgrade, saying, “We just graduated to a Sprinter van with a trailer. It has bunks in it, so we can sleep.”
Reminded about that comment, Price remembers the time when “that album did a lot for us,” but laughs about how far they’ve come. “We did a few great tours in that Sprinter, and then we moved to a bus.”
After making Bad Self Portraits for Massachusetts-based label Signature Sounds, they moved to Nonesuch Records in 2015, releasing 2016’s Side Pony and 2018’s Free Yourself Up. Price’s first sole songwriting credit with the group was “Mistakes” on the 2016 record, which also included her on a group cowrite for “Can’t Stop.” She had one cowrite on the 2018 record — “I Can Change” with Kearney, who has had a hand in composing five or more cuts on every Lake Street Dive full-length studio record and made her solo album debut with Won’t Let You Down in 2017.
In 2014, Price had completed one song for a future release but sounded content to maintain the rewarding role of lead singer while providing input on numbers written by the other three.
“I’m singing the songs written by my best friends,” Price offered then about her fellow bandmates. “So I’m pretty aware of their experiences as they are of mine. We function as a group that it’s like, if it’s Bridget’s song, she’s ‘singing’ on the bass [by] playing it, too. It’s like we’re all having a conversation about what happened to that person. … Like I’m taking the role of singing it, but it’s all part of one statement that we’re making. … It’s not me at the forefront, like I’m carrying the weight of feeling the song. Everybody’s feeling the song.”
Not much has changed in that regard for Price, who believes it’s neither easier nor more difficult to sing her own lyrics.
“Just different. I’m creating a story and there’s imagery in my head to work with,” she states before admitting, “I would say that there is something deeper and just a bit more emotional when I’m singing lyrics that I’ve written.”