Listed at #6 of Spotify’s “US Viral 50 Playlist”, personal shout-outs from John Mayer and Shawn Mendes, multiple San Diego Music Award appearances, over 1 Million views on her Youtube content… and she’s the sweetest, most deserving musician you’ve ever met. Raelee Nikole is a San Diego native who is making WAVES. We have been fortunate to work with her since she was 16 and have to admit, she holds a really special spot in our hearts. Currently at 21 years old, we are seeing her years of perseverance, practice, and great attitude turn into a VERY promising future of music making. In this month’s Spotlight, Raelee tells us about a toy piano that started it all, shares some of her successes and gives advice to those who are striving to make it in the industry – See her full interview below!
Who were you listening to before sitting down to answer all these questions?
I’m listening to the new Kehlani album right now It came out last night at midnight so I’m having my first listen and it’s so good.
Prince or Michael Jackson?
Michael Jackson, only because I was introduced to his music so much earlier than Prince – and therefore he probably made more of an impact!
Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles?
Stevie Wonder! This is so tough!!
Tupac or Biggie?
Why are you guys doing this to me! I’m just going to say Biggie because I know more of his music, but I think both were absolutely crucial to music history and culture.
John Mayer or Allen Stone?
Okay now you’ve made this personal. John is more of an idol in my eyes. His music has been a part of me since I’ve been a musician and I still can’t comprehend how he wrote some of the songs he has. Allen Stone changed my world though. His live show introduced me to SOUL and what a true PERFORMANCE was. Also, I met him after one of his shows and cried the whole way home because I was so happy.. so I guess I choose Allen.
Name 3 musicians/groups that you will listen to for the rest of your life:
I will definitely listen to both John (Mayer) and Allen (Stone) for the rest of my life. Probably Lianne La Havas as well.
What style would YOU call your music?
The album I released in 2015 was definitely in the singer/songwriter pop genre, but the music I’m working on releasing this year is a lot more current and soulful, with less of an acoustic sound. I don’t really care what genre my music falls in, as long as it has emotion, soul, and listeners feel the groove.
What is one of your 1st musical memories as a kid?
My earliest memory of music was when I was four years old and my mom ran a daycare at our house. One of the toys we had was a toy piano, but it only had four keys and it was backwards (meaning the highest notes were to the left and lowest were to the right). Anyway, I remember showing her that I figured out how to play Marry Had A Little Lamb on it using my ear. Our family friend was standing next to her and was so impressed that she gifted me piano lessons for my 5th birthday. Thus began my relationship with music. I stayed with those lessons for 12 years until I switched over to guitar
First song you ever wrote; What was it about? Still play it today?
The first song I ever wrote was called “2am Breakdown” and I was about 14 or 15. I had just gotten off the phone with my freshly turned ex-boyfriend because we were both trying to stay friends, but he kept going on and on about a new girl he already had a crush on. (Looking back now that was very intentional of him and I should have laughed about it) but instead I wrote a poem about how I’m fine during the day until I’m alone in my room and have a ‘2am breakdown.’
No, I don’t ever play it anymore (despite my family’s very flattering pleas). I think it was a well written song for 15 year old me, and should remain that way haha.
Where is your “creative space,” and what time of day generally brings the most inspiration?
I like to write where I’m comfortable; I think that’s where the spark usually comes. So, in my room or bathroom is where almost every song has been written. I also have to be alone or I can’t focus. I feel like the other person in the room is judging the song way before it’s ready, even if only subconsciously.
Tell us about some of your most proud achievements / awards as a musician:
I’ve had a few moments of “oh wow this is pretty cool” throughout my journey with music; Being nominated for the San Diego Music Awards, playing the House Of Blues, or releasing my first album – but I’d have to say what I’m most proud of are the little things, like when someone tells me one of my songs really helped them out or made a difference in their lives. That’s why I’m involved in this industry at the end of the day, and it’s the least tangible thing to measure, so I think I’m the most proud when I can connect with people.
Tell us about one of the best gigs you ever played:
One of the best gigs I’ve ever played was actually my most recent show at last year’s Adams Avenue Street Fair. I already love the Street Fair; every year my friends and I get so hyped off the energy of the first day. I played the outside stage with my friends Jackson Price on bass and Kimo Shim on percussion, and I remember there being a crowd already waiting for us before we got on and while we were setting up for our set. They were chanting my name and throughout the show I noticed tons of people knew the words to my original songs. I still can’t ever describe the way that feels. I was high off that show for the next month haha.
Any local or up-and-coming musicians you love that more people need to know about?
I’ve been involved in San Diego’s local music scene for nearly 6 years now, so I’m excited about this question. I’d recommend checking out the local bands: Whimsy, Funk Shui Planet, and Caroline. Also, Steph Johnson, who is doing SO much for our community – not with just her own music, but a local San Diego choir with a beautiful story. Local Singer/Songwriters: Tolan Shaw, Courtney Preis, Sophia Bacino, Nick Crook, Dave Morris… I could go on forever!
Any advice to your younger self or other musicians starting out?
My advice to anyone starting out.. Man, you really gotta love what you’re doing for the right reasons. It’s all about balance. Set goals, but don’t get so caught up in them that you don’t enjoy your current place in your career. Things can take a looooot longer than you expect, and if you are tunnel vision focused on selling out an arena, you’ll miss out on the beauty (and feeling of accomplishment) of playing your first packed coffeehouse! The smallest steps forward are still a step forward. Besides, if it all worked out in just a year or two, how boring would that story be??
Want to catch her live >> Raelee’s Calendar