Nashville’s Rainee Blake On Bringing Her Music Home To Australia

24 February 2022 | 11:43 am | Mallory Arbour

Nashville's Rainee Blake returns to Australia for her first show in over three years with dates at the Adelaide Fringe and Lazybones Lounge Restaurant and Bar in Marrickville, NSW

More Rainee Blake More Rainee Blake

Australian-born singer-songwriter, musician and actress, Rainee Blake returns to Australia for her first show in over three years. Best known for her role as Alannah in CMT’s hit show Nashville, Rainee has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and venues all over Nashville and LA where she is now based.

Following the show’s conclusion, she released an EP of original music. Fool for Love (2018) was a follow up to her 2014 debut self-titled EP. She also penned the one-woman show Take Me As I Am: An Evening with Joni Mitchell and has toured it internationally including at The National Folk Festival in Australia.

She will perform over two nights sharing her intimate and soulful solo music as well as songs from Nashville for her first time at Adelaide Fringe on March 2nd and 3rd. She will also stage a full band show at Lazybones Lounge Restaurant and Bar in Marrickville in NSW on March 9.

With influences ranging from 1960s soul, folk and pop, the resulting music combines Rainee’s soft spot for simple vintage sounds with her love of modern R&B. She draws inspiration from classic artists like Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Roberta Flack as well as contemporaries Sara Bareilles and Lake Street Dive.


You’re in Australia to perform for the first time in three years. You’ll be performing at the Adelaide Fringe on March 2 and 3 and Lazybones Lounge Restaurant and Bar in Marrickville in NSW on March 9. What do you have planned for these shows?

I originally did a podcast with Benjamin, who's helping me book the shows. He's a big Nashville fan, and a big fan of me. I've always wanted to play the Adelaide Fringe – it's an amazing festival from what I hear (this will be my first time going) – and the show will be a combination of my own original music, unreleased songs, songs from Nashville, as well as some songs that my character sang on the show. 

Join our community with our FREE weekly newsletter

Every time I play shows, particularly if it's a solo show, my number one thing is creating an intimate space for people to connect with the music. That's always my main intention moving into doing live shows in general. Can I be totally connected with myself in the songs and hopefully inspire that level of connection and presence in the audience? I love performing live. It's literally my favourite thing to do. 

The vision I have for the shows is focused on bringing people into and closer into my world, full of songs about love, life, fucking up and keeping on going. I'm excited to talk about my experience on the show too – that'll be part of it too. I've been living in the States now for five years. I've lived in Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco – I've popped around quite a bit – so I think some of those stories will be interwoven into the night as well.

Your solo music has more of a soul edge to it whereas the songs from Nashville might be a little further removed from that kind of sound. Are you going to change the composition of those songs to fit your set or are you going to stay true to how they were performed on the series?

It'll be pretty much like how they are in the show. What I loved about the songs from the show… and this is something now that I'm working as a music supervisor and composer for some different film projects as well, I'm seeing the other side of what it means to curate music for specific scenes and things like that. Fascinating. Loving it. 

What's so great is these moments of depth and intimacy between characters. A lot of the time, Alannah is moving through a lot of her own trauma around her past relationships while she's experiencing new relationships with one of the many gorgeous men on the show [laughs] and so then the songs get put into these moments where sometimes words and dialogue can’t exactly express the subtleties and nuances of her experience. A lot of the songs in the show are stripped back to guitar and voice, and it helps to propel the story and the audience's understanding and empathy towards her. I love that. 

And one of my songs is in the show. I don’t know if fans know this, but I was lucky enough to write Treading Water with my good friend Frankie. It's right when Alannah is performing doing her first big performance. We wrote a song that makes sense for that point in the story of Alannah’s experience and what it feels like to be so afraid of love, and yet, at the same time, crave it so deeply. 

The reason I asked that question is because you’ll be singing songs based on the life of a character you’ve played, one who may or may not necessarily share similarities with your personal life. It’s unique. I’m interested how that’ll play amongst your personal songs. 

Yeah, I think that's a good point. I think artists are storytellers in an interpretation sense. A lot of famous singers and musicians don't sing their own songs. They find pathways into telling the truth of those stories through their own experience. What makes an artist really great is their ability to do that. 

For me, those songs from the show, I connect with them so deeply, because I experienced them in a way. I have memories associated with them, so that helps to bring them to life. I do a one-woman Joni Mitchell show as well – and that's the same thing – I play her in character, but I still find my own way to personalise something that isn't experienced. I find that a fulfilling thing to do as a musician.

It sounds eclectic. Would you say your music is best defined as “genreless” then?

It's hard. I think genre is important to think about in terms of figuring out your sound, but I think a person’s sound and brand can be an amalgamation of genres, so having to pick one, that's never appealed to me. 

Something I've landed on recently is probably soulful, 70s, singer, songwriter… something like that. That's the best way I could describe what my current genre is but it's fun to experiment. It's nice not to be boxed in but people love to box you in this industry. If it had to be a generic genre it would probably be singer-songwriter because that covers cover quite a few genres. 

Can you spill any details on any new music releases or otherwise that you’ve been working on?

I've been working with this one producer, Erik Groysman, and he's fantastic. He's the same producer I've been working with on this feature film project that we've been co-composing. The film is set in 1971 so a lot of the songs we are doing for the film are inspired by that time – and, of course, that's my favourite year in music. [Carole King’s] Tapestry came out that year, so did Joni Mitchell's Blue

So, the new stuff we're doing for my solo project is influenced by that definitely. It's stripped back. It's honest. The vocals are really close – it's almost like you're lying in bed with me. There's a real intimacy to it that is reflected in the lyrics as well. Thematically, songs of affirmation, songs that inspire you, to bring you closer to yourself. They're funky. They're soulful. They have a lot of natural instruments. I've been listening to a lot of soft rock from like the 70s and I really love it. It's cheesy dad music. I think that might be like my favourite genre, which is embarrassing. I'm a dag sometimes [laughs]. 

I'm putting out a couple of new singles this year. The new stuff I'm putting out bridges all of the genres I've been exploring so far in my career. There are country elements and soft rock elements. I was also in a film last year where I play Rita Coolidge, who is a famous singer from the 70s. She was married to Kris Kristofferson. That's all the information I can give at the moment, but it was very fun. That comes out later this year.

You grew up in Sydney, Australia but mentioned earlier that you’ve been living in the United States for five years now. What are the best and worse things about living in Los Angeles?

I live right on Venice Beach, practically half a block from the beach so I love that. I haven't always lived this close to the ocean, but I grew up by the beach, so it feels at very home for me. The worst thing, which is so cliché, is the traffic. Maybe something a little more interesting that's annoying is there's a lot of different kinds of people in LA. A lot of people come to LA to make it and end up not. There's a lot of rage, resentment and craziness that comes along with different people's reactions to that death of a dream. In Australia, people are really grounded, make fun of themselves easily, and can have a laugh, but sometimes the culture in LA can be a bit more serious and high strung, I guess.

That comes with Australia’s Tall Poppy Syndrome I imagine too.

Yeah, it used to really annoy me. A big reason I like it [in the US] is that people are really encouraging. The self-promotion thing that is really discouraged in Australian culture is super encouraged [in the US]. And if you're gonna hustle and be an independent artist, you need to be okay with promoting yourself. That's just the kind of a world that we live in. 

Many of our readers would recognise you from the American musical soap opera television series, Nashville. Were you familiar with its music culture before you appeared on the show?

I hadn't been to Nashville until I went there to shoot so it was a whole new world for me. Living in Nashville, I became totally obsessed with it. I lived in a hip part of town and went out to all the great bars and clubs and saw music of a high calibre every night. Now I have several pairs of cowboy boots and I love to rock a bolo tie. I love the culture so much. There are such good songwriters in that town that it inspires you to up your game because the standard is just so high. 

I was a fan of country music before but not to the extent I am now. I love old country like Johnny Cash and Bonnie Raitt. Cassadee Pope, I love. I know her personally [through] Gunnar from the show – they’re a couple so I got quite into her music. Kacey Musgraves, I really like. I like a lot of stuff that is a blend [of genres]. All my friends in Nashville who are dope, they’re all independent artists – Guthrie Brown, Zach Torres, Hadley Kennary, Bre Kennedy, I love all of them.

Did you have any input in helping to create your character Alannah or her story?

A little bit. It was my idea to have purple hair [laughs] because I had had purple hair a couple of years before we did the show and one of the show runners saw that photo and really loved that. Honestly, I loved how she was a total badass. She was killing it and challenging people. 

Her arc in the end [which is very similar to the stories told by Harvey Weinstein accusers], around that time was soon after the Me Too movement was making a lot of headway in the press. That was cool to be able to tell a story that felt in alignment with my own ideals and beliefs around women taking centre stage in the music industry and other industries separate from the sexuality. I think women sometimes have storylines that aren't always uplifting, and it was nice to have one that, yes, she had challenges, not everyone always liked her, but she persevered, came out the other end and had something to be proud of that she stood for. I loved that. It was a really cool part of the story.

Your character was also involved in a love triangle with Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson). On a personal note, I’ve been a fan of the latter since I was a teenager and watching those scenes in Nashville between the two of you, I would have been fangirling if I had been in your position [laughs]. 

Yeah, I was a bit of a homewrecker. The character was a bit of a sex pot. It was fun. Actually, someone on Twitter called me “the purple headed temptress” and I'll carry that with me to the grave [laughs]. 

There's a movie [called Tuck Everlasting] that came out in the early 2000s. It was magical. I used to love that movie! When I knew I was going to be doing the show, I didn't know yet that he was going to be one of my love interests because I was connected with Gunnar first. Once I did find out I was, I totally fangirled as well [laughs]. He's married and has three kids, so it's always an interesting line to skirt. You’ve got to be professional, but you still get to enjoy it [laughs].

[Jonathan] is so lovely. Everyone in the cast was so welcoming and lovely, so that really helps to put you at ease after you get over your initial nerves of the first few months of shootings.


To keep up to date with Rainee Blake, follow her on Facebook here.

For more in-depth interviews from CountryTown, check out here.