TWIST hung out with singer Rachel Griffin when she stopped by the offices! She spilled about her YouTube covers, writing her own songs, and moving to New York! To find out what makes her different and unique, check out our exclusive Q&A and video below!
TWIST: Could you describe your sound?
Rachel Griffin: It's jazzy-pop, sort of Norah Jones meets Taylor Swift. I studied classical and jazz piano, so I incorporated some of those styles. I also studied the pop piano legends, like Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Carole King, and Elton John. Taylor Swift meets Norah Jones because it's got jazz chords, but some of the songs are very pop.
TWIST: What has been your favorite song to cover on YouTube?
RG: I think going out of my comfort zone and doing "Love the Way You Lie" by Eminem and Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj's Superbass because it was really out of the box for me, so I had a lot of fun doing the rap. I really like the song "Home" by Phillip Phillips that I just did also. It has a really nice message, and it was fun to take something on guitar and put it to piano, 'cause that's always a challenge.
TWIST: Are there any songs you haven't covered yet that you're really dying to do?
RG: I just did "Stay" by Rihanna and that was really nice. I love the piano part, so it was really fun. I don't have anything in mind for right now, 'cause I just did that one.
TWIST: How do you choose which songs to cover?
RG: It has to be something that hits me right away and that I really enjoy listening to. If you want to do a cover and you want to do a really good job, you have to listen to it in your earphones a thousand times. If it's something I don't like, I can't cover it because I wouldn't enjoy doing it, and it takes a lot of energy to learn a cover. For people who want to do YouTube covers, the way to get noticed is to do a really great job and to memorize the song and to play it in time and have your instrument be tuned if you're playing guitar. You can't just learn one in an hour; you have to put time into it. If something hits me on the radio so that I think "That would be cool to do an acoustic version" 'cause it would sound really different or it'd be a challenge to make it my own, I cover it. With a cover, it's not as interesting if you can't make it your own, then you're just copying something and there's not a creative aspect.
TWIST: How is doing your own songs different from covering songs for you? Do you like one more than the other?
RG: Learning covers and learning songs that you really enjoy is going to come out in your writing -- it's gonna help you with form and musicality. It's all really helpful! I prefer writing. I love covering songs and I'm inspired by tons of artists, but writing is a really neat process that I have always enjoyed since I was a little girl.
TWIST: What can we expect from your original music?
RG: I think the songs are really honest, and very emotional. A lot of them are inspiring and they're about breaking the limits that people set on you, or having confidence in yourself. But I have a lot of funny ways of expressing how I feel in songs! I have a song called "Pillow Smiles" that's about having a crush. You're smiling every night thinking about them, so I call it pillow smiles. Then I have a song called "Apple pie" about how I thought this guy was my apple pie with ice cream on the side, but then he broke up with me, so my apple pie's still in the oven cooking. I like to find unique analogies to tell stories with my songs. Like "you have summer touch" instead of saying "you have an amazing touch." Find a way to say "you have an amazing touch" that's never been said! When I teach songwriting I talk about that. That's what I learned in my songwriting classes.
TWIST: What do you think about when you perform? Where's your brain-space?
RG: Recently I've been trying to figure out what the best space to be in is. Should I have a completely open mind and be totally present, or should I be trying to convey the same emotion? I've read some books on performance and asked some experts, and what they say is to have an invisible partner that you're talking to. If I'm singing the song "Apple Pie," I'm picturing this guy that just broke up with me, and I'm saying, "I thought that you were my apple pie with ice cream on the side." Then I'm really giving the emotion and I think I did that at my past show. I tried to apply all those things, and people were saying "You seem really connected to the music tonight, and you seem more connected than the last time I saw you," so I think that that was really good advice!
TWIST: You have a song called "I'm Different." What do you think makes YOU different than other artists?
RG: I'm so excited for that to come out, it's coming out in a few days! I take a lot of pride in the fact that I play the piano on every track, and that I write the songs alone and I don't have any co-writers as of yet. I have about a hundred and fifty songs that are finished! I'm a music nerd too! I really encourage my fans to work hard at something, learn an instrument and dedicate a lot of time, not just Twitter and Facebook all day! Even though I love Twitter and I love Facebook sometimes I have to say, "Hey, Rach, you've been tweeting all day, you've been waiting for an email, it's time to really sit down and work hard at your instrument. Working hard brings long-term joy to you." I think I'm quirky and strange, but in a cute way! I don't necessarily go along with the norm, I try and create my own path!
TWIST: What was it like moving to New York to pursue music?
RG: That was crazy because I was in Maine, and everybody said, "Somebody's gonna get you on the subway! You'll never come back if you move to New York!" I was so scared, and everybody said "I don't think you can live in New York 'cause you're too friendly, you're gonna try and hug everybody, it's just not gonna work out." People were really, honestly worried. So, I was on Craigslist, and I saw an ad [that said] "Come to New York and babysit" so I packed all my bags and I even packed my keyboard and I just got on a bus and I just came! It was scary, my mom said she thought I was gonna come home in a week, and I did call in a week and I was like, "Oh my god Mom!" But, when you have a passion and you're really committed to it, you'll do anything! It was the best move, there's a Mark Twain quote that says "Twenty years from now you'll be more likely to regret the things you didn't do than the ones you did," and I read that quote and that pushed me over the edge. I didn't want to be ninety with my little dog Boo-boo going "I'm gonna move to NEW YORK one day." You want to say one day to your kids you did everything you wanted to do, and you really went for it. I didn't want to have regret, and it's been the best decision of my life! I met my Prince Charming in New York. It was just perfect. It was meant to be!