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Talking with Teni Rane about old influences and new releases

28 August 2023

When we last spoke, you were in the middle of releasing the songs that made up the Meet Me In Stockholm series; how did that go?

It was a huge learning experience for me! I took a lot of what I picked up during that set of releases and am benefiting from those lessons now with this set of singles. With “Meet Me in Stockholm,” it was special and fun to have a nod to that strand in my life. Having had the chance to live and work in Sweden a couple of times means that there are little parts of my heart in the places and with the people I connected with. That song holds a lot of wistful energy of wanting to be in two places at once and learning how to lean into the present experience and look forward as well.

The holiday songs that followed – “Cozy Inside,” “Rosemary & Evergreen,” and “Tennessee Snow” – were impactful releases for me also because they gave me a chance to claim and share my little piece of the holiday season and celebrate the traditions I love about that time of year. I’m planning for a full holiday/winter album in the future, and releasing a few tracks early gives me the chance to cyclically revisit them every year with my fans as I continue to build the other recordings.

And did you tour those songs? If so, how was that?

I had a mini-tour arranged mostly around the releases of the three holiday originals that were released in November – December of 2022 (after “Meet Me in Stockholm” was released). It made the most sense at the time, based on the time of year. It was really enjoyable to travel with those songs from Chattanooga, TN up through Knoxville, TN and then the Tri-Cities area in northeast Tennessee and over into the Asheville, NC area as well! One of the songs – “Cozy Inside” – lends itself to having the audience involved and singing along with me, and I really enjoyed bringing people closer to the songs in that way!

Having the chance to share in making that cold (and sometimes dreary) time of year a little brighter and merrier is always special to me, and it was even more fun to be sharing my own experience of the season through original songs and find so many folks that connected with the feelings and the imagery in the songs. One of my favorite stops was the WDVX Blue Plate Special in Knoxville, TN – I’m really excited to be back there soon to share more about “The Goldenrod Singles” on September 28th!

You have embraced the same gradual release approach for “Goldenrod” and the associated releases. What are the advantages of working in such a fashion?

It’s important for an independent artist to be okay with trying out different strategies to engage with fans. Releasing songs in batches gives me the opportunity to have a portion of the year where there is a steady flow of information coming out and something that is promotable in the present tense and not solely in the future tense.

Especially where these songs – “The Goldenrod Singles” – are building towards an album that is much closer on the time horizon than the albums that will accompany last year’s releases, I hope that it will help lay the groundwork for more singles from the album next year and then being able to finally present the whole collection in the back half of the year (and have physical vinyl and CDs and other merch too!). For me, it also helps chop the project up into manageable bites. I have the overarching vision for the album, the selection of songs, and the story I am wrapping my arms around – and an album is a BIG project for an independent musician from every perspective – including financially.

I’ve found that this approach gives me the chance to really focus on each song within the context of the group and let each one have its own personality and storyline while metering out the budget in a timeline that feels safer. In most areas of my life, I’ve found that taking that “one-step-at-time” approach works really well for me when tackling big projects, and this is one of the biggest projects I’ve taken on in many ways. It has been really challenging to juggle all the pieces and parts of planning and managing all the different efforts it takes to bring the vision together and to keep it on track – I’m very proud of the efforts that have gone into it artistically and logistically.

Tell me a bit about what the listeners can expect from this new quartet of singles.

“The Goldenrod Singles” are definitely tied together thematically. Lyrically, these songs paint the landscapes and containers for memories and events – in some cases, almost pop-in moments into a train of thought.

Musically, we worked hard to build the landscapes and containers for each story: In “Goldenrod,” I hope they hear the bees floating over the fields, the wind rustling through the blooms, the water sliding and splashing over the mountain streambeds. When I close my eyes and listen back to what we created with the music, it puts me in those environments in the mountains of East Tennessee.

In “Cinnamon,” there is the kitchen floor reflecting morning light, the warmth of coffee, the staged laughter, and the inevitability of change sliding through the song as the cello swells and the story takes an unexpected turn.

In “Caramel,” the sultry, shadowy, wicked gravity of a full moon and the half-hidden vibrancy of a swirl of autumn leaves are like heartbeats and brain chemicals, the flash of fiery colors fluttering in an inviting breeze.

In “Cold Wind (Ghost),” that chatty inner voice that is crying to be heard and loved and safe, the feeling of separation melting away as we learn to meet and see ourselves as a whole and not only a collection of past selves.

This collection of songs is the lead-off for a full album project I am in the process of recording at Classic Recording Studio in Bristol, TN. The album will share the name of the title track – “Goldenrod” – and is on track to be released in 2024. I’m excited to be headed back up to Bristol in September to work on another set of 4 tracks with Dave, Phil, and Mike!

Are there any specific influences on your music, both in the form of other artists and perhaps from outside the music world?

Scenes from everyday life and the emotional fabric that underpins human interactions really grab my attention. The way the natural world around me moves, changes, and shifts through the year is also something that influences my writing and communication style as a songwriter. And then, of course, there is a whole stack of writers that I’ve been exposed to and absorbed lessons from through listening.

When I was very young, I spent a lot of Saturday nights at a local Coffeehouse that hosted traveling singer-songwriters. So many incredible folks came through there – Cosy Sheridan, Buddy Mondlock, Pierce Pettis, Beth Woods (just to name a few!). Each Saturday was a masterclass in storytelling and songwriting. I’ve carried a lot of that into my personal songwriting. Of course, I’ve also been steeped in popular music of the ages, too!

I grew up listening to CDs in the back of a minivan, and we always loved shuffling through The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, John Prine. I think each sound, each song, and each sonic experience that I have continues to shape my ears and my style. It’s really an interesting exercise to experience music and say, “What did I like about that? What didn’t work for me?

How does it compare or contrast to what I am doing/my current sound?” and then roll that info into what I am doing. There are SO many incredible artists in the world, and as long as there is music to write and to listen to, I’ll be absorbing, learning, and shaping my central sound. I really admire a lot of strong female artists not only for their music and vision but also for what they are doing to shape the music industry today and into the future.

There has always been an elemental streak to your songs, lyrics about full moons and cold winds, autumn breeze, and flowers swaying. Do you set out to paint such visual pictures with your music, or does it just seem to appear in the lyrics?

This collection, in particular, is very much related to and inspired by taking note of the change in the annual seasons. The overarching theme is an exploration into where I go in times of change and challenge and is largely inspired by the shoulder season between the intense final heat of summer and the eventual cooling into the autumn. Noticing how the world around me moves through its life in different moments is comforting to me, and pulling that imagery in and anchoring the songs around very visual spaces brings more senses to the table besides just the ears!

I’m a very visual person – in learning style and also in communication style – and that comes out in my lyrics often. Songwriting is a form of communication, and choosing the image painted and understanding some of the context of the elemental streak really impacts the way a song arrives to a listener. For instance: “cool breeze” – pleasant; maybe we are relaxing on a hot day, and this breeze is simply dancing beside us and providing some relief; “cold wind” – probably not so pleasant, more of a feeling of overexposure and being unprotected from this element, something to try to move away from.

These songs are reactions to events and memories in my life and are integral pieces for me in getting curious about how I react or respond to the past in my present. Even though these songs come from very specific moments in life, the themes and emotions that I’m dealing with in my writing are so universal: discomfort in the face of change, fear of losing ourselves and our identities, anxiety about all the unknowns in life, the constant effort needed to return to who we are at our core.

The last eight months of my life have been full of messy navigating, and it seems like, as humans, we all go through times of intense change and introspection at some point or another (maybe several times). This set of songs (both current releases and the rest of the album to come in 2024) feels like an important step in easing some of that tension in my life so I can continue to move forward both personally and professionally as a musician/artist. Visualizing that through song imagery and also how I want to shape my life over the next several years is helpful.

And, as always, what plans do you have for the future? Are the new songs going to take you out on the road, and beyond that, what does the future have in store for you?

There are so many things in the works right now! I’ll be heading back into the studio with four more titles in September (these are also planned to be on the Goldenrod album). I’m working with an incredible videographer for a dance-based video for “Goldenrod” (the single) that I hope will be ready for release in October. I’m taking steps toward another original holiday song being completed, and I have several shows coming up for a “mini-tour” supporting these upcoming releases. It’s a whirlwind of items, and I definitely have lots and lots of lists to help me keep track of all the different pieces and parts. :) There is an undercurrent of small steps towards many goals and projects right now. It may take several more years to see it all come to life – but right now, I’m trying to keep reminding myself that it isn’t just about where I’m going but also where I’ve been and about being where I am much joy as I can muster.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me and best of luck with everything in the future.

2023 Releases:
8/4 – “Goldenrod” – stream now
9/1 – “Cinnamon” – available on Patreon and Bandcamp
9/29 – “Caramel” – Pre-save now
10/27 – “Cold Wind (Ghost)”

Teni Rane Tour Dates:
8/24 – Chattanooga, TN – House Concert
9/02 – Chattanooga, TN – Music at the Acres
9/15 – Red Bank, TN – Red Bank City Food Truck Fridays
9/28 – Knoxville, TN – WDVX – The Blue Plate Special
9/29 – Abingdon, VA – Tumbling Creek Cider
9/30 – Emory, VA – WEHC 90.7 – Appalachian Artists the Basement Sessions
9/30 – Kingsport, TN – House Concert
10/14 – Chattanooga, TN – Highland Park Porchfest

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