CD Focus


Rachel Merchand


The Ashling

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The Ashling 
by Rachel Merchand

CEV:  Tell me about when it was that you knew music was going to be an important part of your life and how that grew from your earlier performances at age 13 until you were 21.  

RM:  It was actually funny how I ended up on stage. I was in 8th grade and they were preparing for a graduation ceremony at school and the boy who was singing the alto part of the farewell song couldnít hit the notes very strong. I think it was my sister who suggested I help out and I nailed it the first try Ė it was hilarious that I could sing lower then this kid! From there I kept performing as needed with the school band and at church til I graduated. There were a couple years where I didnít perform at all Ė I was more focused on career, except I do remember wanting to sing but there seemed to be no outlet to do so. I ended up hanging around this coffeehouse that was a little over an hour from my parents house where I was living at the time in NH. A lot of the people who hung out there were musicians which somehow sparked the passion that I once had for musicÖ I had a few ups and downs with music, but somehow Iíve never let go. I never thought Iíd want to sing full time or play music on the road, but Iím in love with it!

CEV:  What music business lessons did you learn by independently recording and releasing your first EP New Version of Me back in 2003? Were you ever discouraged by what you had to go through to get your music on CD and then get the CD heard by those who might buy it?  

RM:  I was so naÔve when I recorded my first EP. It was my very first time in the studio. I was proud of the product because I knew of nothing else and I had paid for the project all by myself. As months passed the flaws of the CD really came out Ė they werenít huge, but I knew that I needed something that represented me more. For the next album I knew that I needed a producer to co-produce with me to achieve the sound that was in my head, a decent studio and musicians to back me. I saw the necessity to have the album mastered as well. I still sell the EP but its much less produced Ė very dry/acoustic which is cool for the die hard acoustic fan. Iím glad to have released an EP well before my full length to test out marketing fields.

CEV:  It was the release of this first recording that shifted your view of your career from part time to full time. Did you start writing the music for The Ashling when you moved to Charlotte, NC?

RM:  The Ashling was pretty much sparked by the move to Charlotte. I had wanted to record again soon after the release of my EP cause I felt like something was missing from that recording. It was tough moving to a new city Ė me being the Vermont country girl Ė I knew one person here. On top of that, it was the first time I was out on my own with all those fun things that come every month called bills. I got very down about life cause I really wanted to do music, but I knew that I wanted to attempt to do it differently then those around me. I wanted to remain independent as long as possible and support recording costs myself. So that took a toll on me working full time and at the same time wanting to be out singing, but it also helped to write the album. There are two songs on from my EP that I re-recorded and Iím so glad that I did. The first time around, they really were not given justice.  

The Ashling was written from a personal perspective, but itís not your typical singer/songwriter acoustic album. Even though its been a tough journey, I always knew there was hopeÖ and I think the Ashling reflects that.

CEV:  When you started composing The Ashling did you have a theme in mind for what the CD as a whole would be about? If you don't have a theme do you just write songs and see where they lead?  

RM:  No, the album is actually just 10 songs I wrote over the course of 3 years. Most are about love, waiting for love, and life. I have this thing where I donít push myself to write music. Yes, itís true you can grow a lot as a musician the more you write, but this is my passion - Iím trying my best to keep it that way.


When Iím feeling a certain way, Iíll break out the guitar or jot down some lyrics and from there a song comes out. Sometimes Iíll write a chorus first and then verses to follow or write all the music and then write the lyricsÖ I really donít have a formula

CEV:  Do you set aside chunks of time during the course of a day where you say I'm going to be creative and then write your songs? Or do you write when the inspiration hits you?

RM:  I actually work full time as a web developer, so I donít have too much time if you think about working full time 8-5 and then going home and working til about 2am on the business side of music and responding to fans. My weekends are consumed by shows and additional business needs and errands. I find very little time to be creative, but when the inspiration hits, its almost always good! 

CEV:  Where did the inspiration come from for the music on The Ashling? Are the songs of The Ashling very personal in nature or do they come from the world around you like a commentary?

RM:  Since I write on inspiration, Iíll just be feeling a certain way and write from that. They all have meaning to whatever is going on in my life at that time. I love it when people ask me what they mean and I explain it to them and they can relate. Thatís probably one of the most encouraging thing to keep going is knowing that the listeners are touched by the words and music.

CEV:  Did you have more than enough songs for this CD and if so how did you go about separating the ones you would use from the ones that you would keep for a future project?

RM:  I actually put all of the new songs I completed and then filled the holes with the 2 from the EP. I hope to start writing more songs, possibly co-writing to extend my song writing ability. Iím starting to branch out and try different tuningsÖ as of now, Iím a huge fan of the capo Ė as all my songs are written with the helps of one!

CEV:  When was it that you took what you had written and took it into the studio to start the recording process for The Ashling?  

RM:  I was ready to record back in November of 2004 or so I thought! I had originally booked studio time in a town near Winston-Salem, NC at a very small independent studio, but it fell through. It wasnít too long after all that went down that I was referred to the studio I ended up recording at. I started recording in August of 2005 and finished mixing in September, then released it in October of that year. It was crazy and Iím not sure
Iíd choose to do it that way again.

CEV:  Do you enjoy the studio work as much as you enjoy the actual writing and composing of the music itself?

RM:  I loved being in the studio. In fact, I remember calling my sister and telling her I wished I could be there every day. She told me if I were there every day I wouldnít enjoy it as much Ė maybe true! Writing a song and then recording it is so different. Itís like two different worlds. When I write, itís me and the guitar; in the studio, itís me, then the guitar, then every other instrument stacked up on each otherÖ I love the dimension of recording, but then again I love the intimacy of just me and the guitar.

CEV:  Tell me about the people that you chose to bring this project to life in the studio. In other words who besides yourself helped to make The Ashling what it became in its final form and why did you choose them?

RM:  I had a number of amazing musicians help on The Ashling. Almost all of them I had met during my time here in Charlotte. Kevin DeShields was actually the friend who asked me to move here to do music together back in 2003. He helped out with sequencing and I was so excited to have him be apart of the project. I met the cellist, Jennifer Millis, through Kevin. She performed with the Charlotte Junior Symphony for 6 years and that definitely showed up on the recording! Eric Gunderson performed bass. He lives in Nashville currently, but was originally from Charlotte. Heís a session bassist who owed me a favor for helping him with his website Ė so that worked out nicely! The piano player was simply amazing! Nathaniel Calnin, a fellow co-worker, was the last to join the project, but did an outstanding job. Matt Goldman, producer of many other great bands, did drums Ė he was the only hired musician to play on the album. And last but not least, my producer did a little guitar work here and there on a couple songs.

CEV:  Being an independent artist just because you finished The Ashling didn't mean that the project was on auto pilot. Tell me about what you did next to get The Ashling out into the marketplace and make sure that all your work to this point got noticed by the right people.

 RM:  I started my first online store Ė my name was perfect for I am a professional web developer/designer and itís saved me thousands of dollars in design work and web work Ė Iím so thankfull Iím good at it! As far as distribution, I started with CD Baby Ė which has opened up a bunch of doors. The album is only 3 weeks on the shelf and itís already on 7 different distros/storefronts and counting. I have a lot of friends in the industry and it seems like every time I turn around someone has a new link for me to click to get my music up online or email a new place to have it reviewed. Myspace has been a huge help and
Iím so thankful for that website Ė so many people have been able to hear my music because of them.

CEV:   Do you enjoy the marketing aspects of getting The Ashling out to the public as much as everything leading up to that point?  


RM:  I do. I love being apart of the grunt work. Iím wondering how long I will be able to keep up with it all. Some days I feel like my head is spinning and the work never seems to cease, but Iím in love with living my dreams and being able to respond to all of the emails I get. Itíll be a while before I hand over that part to anyone.

CEV:  Will you be out on the road supporting the release of The Ashling and where can CEV readers get a copy of your schedule? What do you like about performing live and what could you do without?

RM:  I perform every week about 2-3 times and sometimes more! Iím starting to venture out farther and farther from home and every time I do I have an awesome time!

I post my schedule on myspace, purevolume and

I love performing. Sometimes Iím very tired Ė that I could without, but there is always something new I learn or someone in the audience that really touches me. I love meeting people Ė everyone is so different and always has something to offer. There isnít a night I donít leave without a smile on my face.

CEV:  What kinds of feedback have you been getting since the official release of The Ashling? Does the feedback encourage you as an artist that you are on the right track artistically or does it matter what others think?  

RM:  The response has been phenomenal. Everyone that buys the album writes to say they love the cd and it hasnít left their cd player. It makes me smile every time! I am preparing for any negative emails/comments/reviews that come and I know that when they do, that I have to remember that not everyone is going to love my voice, music or style. Even the biggest stars on MTV arenít everyoneís favorites!

CEV:  Finally is there anything else about The Ashling or the creation of this music that stands out in your mind and that you would like to share with our readers? 

RM:  The one song that stands out the most to me is My Love. While recording the piano on this song, tears were streaming down my face. I tried so hard to hold them back. The whole recording process was very emotional for me. I had been waiting to do this project for almost 2 years. So much of my life was devoted to recording and releasing this album. And this song speaks so much of me. So many times I had nothing left and I felt like I couldnít go on and all I could do is sing this song. The piano and cello complete the song and definitely pull so much more emotion as the vocals ring out in desperation. I love each song on this album, but My Love is my audible heart.

CEV:  Thanks Rachel for taking time out of what is a very busy schedule to talk with us and I wish you only the best of luck in the years to come.

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