Turn it Down Q&A: Rachel Curtis talks ‘American Idol,’ new singles

Lansing-based singer-songwriter headlines Mac’s Bar

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Saturday, Dec. 21 @ Mac’s Bar, 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. All ages, $12, $10 adv., 7 p.m.

Since her professional starting point in 2014, Lansing-based songwriter Rachel Curtis has kept busy gigging across the state, even venturing to Nashville and Chicago. Along the way, she’s warmed up stages for the likes of Gladys Knight and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Last year, she even auditioned on “American Idol”— although a bout of food poisoning ended her journey on the hit show. Since then, Curtis has stayed busier than ever, releasing her “Senses” EP in 2018, and a series of wistful, catchy pop-rock singles throughout 2019. Fans of Heart, Florence & The Machine or Kacey Musgraves might want to visit rachelcurtismusic.com.

Curtis closes out her busy year with a headlining set at Mac’s Bar. Openers are James Gardin and Creature of One.   

You’re playing Mac’s and showcasing your new singles, including “Adam & Eve,” what inspired that song?

“Adam & Eve” was inspired by a couple friends of mine that are sisters. Their grandfather was in a nursing home struggling with dementia and was no longer able to recognize his wife. His wife passed away and that very day the family gathered at the nursing home, they all saw him talking up as if his wife’s ghost was above him. He replied with “It’s our time already?” A week after his wife, he also passed away. The song is about his wife calling him home. The imagery of heaven in the song is a biblical reference to the Garden of Eden, a place before the apple incident — a place of peace and where he can remember her again. 

Later this month, you’re releasing “Blue.” What’s the story behind that single?

I grew up hearing the old wedding saying — that a bride needs “something new, something borrowed and something blue.” This song is about finding that something blue in the man I married, in his eyes and the aura of blue that surrounds him. Like a blue mood ring means relaxation and calm, I found that in him.

“Intertwine” was released back in August, where did that single come from?

It’s about the joy of waking up to the person you love every morning and wanting that moment to last forever. It’s about having an unconditional love that intertwines two souls together and was also inspired by my marriage.

Relationships are reoccurring in your words, but “Dandelions” seems a bit different.

I wrote that song after a long car ride in the spring. I saw a huge field of dandelions and it brought back memories of when I was a kid. I used to make a wish on them and my dad got mad because he didn’t want the weed to spread throughout his lawn. In the song, dandelions are a metaphor for people who are having a hard time fitting in. People might think you’re a weed, but this song encourages people to use that power and spread your uniqueness to others in an inspiring way. The song is an anthem for people not fitting into the social norm. 

Looking back, what sticks out most about your 2018 “American Idol” experience?

I grew up watching the show and singing along with my hairbrush in hand. I’m so grateful to have been chosen out of around 45,000 auditioners to sing in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. I feel blessed they sent me and only 160 others to Hollywood with the same dream as mine. My favorite memory would probably be walking onto the Dolby Theatre stage in Hollywood and standing on the American Idol emblem where so many inspirational singers have stood before me. I believe everything is for a reason and getting food poisoning in Hollywood seemed like bad timing, but I learned so much going through that stress. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

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