Tennessee born and raised, Rachel McIntyre Smith is inspired by country music’s most standout women: Shania Twain, Kacey Musgraves, Linda Ronstadt and Taylor Swift. Smart lyrics are her signature, and although the pandemic cut her Cat Cafe Tour short, it hasn’t slowed her down. She’s just released her latest single, Baggage, and we found time to sit down and ask the important questions – like #whatmadeyoucountry.
To me, country music is storytelling. It’s learning about the artists’ experiences and life lessons. I think that’s why I feel so connected to country musicians. With each new song, I’m learning more about that artist, and feel like I’m listening to a friend. I hope that people will listen to my music in the same way.
I love making country music because of the emphasis on the lyrics. Most of the listeners don’t just want to hear something catchy or repetitive. They want to hear the stories and the meaning behind the song whether it be hilarious or heartbreaking. I put a lot of thought into each word that I write, and I like having listeners that appreciate that.
The first country song that I distinctly remember listening to is Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine”. I think I first heard it on a Country CD commercial on TV Land, but I had only heard the chorus. I downloaded it to a tiny green mp3 player that I won in 3rd grade for reading a bunch of books. I listened to it on repeat when I push mowed the front lawn, and it made me feel like I was in a completely different place. Even though I was 9 years old, had never been in love, and knew nothing about strawberry wine, I felt so connected to the song. That’s the power of country music.
When I listened to the album “Fearless” by Taylor Swift, I was inspired to start writing songs. I had been writing poetry since I was 6 years old (because my mom is a writer) and I had been taking piano lessons for a few years at that point, but I didn’t mix the poetry and the music until I heard “Fearless”. I looked at Taylor Swift and saw someone who made incredible music but also seemed relatable & down to earth. She seemed like the type of person I could become friends with, and that made my dreams seem attainable. Since then I’ve been the biggest Taylor Swift fan, and her songwriting continues to inspire me.
If I could only listen to one country album for the next decade, it would be “Pageant Material” by Kacey Musgraves! I’ve listened to that album from top to bottom more times that I can count, and I still find new things to love about it each time I listen to it. There’s not a single song that I skip on it. The album is very cohesive not just through the instrumentation but through the songwriting- and I love it. This album really inspired my songwriting, and I think that is evident in my song “High School Reunion”.
Here are five of the songs most influential to me.
(Listen to the full playlist here on Spotify.)
I’m a big advocate for listening to Christmas music all year long. I actually still have my Christmas tree up. Hard Candy Christmas really hit home this past Christmas when we couldn’t see family or friends to celebrate. That’s the beauty of Dolly’s music. Even though she released this song in 1982, her music is still relevant today.
I’ve had Willin stuck in my head a lot recently. This song really speaks to me about perseverance because pursuing a career in music is certainly not easy. It’s difficult to deal with frequent rejection, but I’m still willin’.
When I was in middle school, I used to lipsync You Belong With Me in the mirror every night before I went to bed. These lyrics are so honest and so relatable- it feels like you are reading a page from her diary. This song taught me that sometimes you need to write straight from your heart. Even though you may feel alone and isolated, there is a good chance that someone out there will be able to relate to your exact situation.
As a girl who grew in the south who never felt like pageant material, I really relate to this song. One thing I admire about Kacey’s songwriting is her ability to slip jokes into her songs. I love the line “life ain’t always roses and pantyhose”. I think it’s fun to put puns and jokes in my songs, and I learned that from Kacey.
When I was in high school, I played the lead role in a cowgirl version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of The Shrew”. I sang Any Man Of Mine in that play, and since then it’s been my go-to karaoke song. Shania’s confident energy has really inspired my music, and I think that is evident in my latest release “Baggage”.