Singer-songwriter Rachel Bobbitt brings her summer soundtrack to the NAC
Rachel Bobbitt’s music is simultaneously contemplative, conversational and captivating, the kind of music that truly belongs on a summer playlist.
The Canadian singer-songwriter performs at the National Arts Center on March 11 as part of the Fridays at the Fourth series. This is Bobbitt’s NAC debut, but not his first time in Ottawa.
The 22-year-old was born just outside the city of Munster, although she doesn’t remember much about it. Her family moved to Nova Scotia when she was young and she calls the Maritime province her home.
She credits the “Down East” culture for bringing her to music.
“My family is very musical, I think that’s pretty typical of the East Coast,” says Bobbitt. “My grandfather knew how to play the violin, the piano, the guitar – just a lot of different instruments without ever having learned.”
Her mother sings and plays the piano, as does her sister. Bobbitt says his dad isn’t as musical, but he has his own passions and encouraged a creative mindset in the house.
“I took piano lessons from a very young age, then Rachel too,” says Sarah, Bobbitt’s sister. “Then she was in singing class, because obviously she showed an aptitude for it.”
Sarah, who is 18 months older, remembers how motivated Rachel was even when she was 10 or 11 years old. “When she really started singing, it was so clear she loved it. She was singing all the time,” Sarah says.
Music-loving tweens aren’t exactly uncommon, but there’s soon something that sets Bobbitt apart from his peers. Short six-second clips of her covering popular songs suddenly went viral on the now defunct video platform Vine.
“I actually remember the night one of his vines got a couple hundred views or something,” Sarah says. “She came into my room that night and she was like, ‘Sarah, look at this. This is crazy. I got about 200 views on this video of me singing. And then yeah, obviously , it took off a bit after that.
In 2016, Bobbitt had over 400,000 subscribers on the platform and over 119 million video loops. Its content then has nothing to do with what it is now, but she says she doesn’t really mind when people talk about it.
“When I was in my late teens, I was like, ‘Absolutely not. Don’t go there,” she said. “Even while it was happening, it was something that I kept really separate or tried to keep really separate from the people I knew in school because it was something that I was proud of, but at the same time a little uncomfortable.”
“I have definitely come full circle. It’s something I think I look back on with a lot more fondness for my youth. It was just a way for me to be creative.
These days, his Instagram following is just over 10,000 people. But, for Bobbitt, fewer subscribers mean more freedom. The loss of Vine wasn’t the end of the world.
“I think if Vine had continued, I would have started to feel more and more dissonance between what was expected of me and what people expected of me versus what I wanted for myself” , she says.
It would have been a shame, as the music she went on to make was arresting, something her longtime collaborator and partner, Judge Der, can attest to. The two met while attending Humber Music College in Toronto.
“His debut EP – which a lot of people overlook because it’s self-produced and self-mixed and self-released, self-written, self-everything – his debut EP really stuck with me at the time and it sticks with me. still at heart today,” he said. said.
Bobbitt doesn’t really consider Months until fall (Spotify/Apple Music/Tidal) to be his first EP, but calls it a “mixed cassette” instead. Still, it was striking enough that Der couldn’t forget the first time he heard it.
He was in his hometown of Saskatoon for the summer and had just left work, a regular three-hour gig playing guitar at a local restaurant. He saw that he had been released and listened to it on his way home.
“When peers do something that really hits you, it’s like, ‘Okay, I need to figure out my stuff,’ you know? And that was one of those times,” he says.
It’s no surprise that Bobbitt’s music resonates with Der in the summer, as the season returns multiple times throughout his discography.
“Summer, for me, is just a time when I tend to feel more creative and more connected to my friends and the earth,” says Bobbitt. “I’m definitely battling Seasonal Affective Disorder.”
His winter writing comes from a very different place, with high emotion and less nuance. Summer offers more distance, objectivity and the opportunity to take a closer look at your life.
“I can’t really figure out how to put words to what I’m feeling, but I think in the summer I’m more able to look back and describe and distinguish those emotions a little more effectively,” says Bobbitt.
The ins and outs of relationships are an inspiration to Bobbitt.
“I’m super interested in the dynamics of relationships, romantic or platonic,” she says. “Just sort of investigating those and looking at other people’s relationships and dissecting my own relationships.”
The result is lyrics that allude to his own life, but his prose also pinpoints elusive emotions that a wider audience might relate to.
“She’ll find a way to express certain experiences or emotions in a way that’s like, ‘wow, like, I’ve never been able to put this into words, but I relate to this,'” Sarah says. .
This introspective quality often makes her music sound like the score of a coming-of-age movie, but it’s no surprise to the musician. Bobbitt loves the genre and often sits in front of a movie with the sound muted while she writes songs. Some of his favorites include the cult classic support me and that of Greta Gerwig Lady Bird.
“I think it’s a combination of a storyline that I really enjoy and also where I am in my life,” she says.
In line with her songs, Bobbitt has really established herself in recent years. Last summer, she signed with Fantasy Records, an American label, and now she performs at the NAC.
“Oddly enough, this is also my first performance after COVID-19. Two years to the day,” says Bobbitt.
In true coming-of-age fashion, she’s had setbacks but always comes out the other side. Who knows what’s next for Bobbitt? Either way, she’s sure to find magic in the mystery.