With more than 17,000 YouTube views on their cover of Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Rachel Curtis and Alex Mendenall are taking the Michigan music scene by storm.
Having just met in December 2013, the duo known as Rachel & Alex has found much success with their music and have played more than 100 shows throughout Michigan. After discovering their shared musical influences and immediately clicking, the pair began working together to create an abundance of song covers and have developed a large inventory of their own lyrical pieces. Already considered regulars at most Lansing musical venues, the folk/indie artists have performed at well-known festivals and venues throughout the state, including the Ingham County Fair, the Michigan Princess ferry in Detroit and on MSU’s campus.
These artists, who have worked together for a little more than two years, have indisputable skill for writing their own lyrics, clear vocal talent and performing all of their songs with instruments like the mandolin, piano, guitar and foot percussion. After gaining personal perspective and insight from these local artists, ing projects that these are two talents to watch out for.
J: How did you both get started as a musical duo?
R&A: We like to make up exciting stories about it, but truthfully, we were just in the right place at the right time. We were both working independently, trying to get shows in Lansing, and we ended up contacting some of the same people. Once we actually met, we were thrilled to find we had similar tastes in music. Basically, we have Johnny Cash to thank.
J: Have you always known you were going to pursue careers in music or did you have other plans?
R: Music has always been a huge part of my life, and I grew up knowing I wanted to go somewhere with it. I was one of those babies that sang in the crib. My parents told me I would wake them up occasionally to random tunes I would make up. My family always had the radio on growing up, exposing me to all different styles and sounds. Besides absorbing the music, they encouraged me to take my voice outside of my room. I began singing at Church, school activities and small talent shows. After the stage fright disappeared I knew I wanted to keep growing and pursue music as my life journey. After seeing the joy on someone’s face, I realized my performance could possibly affect the happiness of others. That’s when I knew music was the career for me.
A: [Music] was always a deep passion of mine growing up. Some of my first childhood memories are of dancing to Frank Sinatra in my living room with my parents. I was always listening to songs and dissecting them as a kid. I was in band throughout grade school, so that gave me a great foundation in music, but I never saw it as a possible career until after graduation. I studied Anthropology and Museum Studies at MSU and planned on working in a museum as a career. But halfway through my freshman year, I picked up the guitar for the first time. That’s when I knew I’d be playing for the rest of my life.
J: Where do you both draw your inspiration from?
R&A: Our inspiration comes from both of our individual life experiences, as well as our collective experiences as a duo. We generally write about whatever we need to get off our chests; our hopes, dreams and our insecurities. Sometimes music is more about personal catharsis than anything else. Much of our EP is inspired by this first year together. We immediately had a strong connection to our sound and kind of dove into everything really quickly. Because of that, we had some big expectations and goals and it took a while for us to settle into the pace of everything. At the same time, we’ve had some amazing experiences and met some great people along the way. These emotional ups and downs have been great muses for our songs. We’ve found that whenever we reach a “down” it only makes us more driven to reach our next “up.”
J: Have you found a lot of success both in and outside of the Lansing area?
R&A: Michigan’s music scene might be the state’s best-kept secret. We have had amazing support around the state and have met some extremely talented musicians. We are proud to be a group made in Michigan! There is a very tight-knit and amazing community of roots musicians in Lansing as well. It’s like having a huge family throughout the city; whenever you need something, they’re there for you.
J: Do you both write all of your own lyrics?
R&A: Yes we do. That’s something that immediately drew the two of us to folk music. The lyrics are arguably the most important part of this genre. They tell stories, paint pictures, and convey feelings so well. For us, there’s just something special about truly having a connection to the songs we sing. When they’ve come straight from our lives and hearts, we can really share our emotions with the audience.
J: Where do you both see yourselves in five years from now?
R&A: We have hopes and goals for the next five years, but truthfully, life always has a way of surprising you. Two years ago, we would have never imagined being where we are now. We try to stay present as much as possible and just enjoy each moment as it happens. That being said, we’d love to be touring and traveling more within the next five years. Meeting great people and seeing the world have always been huge priorities for us.
J: What advice do you have for those looking to break into the music industry?
R&A: We are definitely still learning for ourselves and taking it day by day. But we’ve learned that if you want to pursue music, you need to give it everything you have. Don’t be afraid to do things against the grain, and expect a little resistance from time to time. The most valuable advice we could give is this: figure out what success really means to you. What do you want to get out of being a musician? Once you’ve established that, don’t get discouraged if someone else has other ideas of what success should look like. Just go for it.
Jade Wiselogle is a junior majoring in professional writing, with a specialization in public relations. She dreams of Valentino gowns, NY Fashion Week and working with Anna Wintour. Her editorial experience includes an internship at Seventeen Magazine and working as the Creative Director of MSU’s VIM Magazine.