The Raelyn Nelson Band from Nashville released a new single earlier this month, “Brother”, and the song has been exciting everyone who hears it. The band’s self-made accompanying music video has been burning up the internet. Impossible to watch it just once — you just have to hit re-play.
The song’s got a familiar country theme about a cheating heart, a somebody done somebody wrong song. But the lively hip young RNB twists up the plot when the girl calls her brother and tells him about the cheating boyfriend. And the band’s creative video takes you along on the chase as the boyfriend is on the run from the brother. I said it was exciting!
The RNB is made up of Raelyn Nelson, Jonathan Bright [JB], Preachie Rutherford and Paulie Simmons, from Nashville. Last year they released their self-titled debut album, a collection of original material written by the band. The album includes the sweetest duet with Raelyn and her grandfather, “The Moon Song”. The single, “Brother”, and their debut album is available for purchase at the band’s website store.
Raelyn kindly gave me some time on the phone last week from her home in Nashville to talk about the new song, “Brother”, the video, and life in general.
LL: I’m really enjoying your new song, “Brother”. It’s so good. What’s the story behind that song?
RN: Well, [laughs] the story is kind of boring. I was watching a show on television where this girl’s boyfriend was cheating on her. And so she called her older brothers and told them about it. I watched that, and I thought, “Well, that could be fun.” I couldn’t think of any song written about someone calling their big brother when their significant other cheats on them. I had some lyrics and a melody I’d been working on and once I saw that TV show, I started writing it down and putting it all together. Then I got with JB [Jonathan Bright] to finish it and he always rocks it up for me.
LL: Your music video for “Brother” is so entertaining. I can’t stop watching it. Is it true, your band made the whole thing yourself?
RN: Yes, we did everything ourselves. It grew from us just sitting around one day and throwing out ideas. JB had just got a Go-Pro (small, mountable video camera), so we knew we wanted to use that for a project. But we didn’t know who we wanted the person to be – should we film it from the perspective of the boyfriend or the brother?” And the scenes of the band performing are from our little studio, our regular band space. Believe it or not, we did that take over thirty times, to get it right, to get the timing right. And then JB was running around with the Go-Pro, playing the video on his phone for the FaceTime part.”
LL: Did you expect the video to be so good? Or to be so popular?
RN: It was so cool and fun working on it together. When we were making it we felt like it was something special. We were thinking, “If this comes out the way it is in our brains, if this video comes out like that, it will be awesome. It was so exciting watching it come together. People say that the music video world is really going down and losing importance, but on the internet, it’s huge. If you have a really good song, and a good idea, a video can go viral.
And I got to use my young-ins in the video. The boys are twins, so they were the brothers. One of them runs up and swings the bat, and the other one stands with the bat at the end. My daughter was riding the scooter in the video. I home school them, and so one day it was like, “Okay youngins, today we’re having acting class.” It was great.
LL: You and Jonathan Bright have a very creative relationship. How did you meet him and your other band mates?
RN: I was so lucky to meet JB. We met originally through a mutual friend in Nashville. JB is a producer and a long time musician, and I went over to his place to record some of my music. We decided to try and write some music together and we really liked what we were coming up with.
We wanted to do a project together and we thought, ‘How do we do this?” He had always done rock, so he was thinking about doing a country project. I have these country melodies and he has that rock background.
But when we started working on the project, and listening to what we’d done, JB said, ‘Let’s get a combo together and see what happens, so he grabbed his Defense Wins Championships (DWC) bandmates and we’ve been playing together since 2012!”
LL: I like the term that someone in the Nashville paper coined for your sound, “Country Garage Rock”. Do you like that?
RN: Yeah, our music kind of naturally grooved into this rock country thing because of our individual inspirations. Basically, I am country and they rock. And I get to sing my country melodies louder over their guitars, and I really like what we do. I’m proud of it.
Everyone might not get it. Papa Willie’s fans, the traditional country music lovers might not get into it. Or the punk rock music fans may not be into the country thing. But somehow it works, and I think there is a little bit of something in there for everyone, to catch their attention.
LL: You released your album last year, and now you are giving us a new single, with a video.
RL: Yeah, we’ve decided to do something new this year. Instead of working several months recording an album and then working to promote it for over a year, we’re going to periodically release singles. “Brother” is the first of our new singles that we are going to release, along with the music video. This is something I’d like to see my favorite artists do, too. Us fans want new music all the time!!!
LL: Your music video went viral. Is social media major part of your marketing plan?
RL: We think social media works well with our plan to release a new single and music video every month. “Brother” and the video has proven that it might work. I am not saying we are not ever going to make an album, or ever going to sign with a music label, but right now, the way things are going works for us. We want to be ahead of the game and keep doing it.
And we have made good connections, like Rolling Stone, who we met at Farm Aid. They have been so good to us and receptive. When we finished making the video, I e-mailed the link, and said, “Hey, check out this video.” And then I heard back, ‘Yes! We are going to run it.’ We are so lucky to have those connections. The Rolling Stone Country guys are good people.
We have all these ideas, but we don’t always have the money to carry them out. It’s fun and challenging to be innovative and try to figure how to carry out these ideas on a budget. “How am I going to do this without the money?” We just have to be creative and figure out how to make new music and promote it, and how to make it happen. If you make enough noise, people notice you. With the internet, people want new music now, now now. With the singles, we can give a lot of attention to each song. And then we can get it right out to our fans, along with a music video, too. And a special tee shirt!
If you work at it, you are feeding your music to the people, and each song gets more life. I take a lot of time writing these songs. I am not a quick song writer. We spend a lot of time on each song before we put it out for the world to hear. We want to highlight each song instead of just combining it in an album. I think it’s a modern way to do things in the music industry. It’s the new path.
Artists can show their fans what they have been up to for the past couple months. You can see what the artists are doing, new videos, and new music. And they wouldn’t have to do a reality show, or be on social media constantly to try to keep in touch. They can share their craft, their art directly to fans.
We want to be inspiring to other people, too, people who want to do it themselves. You can do it. Just get out there and do it. It takes a lot of work, but it if it’s your thing and its fun – it’s not really not work at all.
LL: Do you like writing and collaborating with others?
RL: It’s a special thing to be able to write with someone. JB and I have a good friendship connection so we can say, ‘I don’t like that.’ Or, ‘I really like that.’. It’s a special relationship that doesn’t come around so often, especially in a song-writing town like Nashville.
I get stuck sometimes when I write songs. And it’s nice to be able to call someone up and say, “Hey, I’ve got this idea, what do you think about this?.’ I write with friends, too, because when you’re a song writer and you’re hanging out with your friends that are song writers, somehow there’s always a song started before the visit is over with but I usually write with JB for our RNB project. We do a lot of it over voice memo. I voice memo it and send it to him, and he will voice memo something and send it back. Looking back to when we first met and started writing, I see how JB taught me how to pull pieces together to create something more. He’s taught me a lot and I am learning so much from playing with these guys.
LL: Do you ever call your grandpa for advice?
RL: Yeah, I call him if I get to a place where I am stuck, or have a question or need to talk to him. I was on his bus with him in New Orleans when our EP came out, and got to talk to him about it. He told me not to worry about trying to get a label right now, just continue to record on my own. He encouraged me to put out music the way I liked and to use social media to get the word out to friends and fans.
I remember, the first time I performed by myself, I wasn’t in a band, and I messed up. I texted Papa Willie afterwards because I was so bummed and told him I messed up the song, I stopped in the middle and said, ‘Shit’ to everyone over the mic. And I had to start over. Papa Willie made me feel better immediately; he texted back, “That’s what I do, I just start the song over. Just pick it up and start all over.’ And then he told me to continue writing and to keep getting back up there and so I do.
LL: What’s it like being onstage with your family at the end of a Willie Nelson concert? The finale is always a highlight for us fans, but what’s it like for you?
RN: It is always a surreal moment. It’s not even a physical thing, it’s a spiritual thing. You look around and you are surrounded by your family, singing. And you think, ‘This is what we are supposed to be doing on this earth right now, this is what we were all born to do.
I get the same experience every time I listen to the “Moon Song”, the song with Papa Willie. When I hear his guitar, I think, ‘This is right where I am supposed to be in the entire universe.” I love my family. They are really good people. They are genuinely good and positive. Like my Papa Willie, I don’t know how any one person can be on everyone’s side. How can he be for every single person, and people know that and feel it. I am so grateful for my family.
LL: What’s it like living in Nashville? Is everyone in the music business, or are there doctors and lawyers and such?
RN: [Laughs], yeah, there are a lot of other industries. Nashville is a medical city, too, there are several great hospitals here. But everywhere you turn you meet someone who is in the music business or who used to be in the business or they write music. There are so many amazing musicians here. And even if someone does work as a doctor or lawyer, they also play music or they’re married to someone who is. Nashville is just that way.
LL: How is your mother? Is she still in Nashville?
RN: Yes, my mother is still in Nashville. She is well. She helps me out a lot with the kids. She keeps them for me when I have to go to the studio or if I have a show. She is heavily involved in her ministry and her church. I’m very proud of all of the good work she puts into each individual who comes into her ministry. The time she spends praying for each person is admirable. She’s an inspiration, a role model, and a teacher to me and I’m so grateful to have her as my mama.
I was born in Nashville. My mom and dad met here. Dad was traveling through town with Papa Willie and they stopped by the radio station where my mom worked as a promotion girl. They fell in love and got married. Papa Willie had a cabin in Ridgetop that we all stayed in when I was a baby; I don’t live too far from there now.
LL: Did you play a musical instrument in school?
RN: Yes, I was in the HLHS String Band. I went to Hunters Lane High School and took the music career courses. I joined the String Band playing rhythm guitar and I remember my song to sing was, ‘Rocky Top’ at our gigs. I took voice lessons from several vocal coaches and guitar lessons from one of my best friend’s dad, and I was in the HLHS show choir.
But I don’t feel I got good at playing the guitar and ukulele until just the past few years. My mom says I came into the world singing but I was always shy about performing in front of people. I’ve gotten more comfortable, but as far as singing my own songs, that’s only been the past few years. For me, it took getting up there and doing it over and over and I am now addicted to the feeling of being on stage and entertaining.
And having my youngins inspired me to sing and perform. It wasn’t until after I had them that I got inspired with all these songs and started writing them down. When I look back at my adult life, I think, ‘If I didn’t have the kids, I could just go off and tour whenever I want.” But I know, if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be doing this at all. They inspired me so much at that time of my life. And now, they get to come along for the ride!
LL: What do you do for fun?
RN: My youngins and making music are my fun. My whole life is home schooling them and my music life. When they’re with their dad, I schedule time to write or spend time in the studio. A friend of mine teaches yoga, and I try to take one of her classes each week. Then my kids and I do yoga together every day, its music and yoga before bedtime every night. On free nights, I go catch shows in town. There’s always a show going on and sometimes I know the people playing which is always a party. I like to watch other shows and get inspired. Hanging with family, making music, and watching Nashville’s finest musicians do their thing is my fun!!!!!
LL: You and your Aunt Amy are frequently in the news, speaking out against abusive treatment to animals. Is that a cause that’s always concerned you?
RN: Auntie really opened my eyes to the abuse going on against animals. I was completely ignorant until she started telling me things. I was 18 when Amy moved to Tennessee, and we were the Nelson family in Tennessee at the time. We would hang out a lot and she educated me. Then, one day she said, “Do you want to go to DC with me?” And I said, ‘Yes!’ I want to represent our family in such a positive way. I still can’t believe animals are treated the way they are, and people should know about it. Raising awareness is the most important job of the Animal Activist and it’s the easiest part. Auntie and I started a non-profit called Willie’s Kids with the idea to incorporate humane education into school curriculum. If we teach humane practices to the children while they’re in school, the next generations will be more compassionate and humane in their decisions. I predict a more compassionate America in generations to come. I predominately follow a vegetarian diet for humane considerations.
LL: I love the ‘Pun with Raelyn’ videos. Any chance for more installments?
RN: Yes, we are going to bring Puns back. It’s one of the things we just can’t get back to, because we are so busy working on other projects — songs we want to done…and videos. I think I just need to say to JB, “”Hey, let’s do a Pun this week.” We have a few ideas that we want to do that are going to be so good.
LL: What was first concert you ever bought a ticket for?
RL: Well, my first concert ever was Papa Willie concerts….I can’t even remember the first one, I just remember going to them. Paid my own way? It would have been a Christian group. My mom kept me pretty close to Christian music and old country. Then, when I was a teenager, I rebelled a little and started listening to top 40 pop and hip hop was big at the time. I remember going to an ‘NSync concert when I was 14…..the boy band era. I wore baby blue so Justin Timberlake would notice me in the sea of baby blue at the Bridgestone Arena (which was Gaylord Entertainment Center at the time)…needless to say, he did not.
You can get your shirt at the band’s store:
The tee shirts are so cool, too. Who did the artwork?
My son Aiden drew the design on dry erase marker board we have. He drew the whole group of us. Then I took a picture of it, and JB said, ‘That’s an album cover or something! Keep it!’. Then I had Brody go write ‘Raelyn Nelson Band’ on top of it. That was a couple of years ago.
LL: Oh – I hear kids in the background! They need mom. Thanks so much for your time. See you on the 4th of July!
RL: Thank you. See you in Texas!!!! You rock, Linda Banks.
Follow the band on Facebook here.