Friday, May 13, 2011

Interview: Rachel Fine Owns Her Own

To most of her fans, Rachel Fine is known as the co-host of the weekly comedy news series “The Bonus Show” for Howard TV on Demand, the cable TV service that is the only place to see Howard Stern and his crew from the radio show. (As of press time, the details of Season 2 of “The Bonus Show” had not been released.) But what fans are starting to also realize is that Rachel is a talented songstress as well. Rachel released her debut CD, “Own Your Own” (of which you still have a chance to win an autographed copy!), and is playing clubs in and around NYC promoting it and wowing crowds with her vocal chops.

And to think, it almost didn’t happen: Upon arriving in L.A., Rachel was a struggling actress who decided to take a full-time, nonacting-related job — “the curse of the actor,” Rachel muses — in corporate America. In fact, she was doing so well that if her company hadn’t closed their U.S. corporate offices, who knows how high up on the corporate ladder Rachel would have climbed. As Rachel tells me: “This was the kick in the pants I needed to get my crap together, go pursue my dreams and give it a real try. I’d been working on the album as a side project for a while, and I thought this is a great opportunity to go full time for that.

“I turned to social networking primarily, using Twitter to promote the album and to connect with fans overseas. And it caught fire in Germany and Sweden, the Netherlands and then into London and Japan, Brazil. I was on the cover of their version of Rolling Stone last November. And then because I have the followers in my fan base, the record label came to me. It’s kind of amazing how the industry has changed, and I was able to apply the marketing from the years I was in the corporate world to my music and get it in the hands of lots of people.”

Like most things in the Biz, “The Bonus Show” came about because Rachel owned her audition, and that job has brought about so many other opportunities for her. It’s also been just plain fun: “It was a show where I would get to work with a fun group of people who’ve I’ve enjoyed for a long time,” Rachel says. “It was just one of those things that kind of fell into my lap and was probably the most fun career opportunity I’ve had.”

Right now, Rachel is taking advantage of her downtime from “The Bonus Show” to really get her music to the masses. “Own Your Own,” features songs written by Rachel with music by Timothy Schletter. Rachel is very humble when she describes how she put the album together, telling me: “I’d written really crappy songs for a long time. When I was younger, I tried to write some different musical things that were not as heartfelt. But I used to try to write what I thought would be cool and what I thought would be Oh baby, baby kind of stuff. It wasn’t until this project, which I think taught me that you have to mature a little to write something that’s heartfelt and meaningful.

“So through this project, when I finally found a voice for what I wanted to say, I kind of was writing poetry. Like something rough would happen, and I would sit down with some paper and just pour my thoughts out. And I would talk about what had happened and give the words to Tim, and he would come up with the full auditory picture of what it was. He was able to really capture the mood of what had happened.”

Different moods can inspire a song for Rachel, whether that mood is internal or external. “A lot of my stuff is just late night, bottle of wine, 3 a.m., when all the stoplights are flashing yellow. Stuff that’s kind of dark and in the background and takes you to some moody place — that’s the stuff I really like."

Like any performing artist worth her salt, Rachel has a wide range of musical influences. From “quiet storm” (late-night, soulful radio format) to Bill Withers to Meshell Ndegeocello influencing the music, and Alanis Morissette (who “writes amazing lyrics. She writes stuff that blows my mind”) and Fiona Apple inspiring her lyrics, Rachel looks for honesty when expressing herself.

Among some of the perks of being on the music scene in NY, Rachel has had the chance to see and sometimes meet many of her music idols. “I haven’t met her, but I saw Lauren Hill in concert a few months ago, and that blew my mind,” Rachel explains. “She’s amazing and intimidating in the sense that it reminds me of how much I still have to learn. Her control of the audience and the band is just astounding.

“I’ve met a lot of people in passing that I’d love to sit down and have a more in-depth conversation with. And you don’t get those opportunities too often. I met Smokey Robinson a few months ago, and I gave him my CD — that was a really neat moment."

While Rachel is having fun and making the most of her present, she definitely has big plans for the future — the main item being to stay permanently retired from corporate America. “I never want to have a cubicle or a desk or have to wear corporate suites again, unless it’s for a role.

“I just want to keep doing things that are fun and getting money for them. I want to keep making music. I want to keep doing things that inspire me, and I think that this whole journey has been about putting one foot in front of the other, and if that could keep happening, I’d be thrilled.”

Although music definitely is one of her passions, Rachel would like to get back into the acting scene someday. “I do more hosting than I do acting right now, but I think there will come a time when I’ll do some more acting. It’s funny, I was talking to my management team, and they were saying once you get more into the full-time acting thing, it’s harder to get back into hosting. So, while I’m enjoying hosting, I’m going to do all that I can right now, but there will probably come a time when I will come back to acting again.”

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