An Interview With The Freewheelin’ Granddaughter of Country Music Legend, Raelyn Nelson

When you share the same lineage with one of the faces of songwriting’s Mount Rushmore, it’s only natural to follow in those same legendary footsteps. Such is the case with Raelyn Nelson, granddaughter of Willie. And like granddad, Raelyn didn’t strive to be just another cookie-cutter country artist tugged along on the strings of Music Row puppeteers, no. She forged a path all her own: part Loretta Lynn, part Cheap Trick.

And so The Raelyn Nelson Band was born.

Nelson has been singing since she can remember. Having been raised on a steady diet of traditional country and gospel music, a gift from her grandpa in the form of a guitar during her teenage years was the inspiration she needed to begin writing her own country and folk songs.

Nelson brings a fun, freewheelin’ aspect to her music and stage presence. The band has been grinding out shows all over Nashville and beyond, setting the tone for their upcoming release. Their familiar foot tappin’ high energy sound they bring to their shows will come full force on their upcoming album, Don’t, set for release later this fall.

Music Mecca: Where did you grow up, and at what age did you start playing music?

Raelyn Nelson: I grew up in Nashville. My mama says I came out singing. I’ve been taking music and vocal lessons since I was in elementary school. My grandpa sent me an acoustic guitar when I was 14; I started playing guitar and writing songs but they weren’t very good then. It wasn’t until after my youngins were born, when I was home with twin preemies that I started writing songs that had some substance and gave me the confidence to pursue a music career.

MM: What’s one of your fondest and earliest memories of your grandpa?

RN: The earliest memory I have is of him and my dad teaching me to sing “Jingle Bells” and “On The Road Again” in his tour bus. I was probably 3 or so.

MM: What was your relationship with him like growing up?

RN: He has been on the road and working since before I was born. He’d call when he was in town and my mom would take me there to visit. He’s always emailed and now texts regularly. He is always there when I want to talk to him and he always has the most wise advice to give. He’s never been angry with me (that I know of) and his eyes and smile are identical to my daddy’s, so that always makes me feel safe. He also taught me, just by being himself, how to find the humor in everything and just laugh.

MM: I see you are releasing a new album, Don’t, and are raising money in support of it. Do you have all the songs arranged for it, and do you have a tentative release date?

RN: Our release date is November 8th!!! Our first single, “Weed and Whiskey”, comes out September 6th. We’ve been filming a video and it’s gonna be phenomenal.

MM: Can you give fans a glimpse of what to expect, maybe common themes throughout, number of songs, etc.?

RN: I’m so proud of this album. It’s a journal of my life of the past few years. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

MM: Who’s in the band, and how did y’all come together?

RN: Jonathan Bright is my guitar player and music partner. We built RNB to what it is today. He’s been in the music biz awhile with several other projects, and I’ve learned so much from his experience and wisdom. We met through a mutual friend. He had a home studio and offered it up for me to record some demos. By the end of the session he said we should write more songs together and start a combo. He grabbed his buddy, Preach, for bass and he’s been with us since the beginning. He’s the best bass player in Nashville and the perfect guy for our band. We’ve had about 12 drummers. I beat Spinal Tap. Our drummers keep getting gigs with more famous people. Right now we have Evan Fredrickson as our drummer. He is badass and in his early twenties. He is the final perfectly fit puzzle piece to RNB…..until Justin Timberlake or someone of equal status takes him.

MM: Do you have a particular atmosphere or pastime that aides in your songwriting process, or does it just happen sporadically?

RN: It comes at random, but when I want to think it through, I go for a solo drive in the back roads of Ridgetop, TN.

MM: Friends, family, or other musicians ask you where the best place/places to eat in Nashville are: where do you send them?

RN: Butcher & Bee, Los Nietos, and Battered and Fried! All in East Nashville 🙂

MM: Are you still an active supporter of the Tennessee Cannabis Coalition, and if so, what do you do with/for them? Are you a part of other collectives/non-profits?

RN: Yes! I’m technically on the board. I help any way that I can. Because of my schedule, I mostly just “man” the Instagram posts and help spread awareness for now. 🙂 My aunt, Amy Nelson, and I started ”Willie’s Kids” along with Chris Heyde, of Blue Marble Strategy. It is a humane initiative to provide humane education into school curriculum globally.

MM: It’s no secret you’re not another cookie-cutter Nashville artist seeking to fit the Music Row mold. Who or what inspired you to take the musical path you took?

RN: Papa Willie

Paula Nelson

Amy Nelson

Loretta Lynn

My band members…JB and Preach!

Joan Jett

Shania Twain

Dolly Parton

Britney Spears

I also continue to be inspired by…

Taylor Swift

Miranda Lambert 

Margo Price

Brandi Carlisle

Brandy Clark

Kasey Musgraves

Lukas Nelson

Micah Nelson 

There’s so many more…

MM: What advice would you give to young female artists coming to Nashville trying to make a name for themselves?

RN: Don’t be an asshole 🙂 that’s what Papa Willie’s advice is; it is most important, I’d say.

For more info on Raelyn and her music, check out her website HERE.

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