Indie Folk Songstress Teni Rane Talks New Single ‘Meet Me In Stockholm,’ Original Holiday Songs, & More

Growing up in Chattanooga, TN, surrounded and supported by music and its uplifting powers, soothing songstress Teni Rane feels an ethereal connection to the art.

Being influenced by legends like Carole King and Fleetwood Mac, Rane has found her sweet spot in her musical creations that mix country-folk themes with contemporary pop music stylings. In her own singing and songwriting, she displays maturity and relatability with an effortless and sweeping vocal delivery. Her instrumentation is soft and whimsical, and breezes in the ear most delicately.

In the previous seasons, Rane has been passing the time on the Swedish Island Gotland, where she has been participating in a musical residency that has allowed her to make a myriad of musical connections and find spiritual inspiration. During her time in Sweden, she wrote and recorded four of her upcoming singles that feature three holiday songs alongside her most recent release, “Meet Me in Stockholm,” which dropped today, October 14th.

The single talks about long-distance love and what it takes to endure the struggle and be patient for the ultimate reunion. Both singing and playing acoustic guitar on the track, Rane’s smooth vocals and poignant songwriting croon the listener into serenity as she performs her ode to her far-away lover. 

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We were able to chat with Rane about her time in Sweden, the new single, her upcoming holiday releases, and much more.

So how has the year treated you so far?

2022 has been a year of big changes for me and taking a few dives into the unknown! It has been fun, scary, exhilarating, exhausting, and dreamy all at the same time…

The first half of the year was essentially spent hyping myself up for the shift. Then a highlight of spending the summer (July & August) back on Gotland (Swedish island in the Baltic!) after being there 6 years ago followed. It was great to get to reconnect with friends and my host family and get to share my music a couple times a week. This meant casting off from routine and job certainty and being away from home for a couple months, which definitely also rocked my world a little! It seems that no matter how diligently I plan for change, there are always a few kinks to work out along the way. It was good to be there and it is good to be back home.

I’ve created a chance for myself to be even more intentional with my music this year and I am grateful for that! Now the exciting and time intensive work of releasing songs into the wild has my attention, and I’m excited to see what comes along with that in the rest of this fall! 

Can you talk about who or what got you into a life of songwriting and music making, and how your Chattanooga roots played a role?

Growing up in Chattanooga, there was this amazing little coffeehouse called Charles and Myrtle’s where I spent a LOT of Saturday nights in my early childhood years. My parents enjoyed going, and so I always had a front row seat to a cozy show by really talented singer-songwriters that were passing through on tours. Folks like Buddy Mondlock, Cosy Sheridan, Pierce Pettis, Beth Wood… it was really an incredible place to grow up around and the community that supported it was our extended family.

A huge overlapping section of that community also had a “Sunday Jam” or “Sunday Pickin’” that was a staple in my early childhood. It’s still going, and my parents have been going for almost 30 years now! At first I wasn’t so much interested in playing during the jams – it was just about singing for me! I’d sing there (shamelessly loudly), I would sing along while my sister played piano, and then when she started guitar lessons, I would assert my vocal presence then also (I’m sure she loved this).

Then when my dad was 60, he decided (after years of loving live music and just going to the Sunday Jams to listen) he was going to learn to play guitar. One year after he started learning, we were visiting family over the holidays and I was at this awkward age where I was the youngest of my cousins by far, but also much older than any of their kids. In a desperate effort to avoid babysitting, I asked him to show me some chords so I could entertain myself and also be able to claim that I was busy. He showed me a few chords (F, C, and G I believe) and gave me an electronic chord finder that day. That was that – I was off learning chords and songs from the internet. He always jokes that he taught me how to play, but I don’t joke when I tell people that he DID teach me how to play!

My interest in playing has mostly always been to be able to accompany myself while I am singing. I kept learning and eventually also started writing my own lyrics. I grew up around music and singer-songwriters and listening rooms, and looking back on it now maybe it was inevitable that I’d end up trying my hand at it eventually. My parents have been such an incredible support through life, but I do credit my husband and bandmate (bassist), Jonathan Shumaker, with getting the guitar back in my hands after a few years of an unintentional break.

Let’s talk about your upcoming single, “Meet Me in Stockholm,” which is officially out tomorrow October 14th. What’s the inspiration and backstory behind it?

The backstory first: which feels really random and unconnected to music but I promise we get there in the end! I played soccer in college (Go Razorbacks!), and six years ago I had a chance to continue my soccer career for a season after finishing my university eligibility on a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea called Gotland. It’s a very beautiful place, and I enjoyed so much having the chance to be there and meet new folks and learn to love soccer again. That was the context – this incredible experience playing soccer abroad.

Now the inspiration: I was really quite homesick and I was struggling with the dichotomy of feeling really lonely and sad while I was having this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience of playing semi-pro soccer abroad. I felt so guilty for feeling this way and couldn’t really understand and didn’t have the skills to hold both of those sets of emotions simultaneously. So this melancholy undertone was coloring that whole experience early on. I was really lucky to know that my family was going to have a chance to come visit and that my then-partner-now-spouse was also going to have a chance to visit also. I was counting down the days!

The chorus and hook and Swedish bits of the song bubbled out first, and I was really hesitant with it because I thought “well it’s totally silly to put Swedish in one of my songs – I barely know ANY Swedish.” After a while I allowed myself to lean into it and the feelings of distance and time separating me from the homey and familiar feeling of being wrapped in my best friend’s arms, and I accepted playing with the language since that was true to the moment. Even though the song has a longing and melancholy note and feel to it, it became a really sweet and amazing memory of my individual experience there and also our time there together.

I’ve since gotten a bit better at Swedish and have enjoyed learning more of the language over time with the help (and patience!) of my Swedish family and friends. In the chorus of the song there are two simple phrases – jag älskar dig means “I love you” and kommer du is a question: “are you coming?” So you get a song and a Swedish lesson. 🙂 

There’s some beautiful, breezy instrumentation throughout this track and all of your upcoming singles. Can you talk about the creative and recording process and who helped these songs come to life?

First off: recording “Meet Me in Stockholm” while I was back IN Sweden where it was originally written… no way. Too cool. I won’t forget it anytime soon. I had six years for the song to percolate around in the brain and get played out and pressure tested. When I knew I had studio time secured at Sandkvie Studios AB it was a natural choice of a project. I wasn’t ready for a whole album, and felt like I was really testing the waters with some additional instrumentation than I’ve done in the past so choosing my holiday originals gave me some space to play and experiment and be brave. None of it would have happened without Mikael Lyander introducing me to Roger Gustafson.

Roger was a great partner to work with and overall it was a very successful time and collaboration – he even said my Swedish pronunciation was “pretty good”! His depth of experience in recording, mixing, and mastering was invaluable and he is a very talented multi-instrumentalist. After we finished tracking “Meet Me in Stockholm”, I hummed out the melody I was hearing in the instrumental bridge areas for steel and “bum bum bum bummed” out the feel of the bass line. He brought that all to life really seamlessly.

As I said for the holiday songs, there was more room to play! The basic structure and melodic elements and vocal styling with the layering and “vintage holiday feel” were in my head and we definitely achieved that and MORE. I wanted the songs to “fit” into the holiday theme space and I wanted them to still be my sound and not feel kitschy or overdone. We had a VERY long discussion about the value of simplicity vs the benefits of a bigger sound. I wanted “fullness” without distraction. Finally he convinced me (after all the rest of the instrumentation was essentially done) to bring a drummer. I was pretty resistant at first! I think I might have said something along the lines of “fine but we aren’t using it unless it is perfect.” 🙂 Fortunately for me it turned out to be!

The drummer that we worked with, Torbjörn Söderman, was incredible and very receptive to my thoughts and feelings about the matter. I particularly love the atmospheric, wide sounding drum on “Tennessee Snow” which I was the most skeptical about. I wanted light, snowy quietness in that song and drums totally felt like the antithesis of that to me. They made magic out of it. 

What made you want to record holiday songs, and are all three of these originals?

Yes! They are all original tunes. 🙂 I wrote them all from a place of often feeling a little unmoored during the holiday season and wanting a chance to claim my space during that time. I wanted to share what I see in the holidays and what holds a lot of meaning and importance for me during that time of year – being close to the ones I love, creating a cozy atmosphere to bolster me through the coldest parts of the year, and enjoying the delights that only the wintertime and the holiday season can bring to life. I love the nostalgia of the holidays and the “traditional” songs that you hear every year AND they don’t really belong to me. These do.

“Cozy Inside” will be the first of those to be released on November 4th. Wintertime has really beautiful, warm, cozy aspects to it AND the darkness and cold can be a bit overwhelming at times. “Cozy Inside” juxtaposes those bright, cold moments of late fall with the glittering emergence of holiday decorations and family gatherings. It feels like remembering a holiday – I wrote it in 2020 when none of this was really happening.

I’m following up with “Rosemary & Evergreen” out November 25th, which pulls its imagery and story line from something in my house we call “Tree Day”: the Sunday after Thanksgiving when we go pick out our live tree and decorate and listen to holiday records and make hot chocolate and cider. It is ours and I love having that space and ritual that we own.

“Tennessee Snow” will be the last out for the year on December 9th! It might be my favorite but I’ve been told songs are like kids and you shouldn’t pick favorites. Snow doesn’t happen much in Tennessee but when it does – like when it REALLY snows and there is a bonafide blanket of white a foot deep on the ground – the whole world softens and slows down and the rush of the holidays can be set aside for a second. I love those quiet moments.

I’m glad these songs came out of me and as an independent artist it is also really advantageous to have some seasonal songs that you can point back to year after year. 🙂 Maybe one day I’ll have a full album for the holidays with some of my nostalgic favorites also!

What does a day in the life of Teni Rane’s songwriting process look like?

A warm pot of tea is a necessity! My favorite is fresh ginger chopped up with turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. I keep a (very long) running list of ideas, hooks, phrases, and moments so that I have a chance to capture an idea and hold on to it even when I can’t chase the whole song down right then and there.

A lot of times I’ll have a melody, verse, and chorus that come out, and then they have to wait a while to find the rest of their story. That’s really frustrating, but honestly I love it because that gives me fresh eyes and mind on it later to figure out the undercurrent or subtext of the story that was trying to be told, and lean into it more as I finish out the lyrics. I often start writing on paper (I have an idea notebook) and then transition to typing once I have a solid direction (I also have an idea document that I can access from my phone when something pops into my head while I am out and about).

The best thing for me about keeping those idea spaces is that sometimes there are several ideas that feel really separate or came at very different moments, but when you start seeing the story and thread between those experiences, they start to come together into something kinda unexpected and cohesive. I like a quiet and organized writing environment with as few distractions as possible. Sometimes that is pretty hard to find! 

What does success as a musician and songwriter mean to you?

Success in anything is really hard for me to define right now. A big part of this intentional life shake-up I’ve just gone through was a bid to get out of others’ definitions of what a successful life for me would look like. It’s a really refreshing place to be and also feels intimidating sometimes to know that I can have total directional control over my life.

A first pass hope and goal is to keep music in my life in a sustainable way: sustainable both in the energy it gives me and the energy it takes (which is quite a lot!) and also sustainable financially. Music and songwriting have become important to me because they help me communicate and tell stories in a way that feels true to me. I’m always really gratified when my stories and the things I see and feel and share through song connect with others in a meaningful way to them. I want to be able to keep doing that without draining myself.

Music can be really helpful in prioritizing and talking about mental health and it helps me get some ideas, emotions, and thoughts out of my head. There is a dark side of it too though – the endless pressure to be active on social media, to become someone that is fit for the algorithms and not necessarily fit for life. I want to find the balance in that with music so I don’t drive myself crazy. So balance and sustainability are the first successes I am angling towards. After that, we will see! 

What does a dream gig look like for you?

I love listening rooms – so any space where there is a small crowd of ears that is invested in what you are saying and singing is dreamy. I also love the outdoors and have been a pretty consistent hiker for a long time, and I have this weird dream of touring all the little amphitheaters in different state parks all over the place.

As a former high school dance and theater nerd, it would also be incredible to reach the level of getting to play in all these old state theaters that are being renovated across the country. I feel like set and setting are so important for sharing and receiving music. Music is wonderful and powerful everywhere, but in the right place with the right people around, it can soar.     

What are one or two pinnacle moments for you as an artist?

Releasing my first EP, Heart in Tennessee, was a huge deal for me. Doing anything for the first time has a big learning curve and I was coming from zero knowledge in anything but playing the guitar and singing. It was special to put it out and I’m proud of that as my starting point in the recorded space. It was also really fun to work with friends and be held up and supported by their experience and talents as I navigated the whole process from start to finish. It’s a really empowering feeling to be able to point to that out in the world and say, “I did that!” (with lots of help).

Second to that was getting to go back to Sweden and have that summer residency at Kneippbyn. Knowing that I could bring a proposition forward that I was excited about and have it met with equal enthusiasm on the other side was special. Both are things that I put a lot of effort into to make them reality! 

What else might you have in store – whether musically or otherwise – for the rest of the year?

Musically my energy is pretty tied up in these four fall releases! I have some upcoming shows and promo opportunities that are really fully in service of those songs, and I’m looking forward to each of those. The year is getting short though!

Next year I hope to release another album that I started noodling on while I was in Sweden, so I’ll spend the in between moments pushing that forward where I can. Outside of music: fall is one of our favorite seasons to hike! We’ve been getting out on the trails whenever we can since I got back from Sweden. We also travel a lot to see family and that will ramp up with the holiday season approaching. 🙂 2022 was a good one. I’m marinating in that and also looking forward to what 2023 brings in life and in music.

Teni Rane on Tour

Nov 04 – Bristol, VA – Radio Bristol (WBCM) [3pm]

Nov 25 – Chattanooga, TN – Redbud

Nov 26 – Knoxville, TN – WDVX Blue Plate Special [12pm]

Nov 29 – Asheville, NC – Funkatorium, Wicked Weed Brewing

Dec 09 – Abingdon, VA – Tumbling Creek Cider Company

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