Get To Know: Appalachian Country Songwriter & Yodeler Extraordinaire Rachel Messer

It can be argued that yodelers are hard to come by in this day and age, which is what makes West Virginia-raised singer-songwriter Rachel Messer one of a kind.

Messer, who released her latest single, “Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” in 2021, is paving a path for herself inspired by the greats of old country and bluegrass music. 

Messer’s burgeoning career is only getting started, as she’s released her debut EP, California Sunrise, in 2019, which first caught the attention of many. Her love for storytelling has been a particular strongpoint for her, in addition to her one-of-a-kind voice, which distinguishes her from the majority of modern female country artists. 

Other singles of hers include “Red Carpet Gal”, “Where the Weeping Willow Cries”, and “Jesus and My Six String”. She was also a contestant on Season 15 of NBC’s The Voice, where she had Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton smitten, ultimately choosing Shelton over Clarkson.

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We got to ask Messer some questions about her West Virginia roots, exceptional yodeling skills, and what she has planned next.

So can you tell us about your upbringing and how that influenced your artistry and musical direction?

I come from a very small town in the Appalachian Hills of West Virginia. Raised up a holler my entire life, with musical influences all around me, definitely instilled that love for music in me. My papaw was in a bluegrass band for many years, and my dad has always played and sang in church. I cut my first gospel album when I was eight years old, and grew up singing in churches around WV. Over the years, I’ve transitioned into country music, and have had the pleasure of traveling all over doing what I love, but Bluegrass & Southern Gospel still holds that special place in my heart. 

When did you begin yodeling, and how long did it take to perfect?

So, the story of how my yodeling came to be, is kinda funny. I was on my way home from vacation in TN with my family, and my little sister started finding yodeling videos on YouTube, and was passing the road trip away watching them. I was so intrigued, and when I got home, I thought I’d try my hand at it. I started by watching videos of Taylor Ware and just sang along to them until I got the hang of it! It took probably close to a month or so to feel comfortable performing it out. I’m continually improving, and I feel like yodeling is such a complex art, that you can never fully “perfect” it haha!

What does a day in the life of your songwriting process look like?

Songwriting to me is something that’s always been a very personal thing. My husband is so talented in that, if he wants to write a song, he just sits down, puts his mind to it, and pens it. For me, my songwriting usually comes from a place of recent emotion. I usually start with a line, or hook that sticks out to me, and typically put down the chorus first. Everyone has their own writing style, but I feel mine is truthfully pretty sporadic. 

So it was your song, “Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” that caught our ear. Can you tell us the influence and inspiration behind this track?

“Cowboy’s Sweetheart” is such a special song to me! This song was what inspired me to start yodeling in the first place when I saw Taylor Ware performing it. I’ve sang this at some of my first open mics, and most memorable, my blind audition for The Voice! I just love that it is a classic dating all the way back to the 1930’s with Patsy Montana, and still is such a catchy, fun, make-you-wanna-dance tune! 

Who helped produce it and make it come to life?

Brennen Meek (over at Out & About Records) helped bring this song to life in the studio! Recorded at The Mountain Arts Center Studio, Brennen, along with my vision for this song, helped make it what you hear today!

Can fans expect to see it on an upcoming EP or LP?

Actually… drumroll please… I have a LIVE EP in the works as we speak! Recorded at the Foxfire Festival in Boyd Co. KY, this EP will include some never released songs, and yes, “Cowboy’s Sweetheart!”

How many times did it take for you to nail the yodeling part on the track?

I’ve been yodeling and closing nearly every show with “Cowboy’s Sweetheart” since 2016, so laying down the yodeling on the track, actually didn’t take very many tries! 

What does a dream gig look like for you?

Oh man… dreaming big, I’ve always wanted to perform at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in CO. And of course, the Grand Ole Opry & The Ryman one day. 

Are you planning on doing any live performances/touring in the near future?

Yes! This year is already lining up to be one for the books. I just got home from Sebring, FL, where I had the honor of opening up the 12 Hours of Sebring Race at the Sebring International Raceway. Coming up now is South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and more! 

What other releases or notable things might you have on the horizon for fans to keep an eye out for?

Well like I said, I have a LIVE EP coming out (date TBA) that will feature “Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” and some that have never been heard before! It was an amazing show with great energy from the crowd, so I’m excited for everyone to be able to experience it that wasn’t able to physically be there. So stay tuned for more information and the release date for that!!

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