Playlist: Erin Rae draws inspiration from a variety of voices, all of them virtuosos of subtlety

Sometimes it’s the small gestures in music that convey the greatest insight. There’s ample proof in the singing and songwriting of Erin Rae, a Tennessee native who started life in smalltown Jackson, taking in her parents’ easy harmonizing at home, then cut short her college studies to focus on voice and guitar lessons and open mics in Nashville. Over time, she cultivated her own sumptuously subtle sensibilities, found peers in Nashville’s youthful yet serious-minded singer-songwriter scene and started self-releasing projects that quietly turned heads in the early 2010s.

Her 2018 album, Putting On Airs, reached an international folk audience, and her latest, Lighten Up, recorded in Topanga Canyon with Jonathan Wilson producing, reflects the continual elevation of her craft. The ripples on the surface of Rae’s new compositions draw our attention toward inquiries deep beneath the surface, and her silvery vocals undulate across a pastoral, western expanse of guitar, piano and symphonic waves of steel and strings.

“The people that listen to my music, I’m like, ‘Thank you for spending the time to dig in,’ because there is subtlety,” she said during a recent interview at her Nashville apartment. “I just appreciate the attention that goes into [their listening].”

As WNXP’s Nashville Artist of the Month for February, Rae turned her own attention to creating a playlist of her musical inspiration. Her picks span folk, pop, rock, country and soul, but what binds the collection of artists together is that, like her, they’re all virtuosos of nuance. 

Here’s the statement she sent to accompany the songs:

This is a playlist of songs I have had on repeat for the last few years, that no doubt have inspired me in the journey to make this new record. Namely Tim Hardin, Gene Clark, Pat Ament.. Well, damn. Every artist in this list. These are some of my favorites. Who knows how much influence you’ll hear directly in my new music; I think the main way I experience inspiration is when I hear something that reminds me of my desire to create. It doesn’t always mean that I’m trying to write another “Rugged Road” like Judee Sill. I’m trying to write from the place in me that is like the place in her where her songs come from. Anyway, that’s enough out of me. Hope you enjoy these!