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A Saturday afternoon with Raquel Rodriguez

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Raquel Rodriquez is a gorgeous up and coming soul singer based out of Los Angeles, CA. She and her band, the Big Guys, released their first full length album, “Miss Me” last June. Now, she has her sights set on touring the east coast this summer. On a dreary Saturday afternoon, I was lucky enough to be granted the opportunity to sit down and chat with Raquel.

CS: How would you describe the genre of music you play and why that genre over any other?

RR: Generally, we play soul, but I think the best way to describe it would be feel good music. As the writer, I know it’s music that makes me feel good because I can get stuff off my chest. And people can relate to it. I honestly like soul music because it’s good for the soul. It’s such a cheesy thing to say, but it’s actually kind of true. I love listening to it and I like replicating it because people will tell me that I’ve got so much soul in my voice. And I’m just like, “Yeah, well that’s the point!”

CS: So, how did the band come together?

RR: Mostly through school. Almost all of us went to USC. The first person I met was Jamey, the guitarist. Guitar Center had this competition going on and I saw him playing blues. I thought he was awesome! The drummer was in a separate band. And I was friends with his guitarist. I went to a couple of their shows and thought he was good. Eventually, he became my drummer and also ended up producing the whole album. I met the keyboard player through an ex-keyboard player. I liked him better, so I just started calling him for more gigs. The bass player was in a couple of my classes and was the number one bass player at USC. So, I made him be in my band. [Laughs] He’s in something like 30 bands, but he definitely is a key member in ours. The saxophone player, Tim is best friends with the guitarist and was also the roommate of Sam, our drummer. The trumpet player, Brandon didn’t go to USC. He just knows everybody from mutual music friends. So, it was kind of weird that we all knew each other. It’s such a small music world in Los Angeles.

CS: Do you have any embarrassing band stories?

RR: Embarrassing band stories? Yeah, actually. Oh God. We played a gig opening for J. Cole and Big Sean and I got really excited when people seemed to like our songs. So, I asked the crowd if they wanted to hear a Michael Jackson song called “I Can’t Help It”. After I said that, everyone in the band looked at me like, “Yo! We don’t know that song!” Of course I made them play it anyway. [Shakes her head] It was a train wreck in front of 4,000 people. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about how stupid I was! Why did I do that? Why did I think that we could just pull it off? I mean, I just looked at them and was like, “You got it, you got it.” And all of them were just like, “No, we don’t got it.” But we pulled it off, I guess…sort of. I’ll probably never play that song in front of anyone ever again.

CS: I know that you won a battle of the bands in college that gave you the opportunity to work with Andrew Scheps, a Grammy-winning producer who has worked with Adele and many other famous acts. What was that experience like for you? Did it change the trajectory of your path? If so, how?

RR: Andrew Scheps was awesome! I was really nervous, though! But when we got there, he made everybody feel like he genuinely cared about the way our song came out. We didn’t really get to finish it that day, so Andrew invited us over to his house to finish it in his home studio. When we walked in, I saw his six Grammy awards and his old school console. And then I started to get nervous again. But still, he was awesome. He definitely changed the arrangement, but he was like a magician that changed our music for the better. I am very, very grateful that I got to work with him.

CS: You recently had your song "Already Beat" featured on the hit TV show, “Sons of Anarchy”. How did it make you feel to hear that was going to happen?

RR: Oh, that was so awesome! When they called me to tell me that they were going to feature my song in the season premiere, I literally started from season one and watched all five seasons before the season six premiere. I didn’t just want to watch the episode to hear the song, but not understand what was going on, ya know? Now, I love the show! It’s really cool to have the song on there because, not only do all of my friends love the show, but it is the first song I’ve ever gotten on a show. It’s always surreal to hear or see yourself on TV. And it was definitely one of those life changing experiences. It’s also definitely something I want to keep doing. I want to push for more songs in TV shows.

CS: I know you have opened for fairly well-known artists before. Have you opened for anyone else or is there any artist or band that you’re dying to open for?

RR: We've opened for a few pretty big artists, but on the horizon, I would love to get the chance to open for (or even just play one show with) Mayor Hawthorne, Allen Stone, Emily King...I can’t even think of them all right now because there are just so many, but I would really like to start touring more, especially in Boston! People on the east coast aren't afraid to show that they love music!

CS: What do you mean?

RR: People on the west coast are pretty image conscious. So, sometimes when I’m playing a show, no one dances. Then afterward, I’ll have a bunch of people come up to me and tell me how awesome the show was and that they loved it. And I wonder…if they loved it so much, why didn’t they dance! I feel like people in Boston are more laid back and wouldn’t be afraid to dance!

CS: Can you tell me a little bit about the making of the music video for "Tell Me It’s Fine"?

RR: Oh, yeah! That was the very first official music video that I’ve ever done. I raised the money for it on kickstarter.com. At first, I was thinking that I didn’t know how to act or wouldn’t be able to lip sync the song. But when I started the first scene, it was so easy! The director even asked if I had done this before. When I told him no, he said that he even though he could tell I was a little nervous, I was still doing great. So, after hearing that, I was excited to shoot other scenes. Anyway, it was a very long day and I wasn’t exactly sure how all of the scenes were going to come together. After I saw it, I understood though and I’m really happy with the way it came out. It’s a romantic and sad story. I definitely want to do more music videos and I am going to very soon.

CS: Do all of your lyrics come from personal experience or are they made up?

RR: It’s a little bit of both. For the most part, my drummer Sam would come up with a song and I would sit with it for a while to try and determine how it makes me feel. For instance, "Miss Me" honestly made me feel like a bad ass. And at the time, I was going through a break up and I hated the ex-boyfriend. I didn’t want to say too much about him, though. So, I started to take other real life experiences and exaggerate certain parts. I like to keep most of the details of my life private. I’m shy. However, I feel like I couldn’t adequately express the emotion in a song without knowing, at least second hand, what it feels like to go through those things. I’ve never just made up a song.

CS: Do you have any tips for up and coming musicians?

RR: I always try and tell people to do what they like doing. I went through a stage where I tried to please everyone else. And after a while, I just started to say, “You know what? I like what I do. It makes me feel good.” Not everyone is going to like my music. It took a while for me to finally accept that, but nobody is ever, ever, ever going to be person that everybody likes. There will always be someone that’s better than you. There’s always going to be someone that’s more talented than you. And you just can’t take it to heart. I also would tell people to hone in on their craft and get it to a level they’re comfortable with before they release anything. I’ve seen some people release music that’s just kind of mediocre. It’s not recorded well and that affects you in the long run. People won’t want to listen to your new song if they think your old one wasn’t that great. Most people would have a higher success rate if they found out who they were before they started releasing things that weren’t true to them.

CS: Are there any plans to come to Boston?

RR: We’re still in the baby stages of planning, but we are setting up a tour for 2014 and we’d like to get to Boston maybe in the summer? I think that once we sit down and figure out a route, we’ll definitely be visiting venues on the east coast!

Be one of the first to get an exclusive look at Raquel’s "Tell Me It’s Fine" with a special message for Examiner readers here! The band’s newest release, "Hold On" will be available for purchase beginning January 27, 2014 via their bandcamp site. Enter the word “Cassandra” at check out for an elite Examiner reader discount! Also, be sure to check back here for upcoming tour dates!

Happy listening!

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