Here, as the special interview continues, the authentic artist Rao shares an emotionally powerful story about how she fell in love with songwriting. She also discusses inspiring musical influences who changed her world with their phenomenal music as she describes the power of lyrics on song selection:
W.E. On your website, there are some remarkable recordings of covers you perform, where you truly creatively make them your own while maintaining the core integrity of the original - and you sing with an emotional authenticity that is rare in covering songs - how do you channel this energy and how do you choose which songs to perform?
S.R. Thank you!! The way I learned to write and sing is by listening to and learning the songs of the artists that you heard covers of – Bon Iver, Eric Clapton, John Mayer. In the August residency, each week the artist and I would choose a song we both loved. For example, with Daniel Bedingfield, we both loved John Mayer’s "Continuum" album, so we chose "I Don’t Trust Myself With Loving You." With Keaton Simons, I thought "Hallelujah" would be really moving with his voice on it. When choosing a song to cover, I am particularly focused on the lyrics of a song. All of the songs I’ve covered, I was very moved by the lyrics. I am so excited about the Witzend residency and all of the duets there.
W.E. What is the thing that would most surprise fans to know about you?
S.R. I never thought I’d be here singing and writing songs. I grew up in a pretty traditional family, so the idea of becoming a songwriter or singer never seemed like an option to me. In college, I experienced the death of my boyfriend and something in me opened up and I began writing songs. In retrospect, I think it was a way for me to express the heaviness I was feeling. I really fell in love with songwriting then and it led me here.