From the moment she first faced a crowd at the age of four, Rachael Bawn knew she was destined to be a singer. That was the easy part. Discovering her voice as a songwriter and developing a core message to help other young women took a bit more time as she weathered life lessons. And now, with the upcoming release of Rachael’s full-length debut album, her innate talent, and positive persona are aligned with a melodic missive primed for the masses.
Rachael began her journey in the small hometown of Hopeville, Ontario. Like most Millennials, Bawn grew up amid the anthemic joy of the pop boom. “My earliest memories are about wanting to be a singer, listening to Mariah Carey and Celine Dion and Christina Aguilera. I would study their vocals and their lyrics and try to copy everything they did,” she says. But it soon became clear that Rachael was something of an enigma: With the vocal intensity of an Ariana Grande, the sincerity of Taylor Swift and the playful moxie of Demi Lovato, Bawn was that rare natural artist in waiting.
Before kindergarten, her parents found safe harbor for their artist-to-be, making regular appearances before the congregation at their family church. As her confidence burgeoned, Bawn was soon singing “Oh, Canada” at hockey games, and then performing at nursing homes and regional fairs. By high school, she added musical theater as the lead in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“I was one of those girls who loved any opportunity to hold a microphone and let out what was in my heart,” Rachael says. “I was scared at the beginning but the more I performed, the more confident I felt—and the more convinced I was that this was my destiny.” Bawn had heard that singer Enrique Iglesias started writing songs when he was 13—and she decided to follow suit. “What a disaster that was,” she recalls with a laugh. “I used Britney as my inspiration and it was just terrible. I hope I burned all of those books.” But for sure, it set the stage for what was to come.
After high school, with her parents’ blessing, Rachael relocated to Toronto to hone her songwriting and work in a professional music studio. There, she aligned with VicPark Group, and then in Los Angeles with producer Dre Knight (LL Cool J, Nicki Minaj, Frank Ocean) and music director Dean Jarvis (Nelly Furtado, Alessia Cara).
Moving beyond her small-town upbringing in Hopeville was essential. Growing up with five sisters, Rachael’s parents struggled to provide for the family and ensure that they set a positive example. “I needed to live, you know? I needed enough life experience to write songs with a point of view,” Rachael says. “As I learned how to structure songs with a verse, chorus, and bridge, I also became less afraid to put my life out there. It was certainly a turning point as a singer—but even more so as an artist.”
Then came what was perhaps the greatest lesson of her young life: her father’s three-year battle with cancer. “With the loss of my dad, I stepped away, put music on the back burner and questioned for the first time whether this is what I’m really meant to do,” Rachael says. That trial ultimately fostered a life-altering moment.
“It was a personal epiphany. Everything up to this point had been about me, becoming famous, selling lots of records, having a movie made about me when I’m old... I had to let that dream go because it was in no way healthy.” With music on hold, Bawn worked as a waitress, while also devoting much of her time volunteering as a camp counselor and youth leader, where she mentored teens for the next six years. “These girls were dealing with eating disorders, broken homes, self-cutting and suicidal scares—the really rough stuff. It is so much more prevalent than anyone realizes,” Rachael says.
Today, Bawn has a clear message to share. Her forthcoming debut album “Chasing Lights” due in February of 2019, was produced by Nashville-based Mike Krompass (Meghan Trainor, 5th Harmony, Steven Tyler, Smashmouth, Ashley Clark) and mixed by Miami-based Jimmy Douglass (Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Rolling Stones, Kanye West, Snoop Dog, John Legend). Bawn co-wrote every song with a team of seasoned hitmakers, including Steve Diamond, Andrew Fromm, Natalie Howard, Robin Lerner, Jennifer Paige, Leslie Roy, and Zuri Star.
The theme, she says, is truth: “I want young people to know that it’s okay to be vulnerable and it’s ok to be scared—but have the courage to talk about what’s going on in your life. We all put these happy images of our life on Facebook and Instagram, but there’s often another story. Girls need to realize they’re not the only ones... that it’s okay and more common than they realize."
Every track on the album offers a positive message: “There’s nothing that I don’t 100% agree with or try to shape my own life around,” Rachael stresses. “This is about hope. I would love people to listen to my songs and go, ‘wow, she put what I’m feeling into words’ and now feel more hope.”
And for sure, vocally, Rachael has left Britney in the past. Her gifts are a closer parallel to those of pop act Tori Kelly, whose stellar talent led to a 2016 Grammy nod for Best New Artist. In her new single “Alive,” Bawn’s sky-scraping vocals are a joy to behold. Alongside soaring production and a sticky melody, she sings in the uptempo anthem about getting the most out of every day: “I’m alive, I’m a firefly trying to burn a little brighter, Flyin’ high, but landin’ on my feet.”
The album’s first single “Broken,” further amps the energy, with jubilant tempo and a force field of harmonic vocals that are tailor-made for its message about triumphing over life’s painful experiences. “This was the first song I wrote for the album, with Natalie Howard, which talks about the struggles girls go through and the fact that everybody has some sort of brokenness in their life,” she says. “When we talk about it and work through our journey together, it’s so much healthier to share instead of hiding.”
Ryan Edgar from America’s Got Talent is featured on the super catchy “Until Today”, which is a song Bawn is considering releasing for early 2019.
And in the consummate power ballad “Trying”—written solely by Bawn—she offers a message about falling short and being disappointed in yourself, but always working to fulfill your potential. With a kaleidoscopic vocal that Celine Dion would praise, Rachael sings: “I’m not always the best version of me, sometimes I fall short, I’m trying to not get in my own way again/God knows I’m trying, and that’s all I can do, the only place I find strength is you.” Bawn says, “I love ‘Trying’ so much. It’s my favorite song on the album. The song has spiritual meaning to me and it’s so powerful as the melody just keeps building. It makes such a strong statement that every day brings new potential to be the best we can be.”
Add to that what she considers part of the heart of the album: her own struggles through adolescence. “I chose friends that were really into things that weren't good for me and I became a follower,” Rachael admits. “I did a lot of things that brought shame, made me insecure, and I didn't really have many positive influences. So I hope that these songs can provide a positive influence.”
The artist’s team, along with her record label BMG Music Group, will support the album with her own Spotify, YouTube channel, all social media channels and streams, personal appearances throughout North America and branded merchandise that promotes families and positive messaging, with an emphasis on empowering young women.
Rachael took her message on the road this past spring. She joined the High School Nation Tour and performed in front of 100,000 high school students in the Midwest and West Coast of the US. During the tour, Rachael partnered with World Vision and the Canadian government in order to raise funds through her merch table to support infant and maternal health in Africa and Asia. Rachael also became a brand ambassador for Hollister and Takis while on the HSN tour.
After sharing the stage with Silento, Bawn moved onto performing with YC Alberta, a Canadian tour where Bawn performing in from of 50,000 kids. Currently, Rachael is on the Live Different tour and is spreading her positive message through her music. She has partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Botwood, Wabama, and Niagara to spread of a message of combating cyberbullying.
As she looks forward to her album’s launch in February 2019, Bawn says she is most excited about potentially impacting others. “This is a mission and a movement for me. I look forward to seeing how people respond to this music and this project, And most of all, I want my songs to affect people in a really positive way and give them hope.” This is an inspiring vision from the girl from Hopeville.