THEAUSSIEWORD.com’s special interview with US singer/songwriter Reece Ratliff.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
For me, I didn’t really have a specific moment where I decided to be a musician and pursue this as a career, music has just always been a defining factor in my life. I got my first guitar when I was two so I could sit on the floor and strum along while my dad played. He gave up on taking lessons a few years later, but he gave me his guitar so I could continue to learn and play every day. I took lessons and played in shows at School of Rock for a few years, and then when I was around 12 or 13, I started to write and record my own music. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with the industry and the music community as a whole. I love collaborating — writing with other artists, shooting with different photographers, just getting a chance to be creative with other incredible minds — and I think that’s what’s so special about this profession compared to so many others.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
Some of my biggest creative influences include Christian French, Lauv, and Smallpools, but overall, I would say my biggest motivation is just the drive to make it for everyone who’s supported me along this journey so far. I’m eternally grateful to my fans, my team, my friends, and my family for all the love thus far and I want to show to everyone that I can actually make it. So excited for the next year, I really think this could be the one to get me on the map.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
Some of my goals for the next year are 10 million Spotify streams, 50k instagram followers, and the chance to play at least 3 major music festivals. I know these are all lofty for a young, independent artist, but I’ve always believed in the power of setting high goals and striving to achieve them.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
In the next couple months, I’m going to be releasing three singles and my debut full-length album, shooting some new music videos, and then hopefully touring at least the US next summer. It’s crazy having all the live music and everything shut down right now, so I’m really excited to get back out on the road and play some shows!
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
My new song, “Checkered Vans,” is all about a classic teenage relationship. After finding a pair of shoes left behind in a breakup, the song traces the nostalgia of all the perfect little movie moments that the protagonist is forced to remember. I’m really excited to have this one out there because it’s the first song I’m releasing after finding my new sound in Nashville. I’ve gotten to work with some people who are more in touch with the rising indie pop scene, and as a result, this new album is full of fun and upbeat synth sounds, drum lines, and catchy lyrical pop hooks. It definitely has a more commercial, radio-ready sound than what I’ve done in the past, and I’m so excited to get the rest of the record out there!
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
For me, it’s always a little bit different. Sometimes I’ll see or experience something that gives me an idea of a topic to write about, and sometimes I’ll just sit down and pick something to explore. I usually start with lyrics and then write a chord progression and melody around them, but with this record, I got to explore the process of building up a track first and then writing lyrics to go with it. For it to be truly organic, it can never be exactly the same, and I think that’s one of my favorite things about the process. There’s always room to get creative and grow as a songwriter any time you sit down to write.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
I don’t have any hidden lines or messages or anything like that, but I definitely have a few lyrics where certain people would associate with specific experiences or memories. I try to be universal in my lyricism, to write things that a lot of people can relate to, but even with that mentality, there are always a few spots that are references to moments in my life. I think that’s one of the things that’s so special about being a songwriter and a lyricist, that ability to write about your own life while also making it relatable for everyone who listens to it.
Success, what is the secret to it?
In my eyes, the secret to success is always loving what you do and never feeling like you’re working. If you can find a career where you feel passionate about your work, your life will be so much more meaningful and fulfilling. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to make a living out of music because it allows me to pursue what I love while also being able to support myself. That happiness and fulfillment, in my eyes, is success.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
One of my greatest highlights thus far was my first tour. I got to go out on the road by myself and play 21 acoustic shows across the eastern half of the US, and in that time, I learned so much about myself and about the world. I wrote every night in a compass-emblazoned journal and generated a ton of stories that would become the inspiration for the album. Above all, it showed me what life on the road is like and gave me invaluable experience as a touring artist.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
Although he doesn’t directly influence my sound like Lauv and Christian French do, I would say my biggest inspiration is Watsky. He’s found a way to maintain his artistic and creative integrity while making a successful career out of his music, and I think his model is definitely one to try to emulate. I’ve always looked up to his ability to innovate and carve his own path through this crazy industry, and I hope to one day work with him on a project of some sort…
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
Just focusing on the album right now, but I can promise there will most definitely be more music to follow. I’m waiting to see how this project does before getting back in the studio, but I can’t wait to keep cranking out more songs soon.
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself a few years?
I’ve always been a big dreamer, so in a few years, I see myself having graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, toured the world a few times over, and recorded a few more albums before ending up on the beach in LA. The dream is to make a good life out of my music, and I can’t wait to see where these next few years take me.
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
My favorite part is definitely the social aspect. Meeting new people in every city, writing and recording with new minds, getting to share this communal experience of life with people across the world, I think that’s a really special feeling. If I’m being honest, I haven’t found an aspect of this work that I truly don’t like. The administrative work of booking shows and doing my own PR and everything can sometimes be tedious, but it always pays off so I really can’t complain. It’s all part of the game, and the end result is always worth the hard work.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
I don’t know a ton of Australian artists, but I would have to say my favorite is definitely Dean Lewis. I found him on Instagram a few years back before he really blew up, and it was so cool to watch his quick rise to fame. He’s an incredible singer and songwriter, and his ability to have fun and engage with people on social media is something I really look up to.
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
Being a 17 year old, I’ve grown up in the age of modern technology and media. I don’t remember the days before streaming services and social media, so for me, it feels more natural because that’s all I’ve ever known. At this point, I’m just trying to learn the best ways to leverage that new technology and use it as a tool to promote my music, and I think the biggest thing with that is just connecting through social media and making those real connections with fans.
How will you continue appealing to the international market?
In the next couple years, I definitely want to tour outside the US. I would love to hit Europe, Asia, Australia, all these beautiful places I haven’t gotten to experience yet. Other than that, I think that’s what’s so great about Spotify and social media, that they have the ability to connect people across the world through a network of like-minded people. I would love to keep expanding my fanbase internationally and making up that network of amazing people around the globe.
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
Yes! I love collaborating with other musicians, photographers, artists, you name it. On my wish-list, I would say my top two names are Watsky and Christian French. Watsky’s sound is definitely different from mine, but I feel like we could have a cool crossover and make something special. Christian’s sound is definitely more similar to what I’m going for, and I think he would be a really fun artist to write with.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I’d say the biggest thing is just go for it. Don’t worry about what other people will think or question whether you’re talented enough, just do what you love and the rest will fall into place. Surround yourself with the right people — I’ve gotten so lucky with my team and don’t think I’d be where I am today without them. Most importantly, just stay true to who you are as an artist. There’s always room to grow and change, but don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right for you. There will be challenges and setbacks, but stay positive and know that it’ll all be worth it.
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?
For everyone out there who’s ever engaged with me or my music, thank you. I’m so grateful for you listening and sharing, and I’m always down to hear what you have to say so hit those DMs any time. I love you all, and I can’t wait to see you all at a show sometime soon.