For bubbly Boston native Rachel Platten, 2012 has been a good year. Her song, Work of Art, is the themesong on ABC Family’s show Jane by Design. She recently moved into an apartment in the Big Apple overlooking the Hudson River. She’s writing a new album. She just purchased her very own tour van named Vanimal (how cute!), which is coming in handy for her first ever headlining tour, 53 Steps. In regards to her career, it seems that inspiration is everywhere.
For such a talented musician, it’s hard to imagine a time when Platten wasn’t playing the piano and belting out airy tunes for an audience. But music wasn’t always her job. “[At Trinity College], I was an international relations major, and I didn’t realize how much music was a big part of my life. It kind of hit me over the head one day and was like… ‘Come on now! Let’s go.’”
She switched her focus to songwriting and joined a sea of hopeful musicians, learning that only those who keep swimming (and swimming very, very hard) eventually make it. “I played a lot of crappy, local shows around Hartford [Connecticut] and gradually built a grassroots fan base,” Platten said. “I made analbum when I was 20 and sold almost 2,000 copies of it just from word of mouth.”
She’s quick to combat skepticism of the industry, almost taken aback by my comment on what a battlefield it must be. “Some of the people I’ve worked with in the past have been super down about it,” Platten said. “It’s really hard to work with people like that because obviously the industry is really hard, but we’ve all made that choice. And you’re also doing something that’s amazing. You’re getting to create music, and you’re getting to create art, and that’s the business of art.”
It’s obvious this girl is in the right profession when the word “fan” comes up and an undeniable six-year-old-girl giddiness rushes into her voice. “Oh man! These ladies in Louisville, Kentucky, made me a care-package, and it had this amazingly comfy blue blanket — which is not like a big deal but it was such a big deal because I didn’t have a comfortable blanket on the bus. They washed it and it smelled liked Downy and it was so amazing and comfortable. And they got me all these organic, yummy things that you know… I couldn’t really get on the road. It was so thoughtful.”
…and the enthusiasm continues. “And oh man! These girls in D.C. made me a care-package of elephant shaped sugar cookies because I’m really into elephants, and then they gave me friendship bracelets and they were so cute. It was so sweet. It was just really touching,” she gushed.
Platten’s attitude about life is electric, and her recent tour campaign was reflective of her energy. For the 53 Steps tour, she asked fans to take an Instagram photo 53 steps from wherever they currently were, hashtag it with #53steps, and in return she’d send them an acoustic version of her song 53 Steps. She said around 2,000 Instagram users participated. “The whole idea of the campaign was to use the theme of the song, which was to go out, explore the world, change your view, lift yourself up,” she said, “because you can’t make big changes without making small changes. The whole idea was to try to find somethinginteresting and beautiful in the ordinary.”
Platten considers herself a sponge to all influences, especially now that she’s working on a new album. “I can’t help but be so hungry to find out what the f—k we’re all doing here, and I think I try to constantly try to figure that out in my work and in my lyrics.” And there’s no one better than her to tell you that inspiration comes in some of the most unexpected places — like Andre 3000 and Frank Ocean. “I’ve been really obsessed with them lately,” she said. “I’m a big hip-hop fan. I’m also a big indie rock and classical fan. My influences are so wide it’s crazy.”
If it’s kind of hard for you to imagine her jamming to Andre3000 and Frank Ocean, hold your breath for this next one: This girl has been known to bust out a few beats in her day. Beatboxing, that is. “I’m not great. White girls don’t normally do it. I have a total of four beats and that’s really not that great,” she said, “so I’m working on it because when I tell everyone I’m a beatboxer they’re always like, ‘Okay! Let’s do it now,’ and I’m like, ‘Nooooo!’”
Her advice for college students? “Follow your heart and follow your gut because it will always lead you the right way,” she urged. “You’re under so much pressure. You always feel that you shouldn’t indulge in something that your parents don’t love or that your friends don’t love, but f—k that. Don’t be scared. Go after what your calling really, really is. And that’s the only way that you’re going to be truly happy and have true lasting success.”
Keep an eye out for her new album, which she is working on now. “I can’t wait to show the world,” she said. In the meantime, you can download last year’s album, Be Here, on iTunes now.