Thursday, July 19, 2012

One On One with Rachel Levitin

Hey, blogspot readers, SouthSide wants you to meet a "...musician passionately driven by [her] emotions..."  with strong ties to Chicago's local scene though now living in Washington D.C. Recently, Rachel Levitin returned home for a performance Uncommon Ground (Wrigleyville location) that also featured local band Trees on the lineup. Before her return to Chicago, this reviewer took time out from her busy schedule for a lively phone chat about her experience as a blogger, ties to a couple of local artist, music and why Chicagoans shouldn't be complaining about the public transportation system.

To understand this artist and her music, one would have to walk in Rachel's shoes to experience a few life changing events that occurred within her family of them being - death. "...I experienced a lot of death in my family..." says this singer/songwriter after SouthSide asked why blogspot readers take a listen to her and her music, "...lost my father and dog within a 12 hour period shocked me physically and emotionally ...never knew how close I was to him [her father] until he died..." Even though experiencing the deaths of both paternal and maternal grandmothers and other rough patches, music was Rachel's biggest and oldest friend (to which she jokingly noted that she's very single to the point of dating her music) thus having fond childhood memories of playing the ukulele. " is used as my betterment and it makes me happy ...and hopefully it makes everyone feel the same..." Since Rachel Levitin is a solo artist, this reviewer wondered if she preferred performing solo or with a band and she responded by saying "...I like it both ways..." This singer/songwriter likes the freedom according her " helps you grow ...can engage more with the audience, test new songs (without a band) and see how they react to certain ones you write..."  Plus, she likes the intimate setting you have with the audience, blogspot readers, and " one is going to notice if you play one more chord or two longer..." Yet on the flipside, when performing with a band, there's a different experience noted. There are some songs according to her that are meant to be performed with a full band. Eventually, Rachel plans to have a band in the future but she also says that she doesn't regret playing solo either "'s a great learning experience..."

Before this interview, blogspot readers, SouthSide learned one interesting fact in which she shared with this artist - blogging.  So what inspired Rachel to take up blogging? Well, it first started meeting the co-owners of  We Love DC ( after breaking away from another blog because they wanted to make this one to be fun. So around the Fall of 2009, Rachel started writing for them covering the National League baseball team - The Nationals even though she's a Cubs fan (and she did disclose something to this reviewer about the Northsiders chances ...let's just say, her comments weren't the usual hopeful  one heard every year). Soon she found it was good way to express her thoughts about the ins and outs of DC's local scene. "...[this] helped me to build up my networking system's cool to know people and hear their opinion..." What she like most about SouthSide's blog was its simplistic format and its content. There's also longetivity too "...[that's how] people will find you..." Now, there's a Chicago connection between Rachel Levitin, the band Filligar and Tom Fort that SouthSide found interesting - they all went to high school together. One more fact -  Rachel had the extreme opportunity to open for Filligar.
Now, when talking about D.C.'s local scene, blogspot readers, it's not all go-go (i.e. E.U) or punk. And according to Rachel, there's a lot more than that waiting to be discovered but people don't realize it's out there. Like SouthSide, this singer/songwriter knows and understands that one can experience a wild, weird and crazy adventure while spending a night on the town inside the local scene. She told this reviewer about a nonprofit organization in D.C. called Listen Local First ( that focuses on trying to promote as well as create collaborations and partnerships between local musicians and businesses thus creating "...additional avenues for local music exploration..." SouthSide had no idea that it's tough convinicing DC venues you're worthy to play on their stages. " is a hard thing in DC ...there's so many of us..." That's how she received the chance to open for Filligar - they personally requested for her to perform at their show. " really pays to network and not use people..." She's a strong believer in musician karma, blogspot readers. And with that, she told this reviewer, there's also artists supporting other artists especially within the singer/songwriter genre in which they try not only supporting but also promoting each other's shows. However Rachel would like to see more collaborations to create events (like I AM Fest) as well as musically collaborating with other artists for booking shows. Yet in her case, she's surprised by the turnoout happening to her in the past few years though wishing it could be better.

As part of the pop/rock/songwriter scene, Rachel personally draws from her Blues and Jazz influences to inspire her music. Believe it or not, she was once trained as Blues performance artist, blogspot readers. "...I've learned to feed off other artists as well as feed off the history and context of our music..." Rachel did offer a selection of three songs which showcase three different yet distinct sides to her and her music. First, she said listen to Lucky Penny Blues - she opens her performances with this feel good, straight blues, whistle sandwich type of song. Then, she suggested listening to Circles (written for her 2nd album while in college) yet she performs this particular one with a full band for her new album stating " can see the progression of my growth as a songwriter..." Then lastly, try the song Dreaming which inspired her to write it after watching an episode of Glee (also she wrote the chord change in the bathroom "...has the best acoustics...") but it's based on a short story she wrote in 6th grade about winning Song of the Year at Grammy's. More interesting Rachel Levitin facts that SouthSide learned about her interviewee - she learned to play guitar and trumpet at 9 years old and then started writing songs at 12. Speaking of her performances, Rachel stated that her Chicago performance would have answered the question of what Alex Clare (British singer/songwriter), Fleetwood Mac and Filligar had in common - she was going to perform covers from each artist mentioned at the Uncommon Ground (Wrigleyville location).

With all this talk about D.C., this reviewer wanted to know if there was anything she missed about Chicago. There are two things - being so close to the Lake (Michigan) and riding the "L" (short for elevated) in which she says the CTA runs (way) better than DC's Metro public transit system hands down. She told SouthSide a story about how the Metro shut downs its entire system when doing repair work and runs on a confusing schedule. So in other words, Chicagoans have no reason to complain about how bad the CTA is. And like all of SouthSide's One On One interviews, it was time to wrap it up. Before leaving, Rachel did leave with some parting words. "...been doing this a long time ...I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't love it..." Also, she said give her a chance and listen, blogspot readers.

For more information about Rachel Levitin and her music, visit

Until next time, support your local scene,

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