Exclusive Interview: Female Focus Friday with Rainey Qualley

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During U-verse CMA Fest, our team was fortunate to work at the AT&T U-verse Showcase Stage at Fan Fair X. One of the performers on the four-day jam-packed lineup was rising star Rainey Qualley.

While Rainey made her CMA Fest debut before our eyes and won our hearts over the minute the first lyric escaped her mouth, what was even more awe-inspiring was the attention she garnered from passersby who couldn’t resist stopping and listening to her set. Tonight, Rainey will make her Grand Ole Opry debut as the inaugural signee of Cingle Records, and we caught up with our favorite new artist in the hours before her anticipated trip to the infamous circle.

Rainey Qualley may be new to the country music industry, but her entertainment background spans her entire lifetime. Rainey comes from a family of entertainers, including a father who is a musician who had a hand in shaping her into the artist she is today. At two years of age, Rainey began singing, and her father later taught her guitar, as well. However, it wasn’t just the singing and instrument playing that were demonstrative of the special talent Rainey possessed. She also grew up as a dancer, which she cites as a major influence of her musicality.

I also started dancing at a really young age, which I think was very influential as a musician, as well, just being exposed to so much music and listening to music and experiencing it, like, kind of in my body in a way that is different than just listening.

From those early beginnings, Rainey knew music was her calling, and when it came down to choosing between the paths of singing or dancing, it was undoubtedly singing that she wanted to pursue professionally. Rainey inevitably ended up setting her sights on country music — the genre that found her, rather than vice versa.

I grew up, for the most part, in Asheville, North Carolina, so country music was definitely the predominant genre, and then my parents both loved country. My mom really loved Alison Krauss . . . and then my dad loved Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell and Neil Young; more like folk rock type of stuff. I think everybody kind of gets a lot of musical influences from the kind of music their parents listened to growing up.

Choosing to take the country music journey led Rainey to Russ Zavitson, who has taken on the role of her manager and A&R for Cingle Records, the label to which Rainey is signed. The two had been working together prior to the launch of Cingle, so when Russ saw the opportunity to memorialize their relationship through virtue of a recording contract, he and Rainey delved in and haven’t looked back since.

Under the watchful eye and supportive system of Cingle, Rainey recently released her debut EP, Turn Down the Lights. In creating the album, Rainey tapped into her personal influences to channel a more traditional sound.

There’s a bit of variety on the EP. Some of the songs have a traditional country sound. I’ve always really loved and hold to high esteem traditional country artists . . . like Johnny Cash, which my first EP is in homage of in a way, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Willie Nelson, who I was really fortunate to be able to open up for. Some of the other songs have more pop influences. Some of them are a little blue grassy and kind of folk sound, so I think there’s a bit of variety on there.

In fact, there is so much variety on the seven-track disc (on which Rainey is a co-writer for every song) that she cannot even begin to choose a personal favorite.

I love different songs for different reasons. . . . They’re my songs! I like them all (laughs)!

Currently, Rainey is shipping her single, “Me and Johnny Cash,” to radio stations and has been taking time to visit different cities to share her music with the on-air personalities and executives. The song continues to receive more adds every week, setting the stage for Rainey’s ongoing success on radio with songs that honor artists of the past, rather than conforming to a newer sound.

Before Rainey can continue to make her mark on radio though, she has a milestone performance to get under her belt — tonight! She will be making her Grand Ole Opry debut and can’t wait to experience everything that comes with the monumental first time an artist steps on the iconic stage.

I’m just excited for the whole experience. I guess really I’m just looking forward to getting to be able to get up on that stage and sing and get to touch a legendary setting. It’s kind of like the holy grail of country music. I’m super honored and humbled and excited to be able to play.

And we are, likewise, super honored and humbled and excited to watch Rainey Qualley make her debut tonight! Rainey is an absolute force to see on stage, but more so, she is an incredibly wonderful person to speak to and is wholly appreciative for all the opportunities and support she has received thus far.

For those of you who have not had the chance to see Rainey live and hear one of the best voices of your lifetime, keep an eye on her tour page for the addition of new dates. Rainey would also love for you all to check out what she has been listening to on Spotify by checking out her playlists, which she has been updating regularly these days. You can, of course, always follow Rainey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for the latest and most up-to-date information.

Thank you so much to Rainey Qualley and her outstanding team for taking the time to share so much exciting information with us. We wish you all the best of luck tonight at the Opry and can’t wait to be there to witness history in the making.

Watch Rainey Qualley’s “Me and Johnny Cash” video:

Download Rainey Qualley’s debut EP, Turn Down the Lights:

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