Raine Stern is a 23-year-old queer singer/songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist originally from Madison, WI.
When Raine first picked up a guitar at 11 years old, she found a home for the stories she had always felt the need to tell. Her lyricism is potent and poetic, and her arrangements fill in the cracks that language can’t. Raine’s timeless pop sound paired with guitar skills well beyond her years have earned her comparisons to music icons such as Prince, Joan Jett, and Jeff Buckley. Whether writing, producing or performing live, her talent is met head-on with an undeniable sense of purpose: her lifelong mission is to inspire devotion to the very causes that drive her, including environmentalism and equality.
What first got you into music?
When I was a kid, be it family, knowledge of worldwide issues, or just my general environment, I needed a home for all these stories/trauma/ideologies. Music became that home for me very effortlessly. I’m always approaching my songwriting with purpose.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
Timeless pop-rock. It’s always genre-bending and blending. The most important thing to note is that it’s very much so in-your-face but in an inviting way. It’s emotive and larger than myself.
What is your creative process like?
Never-ending. Attacking from multiple angles. Melodies, rhythms, lyrics, feelings; any of them can hit me first and be in the driver’s seat. Because I don’t have a systematic approach, the music comes out fresh and different from the rest every time. This is not to say I don’t have a sound or identity in my music though. It very much has a fingerprint. Like every cell in my body, it serves a different purpose, but you can tell it came from me.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Any bold, female powerhouses. Lorde, Hayley Williams, Remi Wolf, Taylor Swift. At this point, it’s not about genre or even who I listened to a lot growing up. My parameters for working with someone are now more centered around attitude and impact. I know that I’d have the chameleon ability to adapt to them while still being very much me.
If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?
I think John Mayer fans would be into what I do, but also John and I would vibe very well musically and likely in personality too. That was the first person that came to mind, but I’m super flexible and not too picky.
What is one message you would give to your fans?
For anyone and everyone: Are you making or not making choices because of the advice/noise of those around you? Who’s giving you this advice? What are there actual qualifications to have a say in when, how, and what you do? Remember the only way to accomplish anything in life is to be actively living it and taking risks. So don’t be overly calculated or perfectionist-oriented. This is me speaking from experience of having done the exact opposite. So, do as I say and not as I have done!
What would you be doing right now if it weren’t for your music career?
Likely pursuing my activism full time.
Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues?
Pretty much every venue in Madison, WI. I’ve played Summerfest twice. I was on ssn 20 of The Voice. Black Rabbit Rose in Hollywood is definitely a somewhat hidden gem; high-caliber talent. I really loved playing at the High Noon in Madison.
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
In every way possible. I’ll be here all day if I really try to answer this question. On one hand, it’s given many people the opportunity to be famous, on the other it’s also given literally anyone the opportunity to make noise and be famous. There’s an over-saturation and it’s largely not excellent. The world only has so many Nina Simones, Princes, Stevie Wonders, John Mayers, etc… You can’t teach heart to someone. I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Sure, the opportunities are “endless” but it’s a massive uphill battle for most people, regardless if that person is a Nina Simone or not. Used to be that you’d walk that high level talent and heart into a label and they’d build it. Now, Nina has to build herself and wear every single hat. Granted, it can give you more freedom to an extent; more control over your image/brand.
What led you to become a music artist and what advice can you give to others aspiring to make a hit?
Making a hit is different than making a great piece of art that deserves to be a hit. We’ve all seen/heard songs blow up on TikTok because they’re ridiculous or funny or even straight up bad. If your goal is to make good music with commercial success, then I’d say consistent, high-quality content and a team is pertinent. Get in front of your audience several times or at least a few impactful times. As far as the actual song is concerned, I’d say write something that transcends yourself.
What about your music is rebellious, unconventional, or unusual?
Part of it is me writing and arranging it all myself. I let the song lead itself and don’t stick to basic structures all the time. Lyrics are both blunt and poetic at all times. Unafraid to call things what they are. I don’t wrap things in metaphors just to seem poetic. It’s whatever it needs to be, and I believe that my lyricism is one of my best gifts. I know that my lyrics are better than average and always have been. While it’s taken time for my singing to be up-to-par, my lyrics have always been great, earnest, true, and ringing.
Has your musical journey had a deliberate direction or did it simply gradually evolve in whatever direction it found?
I’ve desired deliberate and from lack of timely execution, have found myself at times simply doing whatever must be done. It will find its clear direction once again, rooted in messaging and health for individuals, society, and our environment. For now, it is whatever direction it needs to be.
What can we expect from you within the next 6 months? Are any releases planned? Future gigs?
I’m putting out demos on Bandcamp. I’m releasing singles steadily. And while doing this, I’m looking into festivals and opportunities for next year that aligns with my style. I’ll be focusing on expanding my social media impact.
Would you have any advice for would-be artists or songwriters wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I think if you’re listening to my music and are inspired by it enough to create your own, you’re on the right path. And while that might sound arrogant, scrap that thought and hear me out. Take the Red Hot Chili Peppers for example; they are expressive and experimental. They have such they’re own voice that it would be impossible to replicate. So if someone so expressive and experimental is your inspiration, then “expressive” and “experimental” and true are your inspirations. I am not your inspiration per say, but rather the principles on which I build my music are. Don’t steal people’s progressions and melodies, and not because it’s wrong, but because it’s boring and you don’t need to. All you need to do is really live in the moment and fullness of your creation, remove your ego so that you become a channel of making, and know what you want to say. That’s it. You don’t need anything else but practice now. No one can make you great. No one can give you that it factor. That stuff is unteachable. So my advice, which may irritate many but I do not care because it’s my truth, is don’t do it unless it’s true. Don’t do it unless it’s you. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. Now, you just have to figure out how to take it to market. And my friend, that is the harder dragon to slay. Having it or not having it – is.
What is the most useless talent you have?
I’m really good at impressions and cartoon voices, but you know that could be useful in the future.
If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?
Into The Light (for now – let me live a little more and revisit this.
What was the last TV series you watched on TV?
The Jeffrey Dahmer show on Netflix. I have my quibbles with it not prepping or paying the families.
What’s your least favorite personality trait you like about yourself?
My righteousness. I’m not very good at knowing what battles to fight and which ones to wait on or let go of. I’m ready to fight for anything I believe in all the time. It’s my Achilles heel.
What’s your most expensive piece of clothing?
My one and only Gucci jacket. But I also have a pretty old, 100% silk shirt in good condition and I’m curious what it would be appraised at.
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