Rachel Maria Cox

There’s usually a seed, like a lyric that starts it all. But it’s not like I plant and water it and wait for it to grow though- I use hydrochloric lights and force it to grow

 

Rachel and I caught up just before my set at The Kings Street Crawl‘s Miss Peaches stage- a gig Rachel had organized for me with Sad Grrls Club (a label and booking company they co-founded). We walked to M.J Hayes Reserve– a shady one-star Google-rated park (though it was in the late afternoon, and the low sun probably contributed to the shade)

 

How did it feel to have your song get on a Spotify playlist?

I remember finding out because- I don’t know why- I was at work, and this other dude in the office asked me something about my music, so I went onto my Spotify playlist and was like what the hell?? It just had a ridiculous amount of streams. It used to have like something-thousand, and I checked the Spotify for artists and it had this massive spike in listens. I was like what happened?? Because I had no idea.

I found out it had been added to Fresh Finds: Six Strings, and to Fresh Finds as well. It was so- I was over the moon, I literally freaked out and started yelling at work. It was so cool.

What a special moment! Was it your favourite song? Or do you kind of wish it happened to a different song?

Well, it was never going to be a single off the album, you know what I mean? I still love the songs, it’s a great song and it’s a song that people really like which is cool. I don’t wish it happened to a different song, I hope it happens again to the new songs! Part of the reason you put out an album vs a single is because people are going to like different things. People are always gonna have different favourite songs off that album because you give them more than one song to choose from. I think that’s cool- I think it was a really really exciting moment. It was a song we had been playing for a long time too, even by the time we had recorded the album it was well and truly a song that people already knew. For it to reach a whole new bunch of people was really, really cool.

I feel like there’s this expectation that if nothing happens to what you’ve already got- the next thing is going to be what explodes or whatever. It must have been really nice to have something that was already there have a bit of a second life.

Yeah, it was weird because the album wasn’t new as well? It wasn’t like ‘this is the single we just put out!’ and then have that get added the week we released it, it happened a couple of months after. It was cool because that was why it was so unexpected. The album had already been put out and we didn’t expect any extra attention on it until we did something new. I guess that’s one of the cool things you know? People like what they like. Doesn’t matter if it’s- I think there is this idea that whatever you do, whatever your newest thing is, that has to be your best, but…

I think I often feel like that

I mean from a songwriters perspective, you always wanna be improving right? You always want the next thing you release to be better than the last, because it means that you’re getting better as a songwriter. People don’t necessarily work with that liner motion- write release write release write release– I don’t think it’s fair to expect someone’s best work to be their most recent thing.

Yeah and people evolve with their writing, someone might think your best work was the first song you released, and another person might think it’s the most recent song you released. If you write trying to please everyone, you’re always going to be disappointed.

Yeah, you can only ever write authentically to who you are at that point in time. I think that’s cool, it’s what allows artists to evolve and change their sound. You’re always gonna write what feels true to you when you’re writing it.

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Do you have a moment that you’re most proud of musically?

I’m really proud of this song that we’re about to put out- like we just finished it. I’m really really proud of it because I feel like not only is it sonically a lot more- it’s a bit more pop but it’s a bit more kind of…commercially orientated? It has a bit less guitar and a bit more synthy stuff. It’s still us, but it’s just evolving a little bit more?

How the lyrics sit- it’s very much like the rest of the album. It’s lyrically similar to ‘If I’m Smiling’ or ‘Emotionally Untidy’, or even ‘A Phone I Can’t Use’- it’s similar to that. The overall production and the way that it’s come out is a bit of a step up. I’m really proud of it.

Do you feel like there are tropes you’ve decided on in the past that you need to keep abiding by, or do you like the idea of being different which each thing that you do?

It’s hard to strike a balance. There is always this idea of not wanting to drastically change what you’re doing. You don’t want to drastically alienate people who liked what we used to do

Yeah for sure

Ultimately, I think you kind of have to identify what it is that you want to keep consistent in your music. There’s a couple of things we identified going into this. Obviously, because it’s music we write and put out under my name, my voice is one of the key things that’s gonna tie it together. I think lyrically I try to keep elements of my old lyric writing in it so it still sounds like me. I try and add little elements of specificity, I think that’s what people liked about our music so far.

I think people like specificity in lyrics because they can go hey that’s me! even though it seems like it wouldn’t be that way- it always seems like the more specific you are, the harder it is for people to relate to that experience, but I don’t think that’s true. I think the less specific you are, the harder it is for people to relate to your songs. There’s nothing really for them to latch on to. 

When you’re writing songs, do you feel like it’s easy to write during the emotional experiences you have or do you prefer to write as a reflection?

I do a lot of writing when I’m in the middle of the emotions, sometimes because it feels so overwhelming I need to acknowledge it’s presence, I need to write it down and sing it. I try and edit after the fact- go back in and look at it more as song and not just as an outpouring of emotion. That editing process is what allows me to perform it as well because otherwise, it’s just straight up raw emotion

Ripping the wound open every time you sing it

Yeah that’s it! Especially considering a lot of my stuff is related to my mental health and stuff like that, you gotta go straight back in there to sing it! And it’s not good to like constantly live in that emotion. Every time I perform- particularly old stuff- I have to sing it for me right now, I try not to go back to who I was when I wrote it. I have to sing it for where I am now.

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When you are in the process of writing, what generally comes first?

Almost always lyrics, but not as a whole. I saw this really great songwriting interview with Taylor Swift, and she talks about writing down any single idea into one note on her phone, so she’s got images, lines, phrases, concepts, and she keeps writing them down as they come to her- all in this same note. When it comes time to write a whole song or a whole album, she goes through and finds all the little snippets. I really like that. I try and find music that works with those ideas

Music that matches the feelings?

Yeah, and once I start, I can kind of write a song in one session- but it doesn’t appear out of thin air, I write a song in one session from ideas that I’ve been compiling

Like a puzzle you sit down to complete once you have all the pieces

There’s usually a seed, like a lyric that starts it all. But it’s not like I plant and water it and wait for it to grow though- I use hydrochloric lights and force it to grow

 

Have you enjoyed the process of collaborating? Do you find it easy?

I’m about to do a whole lot more of it, so we’re gonna find out! The thing that I find difficult about collaborating is….well the reason why I didn’t like collaborating at first is because I realised I was too much of a control freak

I can relate to that

I’d write a whole song and take it to other people and it wasn’t really collaborating

Look at my song!

It was just me showing people the song. They’d be like ‘hey let’s try this’ and I’d be like ‘no. my song’

I found at one point I was collaborating, and it kind of just reassured me that I really liked my own ideas, and I hated theirs

I’ve tried a couple different things like I just joined a new band where they basically sent me 5 completed instrumental tracks, and all I had to do was write melodies and lyrics to them. I really loved that! That was sick. I didn’t have to be responsible for the entire song, just one part!

Do you find you can still be emotionally invested when you’re not contributing everything?

Yeah! I love it, it gives me a chance to write lyrics in a different style to my own stuff, and write about things I might not usually write about. I’ve started practicing writing from scratch ideas that are not for me- I think when I start knowing it’s not my song, then I’ll be fine. Once a song’s mine, it’s really hard to let go off.

Do you ever approach songwriting from an unconventional angle or an angle you aren’t used to?

I think every time I’ve tried a different songwriting method, the songs turned out differently. They might turn out either stylistically or lyrically different. I’m always up for trying new things, and open to learning more about songwriting. It’s a creative process, so you can’t ever be satisfied with your methods. There’s always room to learn more or take on new ideas and approaches. I think that’s why I’m interested in it as a skill, you can always learn from other people’s approaches. I think even deciding to not write on an acoustic guitar or piano has been really interesting for me- like writing in Logic, more of a sort of arranging and production process has been really cool. And production is such a different skill set, so there’s so much to learn, and the more I learn, the more versatile as a songwriter I can be.

Do you have favourite lyrics?

Yeah….. I have many

My second EP ‘I Just Have A Lot Of Feelings’, I think there are some fuckin’ gems on that one. I think the first lines

 

I wish I could record our conversations

So these songs could write themselves

Instead, I cut them out like animations

And try and rearrange the cells

 

I think that’s so good! I still listen to that and I’m like

I’m amazing???

Like where did that come from?!? What depths of my brain pulled that wordplay out??

‘Zip’s, Netflix & Dinner For Six’ is one of my favourite songs that I’ve ever written.

 

When I say I’m feeling lonely,

what I mean is I’m so scared

That if my body had a zip,

then it would leave and I’d never see it again

 

Like, again, where?? I think there were some really good lines in that. I think those little things- the plays on words- that’s what makes a song memorable.

Yeah, and it makes it memorable for you as well

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How do you feel your identity ties in with your music?

I think the two have kind of grown together a whole lot. I think I’ve tried to express who I am through what I’m singing and playing. At the same time, I think having music has allowed me to kind of work out who I am?

I get asked a lot if being- I think particularly with my mental health it’s been really helpful. I think with gender and stuff, only now have I started to tap into it. It’s not like I want my gender to be separate from my music. People are really quick to be like ‘you’re non-binary, that’s the thing we’re gonna focus on’, and I just don’t think that being non-binary has to be my whole identity and that’s it. I don’t want to sing about it necessarily, it’s just not what I want to sing about! There are other parts to my life. My gender effects my life and partially defines how I navigate through life, but it doesn’t have to be everything that I’m about.

It’s ridiculous right? No one expects male musicians to write about being a dude all the time? Everyone expects that male songwriters write about everything that’s cool and important and meaningful, and women just write about being a girl, and non-binary songwriters just write about being non-binary. Like??

It’s part of this idea that being male is the default. Like men don’t need to write about being a guy, but we all apparently just have no idea what it’s like to be a girl, so women better write about it and tell us. There’s so much more to these people, it’s very reductive to look at someone like that

It’s like seeing someone who’s a girl or non-binary and being like ‘that’s who you are, that’s it’, like I’M A MUSICIAN TOO!

Fuck, that’s such a big one. It assumes we are not talented songwriters in our own right. You can’t write about situations men can relate to, because you can’t understand, like fuck off I can write about whatever the hell I want?? I understand a lot!

Not to say there isn’t an importance in having songs that are about the struggles of identity and politics- Songs like ‘The Opener’ and ‘Girly Bits’. They are super important, but I’m not a political musician. People make the mistake that because I’m non-binary and a musician, my music must be political. I’m a musician making pop songs! I’m just non-binary as well! I don’t have to write about it!

Every band that’s made up entirely of women must be a feminist band, and their music has to be about female empowerment, and while bands like that exist, they don’t all have to be like that you know? Simply existing and doing whatever the fuck we wanna do is important as well!

It assumes that that is all we know. I’m much happier singing about being mentally unwell or unlucky in love- or whatever it is the shit that I sing about! Maybe it’s kind of a catch 22 because the more I get asked to talk about my gender, the less I want to sing about. It’s all I talk about it!

Maybe I should wear a mask! So no one knows who I am!

Maybe I should do a Daft Punk!

Just talk about the music!!

It’s so interesting how men never have to worry about being asked anything about what it’s like to be a guy

What’s it like being in a boy band?? Being a MAN making MUSIC?

When I’m asked about being in a ‘girl band’ I’m tempted to say oh it’s so hard to plan rehearsals when we all want to get our nails done, and we’re all late because we change our outfits 5 times

One of my favourite interviews is that radio interview-

Of Ariana Grande?

Yeah! And she’s like is this the shit you think girls think about? As if you would waste the chance to talk to her about that when you could be picking her brains about how she makes the best pop music that’s out right now?

I think with pop music there is this expectation that someone like Ariana Grande wouldn’t know how to answer those kinds of questions- like there must be a team of men doing all the thinking behind the scenes or some shit?

 

What do you want to stand for as a musician?

I don’t want to act like it’s not important that I’m visibly non-binary, like at the moment that’s important. I didn’t know of any non-binary people when I was growing up, I think if I did it would have been really helpful

It just wasn’t an option

Yeah. Writing songs is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a small kid, and ultimately I want to be known for being good at what I do. Don’t we all!

Amen

 

 

You can find Rachel on the following social media:

Spotify

Facebook

Website

and performing at basically every major event, it’s honestly amazing what they get up to

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