By Kevin Zimmerman
Rachel Sierra Pushed To The Limit
Push Me is the apt title of Rachel Sierra’s new album. Racking up road miles with former members of alt-hip hop group The Pharcyde on her way to delivering a solid set of funk rock that finds room for ballads and jazzy tinges – and working her way steadily through the rock ranks since her teens – Sierra has been pushing pretty hard herself.
“I just knew from the age of five that I wanted to sing and perform,” the singer/songwriter says, noting that she waited until the ripe old age of eight to compose her first tune (“a love song, even though I had no idea what love was,” she laughs). Studying piano and forming a band in college with the self-explanatory handle Higher Funktion, Sierra eventually enrolled at Hollywood’s Musicians Institute, where she connected with her advisor Tre Hardson – better known as Pharcyde’s Slimkid3.
“He asked me to drop out and go out on tour,” she says, still amazed. Realizing that life on the road – which in this case included an 18-city European jaunt – would offer her opportunities she’d never find in school, she quickly signed on. “It really helped me mature, as a person and as a musician,” she notes. Along the way the talented songstress signed with SESAC which presented Sierra with unexpected bonuses.
“I’m getting a lot of co-write offers, even for country music, which is something I hadn’t really thought about before,” she says. “SESAC fills the gap between music and the whole corporate, business side. It’s really a beautiful thing.”
Back in LA, Sierra handled all the songwriting and production duties on her 2008 album Held Under the Knife (Arthropoda Records). A piano-led album, Held Under earned respectable notices, but Sierra felt the need to expand. Enter producers Edward Peifer and Joaquin Sanchez.
“I got a new group, and agreed not to handle all the songwriting myself this time,” she says of the 18-plus months it took to put together Push Me (Xact Production). “We ended up writing the whole thing in about two weeks, just banged it all out.”
The new approach also finds Sierra no longer chained onstage to the piano, allowing her to move about the stage freely and interact more openly with fans – an approach that electro-disco tunes like current single “Jammin’” and the bubbling title track practically demand.
“I generally don’t like to write on demand like that,” she admits. “I like to sit down and have a lightning bolt of inspiration hit me. And even though I’ve been in full Push Me mode for months now, some new songs are starting to come through.”