This article is part of our series “GRITS: Girls Raised in the South,” in which we profile some of our favorite Dixie ladies and the things that make them awesome. Got an idea for a fabulous femme we should feature? Shoot us an email at email@example.com! (Alliteration optional.)
Name: Rachael Price
Hometown: Hendersonville, Tennessee
Profession: jazz vocalist, lead singer for Lake Street Dive, badass
Reasons she’s awesome: Rachael Price is an old soul. The daughter of Australian composer Tom Price, she came into this world equipped with musical bona fides, but soon proved her chops as a musician in her own right. At 17, she received an honorable mention at Montreux Jazz Festival’s International Jazz Vocal Competition. At 18, she was the youngest competitor in the history of the Thelonious Monk Institute Vocal Competition (and a semi-finalist to boot). At 20, she won an Independent Music Award for Best Gospel Song. And in the same year, while a student at the New England Conservatory of Music, she would co-found the band that would bring her smashing onto the world stage and into our hearts: Lake Street Dive.
A four-piece consisting of Price, drummer Michael Calabrese, upright bassist Bridget Kearney, and trumpetist/guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson, Lake Street Dive started out as a “free country band.” But the quartet soon found their groove playing retro tunes that defy categorization. A little bit rock, a little bit folk, a little bit funk, and a little bit soul, it’s a sound Calabrese described as, “like the Beatles and Motown had a party together.” The group gained national attention for the covers, particularly a version of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” performed around a single microphone on a Boston street corner, as well as for their original songwriting. After two self-releases, they decided to commit to the group full-time, signed with Signature Sound, and dropped their self-titled album in November 2010. An EP, Fun Machine, followed in 2012; a second album, Bad Self Portraits, dropped in 2014; and last month the band released their third full-length offering, Side Pony, with new label Nonesuch Records.
Lake Street Dive is an ensemble, it’s true — a finely tuned collaboration of musicians who blend classical training with boundless enthusiasm and a taste for old-school jams with contemporary sass. But Price’s voice is the star, with her unique sound pulsing through every track and infusing every pop note with her jazz roots. The gal who never imagined herself as a rock star has found herself the epitome of cool, stepping into the spotlight at Town Hall alongside Jack White and Joan Baez for an Inside Llewyn Davis concert or filling in for Grace Slick at a Jefferson Airplane reunion performance. The group is embarking on a world tour in support of Side Pony, so it’s the jet setter’s life for Price for the time being. The grand finale is a headlining performance at Radio City Music Hall this October, which will surely lay any lingering rock star doubts to rest. Consider our calendars marked.