California-based duo The Singer and The Songwriter, aka Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran, met and began writing and performing music together in 2006. Together Rachel and Thu won the West Coast Songwriters International Song Contest, were nominated for Best Adult Contemporary Song at the 16th Annual Independent Music Awards and, this year, were named as a finalist in the prestigious Grassy Hill New Folk Song Competition for Emerging Folk Artists at the Kerrville Folk Festival.
NewSong Music: What sort of music was playing in your house when you were growing up?
The Singer and the Songwriter: For Rachel, it was Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Smokey Robinson, and Disney soundtracks. For Thu, when it wasn’t his parents’ Vietnamese music, he was listening to his sisters’ CD collection of ’80s music — which included George Michael, Madonna, ABBA’s Greatest Hits, and Culture Club.
What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Rachel: I found my way into songwriting through poetry in college. I have kept up a poetry practice ever since. When I hear a really great song that moves me, I have always been interested in how the mechanics of the lyric and melody create that emotional reaction, and that pursuit has inspired me to pursue this craft.
Thu: The first memory I have of “songwriting” was when I was in 2nd grade: the class learned to sing “Down by the Bay” by Raffi. At recess, I remember trying to think of different animals and rhymes for the part that went, “Did you ever see a….?”, usually ones that rhymed with bad words to try and make my friends laugh. Songwriting has always felt like solving little word puzzles to me, and while the intent and type of songs have changed a lot for me over the years, there’s still a part of me as a songwriter that’s still that puzzle-solver.
What is the first song you wrote that you were really proud of?
This is such an interesting question! For us, it was our song “Drowsy Driver.” The process of writing this song unlocked a new dynamic between us as writers that had not been there before. The germ of the idea started with Rachel while we were on tour. While she was driving, she would collect images and phrases that she kept in a note on her phone. Over the course of a year or two, she just kept adding to this note. Separately, Thu had come up with the guitar line. It took another year before the song came together, but it felt so hard-won when we finally finished it. Sometimes it’s wonderful when a song comes together quickly, but it can be even more rewarding when a song has a long gestation period.
If you could partner with another living songwriter to co-write a song, who would it be?
Gillian Welch has always been a huge songwriting inspiration for both of us, so that would be an absolute dream of a co-write!
What attracted you to submit your song(s) to the NewSong Competition?
We’ve been following the NewSong Competition since Max Hatt/Edda Glass won in 2014. We’ve been so inspired by all of the finalists and winners in all the years since and have always thought of this competition as a North Star of sorts for our writing.
Do you have any recent or forthcoming projects to tell us about?
We have an upcoming LP titled Dreams! The Dead! Ghost! Future that we’re hoping to release in 2023! Release date is TBD.