With her new release, ‘Time Traveler,’ making waves, the Charlevoix-based singer-songwriter opens up to Local Spins about her music and her love of northern Michigan.
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Touring for shows across the country and settling amid the bustling music mecca of Nashville just couldn’t hold a candle to the beauty of northern Michigan and the draw of family for singer-songwriter Jetty Rae.
Returning last year to Charlevoix where she grew up and attended high school, the artist has made the most of her move back to Michigan: She released her latest album “Time Traveler” last month, a striking Americana collection that she says reflects “a full picture” of her journey the past few years.
“I missed the seasons the way they happen in northern Michigan, and also the lakes. The lifestyle and small town was a huge draw for us as well, as we really didn’t want to raise our kids in a city,” Rae said of her family’s relocation from Nashville.
“After years on the road and extensive travels, we really do feel like we live in the most beautiful place in the world. I love going to the beach in the summer, skiing and hiking in the winter, and foraging in the fall and spring.”
Rae launched her career in northern Michigan, releasing her debut album, “Blackberries,” in 2007 after recording it “in a pole barn in Charlevoix” as well as at Dave Runyan’s Runyan Media in Bellaire.
The oldest of four siblings raised in “a creative family” of writers and theater performers, Rae then spent several years on the road in an Airstream trailer with her husband and children before moving to Nashville in 2019 – a couple of years after her father passed away.
She’s released several indie-folk albums since “Blackberries,” calling her most recent project recorded with Mitch Dane at Nashville’s Sputnik Sound “a travelogue, so to speak, of my journey through grief, anxiety and eventually, toward hope.”
The album quickly earned attention regionally: “Time Traveler” soared to No. 2 on the Local Spins Hot Top 5 Chart for August, representing the local or regional release that earned the most radio airplay at Grand Rapids’ WYCE (88.1 FM).
VIDEO: Jetty Rae, “Time Traveler”
“I often joke with my audience that I have cried in every state. The years spent on the road after my dad died were beautiful, eye-opening and very bitter at times. There was a lot of processing for me, and the inspiration to weave in my travels through storytelling and the songwriting happened pretty naturally.”
EMBRACING HER NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE
Influenced by artists such as Brandi Carlile, Ray LaMontagne, Patty Griffin and Saray Jarosz, Rae describes her music as “Native Americana.”
“I am a Karuk Indian and I have let that part of my heritage seep out and permeate more of my creation process – even my choice of vocal inflections or chants, or inserting more Native American instrumentation in my music,” she said.
“I definitely have shifted more toward Western sounding production, a tiny bit of country, but mostly Americana, singer-songwriter.”
Growing up in an artistically creative family — both of her parents were writers and her mother was a musician and theater director — Rae embraced the music of Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. But she was forever impacted after seeing singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp live when she attended her first concert at age 11.
“I remember she came out on stage with a guitar and moved me deeply,” Rae recalled. “I was very inspired by her at that pivotal time in my life.”
Rae – whose music has been used in the past by the likes of Microsoft and Amazon in their promotional campaigns – is also writing fresh music with “lots of ideas for a new album.”
“My plan is to re-immerse myself in northern Michigan’s creative, musical community,” she said. “I’ve been gone for awhile and I want to build the kind of community and family I had in Nashville with other songwriters.
“I am hoping to start a ‘song saloon’ in Charlevoix where artists can workshop their songs, find a sense of community and collaborate.”
After playing an album-release show at Dhasaleer Barn in Charlevoix earlier this month, Rae plays Trinity House in Livonia on Dec. 10.
VIDEO: Jetty Rae, “Bad Loop” (from “Time Traveler”)
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