After Eight Years in Charleston, Rachel Kate Returns to Nashville

Tuesday at Conundrum Music Hall
By Patrick Wall
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Rachel Kate | photo by Jordan Lawrence

In late February, Rachel Kate Gillon entered Ramshackle Studio to cut “Goin’ Home,” her first taste of a follow-up to last year’s Rachel Kate With Love and Hate. Posted to Bandcamp on Feb. 20, the song would prove prescient.

“Girl, pick off the moss, you’re goin’ home,” Gillon drawls, her brassy voice rising over acoustic guitar strums that glide past like mile markers on an open highway. “Years, it’s been eight years,” she continues, “and now you’re strong.”

It would be the last song she’d record in Charleston, where she’d lived for eight years. Less than a week later, Gillon packed up and moved to Nashville, where she grew up.

What:Rachel Kate
Where: Conundrum Music Hall, 626 Meeting St.
When: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 8:30 p.m.
With: Adam Cullen, Calamity Cubes.
Price: $8
More Info: 250-1295,

A move back to Nashville had “always been sort of in my mind,” Gillon says, “but I felt like I just wasn’t quite ready. I thought that moving back would be, like, betraying Charleston or something, just because I got so much out of living there for so long and I got so much support and I learned so much. I was, like, ‘Is everyone going to hate me?’ Then, when I felt like I was ready, it was sort of impulsive,” she laughs. “It was like, ‘OK, I’m going. Next month. Bye!’”

Nashville’s strong music scene, obviously, was a big draw. But the move back to the Music City was predicated by desire to be close to her family. Gillon grew up just outside of Nashville, and most of her family still lives there — including her father, who had a stroke 11 years ago and just last month had his hip replaced after a nasty fall.

“He’s cool, he gets around,” she says, “but I really wanted to be here for him.”

Her upbringing, perhaps not surprisingly, was a musical one. Gillon’s father was a musician, and a great influence; he wrote Love and Hate’s “Dancing Shoes,” an upbeat pop-country number about raising two daughters. His stroke, Gillon says, mostly paralyzed his right side, but he’s has taken up painting — mostly elementary landscapes, she says — to replace his primary creative outlet.

“He was a really incredible songwriter,” Gillon says of her father. “He could play anything.”

Gillon’s father was the musician, but her mother was the real industry vet; she worked for MCA Records for 30 years, retiring as vice president of production “right before Internet killed everything.”

“I didn’t get it at the time. Now, I totally get it,” Gillon says. “I was, like, running around the office pretending I was the mail person and just bugging everyone.”

The move home has reconnected Gillon with her roots, but it also offers great musical dividends. Touring, for one, is much easier to do out of Nashville. To wit, Gillon hasn’t spent a lot of time in Nashville since relocating there, setting off almost immediately on a series of month-long tours.

“I literally went and dropped my stuff off,” Gillon says. “I was there for, like, 24 hours. I went and saw Shovels and Rope, and then I went on the road. I was like, ‘OK, hi! Bye!’”

When reached in early August, she’s returning from another tour, driving back to Nashville from Greenville; her date Tuesday at Conundrum comes at the tail of another Southeastern swing, and in September she heads to the upper Midwest.

“Touring gives me the opportunity to explore so many places,” Gillon says, but it offers the additional advantage of tempering the wanderlust that brought her to Charleston in the first place.

“There can be a scary thing about going home,” she says. “But Nashville will always be my home. Speaking about Charleston and making this new life or something, it’s like, I got to know people really well there, but they didn’t know me when I was 12.”

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