Rainey Qualley is many things: sometimes an actress, sometimes a model, always an introvert. She’s even dabbled in directing this year, alongside her younger sister, Margaret (who you may know from The Leftovers or the Sundance darling, Novitiate) on the music video for her song, “Rendezvous”. But on this mid-December Tuesday evening (December 12th, to be exact), she’s Rainsford, a genre-bending siren about to take the stage for her first public performance.
Beverly Boulevard is buzzing with just as much excitement as any other weeknight in West Hollywood. The Beverly Center towers across the street, making the small, 1970s-inspired club adjacent, The Peppermint Club, seem much less ostentatious in comparison. Mid-20-year-olds, such as I, crowd the sidewalk expectantly, smoking cigarettes and waiting to be let in.
And I am, but through a different door – backstage.
The tiny dressing room is teeming with people; instruments and bodies on every surface. In an oversized brocade blazer, elbow-length red satin gloves, and vintage-looking off-white heels, Rainey stands tall, gorgeous, and wire-thin; it seems a medical marvel that such a powerful, soulful voice could come from someone her size. In the days of autotune miracles, it’s always a treat when an artist’s voice sounds just as good as it does on the record – and Rainsford, with her R&B vocal sensibilities, is no exception.
Rainsford and I talked artistic inspirations, mutual admiration of ABRA, and future releases – check out the interview below.
Brit Wigintton: Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me! I’ve been listening to your music since your first single came out, so this is very exciting.
Rainey Qualley: Oh, sweet! Thank you!
BW: Are you excited [for tonight]?
RQ: Dude, I’m so excited. Yeah. I’m so stoked.
BW: When’s the last time that you played a live show?
RQ: Well, this is the first show that I’ve ever announced. So, it feels very much kind of like my first show for [Rainsford]. I write all my songs with my best friend Nick [Dungo], so we’ve been playing more like, paired-down acoustic sets occasionally. Mostly, kind of like, to get our feet wet and to like feel comfortable with the songs. Most recently, we played a show for a fashion party. Recently, before that, we played Winston House. But this is our first full-band thing.
BW: Awesome. So is this going to be your first time performing a lot of your songs live? And to such a big audience?
RQ: Yeah! Definitely. The shows that I’ve done so far have been very much like, me telling my friends, “hey, I’m going to like play this show but like, don’t tell anybody else.” (Laughs) Yeah, I’m very excited and like very surprised about kind of like the reaction we got. I was like, nervous about posting this thing with trying to get the RSVPs. And then we ended up getting like, way too many! Which is like, super humbling and like, oh my god, I can’t believe people actually want to see me play!
BW: That’s so cool.
RQ: Yeah, yeah. I’m really excited. Hopefully it’ll be good!
BW: So, I know that you just released your song “Intentions” with Twin Shadow. Are there any other artists out there that you really want to do a collaboration with? Like, what would be your dream collaboration?
RQ: Oh man, I love so many artists. I have so many dream collaborations. But I love Toro Y Moi, Francis and the Lights and … Rihanna. (Laughs) And like, Frank Ocean, Nikki and the Dove, and ABRA. You know, I love music, so I love so many artists. I could go on and on and on about who I’d love to collaborate with.
BW: What have you been listening to lately? Are there any new artist you think people should know but they don’t?
RQ: All the artists that I just listed people should listen to. (Laughs)
BW: Your music kind of reminds me of ABRA. I love ABRA.
RQ: Thank you! Dude, I love her. So much.
BW: Who are your biggest musical influences, besides those you just mentioned? Is there anyone that really inspired you when starting this project a year and a half ago?
RQ: Well, I feel like I’m kind of inspired by different artists for different reasons. Vocally, I am very inspired by Motown. I love Marvin Gaye, Stevie (Wonder), Etta James, The Temptations, Diana Ross … and older, more soulful music. I also love Kate Bush and Prince and more contemporary stuff.
BW: I think that’s great because your music is so cross-genre. I hear a lot of R&B and Soul in your voice.
RQ: Thank you.
BW: So you said you collaborate with your friend Nick. How did you guys start writing together? And what’s your collaboration process like?
RQ: I was doing a lot of co-writes and trying to figure out who I was musically. We got set up on a co-write and we wrote “S.I.D.” (“Sunshine in December”) and I was like, “Oh my god, this dude is so sick. I love him!” I’m super shy so really we just started off as co-writers and then we wrote “Too Close” and, over time, after writing together we became best friends. And now he’s also the person that I love to write with. To the point where now I’m like, “OK, I need to expand my horizons a bit. I can’t just write with Nick!”
BW: It’s definitely been working out so far! Do you have any other music coming down the pipeline, that you can talk about?
RQ: Totally, yeah! Actually, they’re kind of like my favorite songs I’ve ever written. Most likely in February, we’re putting out an EP. And there’s three new songs on there and three songs we’ve put out already. The three songs that I’m really stoked about, there’s a song called “Japanese Time”, which I’m doing tonight for the first time live. “Up In the Air”, which we’re not doing yet but I love it. And then “Better Days” which we’re doing tonight too. I’m really excited about it.
BW: I can’t wait. Thank you so much!
RQ: Thank you! Thanks for coming tonight.
BW: Of course.