As a young violinist in the Oklahoma Youth Orchestra, Rachel Stacy didn’t just play to get better – she played to drown out the sadness of her homelife. In spite of her physically abusive stepfather, she did get better and eventually earned both vocal and music scholarships to college.
“The terrible darkness of my family – thank God I had scales – playing helped me so much,” Rachel said. “Words just poured out of me. I journaled, wrote poetry and songs.”
Her mother, who played piano on the hotel lounge circuit, moved to California and Rachel joined her after leaving college. It was in Los Angeles that she developed a love of jazz and blues – which fit perfectly with her dark poetry.
“My mom was a piano player, an upright bass player and a guitar player,” Stacy said. “She didn’t drink, but she chose three husbands that had their share of addictions.”
After taking lessons from Gram Parsons’ fiddle player, Rachel created her own style. Her playing invokes hints of classical, blues, rock and country – sometimes all at the same time.
During her 20s she was packing L.A. clubs as the leader of Tishara (her middle name) & the Earthtones, a rock ’n’ roll band. Her edgy persona made Rachel a crowd favorite at the annual bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.
But it was that edgy persona offstage that almost did her in. Living in L.A. gave her easy access to a plethora of drugs. She began a dangerous cycle of perform, party, and pass out.
Things were getting out of hand when she decided to join a 12-Step program. In 2009 she got ahold of the drug addiction but traded the pills for alcohol; she drank so much that she would have blackouts. She finally sought help from a program and gives credit to it and her Higher Power for keeping her straight.
“Addictions change names – drugs, food, alcohol – I’ll always be an addict,” she said. “But I take it one day at a time. I have a sponsor, a wonderful relationship with my Higher Power, and I have friends to lean on.”
One of those friends is none other than Ray Wylie Hubbard, a Texas legend known as the “Wylie Lama.” Hubbard wrote “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” a full 20 years before getting sober. He met Rachel early in her recovery and encouraged her to stay the course and keep the faith in her music.
“Ray mentored me early on when I got sober, but we didn’t really reconnect until last year,” she says. “He looked at me and said, ‘Lemme tell you something: Your life is just now beginning.’”
In the summer of 2021, Ray and Rachel met up at the Zone Recording Studio in Dripping Springs and collaborated on four tracks: “The Ghost of Lishe Jackson,” “Take a Little Time,” “Trouble,” and “The Night.” Another Texas legend, Guthrie Kennard (whom she says is “like a father”), joined them on “Trouble.”
The video for “Trouble” was produced at Lizzy Gator Studios. The wardrobe team of Elizabeth Duncan and Torrie Wallace designed a denim dress just for the shoot. Set in New Orleans, the video includes snakes, gators and a voodoo witch.
“That song and shoot was awesome,” Rachel exclaimed. “We had a great team that came together, and it magically worked – it was good energy.”
This isn’t Rachel’s first trip to the recording studio, though – her previous records were released in 2005, 2008, and the 2015 album, Full Circle. In 2017 she released “Boomerang,” which reached No. 30 on the Music Row Chart — the only independent single to do so.
There’s a good reason why Hubbard, Kennard and Jimmy Wallace (another legend who is planning a collaboration with Rachel) are all putting their money on her.
Rachel is clean, sober, and thriving these days, performing every weekend and working on new music. But there are still those days she needs to call on her coping skills.
“When I write, I dig deep down inside for lyrics; it brings up old stuff,” Rachel explained. “When you sing those same songs over and over, you relive those stories over and over. There are songs I just don’t do anymore because it’s so hard.”
It’s on those bad days that Rachel shares her story and does what she can to help others, because “hearing others’ stories helps me in return.” Ironically, it’s the overdoses and blackouts that started her journey to graceful maturity.
“I feel like I’m finally finding my voice,” she reflects. “I truly believe that when my career was taking off, I would have died of an OD; I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t gone through that in my 20s.”
“Some of these young girls are being taught the wrong way – going above and beyond to not be who they are. If I hadn’t gone through what I had, I wouldn’t be who I am,” she exclaims. “I do not offer advice, because they think ‘who do you think you are?’ But if they want my help, I will help them.”
However, she warns those young women to stay focused. “When we are busy honing our craft and creating what we are meant to be, there is no time for hustling others,” she explained. “When you set out to hurt others on your way up, it’s a long ride down, pumpkin.”
“I do want people to like me, and I want them to have a good taste in their mouth,” she reflects. “I try to be loving and generous.”
Calling her career “a curse and a blessing,” Rachel insists she is not trying to be a star. “I’m trying to spread the love through music: stay strong, stay fast, do it sober.”
Add “relevant” to the list of things Rachel is not trying to be. Her explanation is exactly why she’s able to hold her own with the older, wiser Texas legends….without any “trouble” at all: “I’m just trying to do what I do. I’m a survivor; I’m a worker and I love what I do.”
You can catch Rachel live at the White Elephant Saloon in Fort Worth every Monday night, but she plays all over the DFW Metroplex. A list of her upcoming shows can be found at rachelstacy.com. On October 29 she opens for Maren Morris at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving.