Whitnye Raquel is Figuring this Artist Thing Out...
Posted March 30, 2015 by Jeff Prince in Blotch
The cover story on wild and crazy singer-songwriters (“Music on the Edge,” Dec. 22, 2014) struggling to succeed in an overcrowded and underpaid music scene was supposed to include numerous profiles of local artists written by staff members.
I was the lead writer charged with folding everybody’s contributions into one story. However, I got started early and interviewed Vincent Neil Emerson, Luke McGlathery, and Scott Copeland, and their stories were so fascinating I decided I didn’t need any contributions from other writers and sent them the word to cease and desist.
Alas, our dear departed managing editor Gayle Reaves had already interviewed Whitnye Raquel and written a short profile, which ended up on the cutting room floor. But Raquel is a fascinating artist herself. Her story deserves to see the light of day. So here is the abandoned profile of Raquel, newly rediscovered on my computer and ready for its close-up:
BY GAYLE REAVES
For Whitnye Raquel, keeping her day job a while longer is a commitment to her music.
“I’d hate to go full-force [into music] and then have the car break down and not be able to tour” because she can’t afford to get it fixed, she said. “It’s difficult flying by the seat of your pants. I need security.”
At 25, she tends bar several days a week at White Elephant Beer Garden, is working on her second album, has opened for the Bellamy Brothers and John Anderson, and is buying a house. “I need a place I can go be alone and hang skis on the wall or my own artwork and with no neighbors in the next apartment to complain about the music,” Raquel said. “I love to play shows, but writing is at the center of why I do this.”
Raquel left her hometown of Iowa Park near Wichita Falls at 18 to attend the University of Texas at Arlington. She left UTA after four years with an associate’s degree rather than a bachelor’s, she said, because she changed her major a couple of times.
While she was getting frustrated in class, though, Raquel had begun to find real fulfillment behind a guitar. The White Elephant job introduced her to local musicians, and she began to think that she, too, could actually earn her living as a musician one day.
Her dad had taught her to play guitar as a kid, there was always music at family gatherings, and she was in a bluegrass band as a teenager “with some 70-year-old guys.”
At UTA, while her friends were out partying, Raquel was spending most of her weekends “sitting in my tiny little dorm room and playing and singing. I was not hip. I was not my own age when it comes to music.”
That lasted until she got the job at the White Elephant. “I remember watching a guy who played every Monday night” — Jordan Mycoskie — “and thinking, ‘That could be me,’ ” she said. She started getting gigs and making some money. School, meanwhile “was a lot of stress and it cost money, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do” with a degree. “I thought I should take a break.”
She and her boyfriend were living together and playing music together as The Folk-Ups — “We’d load up my Bug with every piece of equipment [they had] and play dive bars” in lots of towns. Raquel’s bartending job was their only steady income. “We were living on Hamburger Helper and ramen noodles,” she said.
That lasted about a year.
Then, in 2012, “My gigs started picking up,” she said. “I released my first album” — the six-song EP All My Truths.
She was playing with the Freebie Kings “stolen from Scott Copeland,” she said. “They’re The Haters when they’re with him.” Copeland got the first choice of dates for their services, and she’d get the leftovers.
Right now she’s working on both a solo career and fronting Radio Love Bus, a rock band in which three of the five members are women. And she’s working on her second album.
With some financial support from 40 Creek Whiskey, she has begun pre-production on the album. “Recording an album consumes all of your life for those two or three months,” she said. On social media, she joked, “My relationship status is ‘in the studio.’ “
She usually gigs four nights a week, in and out of town, and makes a road trip about once a month, she said. Between that and the album and the White Elephant, her plate is full, she said. “I’ll be on the computer for hours, emailing club owners, going to the print shop to make flyers, booking gigs,” she said.
Her musical career is practically a full-time job.
She’s gradually moving toward making it actually a full-time job, “but I’m not financially stable enough yet,” she said. Raquel has discovered that home ownership involves plenty of costs beyond the mortgage — she was waiting for an appliance repairman when she talked to a reporter.
“Oh yes, I’m making homemade Christmas gifts this year,” she said. “A lot of people will get my handmade vinyl bowls [from old records]. And cookies.” A collection of old cameras and typewriters make up part of the décor in her living room; her mom gave her the artificial Christmas tree, and she said, “and I dug through my craft stuff” to come up with ornaments.
She’s convinced that a full-time career as a musician is doable. “Absolutely,” she said. The artists here in Fort Worth don’t realize how lucky we are” to have plenty of opportunities to play music and get paid for it. “Right now there are lots of Christmas parties” to play, she said. “It’s better than Nashville or Austin or playing in a coffee shop for tips. If it wasn’t doable, I wouldn’t own a home at 25.”