Song Bird

Posted September 10, 2014 by Steve Steward


You’d think that a young songwriter whose honkytonk guitar-playing father raised her on a steady diet of country legends would be super-enthusiastic about C&W. But Fort Worth’s Whitnye Raquel doesn’t even like it that much. Though she grew up on her dad’s George Jones and Merle Haggard records, she’s always been more about classic rock than their contemporaries in the country section of the record store.

“I love Merle Haggard, but Fleetwood Mac is my main influence,” Raquel said.

It’s not that the intersection between ’70s rock and country is nonexistent in her music, but Raquel is young, petite, blonde, pretty, and affable, which definitely overlaps more with the look of a songstress hungry for Nashville success than any sort of punk rocker, indie rocker, or rapper. Her first record, the six-song EP All My Truths (2012), does bend a tad toward the country roots she seeks to distance herself from.

“I guess my first album … was a pop album that has some hints of country, but with my [next] album, the songs I’ve been working on sound like dark indie rock,” she said, adding that she’s interested in synth-driven material. “There won’t be fiddles.”

Raquel is from Iowa Park, a town of about 7,000 in Wichita County, where she started playing in bands when she was in middle school. (“My first one was a bluegrass band,” she said, “just some old guys and me.”) She moved to Fort Worth to attend the University of Texas at Arlington, where she received a degree in advertising, supporting herself through college by working at the White Elephant Saloon in the Stockyards. Raquel credits the dancehall and its regular cavalcade of musicians with making music her main priority.

“Seeing all the singer-songwriters come through made me question getting a job right out of college,” she said, “maybe making $30,000 a year, when I could make a living doing something I actually loved like all those guys.”

That Raquel wants to keep changing her sound and songwriting beyond others’ superficial assumptions is evident even on her last recordings, as her booming, textured voice sounds a lot closer to Fiona Apple’s than Shania Twain’s –– even the fiddles and slide guitar that swell and swoon throughout the EP don’t sound very country. But she still feels a little pigeonholed.

“Around [the Stockyards], I think every little blonde girl with a guitar is gonna get asked to play Miranda Lambert covers,” she said. “I’ve always just thought of myself as a songwriter.”

Indeed, as a songwriter, Raquel has amassed enough material for two new recording projects: a second solo record and one with her new band, Radio Love Bus, a five-piece rock outfit in which she sings and plays guitar. Uncharacteristic of the typical Fort Worth rock group, three of RLB’s members are female. While Raquel may front the band, she’s actually part of a collective songwriting effort.

Her solo career and RLB “are two separate projects,” she said. “Radio Love Bus is poppier, kind of dancey even … but there’s an element of heavy rock to it, too.”

She points to the psychedelic, synth-forward rock of Tampa Bay’s Sons of Hippies as an influence on Radio Love Bus’ nascent sound. “Over the next few months, I’m going to be playing more keys,” she said, in part to broaden the band’s sound but also as another way to keep the country-music associations to a minimum.

“I don’t want to take away from what a lot of these country singers in the scene are doing,” Raquel said. “I just think when there are a lot of females doing the same Ypsilanti covers, then people decide the rest of us must be doing the same thing.”

Whether her band or her solo material establishes her, Raquel’s drive to make music on her own terms is real, even if half the battle is convincing listeners she’s more than she appears. With a voice as big as hers, it shouldn’t be too difficult.