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:


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.”

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.