Interview by Holland Deschuymere
Photographs & Video by Kelly Segré
The first thing I thought when listening to Oto’s music was “Damn, this girl is fierce!” Upon her arrival I was met with someone who is kind hearted and perhaps a little timid at first, but once she started playing her whole demeanor changed, giving me more insight into her music and who she is. Her folky style and unique voice come together to create a melodic sound that can put you into a trance, while also exciting you and putting you on the edge of your seat. As I watched Oto perform I noticed how strong her stage presence is, almost as if while she is performing she is simply unstoppable. She is a woman of many trades, a Renaissance woman as some might say, as she hand made her purple getup, developing her own pattern and going from there.
Rachel Oto is truly a modern woman, using her voice to inspire others. When asked what the driving force behind her music was, she responded, saying, “At the heart of a lot of my music is the idea of pushing through adversity to get to where you want to be. The idea of taking the personal and making it universal is a guiding tenement of my songwriting.” She further explained that much of her life and identity have been shaped by struggle, making it easier to talk about overcoming obstacles and the things life throws at you, which it seems is what her music stands for. Her positive message not only brings up the idea of overcoming adversity, but also plays into the idea of turning bad into good, as her music is a place to put her struggles out in the open, rather than internalizing it.
Rachel Oto’s musical journey began when she was young. She mentioned she’s always loved to sing, but started to “dabble” in songwriting when she was just eleven years old. She goes on to say, “Then, when I was twelve I saw “Freaky Friday” and decided I wanted to learn guitar and start a garage band. Thankfully my parents were very supportive, and soon I was taking guitar lessons and holding rehearsals in the living room.” From there her musical style has shifted plenty of times, as she went from from Pop, to Pop Punk, to Classic Rock and only then did she finally have chance encounters with the works of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash, which brought her to the world of folk. Seemingly a perfect fit for Oto, her strings based sound is aided heavily by the fact that she’s been playing guitar for nearly 16 years, coming in handy and giving her that extra umph.
As the world slows down, Oto recognizes that the music business is right there along with it, but still has high hopes for the future and if it’s safe, would love to be touring and playing shows this time next year. She also would love for her music to be a part of the soundtrack for a TV show or movie around the same time she’d be touring. When it comes to things to look forward to, currently there is a single in the pipeline followed by an EP, which is due later this year, so make sure to tune in and watch out for any of Oto’s new releases, as I’m sure it will be a transcendental experience. Speaking of new releases, it is also important to note that Oto has just released a single called “Angel” along with a music video for it. The video is set in the desert landscape of Joshua Tree, CA and is overall a fun portrayal of a powerful woman defeating the bad guy, old western style, against a beautiful lyrical backdrop.