Updated: Sep 11, 2019
On a recent night at the Sutler Saloon in Nashville, Raquel Telfer played a set of her original songs for a BMI showcase. That performance would have never happened if Raquel hadn’t needed one more credit during her junior year of college. An elective class in Applied Guitar changed the trajectory of her life.
Raquel grew up riding horses, driving tractors, and baling hay on her parents’ farm in Iowa. The closest she came to “show business” was competing in rodeo queen pageants. She entered Creighton University as a Biology major, then had to rearrange her schedule when she became a mom at the age of 20. The guitar class gave her the elective credit she needed to maintain status as a full-time student, and her parents just happened to have an old guitar under their staircase.
“I immediately started writing songs.” That was around the same time Taylor Swift hit the scene with her fresh and youthful lyrics. Raquel cites Taylor as a big influence on her songwriting, along with Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, and Peter Bradley Adams (a folk pop Americana singer-songwriter from Alabama). While still in college, Raquel formed the band Chantilly Reign with her sisters, and was the guitar player and songwriter for the group.
After graduating from college and spending the next five years in the clinical research field, Raquel felt like she was ready for an adventure. “My motivation was 90% music, but outside of that Tennessee is beautiful.” Last July, after selling her house in Omaha, Raquel loaded her Arabian horse, Jazz, into a trailer with a few other necessities and headed for greener pastures.
Like many Nashville newcomers, Raquel was drawn to the downtown honky tonks. “I learned a bunch of covers to sing on Broadway, but quickly decided that was not where my energy needed to go -- I came here to do original music.” She took advantage of every opportunity that came her way. “I didn’t say ‘no’ to anyone who asked me to write or play somewhere.”
With her farm girl upbringing, Raquel has the prerequisite background to be an authentic country artist. Although her songs are written in a commercial country structure, her sound is more earthy and leans towards Americana. She has coined the term “jiggy grass” to describe her hippie brand of music. “It has kind of a poppy bebop feel, with some outside-the-box clever lyrics; then we play it with the grassy instruments – the acoustic guitar, banjo, cello, and all acoustic percussion.”
The “grassy” musicians that make up Raquel's trio include veteran musician Jeff Gilkenson (banjo, cello) and Clifford Koufman (percussion). She met Jeff through her sister (who is also a singer here in Nashville) and found Clifford on Craigslist. For awhile her band didn’t have a name, and Raquel would gratefully acknowledge them as “the best band ever” because they were willing to back her as an unknown artist. After telling many audiences, “they’re THE BEST BAND EVER in my book,” the name stuck.
Watch Raquel and The Best Band Ever perform at the BMI Young Guns showcase below:
The band rehearses a couple nights every week to prepare for upcoming shows. Raquel is scheduled to perform solo in a writers round at the Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival in Gatlinburg in August. One of Raquel’s next goals is to “have a product out that sounds like the band that I play with live.” She currently has an extensive catalog of original songs from writing full-time since moving to Nashville.
Her current EP, But It Helps, was released last summer and “has the music row contemporary country sound.” Those four tracks were initially recorded as demos to showcase her songwriting. Raquel did not set out to be an artist, but her producer suggested she record her own vocals on a couple of the songs. Then she had an epiphany. "Last year I realized we hadn’t done anything with these songwriter demos. I’ve already sung them; I’ve been out playing live; I think maybe I’m an artist now!”
Go to www.RaquelTelfer.com for more info; links to social media; or to hear samples of her music. Raquel’s EP is available on iTunes and Spotify.
Fun facts and Trivia
Favorite artists: Kacey Musgraves, Rick Huckaby (who co-wrote Thomas Rhett’s single Beer With Jesus)
Favorite local restaurant(s): Whiskey Kitchen; The Wild Cow; Sunflower Cafe
Favorite pastimes: Riding horses; hiking; running; anything “nature-esque”
Favorite movie: Disney's Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (yes, there’s a horse in it!)
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