Rafe Carlson is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter and performer new to the music industry. At over 6’ tall, his handsome features and kind demeanor will likely have the ladies swooning after him soon. His eclectic acoustic style, upbeat rhythm, and raspy vocals share similarities with his musical influences Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, Dan Fogelberg, Chris Stapleton, and Eric Church among others.
Although he has only a few years of experience on the live stage, his musical background started as a young child. Born into a musical family, he credits his mother and cousins for his inspiration and ability to play guitar and sing. He is a self-taught guitarist, acknowledging he learned from his cousins and watching YouTube videos. His strong melodic voice and toe-tapping upbeat beat sound packaged with his good looks make him extremely memorable. As Rafe grows his skills as a singer-songwriter he understands the importance of catchy melodies matched with meaningful lyrics.
Rafe, an only child, was born and lives in Duluth, Minnesota where his family also resides. His father Steve, a home builder, was a positive role model and example of the importance hard work plays in earning what you want in life. Rafe’s mother sang and was in bands most of her life so her influence is also an integral piece of his musical growth. He says the closeness of his family growing up was centered around playing music. His cousins Steven, David, and Nick, were a big part in his learning how to play guitar.
After high school Rafe started working in sales at an RV company, that experience gave him an edge today with his people skills and selling his talent. While selling RVs he realized there was no time for music so he decided one day to go out on the street and play live even though he had never done that in public before. He put out a tip bucket and to his surprise made fifty dollars in thirty minutes. That day he decided to pursue music full-time, gave his two-week notice, and has never looked back, he expresses why,
“I just can’t let music be something I look back on and wonder what I could have done with it.”
He began pounding the pavement asking local venues if he could play even in places that had never offered live music before. His work paid off, and two weeks later he landed his first paid gig. Over time his diligence in sales had him performing all over town, he explains,
“I began playing at venues all over town after calling each one and just asking. There were so many places that started having live music after I had performed there, I’d like to think I played some kind of a role in bringing more live music into Duluth.”
Not long after starting music full-time, Rafe began coming to Nashville. He hooked up with his now producer Jeff Huskins and began working on his first two singles Lost And Found and Just Can’t Explain. You can listen to these on Rafe’s Spotify channel.
Rafe’s favorite part of music is playing guitar, every time he picks it up he is fascinated by the endless possibilities. He has started studying music theory because he realizes that will help with his ability to write original material. He says that singing comes easy because he feels that it is something he has always been made to do. His struggle is writing his own material as a singer-songwriter but he understands the importance of that as an artist. He feels that it is something he can get better at, he explains,
“Songwriting is something I have had to do, I don’t think I am a born songwriter but it’s like training a muscle. The more you do it, the more notebooks you fill up, the better you get at it and I am doing a lot of writing these days.”
Rafe has taken a few vocal lessons, mainly because he wants to be sure he doesn’t damage his voice playing so many shows. His biggest fear when he started doing music full-time was the need to market himself constantly on social media. He understands the value of it but like many artists doesn’t enjoy the process of constantly talking about himself and would prefer to just do his art. He admits he would be lost had he not worked in sales prior to going into business for himself. The value of that experience continues to carry over into his music career.
Rafe challenges himself as he grows into bigger live performances as a singer-songwriter and musician. He believes the importance of understanding his audience is the key to being a successful entertainer. He thrives in playing live events and has a vast list of covers he performs while he develops his own list of self-written songs. He believes this is helping him cultivate his skills by playing in front of a live audience as he grows as a performer.
The one thing Rafe wishes he had known starting out was to not believe everything others told him along the way. Despite the positive experiences he has had in Nashville working with industry pros, he has experienced a lot of empty promises. Knowing absolutely nothing about the music industry he says it is often difficult to stay grounded due to being let down so many times. He was a bit naive to all of that in the beginning but he now understands the need to grow tougher skin as his career progresses.
When asked what advice he would offer to someone starting out on a music career he says the key is to stay focused on yourself because if you count on others you may fall short. He shares his thoughts,
“Focus on yourself, work as hard as you can and take everything with a grain of salt because nothing will totally come from counting on someone else.”
Rafe knows he needs to do better with building his social media presence and he is excited about the upcoming projects that he hopes will help him grow his audience moving forward. His goal is to work really hard on getting better as a musician, entertainer, and singer-songwriter. He will be spending a lot of time in Nashville working with his producer, writing, playing live shows, and recording.
The Creative Push Vlog on YouTube
Check out my recent artist interview with singer-songwriter and musician Rafe when he was in Nashville performing at a private music event called Bands At The Barn!
The Creative Push Podcast
You can also take the interview with you if you prefer to listen to the podcast below.
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