Much like her grandpa, Raelyn Nelson is doing things her way and making them work.


Raelyn the granddaughter of the legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson will play her first Pittsburgh show on Jan. 5. 


Nelson and band will bring its one-of-kind country/garage/rock and roll to Club Cafe.


The Swerve Magazine recently had the chance to speak with Nelson about being able to tour around her family, skipping out on Nashville’s Music Row and just how they get that unique sound.


The Swerve Magazine: So this tour that you’re are doing over the winter, is it just an East Coast thing?


Raelyn Nelson: I homeschool my children. Their dad and I are not together, but we parent them together. On the weekends that they are with their dad, I schedule shows and tour. It works out to about every other weekend, Thursday through Sunday. I pick a spot and just try to book some shows around that spot. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, so it was the first tour list for the 2017 touring season. I look forward to going and checking it out.


SM: Primanti’s and the Warhol you should check out if you have the time. Is it just Pittsburgh and New York on this run of the tour then?


RN: Just Pittsburgh and New York for that run and then back home to Nashville. If I can get three shows in then, it is cool. It is also tight, so two shows are my favorite. They are my favorite runs because you can only do so much in a weekend.


SM: Yeah, you could be pushing it.



RN: And then you don’t feel like you get as much time with the fans. You have to go back and get some sleep. It is nice to be able to hang out after the shows and get to meet people. We spend the last 15 to 20 minutes of our set time (if the venue is cool with it) just getting out and meeting everyone. A lot of people have stories to tell; it is fun to chit-chat with people.


SM: One thing I noticed in doing background for this interview is that you, as being Willie Nelson’s granddaughter, would have more than a chance to make it a go alone. You could just be Raelyn Nelson on tour. Yet, you are intent on making it a band experience.


RN: That has been my dream to be in a band. I grew up seeing my grandpa in a band. It is just cool. I always thought it was really cool and he is such a rock star. Plus, it is way more fun to have your friends up there playing with you and have these jokes. It is like a party up there. Versus everyone’s eyes just on you and you are carrying the whole thing. That is so intimidating to me. Although, I have done it and get through it. It is fine, but I just like getting up there and playing with friends.


SM: Being from Nashville, you could have easily had a pre-fab band cut out for you to play with. You didn’t go that route either.


RN: It seems more natural. The more natural way is usually, the better way. Just letting things happen naturally. I have three babies. I have twin boys and a little girl. As soon as I nursed them all and was able to get away from the house more, I went to a studio in Nashville to record some of my songs. The guy who ran the studio was (is now my music partner) Jonathan Bright. He immediately said about writing some songs together. I was hungry. I was a sponge. So, we started writing. He grabbed his buddies that he has been playing with forever. I knew them since I had been writing with them. So, I was already friends with them. They started playing our songs that we had been writing. It, just, kind of naturally happened.


Our drummer, his brother, was in a motorcycle accident, and they were having a benefit. He suggested that we play the benefit and that was our first show in Nashville in 2012. It started from there. You have to start somewhere and go play.


I know a lot of people that went the Music Row route, and it didn’t quite go the way that they expected it to. I figured if I can do that, why not try my way first and see how it goes? You can try that for Plan B instead of making my way Plan B. I have more fun this way. It didn’t feel right, in those meetings with Music Row, it didn’t feel right. I trust my instincts on those things.


I feel like if everyone was doing it for me in, some closed curtain thing, and I was just the face of it… You know you want to be involved in your art. It is better to be able to serve your experiences.


SM: You deftly mix the country and garage rock sound. Did it start off that way?


RN: Thank you. I think we honed it in. I write country songs. The country that you hear in the songs is all me. The rock and roll that you hear is JB. I have written more rock and roll tunes from the experience of just being around him. Rock and roll is so much fun to play. Loud.


I love our sound. The next song has to have that sound. It is now a thing that we strive for. Songs just usually come to me while I’m driving around. Then we will start from there.


SM: You are releasing singles right now. Are there any plans for a full-length release?


RN: Since we are doing things on our own, we are releasing singles. After the next single, we will put all the singles together on an album call it, “The Singles,” and release that. Because we don’t have a record label behind us, we can put things out when we want to, so we are just doing little bits at a time. We will put them all together as an album and just do that again until it doesn’t make sense to do that. Right now, it just makes sense to, every other month or so, put another new single out with a video and a t-shirt and then go tour for a little bit. Then come back and do it again.