When I heard about a female-owned company in California which is dedicated to championing and showcasing the state’s country and Americana artists, especially women, as well as supporting such artists from around the entire country, my Belles and Gals radar started to twitch!
The company in question is Rebelle Road, founded in 2017 by Americana artists Adrienne Isom and KP Hawthorn together with producer Karen Rapport McHugh, who’s combined industry expertise ( and a lot of hard work!) has been instrumental in its rapid growth. Starting off with an artist’s showcase, Rebelle Road is now a multi-faceted company and I was particularly excited to hear about the first release on its record label, by a female artist of course! Yes, “ Into The Blue” from Alice Wallace comes out tomorrow (18th January) and you can check out the wonderful lead single “Santa Ana Winds” here.
An interview with Alice is on the way, but first thanks so much to Rebelle Road for telling me more about their exciting venture.
1. LH Can you please start by telling me what was it about your experiences in the music industry that led you three ladies to come together to form Rebelle Road?
RR Each of us has distinct experiences in the music industry — KP and Adrienne as artists, record producers and as managers of their own bands and Karen as a marketing executive and event producer. Separately, we’ve each faced challenges that women have in the any industry so we initially came together to join the chorus of people working for change. We recognized an opportunity in venues and festivals that have been lacking in gender equity. So we decided to create what we didn’t see and started producing events.
Very quickly, however, we realised we were in a unique position to also bring more focus to the history and legacy of California country music. Country music (American music) is extensive and doesn’t belong to one state, one city or even one country. Just like women in country music (the ‘rebelles’ who don’t get heard as often), the different variations of country music are often overlooked. There are so many names — roots music, outlaw country, Americana — but its truly just music with a different sense of history that can be traced to its location. Because “pop country” garners so much attention at radio, we felt there has been a lack of resources for artists who don’t fit into this category. So, we want to help rebuild a strong community for California country artists, assist artists who are traveling to the West Coast and continue a great tradition that stretches back to the singing cowboys from the first Hollywood movies.
2. LH Can you tell me about your rapid growth since that first artist’s showcase at Austin’s SXSW Festival in 2017?
RR It has been a very busy year for Rebelle Road! The amazing thing about our various talents is we’re able to do almost everything in-house through our combined expertise. In 2018, we presented many events including two one-day festivals and showcases at SXSW and Americana Fest. The one-night benefit for the Palomino Rides Again (featuring legends of the California country music scene) honoured this historic California country concert venue and was also a huge achievement that garnered national news. During our first year, we also spoke on major music industry panels including SXSW, Americana Fest, Billboard Live, and Xlive. To spread our mission further, we started producing a podcast and launched a record label. It’s been a tremendous amount of intense days, nights and weekends (as our families can attest!) but anything worth doing is a lot of work! We do not have a shortage of ideas with lots more to come in 2019!
3. LH Can I ask a bit more about your record label…was that always a goal you had in mind at the start of things?
RR The record label was a natural extension of our company. As artists themselves, KP and Adrienne recognized the challenges that many independent artists face when trying to launch and sustain a career. The artists that Rebelle Road has been working with need support in every way and we had the ability, background and desire to take it one step further. A label helps with the branding of our company and gives us another outlet to include artists. We have a passion for this and love doing artist development from the ground up – the visuals, marketing, venue bookings, working with management and everything that goes into being a successful recording and touring artist. We have the ability to record and mix records and have a high quality standard for the recordings.
4. LH And what more can you tell me about working with Alice Wallace on her new album?
RR KP worked with Alice on her last record and co-produced the newest one — Into The Blue. Alice was booked on several Rebelle Road events and, after hearing the record, it made sense to launch it on a Rebelle Road label. It brought together our mission of promoting women and California country music. Everything about this record is done in the “REBELLE” way — with KP’s exacting production skills, Adrienne’s incredible visuals and building it with Karen’s marketing savvy. Alice represents everything we stand for and each of the songs on this album brings feminine energy and California ideals to life.
5. LH And while Rebelle Road actively seeks to promote female country/Americana artists ( who, as we at Belles and Gals know, get a rough deal these days on many levels ) you are not working with them exclusively are you?
RR Rebelle Road, like some other companies and organizations, is simply trying to offer a balance for women and for all the many incredible and varied sounds of country music. The music business, and in particular country music, has systemic issues with inclusion and diversity. We want to see talented artists have a support system.
6. LH While a lot of UK country music fans, especially younger ones I guess, may not associate California with country music , the State has a rich history with the genre doesn’t it as well as being the home of some amazing contemporary country artists. Can you tell a bit about this history and also let us know of any current Californian female country artists we may not be aware of here and who you recommend we check out.
RR Many people are familiar or have heard of the “Bakersfield Sound” which is associated with Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and later Dwight Yoakam. But far fewer people realize that many cities across California including Los Angeles were home to country music artists and fans. Both cities benefitted from the mass migration of people from Oklahoma who were fleeing the Dust Bowl. From the 1940’s on, Los Angeles had country dance halls, music venues and a burgeoning film industry that was fascinated with westerns. The Palomino club (which opened in 1949) in North Hollywood was the center for much of this music and was considered the Grand Ole Opry of the West. Every major country artist played there and many were discovered on its stage. The 1960s-1970s saw the rise of Gram Parsons, The Byrds, Linda Ronstadt, and the uniquely California born country/rock fusion. In the 1980’s, the tradition of change in the Golden State continued with the birth of the cow punk scene with bands like X, Dwight Yoakam, Lone Justice and more. The commercial viability of country music made it possible for artists to play arenas in the 1990’s, and it has grown exponentially from there.
Today, California continues to be a rich and diverse breeding ground for artists — from roots artists including Jade Jackson, Jaime Wyatt, Nicki Bluhm, Leslie Stevens, Raye Zaragoza and others to contemporary country acts including Cam, Gone West, Honey County, and more.
7. LH. Looking ahead to 2019, what’s in the pipeline for Rebelle Road?
RR We’re working on more artist showcases, a compilation album in celebration of the PALOMINO RIDES AGAIN event (2019 would have been the club’s 70th anniversary) and a documentary about the PALOMINO to honor its legacy and its importance to country artists and music history. Hopefully, Alice Wallace will also make her way to the UK in the near future and we’ll get to make lots more Rebelle Road friends and fans!
LH Oh that all sounds so exciting! I really hope we get to see Alice over here soon! Many thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, I found this a really fascinating interview I must say!
Keep in touch with all things Rebelle Road at rebelleroad.com
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)