Fort Worth singer-songwriter Rachel Gollay hadn’t done much national touring as a musician, but she recently had a “total immersion” experience in the rigors of it: As a guitarist and vocalist for (and only female member of) acclaimed psychedelic rockers Un Chien, she just got back from a two-week, 11-city van tour that took the quintet across the Southwest and up along the West Coast, hitting burgs as varied as El Paso and San Francisco. The tour was a short but intensive experiment in living and bonding with bandmates.
“At one point, our a.c. broke down in the middle of the desert,” Gollay said. “It was just me and four sweaty guys. But those were some of the most ass-kicking live shows we’ve performed. It was fantastic.”
Gollay is now preparing for another milestone in her musical career: She’s about to release her first album as a solo artist, although she’d be the first to admit that Built for Love is a deeply collaborative effort, recorded off and on over an 18-month period. Indeed, so integral are the other musicians who play on the record –– keyboardist Russell Jack, drummer Joshua Jones, guitarist Taylor Tatsch, and bassist Billy Naylor –– that they’re now official members of Rachel’s band, which is called Gollay. She’s very much the frontwoman –– the group often opens its live shows with one or two songs from Gollay alone at the mic with her acoustic guitar. But establishing herself as a solo folkie poet in the spirit of early Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez has never interested her. Thanks to the creative input and moral support of old friends and fellow TCU classmates Jack and Jones, who co-produced Built for Love, Gollay has achieved the warm and ethereal but reserved studio sound of some of the unabashed FM pop bands she has long adored, from The Carpenters to Elton John to Radiohead. The songs on Built for Love share many of the qualities of Neko Case’s best work: a melody-rich mix of sharp wit, self-deprecation, and erotic fire, and, especially, Gollay’s gorgeous and expressive voice. (Case is one of Gollay’s personal idols and, she said, the kind of artist she wants to be.)
Gollay started off as a singer and lyricist for a high school band in Rockwall and continued playing the occasional solo coffeehouse and bar gigs while earning an RTVF degree. Her initial career goal was to become a media and communications professor. However, a stint at graduate school in Indiana made her realize that teaching wasn’t her thing. When she returned to Fort Worth in 2010 and started performing local solo shows again, she hooked back up with Jack and Jones, who convinced her that her literate, poetic, utterly unpretentious tunes deserved to be captured in a studio and made available to larger audiences.
“I’m pretty introverted by nature,” she said, “though I become a different person onstage. I would’ve been happy just recording songs in my bedroom and playing them for friends. Luckily, I had a lot of people around me who were always pushing me out of my comfort zone. They kept saying, ‘You need to make music a bigger part of your life.’ ”
In the meantime, Un Chien frontman Stephen Beatty had seen Gollay perform solo and was impressed enough to ask her to join his post-Stella Rose outfit in 2013. While recording and performing with Un Chien, Gollay started the piecemeal process of writing and recording Built for Love. She began laying down demo tracks at the Dallas home studio of Russell, who’d produced some indie bands in New York City before returning to North Texas. Then she, Russell, and Jack moved their work to AudioStyles, the newish Colleyville studio of guitarist Taylor Tatsch. He enjoyed working with the trio so much on Built for Love that he joined the burgeoning band Gollay as a guitarist. With the addition of Naylor on bass, Gollay performed its first gig as a full band in February at the Denton venue Rubber Gloves. Though making music has become a centerpiece of her life in ways she could never have imagined, Gollay is thrilled to be busy as both a supporting player in one artist’s project and as the lead creative force in her own.
“With Gollay, I have to banter more onstage and ride the energy of the audience in a different way,” she said. “It’s a little like playing solo. In some ways it’s easier to be a supporting member [of Un Chien], but even there, I’ve been contributing more as a songwriter lately. I love doing both. It’s just a matter of not plowing too far ahead of everyone, making sure that we’re all on board with the direction the music is taking.”
Gollay album release
9pm Sat w/Jetta in the Ghost Tree, Foxtrot Uniform, Mills & Co. at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW. $7. 817-877-0666.