Broadway Star Rachel Potter Chases Her Country Dreams With ‘Not So Black and White’
Rachel Potter is preparing to release her first full-length country album, Not So Black and White, in March, but that doesn't mean she's new to the music business. Rather, the singer-songwriter's path to this album has wound from Christian music, down Broadway and through a stint on The X Factor.
Potter first began writing songs when she was just 12 years old. At 16, she signed to a contemporary Christian label, and in 2002, she released Come Back Home, a 10-track record featuring all of her own material.
The following year, Potter moved from Seminole, Fla., to Orlando, Fla.; she auditioned at Disney and landed a job, becoming an actress in their various park productions. That led to Broadway, and by the time she auditioned for Season 3 of The X Factor, Potter had been in multiple major musicals, including The Addams Family and Evita. But TV, she says, was entirely different animal.
"The whole thing was very surreal. I'd been through a lot on Broadway, and thought that I didn't even know how to get nervous anymore ... but I got on that X Factor stage and forgot everything," Potter says. "There's something that's totally different about performing live for television."
Potter was eliminated during the show's third live week, but she says the experience taught her a valuable lesson that's been especially pertinent while making this album.
"Nothing comes for free, and I think that a lot of people think that doing one of those shows means instant success ... but that's just not it," she says. "There's still so much hard work that you have to put in. There's never really a golden ticket to success."
Since then, Potter has been preparing Not So Black and White for release. In 2012, she used Kickstarter to help fund an EP, Live the Dream, and for this new album, she returned to the platform to raise funds.
"I had been writing the songs for three years. Ever since the other EP, everything that I've written has been for this record," Potter says. "I really wanted to make something that I was really proud of, so I took a lot of time to continue to write [after The X Factor] and see what I came up with."
Produced by Tyler Cain -- who also produced Meghan Linsey's recent independent EP and whom Potter calls an "extremely valuable" resource -- Not So Black and White contains 10 Potter-penned tracks, two songs from an outside writer and a studio version of Potter's cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love," her X Factor audition song. It's a tune Potter was first inspired to try singing herself after she heard a friend perform it.
"I thought, 'How cool -- a girl singing "Somebody to Love!" That's so interesting and different,' and so I started using it for my Broadway auditions," she says. "I had been singing "Somebody to Love" for years in auditions ... [but when I needed to use it for The X Factor], I had only been singing a cut, so I didn't even know all of the lyrics!
"But, I love that song, and I had a great time recording it and got my friends to come and do all the backup vocals," Potter adds. "It is not easy! There's a lot to that song."
While artists like Reba McEntire and Jennifer Nettles have tried their hand at Broadway after finding success in country music, Potter says she's grateful to have gotten her experience the other way around.
"It's definitely great for, just the stamina that I've built. You can't really fake eight shows a week on Broadway," she says. "There's something that's really, really valuable about that kind of conditioning."
However, Potter is also vocal about her concerns that her age (she turned 30 last August) and gender might be working against her in landing a record deal.
"Country music is definitely a man's world, and it gets discouraging sometimes," she says, "but I believe that I'm here for a reason, and if it's meant to be, it will be, and hopefully there will be a believer that can see past my age.
"A big part of this industry is time," Potter adds, "and I feel like, sometimes, I'm running out of it."
Not So Black and White is due out March 3 and available for pre-order on Potter's official website. Press play below to hear "Tail Lights," one of the album's tracks.
Listen to Rachel Potter, 'Tail Lights':