The first song that Rachel Efron etched onto the pristinely white wall of her childhood bedroom in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, was Paul Simon’s, “Still Crazy After All These Years.” After that it was a slippery slope… Certainly her top favorite song lyrics found a place: “Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles, “Call Me Up In Dreamland,” by Van Morrison. But soon, any new verse or chorus that caught her fancy went quickly to press: “I almost ran over an angel!!!" (Tori Amos), “Did I disappoint you or leave a bad taste in your mouth?” (U2). The writing was on the wall, as they say, but it had occurred to no one, least of all Rachel herself, that she would, at a later point in her life, undertake to write some of her own song lyrics.
As it turned out, that point was when she was in her Junior year at Harvard University, among other things beginning her honors thesis on language politics for her Major in Social Anthropology. For years, in her spare time she had been honing both her literary voice, with poetry and memoir, and her musical voice, by seizing every form of music instruction that crossed her path (learning classical piano and clarinet, playing piano in various jazz ensembles, taking traditional music theory at Harvard plus private lessons for jazz piano with a professor at Berklee College of Music, and transcribing jazz albums). Then one day it simply occurred to her to marry these two loves of words and music, and to try her hand at songwriting—the genre that, despite her fascination with classical and jazz, had always been what most deeply moved her.
For Rachel, writing her first song was like opening a present. And as odd and misshapen as the little thing was, she was enchanted. She persevered, and wrote a dozen more songs, all with the same sense of awe and delight, and eventually even with some better results. A few years later, she had a collection that suited her quite well and moved to California, where she began to develop herself not only as a songwriter and pianist, but also a performer and singer. She connected with producer Jon Evans (bassist for Tori Amos), and made her first album, Say Goodbye, in 2006. It featured inspired performances by Evans on bass, Scott Amendola (Nels Cline, Madeleine Peyroux) on drums, and Julie Wolf (Ani DiFranco, Erin McKeown) on accordion. The reception was fantastic: Nate Seltenrich of the East Bay Express described it as “Utterly laid-back piano pop that sucks the tension right out of the room. Efron makes it sound easy but there’s a reason so few artists get it right,” and Chris Patrick Morgan of the San Francisco Examiner wrote, “Rachel Efron combines a light, gentle touch on the piano with the eye and the voice of a poet to make some of the loveliest music one has heard—soft, intimate, ethereal, and strikingly genuine.”
Rachel spent the next years realizing a wealth of new material and performing on both the East and West Coasts. In 2008 she returned to the studio for a second collaboration with Jon Evans, the result of which was 4AM, an album that maintained the sincerity of her debut, but possessed the integrity and confidence of a singer/songwriter with a matured sense of herself and her craft. It caught the ear of San Francisco Chronicle music editor David Weigand, who described it as “deeply poetic songcraft” and wrote, “The voice is airy, plaintive, the sound, at first, seemingly detached, but it isn’t long—about three notes will do it—before Bay Area singer-songwriter Rachel Efron hooks you by the heart.” Portland Press Herald’s Mike Olcott wrote, “Efron is a spell-caster” and “Not your garden variety supporting cast, these are thoughtful players with long resumes in the business; but Efron is the star.”
Rachel’s newest album, Put Out The Stars is her most ambitious project to date. She worked at world-renowned Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, with all-star producer Jeffrey Wood and such talented musicians as Dawn Richardson (Four Non-Blondes, Tracy Chapman) and Paul Olguin (Mazzy Star, Shana Morrison). With Put Out The Stars Efron continues her inquiry into the inner-life, and furthers her perhaps career-long project of pushing the envelope of pop—both harmonically and lyrically. What separates the album from her previous work is its immediacy: as though the pane of glass to her emotional landscape has been wiped clearer, and the audience has been invited to sit a little bit closer. Standout tracks include the deeply felt opener, “Worst Crime,” the crashing and dissonant, Chopin-esque “Closing Day,” the playful and ironic tango, “Mourning Dove,” and her boldest track, the equally mysterious and disclosing, “Put Out The Stars.” The soundscape of the album includes drums, bass, strings, accordion, gypsy violin, and trumpet, but these instruments only hang on the centerpiece of Rachel’s sound, which remains the simple intimacy of piano and vocals.