Catchin’ Up With… Raihanna Estrada

Raihanna Estrada is a name which is arguably more recognisable for UK country fans than anywhere else – after all she played the YeeHaw Festival last year and began the process of making waves. Raihanna offers something that a lot of women in country don’t in being a California girl with something a little bit different to say and we are excited by her! Hot on the heels of the release of her second EP ‘Take Me Back’ we were delighted to get the chance to speak to the talented Californian.

You’re a California girl. How did you first get in to country music?
I grew up on a ranch in the town of Lake Berryessa, in Napa Valley, California. The lodge had Country cover bands that would come up and play on the weekends when I was a kid. My Mom was from Texas and my Dad was born and raised in San Francisco but loved artists like Merle Haggard and Alan Jackson. So I grew up with Country music. We could always agree on having a Country radio station on in the car.

Who are your biggest influences?
I grew up on 90s Country music so I love a lot of those artists like Jo Dee Messina, Phil Vassar, Dixie Chicks, LeAnn Rimes, Diamond Rio, Tim McGraw, Travis Tritt, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, etc. I am a huge fan of Miranda Lambert and look up to her as an artist. She’s incredible! I am also a big fan of Kacey Musgraves and Holly Williams.

Did you find it hard to get a footing in the industry being based in California?
Not really. There are a lot of places to play and tons of Country music fans in California. There is also a huge ‘California Country’ movement there among the artists that I was proud to be a part of. I was lucky enough in 2012 to play at the biggest Country music festival in California called Stagecoach Festival and it was so much fun! Country fans really are the BEST.

You’ve recently moved to Nashville, how does it feel to be part of Music City?
It feels really great! I’ve wanted to move here for a long time and I can’t believe I’m finally here now. Sometimes I’ll be driving and look over and see downtown and say to myself, “Whoa, I’m in Nashville!” People are really friendly and there are so many gigs and songwriter rounds you can go to. Music is EVERYWHERE. There are so many talented singers, songwriters and musicians living here and it’s really inspiring.

Have you managed to play at any of the iconic Music Row venues yet?
I haven’t played at any of the bigger venues like the Bluebird or down on Broadway. Not YET. But I am playing songwriter nights the next couple months and always looking for more places to play.

Last year you released your second EP ‘Take Me Back’ what kind of reaction have you had to that?
I got a really great reaction to these songs lyrically, vocally as well as the fantastic production. I’m really proud of it. I had a lot of people purchase the songs and some physical CDs as well which I was happy about since a lot of creative design work went into the packaging and booklet. Since this was my second time around, it was a really maturing album for me. It’s an acoustic EP, so it has different instrumentation than the first one. I feel people really connected with and enjoyed the songs. It was really cool when people would write and tell me which songs were their favorite. It’s always a wonderful feeling as an artist to know that people took the time to listen to what you’ve worked hard creating and that they like the songs.

Have you got any plans for future releases?
Right now I am still very much on a high from the release of Take Me Back but I’m writing new songs all the time. I have a batch that I’ve been working on recently that are coming along quite nicely.

It can’t be easy working as an independent artist, what is the toughest part of it?
I think the toughest part is that you have to wear a lot of hats. At this stage in the game no one is going to do everything for you. You are your own motivator. You are not only the creative one writing the songs and rehearsing, but you are also your own manager, booking agent, PR, stylist, band leader, etc. You do it all! But I actually enjoy it. I like being in control of my vision and project. And being the one to personally answer my own emails, social media pages and really connect that way. Plus, when I book a gig or get a really cool EP review, feature or interview from a website (Like this great interview with Six Shooter Country!) it makes me proud because I know that I was the one to reach out and make it happen. I’m very appreciative to the people over the years who have booked me, wrote about me, and played my songs on their radio stations.

There must be immense competition in Nashville to make it as a country artist. Just how hard is it to generate interest?
I just recently moved to Nashville so I am still navigating this whole scene here. But yes, being a Country artist here is tough because there are so many singer/songwriters everywhere. But nowadays being an artist and trying to generate a buzz is hard in general. Especially in major music cities like LA and Nashville, but it is tough all around I think. There is so much competition and a lot of people releasing music online since there are countless Independent/Do-It-Yourself artists. But it doesn’t worry me. I believe in myself, my music, put in the work and never give up. Just gotta keep on truckin’!

What do you think makes you different to the other artists out there trying to make it?
I’m a Country singer-songwriter who grew up in Northern California, spent almost every summer as a kid with my Granny & Grandpa in South East Texas and I have a different look than 99% of Country artists on the radio today. And I want to spice up the scene. I’d like to give girls another version of Country to look to. Country music has always been a feeling and connection for me. I don’t feel like you need to fit into a certain “box” to love it or sing it.

You came over to England last year to play the YeeHaw festival, how was that experience for you?
The experience was crazy and great! It was our first time playing overseas. My husband Eric, who is also my guitarist, and I flew over to London and were only in England for 48 hours including driving up to Corby to play the festival and traveling back. It was a really fun adventure. We were so thankful to be a part of it and even made some new fans that day. There were other great acts that travelled over from the US (I was the only artist from California). We also got to hear music from the artists that are paving the way for the UK Country Music scene.

Did you meet any friends from the UK country music scene?
I did actually. I met the organizer of YeeHaw UK Festival, Bryan Steers, in person finally after emailing back and forth for months. Also met and was interviewed by Chris of Chris Country Radio as well as Dean and Sheena from their radio show. I was introduced online to Peter Street of the Severn FM radio show “Keepin’ It Country” before going over and he played some of my tracks. And that connection introduced me this year to Pete from W21 Music who was so kind and just recently added me to his Artists page. Met some of the festival attendees too who I still keep in touch with via my Facebook music page.

With bands like The Shires and Ward Thomas making it big in UK country and coming over to Nashville do you see coming over here as a way of possibly making it bigger back home too?
Definitely. For me, coming to England and playing is huge! It’s great to have people hear your music in another country and know that they love it. That makes me happy. I’ve received a really great reaction to my music in person at YeeHaw UK Festival and afterward online. The UK Country Music community have been so supportive of my music and I am extremely grateful for that.

Will you be making any trips back in the near future?
I really hope so! I’d love to come over and do a UK tour and potentially link it up with one of the bigger Country music festivals in the UK. Coming back there is definitely on my radar. I can’t wait to make that happen!

What plans do you have for 2015?
For 2015 I plan to keep getting Take Me Back heard by as many people as possible and hoping that I can tour sometime this Summer to get my music out to more Country fans around the US. I am also writing new songs that will no doubt be turned into a third EP or possibly album. And in the mean time, enjoying everything that Music City has to offer!

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