Stephanie Rice is coming off a successful appearance on Season 12 of NBC's singing competition "The Voice" as a member of Team Alicia. The Texas-born singer and songwriter was a fan favorite who made it to the Top 11 before being cut from the TV show, but by the time she left, she had made a strong impression on national audiences with her incredible covers. Although her season ended just a few months ago, Rice is wasting no time capitalizing on the momentum, and has just released her debut solo single "Let Me Go." You can listen to the single now by using the media player included with this article and download it on iTunes.
AXS conducted an email interview with Stephanie Rice to learn more about how she decided to leave a career in science to pursue music full-time, and how her new single was incredibly personal for her. Get to know more about Stephanie below.
AXS: Unlike most artists, you didn't go directly to pursuing a music career; you have a Biology degree. How did music come into your life, and how did you decide to make it a career?
Stephanie Rice (SR): Music has been a part of my life since the age of five. My grandmother gave me a piano, and I attempted to take lessons as a kindergartner, but I apparently had a stubborn attitude and didn't want to play the sheet music I was given. I quickly dropped out of lessons, and having only learned one song, I was desperate to play more. This sparked an early writing career for me; I wrote my first full song when I was eight years old. I continued to write songs throughout high school and found that it was the way I loved to express myself the most. However, when I was ostracized from my family due to my sexuality at 18, music became the substance of my being. It was my rock, my outlet and a way for me to heal by expressing my pain and giving my pain a voice. I decided last year that I wanted to focus on music full-time, and put my science career on hold. I wanted the opportunity to show people the kind of music that saved me in hopes that it could help others as well.
AXS: How do you then channel that mission into your music? What's your songwriting process?
SR: Writing the songs is my favorite part of the process. Sometimes I get an idea in my head, and it consumes my thoughts and I can't go about doing anything else until I sit down and flesh out the melody. Other times, I just get this feeling like there is a song coming on, and I sit down at a piano or with my guitar and let my hands guide me. I rarely ever think about what I'm doing. However, the songs that move me the most, are the ones that I write when I'm emotionally on the verge of a breakdown. The pain that can hit me, and sometimes it comes out of nowhere, is overwhelming - like two fists that squeeze around my heart. In these moments I immediately lean on music and begin singing my emotion into a melody. These songs that I write always tend to be my favorite. They bare my heart and soul.
AXS: What was it like in the studio for this particular new single?
SR: In the studio I am very hands on. I love to be a part of every aspect of the process. When it comes time to record my vocals, I won't settle for anything that doesn't move me. When my brother and I recorded the vocals to "Let Me Go," he dimmed the lights and lit candles for me. I felt like I was the only person on the planet, and that feeling of loneliness really helped me re-create the feeling that I had when I wrote it.
AXS: This was also a milestone for you personally. Can you explain the backstory of "Let Me Go" and why it's important to you?
SR: It was too painful for me at first to write anything on the piano for a really long time. I grew up playing the piano, but when I was kicked out, I no longer had access to a piano and couldn't afford one on my own. This led me to learning how to play the guitar, and I wrote on the guitar for almost nine years. "Let Me Go" was the first song I wrote on the piano since I was 18. It was painful because the mere act of playing it took me back to when I was living at home with my parents. The rest of the [upcoming] album will be piano based as well. I think it's a really great breakthrough for me, and I think you will be able to hear my heart beating on every single track.
AXS: Then what's the message you're hoping to convey with this new single?
SR: I want people to feel, and most importantly, I want people to know they are not alone. I am unashamedly baring my scars and truths, and I want that to be an empowering moment for anyone listening who shares the same wounds. Singing through the pain can lead to a road of healing. This album is very much like a journey, and I want people to join me on it.
AXS: Can you give us a tease on where you're at with the full album?
SR: I am currently putting together a team to create the best product possible. Though I am not wanting to waste a minute in release of the album, I also am unwilling to do anything without great care and perfection. I want to release the best music that is in me, and I'm fortunate to be joined by a team that is working hard to create and deliver the songs in the most effective way possible.
AXS: We've talked a lot about music being inspiring and moving. So what was the last great concert that inspired or moved you as a music fan?
SR: I went to [an] Alabama Shakes concert about five years ago, and I was so moved and inspired that when I got home, I immediately began brainstorming how to put a band together so I could do what they were doing. They were living my dream, and I decided in that moment to work as hard as I could to make the same dream come true.
Below are Stephanie Rice's upcoming live performances:
Oct. 8 - Beaver Creek, CO - Vilar Performing Arts Center
Dec. 9 - Providence, RI - Veterans Memorial Auditorium
"Let Me Go" is now available on iTunes.
For more on Stephanie Rice, visit her official website.