Stephanie Rainey’s last throw of the musical dice saw her lay her emotions and experiences bare, before unexpectedly going viral. Three years later, she’s readying herself for her third national headlining tour. Mike McGrath-Bryan chats with the Glanmire singer-songwriter ahead of her next Cyprus Avenue date on December 1st.
There’s a lot to be said for patience, and well Stephanie Rainey might know it, as she takes a phone call for a chat after “being stuck in N50 hell”. Trading in an emotive strain of pop songwriting that’s resonated massively with a younger audience over the past few years, the Corkonian singer’s recent successes have been the fruit of endless trial-and-error, struggling with the afflictions of making and sustaining music in what is still a very transitional time for the music industry at large.
The breakthrough came with the upload and viral trajectory of the video for single ‘Please Don’t Go’, dedicated to her late nephew and written in his honour. Over the following months, the video was widely-shared on social media across the world, and the single itself hit the Billboard charts in the US via streams and downloads. It’s by-now a well-documented time in Rainey’s life, and three years on, she’s had some time to look at the experience in the rear-view mirror. “It was a weird experience, having a video go viral, and what ensued was getting involved with labels and management, the whole lot. It’s been a great couple of years, I’ve been very lucky to work with some really cool people on the music that people are hearing on the radio right now. I got to write those songs with some really cool people, and made some really good connections. It’s been a mad couple of years. Musically, I’ve moved away from the slower tunes, and it’s been a great time of building the live shows, and it’s just getting bigger every time.”
Since the whole thing came to pass, a number of other singles have done well across radio, socials and streaming services, all of which have created a bottom line of support around the country. It’s a far cry from the months and weeks before striking gold online, when Rainey was considering packing it in. Just as importantly, though, working with a dedicated team to get a grasp of the intricacies of streaming services has allowed her to cast her eye on the future. “Getting that platform was insane, because it opened a lot of doors, but the grafting is sort of the same, in some respects. Things have changed in the sense that the internet changed everything. Even if you take ‘Please Don’t Go’ as an isolated thing, it was able to spread from Ireland to the US charts. That was all from me posting something in my bedroom back in Glanmire, d’ya know? And then, with Spotify and things like that, you can see where people are listening. Most of my listeners are in America, if you look at the demographics, and that’s a mad way of looking at things. I’ve been lucky to get a lot of radio support, so when you put all these things together, I’m in a good position.”
Though international success might not be far off, you can never take your eye off the ball at home, and Rainey has been pounding the pavement with headline tours, support slots and spot shows around the country. Her current run of dates around the country is her third as a headlining act, and over the course of it, she’s seen the changes in how she’s been received. “It’s very strange, how things start to build. We did our first tour as a support act, then doing our own this Spring as a headline act in smaller venues, and we’re at the point now where we’re doing bigger venues and more of them. I suppose the thing that changes is, people want to meet you after the show, and I think things have progressed in that sense. People know who I am a bit more, and they know the songs. That’s the crazy thing. They’re at the gigs and singing the songs back. That’s one of the best feelings ever.”
Further to her headlining engagements, accompanying fellow pop superstars Kodaline on their major summer dates last year made for a new experience in some ways, as playing in front of thousands of people in major venues will do. That being said, the support slot, including a slot at the Marquee, also reinforced the nuts and bolts of Rainey’s craft in other ways. “It’s mad. It’s only when you start doing it that you realise the bigger stages are just that, they’re just bigger spaces. They’re kind-of the same as any other venue, just on a massive scale. I’m lucky enough to have a chance to have done a couple of things like that, so I’m less freaked out by it now, in the sense that I’m able to just go and do and it, and treat it like any other gig. Obviously, the Marquee was special, as we were the first Cork act to open the first night of the Marquee, this year, and people made a really big deal out of that, and made a real moment of it. It’s a very strange thing to get used to, d’ya know what I mean?”
Of course, the year isn’t done yet for Rainey, who’s preparing for the singles release of a live fan favourite in ‘13’, a song that’s been received well by her now-regular live crowd. In addition, she finds her voice being used in a different context by pop producer G-Kaye, a collaborator of hers, underpinning the release of his solo debut single, ‘Shadows’. “‘13’ is a real favourite live, people are always asking me when I’m going to bring it out, but we’re working on a video for it at the minute, so I’m holding back so we can put that out at the same time. Same with the G-Kaye single, I’m very excited about that, so I want to give it its own space, let that breathe and build. It’s getting a huge reaction, and it’s a very different track for me, it’s a nice way to dip my toe into that water and see how that gets received. He’s an excellent, upcoming producer, he’s produced a few tracks with me, he’s done stuff with the likes of Hermitage Green. I felt really happy to do his first track with him for his own project. Plenty of music to come next year.”
Stephanie Rainey plays Cyprus Avenue on Sunday December 1st. Tickets are €15, and available from eventbrite.ie and The Old Oak.