Music Premiere & Interview: Teni Rane Introduces New Single “Caramel” and Talks About Building Sonic Landscapes

Teni Rane
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East Tennessee folk singer-songwriter Teni Rane unveils her single, “Caramel,” the third of four songs comprising the Goldenrod era.

Tinted with classical and Spanish-lite flavors, “Caramel” drifts and flows on evocative layers of guitars and the lusciously haunting cello of Dave Eggar. Rane’s vocals drip with dreamy, velvety timbres, imbuing the lyrics with low-slung bewitching surfaces.

“Full moon fall night – I only see the ghosts of colors / That would’ve shimmered in the sun / Half empty light – you’d never see it comin’ / But something has begun.”

Guitar Girl Magazine spoke with Teni Rane to find out more about the inspiration for “Caramel,” her gear, and The Goldenrod Singles.

What inspired “Caramel,” the latest of your Goldenrod singles?

Full moons in the fall! There’s a gravity in fall nights, especially when the moon shines full and bright. With the instrumentation in “Caramel”, I wanted to echo that mysterious lunar pull and the flash of fiery colors fluttering in an inviting breeze. We are always moving towards something in life and sometimes we need a little bit of a pull in the right direction. There is adventure in following something that is half concealed in shadows and still clear enough to let you know that you ought to keep walking toward that newness.

Explain the meaning behind “The Goldenrod Singles.”

This collection of songs is the lead-off for a full album project I am working on. The album will share the name of the title track: “Goldenrod” (which was released in August of 2023). There are still several songs in the recording process and my goal is to release the full album in 2024. Similarly, to the title track, the album ‘Goldenrod’ is an exploration into where I go in times of change and challenge and newness. The album collection (as well as these first releases) is largely inspired by the shoulder season between the intense final heat of summer and the eventual cooling into autumn. These songs are reactions to events and memories in my life and are integral pieces for me in getting curious about how I react or respond to the past in my present. Even though these songs come from very specific moments in my life, the themes, emotions, and stories that I’m dealing with in my writing are so universal: discomfort in the face of change, fear of losing ourselves and our identities, anxiety about all the unknowns in life, the constant effort needed to return to who we are at our core. Lyrically, these songs paint the landscapes and containers for memories and events – in some cases almost pop-in moments into a train of thought. Musically, we worked hard to build the landscapes and containers for each story. In ‘Goldenrod’ the bees floating over the fields, the wind rustling through the blooms, and the water sliding and splashing over the mountain streambeds. In ‘Cinnamon,’ there is the kitchen floor reflecting morning light, the warmth of coffee, the staged laughter, the inevitability of change sliding through the song as the cello swells and the story takes an unexpected turn. In ‘Caramel.’ the sultry, shadowy, wicked gravity of a full moon and the half-hidden vibrancy of a swirl of autumn leaves like heartbeats and brain chemicals, the flash of fiery colors fluttering in an inviting breeze. In ‘Cold Wind (Ghost)’ (out October 27th), that chatty inner voice that is crying to be heard and loved and safe, the feeling of separation melting away as we learn to meet and see ourselves as whole and not only a collection of past selves.

What kind of guitar, pedals, and amp are you currently using?

My primary instrument is a Composite Acoustics carbon fiber guitar. I’ve had it for nearly a decade now and it treats me very well – it’s sturdy, light, and comfortable to play for long periods of time due to the engineering and contours of the back of the instrument. It works extremely well for traveling and is low-stress and hassle-free when I have to fly with it. People always wonder if it will have a full sound since it isn’t wood – the tone is clear and powerful and has served me well in the studio and on the road! Being in the acoustic space primarily I don’t have many pedals that I interact with, but I do always play through my LR Baggs Para DI Acoustic Preamp. It helps me make sure that when I’m live I can still get the warm tone of my guitar to translate to the audience and notch out any interfering frequencies quickly. If I am lugging sound in when I play live, I bring out my RCF EVOX JMIX8. It gives us really great abilities to monitor our sound both on the unit itself as well as an incredible Bluetooth capability for making adjustments from further away.

How did you get started in music?

My parents were always taking us to different musical events. Ones that stand out in my memory most are Charles and Myrtle’s Coffeehouse and the Riverbend Festival – both in my hometown of Chattanooga, TN. There was also a social group every Sunday afternoon that was largely organized around a jam-style get-together that my sister and I were always attending with them. That group is still going strong with about a 30-year track record! I was always pretty reticent about playing but loved to sing. It wasn’t until I was about 15 years old that I really stepped into the role of playing guitar as well. When I finally asked, my dad taught me a few chords (C, F, G – I had to look up Am on my own!) and gave me a chord finder. He jokes that I surpassed him right away in playing ability, but I’ll never pass him up on his knowledge of the fretboard and how to take care of an instrument well. My mom always encouraged us to sing and I’m grateful for that. What put me where I am today was mostly just having music in my life at an early age and being inspired and intrigued by traveling musicians that came through our sphere – so many of them were so kind and generous with their time.

What is your definition of tone? And is your tone evolving?

I think tone ought to always be evolving – I hope mine will continue to! To me, tone refers not just to the overall quality of the sound of my music (i.e., warm or folky or acoustic), but also to the influences that come together and are present in the overall composition – those might be ‘obvious’ influences or more buried influences that still contribute to the structure or feeling of a piece. That’s the main reason that my tone continues to evolve. As I hear new music from both established and emerging artists, work with other musicians, and continue to evaluate and shift my approach to this career, those experiences shape where my focus is during the process and what my ear is anchoring towards as I write and record. Those experiences lend to the strength and quality of my work and over time lead to a full and more confident tone. Each time I sit down to work these days I am learning something new or being challenged to think about something in a different way and to revise my approach as I go. That all contributes to my works’ tone and evolving tone!

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media?

Everyday moments, emotions, and scenes provide a large portion of the inspiration or starting points/ideas for songs. When I step back and think about how many scenes are in a given day just in my life and the shifting context behind each of those… There is so much to explore there! I love poetry and oftentimes think of songs as poems that have been put to music. One of my mom’s favorite poets is Mary Oliver and she has shared a number of her works with me. There are always lines and perspectives that catch my mind and I hold on to as little starting nuggets. After I shared ‘Goldenrod’ with my mom she sent me Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Goldenrod.’ While it didn’t inspire the lyrics as they were already complete, some of the imagery I took into the recording space was absolutely influenced by the poem.

What can you share about your writing process?

My writing is often done in pieces and parts. A thought that captures my attention or a scene that grabs my eye and brings a lyrical line to mind. I have journals and notebooks that I collect all of those into as quickly as possible before they flitter away. What I love about collecting images that way is that it gives me an insight into some context in my current mind space and what the story I am trying to tell is – how it is taking shape, what the pieces and parts are, and how they all fit together. When it feels like there are multiple pieces that go together and are part of the same story and melody space, then I start to link them together. Every once in a while, there is a song that comes all at once, but my more specific and repeatable writing style is the one of collecting moments over time until I’ve collected all the ‘right’ ones for the story to be rolled into a song.

Why do you make music?

Partially because it feels like melodies are in my bones. Partially because storytelling through song is such an innately human thing to do. Partially because creating something from start to finish and following through on all the steps needed to take a song from notebook paper ideas to a recorded product is such an intense and interesting experience. We all have some time here on earth to use. I’m glad to use a portion of my time linking stories to melodies and sharing them with others.

Teni Rane on Tour:

9/28 – Knoxville TN – WDVX (Blue Plate Special) [12pm]

9/29 – Abingdon VA – Tumbling Creek Cider

9/30 – Kingsport TN – House Concert (5-7pm)

10/1 – Emory VA – WEHC 90.7 – Appalachian Artists The Basement Sessions

10/14 – Chattanooga TN – Highland Park Porchfest (3:30pm)

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