Rachel Despard grew up surrounded by music, from bluegrass to indie rock to soul. Now a senior at UNC studying music, Despard has found a unique identity in her songwriting and her sound.
Despard's interest in music started at young age, participating in musical theater and taking voice lessons at the age of 10. She attended Durham School of the Arts, where she was able to perform at Durham Performing Arts Center and participate in musical programs with Duke University. She was in the school choir and was the leader of an a cappella group.
“In high school I knew I loved to sing, and I was trying to develop my technical skills and do whatever I could get my hands on,” Despard said. “Then when I started recording and doing more songwriting I was like, ‘Oh this is the one. This is what I should be doing and what I’m most passionate about.’”
She recorded for the first time at age 16.
Once she reached college, Despard took a step back to decide what direction she should take. For a while, she directed her attention toward public policy and considered law school after graduation. This didn't last long, and Despard said she quickly turned back to her roots.
“I eventually realized that it was always going to be music," Despard said. "I wasn’t going to be happy doing anything else.”
Music at UNC
During the second semester of her junior year at UNC, Despard said she started to really engage in the process of exploring her own musical identity and sound after many years of technical training and exposure to various styles of music.
Growing up, Despard attended festivals such as MerleFest and FloydFest with her mother, surrounded by bluegrass and folk music. Her father, a drummer, was a Grateful Dead fan that was very much into the indie rock scene. Despard said the combination of her mother’s bluegrass and folk, her father’s indie rock and her own personal training with soul, gospel and R&B have blended to help shape her current sound.