As the granddaughter of a country music legend, Raelyn Nelson certainly did not have to look far for inspiration in her journey to become a musician.
When she was just a little girl, Nelson looked on shyly at the country music superstars who seemed to always be somewhere nearby whenever Grandpa Willie was around.
“There were always lots of really talented people around [my grandfather],” Nelson said. “That was kind of normal to me. I was a kid so I always felt like I should get out of their way.”
After hiding in her grandfather’s shadow for so many years, Nelson is all grown up now and she is finally stepping into the spotlight with her own band, The Raelyn Nelson Band, and her own sound. Together, they released their first, self-titled album in March 2014 and were even recognized by Rolling Stone magazine for their unique blend of country music and garage band rock and roll after a performance at Farm Aid in 2013, where her grandfather had invited her to perform.
“I don’t ask my grandpa to help or anything,” Nelson said. “I’m proud of him. At first I was nervous because I didn’t want anyone to compare me to him, how do you live up to that? I like to play because it’s fun.
Interestingly enough, Nelson only began her career in music around three years ago. In fact, she’d almost taken a much different career route.
“Before I started pursuing music I thought for a while that I wanted to be a midwife,” she said. “I did a lot of research after I was pregnant with my twins. I was really young and didn’t know a lot so I read a lot of books on spiritual [subjects.]”
Nelson now has three children, two boys and one girl, who were all born premature. In her research, she discovered a place called The Farm where natural births were performed near her home in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. Though she never gave birth there personally, she admired the work they did.
“I just had a heart for moms who were in fear of what was going to happen to them and their baby,” she said. “My passion for that comes from my experiences with my children.”
As time passed, though, Nelson could not let go of her drive to make music, and so she found other ways to channel the emotions of her experiences with motherhood. In her spare time, she found herself writing songs. As her kids began to grow, they soon began to share their mother’s passion for music. She decided to home school her children, using classical models of education to teach them music.
“We like to write songs before bed,” she said. “I’m kind of a melody girl, melodies just pop into my head. Sometimes we kind of make songs up as we go along. I’ll sing something like ‘this is the good night song and everybody’s going to sleep,’ and and they’ll sing the other line.”
To keep them thinking about music, Nelson bought her kids a drum set and encourages them to write songs.
“With my two boys, any song about bodily functions is always a hit,” she said, laughing. “We won’t go into that.”
A few years ago, Nelson met a music producer, Jonathan Bright, through a mutual friend and he invited her to record in his studio. Eventually she recorded a full album independently. She and Bright handled the songwriting, marketing and publicity.
It’s a lot of work doing everything on her own, Nelson said, but she enjoys the creative freedom.
“Not having a label behind you is financially unstable but, at the same time, being independent gives me a lot of flexibility,” she said. “That’s important, especially in my situation since I have children who are really important.”
Now that her band has completed their album, they are returning to the studio to record more songs. Nelson said they plan to release the songs as singles instead of recording an album.
To promote the album, the band has performed gigs throughout the South, including several Alabama shows with local acts like The Toney Boys.
“You have an extremely new, unique sound coming out of Nashville that’s the Raelyn Nelson Band,” said Glenn Toney, lead singer of The Toney Boys. “Raelyn Nelson is becoming a really big deal. I think it’s just a matter of time before she’ll find that song that’s going to be really big.”
The Raelyn Nelson Band is currently promoting their album, available at and all digital distributors.
In the meantime, Nelson plans to continue writing music.
“I think we’re all supposed to inspire each other,” Nelson said. “People inspire me everyday. We get inspiration from people every minute. Every moment seems mundane at times but it’s really not. Every connection you make, every person you listen to, it affects you.”

About The Author

Judah Martin is a senior studying journalism at the University of Alabama.

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