Doesn’t Really Mind Entering Her 30s
by Jay S. Jacobs
Fame can come from lots of different directions. Rachael Lawrence is determined to meet it head on.
A California-born-and-bred multi-hyphenate; Lawrence has spent the last decade or so working as a singer, songwriter, actress, director and producer. She has even been a popular celeb singing coach – teaching voice to the likes of Sara Rue, Bai Ling and basketball player Rick Fox. She has recently been signed by Universal Music Group as a staff songwriter.
Meanwhile, Lawrence and a bunch of her college friends have created Drama 3|4, a production company and workspace for artists to create films, music or any other imaginative pursuits.
Lawrence’s first real taste of pop-culture notoriety came from a truly unexpected direction – the cultural phenomenon of YouTube. Lawrence and her friends created a short musical film called “Shoes,” with friend Liam Sullivan in drag as Kelly, a disgruntled suburban teen whose real passion is for footwear. Lawrence contributed to the techno-pop music of the clip, as well as playing the shoe saleswoman who is accosted for suggesting that Kelly’s feet were too big for her perfect dream pumps. “Shoes” was recently ranked as the seventh most popular posting ever on that ubiquitous site.
Many of same people who made “Shoes” teamed up for VH1’s first original situation comedy; I Hate My 30s – about a group of corporate workers who are violently resisting inevitable aging. In 30s, Lawrence plays Vicki, the loud-mouthed, music-loving receptionist in the office – and also the only character in the show who is still in her 20s. Lawrence also co-writes the music for the series.
As the first season of I Hate My 30s was winding down, Rachael was nice enough to give us a call and discuss her many pursuits.
I saw in your bio that you are from San Diego. I hope the fires aren’t affecting you and your family…
My family is fine, thank you. Just a little scared, you know? Some of my family had to evacuate. But everybody is okay.
How did you get involved in performing?
I don’t remember not performing. It started basically when I was three. My parents noticed I had an ear for playing the piano. They got me playing and then I was playing for people all the time. Then I started getting into musicals. In fourth grade I remember getting into the high school musical. (laughs) So, I was just always on stage.
So how do you think of yourself – as a songwriter, singer, actor, director or comedian?
It’s kind of like picking your favorite child. It’s hard to say what I actually really consider myself. I think there are areas that I’m stronger in. I work as a voice coach, so I’m so comfortable singing that I think of myself more as a singer. But then I got a TV show and was working my acting muscles and felt more like an actor for a while. I guess it changes with the wind, you know?
When in college, you worked as a vocal coach for many well-known people. What was that like?
Well, once you establish yourself as a teacher in LA, you just hope that by word of mouth people will refer you to other people. I’ve just been very lucky that my clients really love what I do for them. If you live in LA long enough and you’re in the entertainment business, at some point you’re going to run into some celebrities and some fun people to work with.
You also had a running gig at the Hollywood Bowl. How did that come about?
Well, during the summers it was a great job to have – instead of waiting tables or something like that just out of college. Basically, the summer programs would have a lot of Broadway stars come in and they needed singers to back them up or sing along with them. So, I was hired to do a lot of the Broadway shows there. That was great – being on that stage with that orchestra.
How did you get involved in the formation of Drama 3|4?
Drama 3|4 came about… it’s basically a clubhouse for a lot of my friends. (laughs) Most of us met at USC – The University of Southern California – here in Los Angeles. We were all majoring in theater and putting on shows. We all definitely wanted to have a career in the arts once we were out of school. It basically formed out of wanting to produce our own material. A couple of my friends, they formed the business. Now we have an office and a rehearsal space and all kinds of wonderful things we can access in order to make our movies or our live shows or music videos or whatever.
The first thing that you did that really caught on was the video for “Shoes” which became a sensation on YouTube. Could you have ever imagined that it would catch on so big?
You know, Liam Sullivan is such a funny, amazingly talented comedian and actor. I just know that things that come out of this group of people – it’s going to get noticed. I didn’t know that that was going to be the one that was going to blow up the biggest. (laughs) You never know what people are going to turn into the next sensation. But I’m definitely not surprised.
There are lots of people out there who are trying to use YouTube as a trampoline to fame – the Bridezilla, Chris Crocker, The Dancing Kid – but you and Lyle are some of the few who actually have gotten jobs so far from it. Do you think that as it goes on it will become more and more common to get their start in YouTube and then jump out into other aspects of the industry?
I definitely believe that. I think that the masses can speak volumes. If something catches on with the people, it’s not an agent or a casting director that is really deciding the fate of certain people. It’s actually a popularity contest. I think it’s wonderful, because a lot of people are turned down in the industry. They pitch shows that, you know, one person decides that it’s not going. On YouTube you have the opportunity to see if everyone else likes it. Then you can get some justification in getting something on TV or radio or get signed. You know, Justin Timberlake signed that girl who sang that ‘Umbrella’ cover. She would never have gotten that if the people hadn’t spoken.
Is there anything in the world that is worse to say to a woman than “Your feet are so big?”
(laughs) Oh, definitely. That’s the least of my worries. I’m not too worried if people think my feet are too big.
So how did you get involved with I Hate My 30s? I wasn’t sure from the bio – had you gotten the series before “Shoes” came out or after?
Liam has been working on that character for a really long time. It was a complete coincidence that that happened at the same time. We were all in Kelly’s “Shoes” video because we’ve all been friends for years. Everyone on I Hate My 30s have been friends for a very long time. This TV show is more like an extension of what we’ve been doing. A lot of people think that other things have come out – you know, become popular because of the show. But actually, it’s just kind of another thing we do.
So, what’s it like being the only non-thirties person in I Hate My 30s?
The character or the real person?
Well, I’m actually turning 30 next week so it’s kind of a funny year for me.
Oh, happy birthday.
Thank you. You know, I’m so ready to get out of my 20s. I know on the show we make the 30s sound like it might not be that fun for people, but I am definitely ready to start the next chapter in my life. I’m ready to become an adult… you know, for real this time. So, I’m looking forward to it.
You also do the songs for 30s. How much fun is it coming up with songs about things like internet dating or “Your Love Is Like My Lousy Day Job?”
Oh, you couldn’t ask for a better job. I got to co-write the songs actually, with David [Fickas] and Brice [Beckham], who star on the show – and also wrote, directed and produced it. You stick the three of us in a room… I mean we were at my house, on my keyboard, I was recording it on my software and we just basically laughed out a song in five minutes for each episode. It was so fun… and to get paid for it and get to perform the songs and write the songs, you can’t ask for anything more.
The songs you do for the show, and other things I’ve seen like “J.A.P.S.” on YouTube, tend to have a strong comic attitude. I read you recently signed a songwriting contract with Universal Music. Are the songs you are writing for them more serious, or do you add a comic pulse to them, too?
I’ve been involved in this sketch group for such a long time; most of the emphasis in my work has been comedic. When you’re a songwriter with a publishing deal, you’re writing for other artists. There are not a lot of comedic artists on Top 40. (laughs) So, I’m writing pop hits right now – or attempting to.
Radio has become so hard to break onto these days. Do you feel as a performer and songwriter it’s almost best to find alternate avenues like television and the internet?
It really depends who is listening to you. I really adore my publishers. They love our music. They’re really going to help us get out there. But, if I had any advice for anyone getting into music or television or entertainment out here in LA, it’s that you have to do a lot of it yourself nowadays. You have to present the world with, you know, product. (laughs) So make a short movie. Put up a play. Get on stage. They want to see what you’re made of. The market is just saturated with actors and musicians – and a lot of stupid people that just want to be famous and don’t really have anything to offer. So, you really have to prove yourself. It’s a do it yourself kind of industry.
I read you had a small part in the movie Mrs. Henderson Presents. How did that come about and what was it like to be in a movie with Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins?
I’m sorry to say I actually wasn’t in that movie. It’s on my [internet filmography]. I’ve tried and tried to tell them I’m not in that movie. (laughs) I was not a part of that production.
We’re going to have to talk to IMDb about that…
I’ve sent them a few things. You know, you can’t call them; you have to just make requests, so I haven’t been able to get it off there. But, whatever, it’s another credit. (laughs)
What is something about you that people would be surprised to know?
I think probably mostly what a musician I am. I’m a voice coach. I’m certified in a technique. I teach tons of people out here in Los Angeles. When you’re on TV, a lot of people don’t think you do anything else. I know that I wrote some of the songs on the show, but I’ve been playing the piano since I was three years old. I’m very involved with music. (pause) I mean, I probably have some weird quirks I could tell you that people don’t know about… but that’s not very exciting. (laughs)
You just said next week you’re turning 30. Let’s go forward in time a little bit, let’s say next week you were turning 60. How would you like to look back on your career? Or how would you like for people to see what you’ve done over the years?
Well, I definitely know that my place in this world is with music and entertainment. I would really like to have a really wonderful career as a songwriter. I would love to do more television, more film. I know how difficult it is to do, but I don’t really see myself doing anything else on this planet. (laughs) I would really like to – not to sound charitable to sound charitable – but I really would love to make enough money at some point through songwriting to maybe open some schools. Music schools. I’ve been really inspired by all these celebrities that are going out across the entire world and creating opportunities for people to have an education. I would love to do something with that with music – probably when things calm down a little. (laughs) Once I’ve made a better living.
Have you heard if there is going to be a second season of I Hate My 30s?
We don’t know yet. I believe they are in talks and they’re checking out all the ratings and numbers and things. So, we’re still waiting.
Other than Mrs. Henderson Presents, are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up?
I sure hope not. I haven’t heard about them yet. But, I’m a pretty good girl. I come from a really nice family. I haven’t done anything to embarrass myself out there. I’m a pretty straight shooter. I’m an open book. So that’s pretty much it. I work hard, you know?
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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 10, 2007.