There are artists that DJs love, and one of them is Rachel Panay. She is always there at the Winter Music Conference and at the Billboard Dance Music Summits performing live, promoting her music, and learning more about the dance music world. Rachel is simply a nice person who is blessed with a wonderfully soulful voice and great writing skills. With a string of hit club singles like "I still Believe," "Back to Love," and "The Real Thing," the DJs return the love playing Rachel's music to their appreciative dancefloors. Rachel's debut CD "Back to Love" compiles all of her club hits and gives us a bigger glimpse into the soul of the singer we all love.
DJ Ron Slomowiczn: Congratulations on your debut CD.
Rachel Panay: Well thank you very much. It's exciting and a long time coming, but it's finally arrived.
RS: It's so rare you see a dance artist actually put together a
full artist album.
Rachel Panay: Yes, I realized it's kind of an unusual thing, but a lot of other artists I know have done it, so I'm happy to finally be able to continue with that tradition.
RS: Let's just start there, who are some of the artists that you
admire whom you take as influences?
Rachel Panay: In the dance music genre, I've been influenced the most by people like Ultra Naté, Kristine W, Deborah Cox and Suzanne Palmer. Vocally, those are the four kind of figureheads that I've looked up to. My influences musically outside of the dance music industry go into jazz, R&B, and pop, so that list goes on and on.
RS: One thing I really like about the album is that you wrote or
co-wrote just about every song on here.
Rachel Panay: Josh Harris, my long-term producer and songwriting partner, and I did four of the songs, and then several of them are all mine, which was exciting for me because that's not happened before. "The Walk of Shame," an oldie and a goodie in the world of Rachel, was written with a really great friend of mine in Miami.
RS: When you write songs, do you start with the melody or do you
start with the track?
Rachel Panay: I work both ways. With Josh primarily, I'll receive a track, stay with it and get an inspiration off of it. The first single, "It's Got To Be Love," that I wrote with Georgie Porgie, was sent to me as a track on a Thursday and on the Friday, I cleared my schedule and everything flowed really nicely. The verse, chorus, and hook all came together like it was meant to be. We recorded it the week after and that was the last song we added to the album. My favorite place to write- well, it's not really even a favorite place, it's just the place where it happens, is the shower.
Rachel Panay: Yes. I'll be standing in the shower just washing and conditioning my hair and out of nowhere the melodies will strike. Then I'll go to the keyboard and piece up a harmony and either the words will flow or I'll explore where I'm at emotionally, what do I want to plug in to this song. Wherever that is is where that song goes.
RS: One thing that's really amazing about this album is that it
seems like a greatest hits because "The Real Thing," "I Still
Believe," "Back to Love," and "Walk of Shame" - all of the songs
people love from you are in one place.
Rachel Panay: Yes, that's true. It was funny because we were deliberating about what to title the album and actually Ron Hirsch from Act Two records said why don't you call it Back To Love because you're really going back in your discography. We were able to get all the songs in one spot and even some of the original edits that people might not have heard. As a club-goer, you might have liked the Friscia & Lamboy mix but may have never heard the original of "I Still Believe," how the song was originally written and so forth. It'll be new to a lot of people. There's a lot of people out there that like dance music but don't necessarily go to clubs, don't follow the charts, or don't have a network of people that they talk about dance music with. People that otherwise wouldn't know where to find this music, so it'll be new for a lot of people as well.
RS: I've always wanted to ask you about the "Walk Of Shame," was
that dedicated to one person or was there a specific incident in mind
when you wrote it?
Rachel Panay: The funny thing is I cannot accept credit for the catalyst of the Walk Of Shame. The original Walk of Shame was penned by my friend Steven Billing in response to a girlfriend of his on the telephone who'd called in to say that she was doing the walk of shame. She was in her evening gown after a date that wound up a one-night stand, and so she was saying I'm doing the walk of shame right now. They hung up the phone and then Steven wrote the words. When he met me of course he said 'oh wow, this is a perfect person to sing it.'
RS: Now there's a compliment. <laughing> In addition to the
more uptempo dance numbers, there's some really cool R&B songs on here
like "Don't Look Back." Was it difficult for you to go outside the
dance genre and do an R&B song like that or "Life Is Beautiful," the
pretty slow song?
Rachel Panay: Thank you for mentioning those. Those songs were songs that I'd written and pulled out of the old notebook when we put this album together. We narrowed it down and we narrowed down and we filtered it through so many times to come up with what we actually came up with. I'm from DC and for anyone who knows DC, it is an R&B city, so those melodies come easy to me, sometimes a lot easier than dance music.