ON THE RISE: 21 Questions with Rachel Honza
Updated: Jul 6, 2021
Rachel Honza is a 25-year-old indie-pop artist writing songs and drinking oat milk matcha lattes in Virginia. After testing the waters of indie-pop with her single “more time” in the midst of 2020, she dove into the genre with her debut EP “somewhere green” in 2021. Her music contrasts introspective, melancholic lyrics with infectious guitars, drums, and vocal layers. Check out her most recent single, “Screen Time,” on all platforms!
HWM: Tell us about Rachel Honza. Give us three words to describe yourself. What do you do for fun besides making music?
Rachel Honza: I would say intuitive, silly, and laid-back. Honestly I love to explore, like I will hop in the car on any day. I just like to drive around and imagine what everyone else is up to as I drive around, listen to music in the car, waste gas.
HWM: How did you first get into music?
Rachel Honza: Like a lot of people, I think I saw Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift early on, and I was like, ‘that’s the LIFE for me.’ But also I think the more heartwarming answer would be that my older brother was in a band in high school and I was like, he’s so cool. I would always beg him to teach me guitar chords. One day he taught me three chords and I went home and searched up “Teardrops On My Guitar” by Taylor Swift and learned that.
HWM: How would you describe the music you typically create?
Rachel Honza: So I think a big theme of my songs so far is that the lyrics are very introspective, plus a lot of discontent and wondering, but the music usually is very fun-- lots of groove and high energy. So you have a kind of contrast with the lyrics and the music on most songs that I've put out. But I think a big important thing for me is that the listeners are always interested at every point in the song. So bedroom pop with introspective lyrics.
HWM: What genre would you describe your music as?
Rachel Honza: I think one thing that's interesting is that I'm much more of a songwriter. My home base is indie-pop, and then my producer is kind of the one to add a lot of elements that make it more on the electronic side sometimes, or indie-rock. I would say indie pop and bedroom-pop are closest to home but definitely some influences from alternative and indie rock as well.
HWM: How long does it take you to write a song?
Rachel Honza: The good ones... like 10 minutes. I say that that’s been my process so far but I’m kind of learning how to re-approach songwriting and not put it in a box. So I would say when I'm sitting down and writing, 15 minutes, but I might be sitting down and writing on that one song for a couple weeks.
HWM: Where do you get inspiration for your songs?
Rachel Honza: I think as far as lyrics are concerned, the inspiration just comes from my own wonderings about the world. A lot of the “somewhere green” EP was looking inward and having the courage to publicly question things. The inspiration was just questions that I think we all have about ourselves. I feel like my mind tends to go to these questions more than other people’s. But yeah, past experiences and things that I think other people might be experiencing--that’s kind of the inspiration for the lyrics. And then the music... I would say inspiration is a lot of Valley, The 1975, Taylor Swift, The Japanese House, and Phoebe Bridgers. Those are all big musical and lyrical inspirations.
HWM: What’s your favorite song that you’ve ever released?
Rachel Honza: It switches all the time. Like I think The 1975 had a quote where Matty Healy was like, ‘of course I like our music, of course The 1975 is my favorite band, why wouldn’t we be making music that we love?’ And that quote kind of gave me more permission to enjoy my own music and not feel weird about being like, ‘yeah I listen to it sometimes. Other people worked really hard on it. I worked really hard on it.’ So with that being said, I think “FUTURE ENVY” is the one where my personality most comes through. It explores all these questions about life but the music is just a banger, and so I think that it's one of my favorites for that reason.
HWM: What’s the most sentimental/vulnerable song you’ve ever written?
Rachel Honza: It’s kind of a tie. I think “more time” is the most quintessentially vulnerable sad girl indie-pop song that I have ‘cause it was literally a play-by-play of a relationship that I was in when I was younger, and the end of it. And the raw feeling that everyone feels that’s like, ‘I just wanted more time with you.’ And you could feel that about friends and family members and a lot of people. The intro track of my EP is pretty vulnerable as well, but I don’t think about it often because it was one of those moments where I word vomited a lot of lyrics, not really even thinking that they were that personal to me, and I didn't even know I was being that expressive when I wrote it. And then I listened back to it and I was like, ‘oh dang.’
HWM: What’s your production process like?
Rachel Honza: I have so few things out in the world so I think it’s been a little bit different each time. For the first few songs that I put out, it was me coming to producers who are now my friends and being like, ‘hey, I have this voice memo or demo on SoundCloud.’ And then they’d listen to it and I’d be like, ‘I really want it to sound like The Paper Kites or these few songs by The Japanese House or ELIO or something like that.’ The first couple songs I was not really as involved and then on the EP I didn't actually have demos, I played those songs live for my producer Benja and a friend of mine who plays guitar. We just started brainstorming ideas in the room and he started playing really cool electric guitar licks. Then after that, it was Benja doing his magic, sending stuff back and forth to me, me tweaking it, and then sending it off to mixing and mastering. The most recent song, “Screen Time,” was a lot different because Benja was like, I'm gonna just write a track for you to write on top of, and so it was completely backwards.
HWM: If you had the chance to collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Rachel Honza: Oh wow, I don't think about this nearly enough. I think Valley is the band that I would most want to collaborate with. They're just so fun and I think that they're geniuses at music, and I would love to collab with them.
HWM: If you could open a show for another artist, who would it be?
Rachel Honza: Okay, I’ve thought a lot about that. It’s hard because you have to think about whose music would complement yours and vice versa but not be exactly the same. I would love to open for Valley. But you know how there’s the opener and then there’s the local opener at some shows? I would love to pre-open for The 1975 but of course that is a huge pie-in-the-sky type of dream.
HWM: What is your go-to crying song?
Rachel Honza: Lately, “champagne problems” off of evermore. It’s so great for me because it has a very vague storyline that I love trying to figure out, and I’ll kind of rewrite the storyline a little bit in my head each time I listen to it. Another one that will get me to cry at times is “Killer + The Sound, which is “Killer” by Phoebe Bridgers plus “The Sound” by Noah Gundersen. It’s a mashup that they did, and I will just transport to another emotional realm every time. “New Year’s Day” by Taylor Swift--I don’t know why that one makes me cry every time. It just feels like a love song to yourself of being like, ‘I’m gonna show up for you even if other people don’t.’
HWM: What is a song that you think is a masterpiece?
Rachel Honza: I think “Watery Brain” by Valley--masterpiece. “Berenstein” by The Band CAMINO--masterpiece. Lyrically and musically. I feel like this is an outdated opinion but “The Sound” by The 1975. I know some people don't like that song, but it is so fun. And “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift.
HWM: How has quarantine affected your approach to music?
Rachel Honza: I have only been making indie-pop music since 2020, so I only know music during the pandemic. I used to do music a long time ago (I did country-pop) but this is my first time revisiting music, and part of me feels comfortable with it because I kind of like how it’s very digital--meeting people online and quietly working on things with the people who are close to you. I’m interested to see what will happen later this year because I feel like all artists were on the same playing field during the pandemic. All artists were not touring. All artists were not playing live shows. It felt like a chance to make music and not be hiding in the shadows of other huge musicians. Short answer: it was pretty comfortable for me because it felt like a lowkey entrance into making music again.
HWM: How do you feel the community on TikTok has impacted the music business? How has it impacted your music?
Rachel Honza: I definitely think that TikTok is a huge part of today’s music industry, and it’s another element that kind of levels the playing field because you see indie artists able to reach more people than they've ever been able to reach before through this platform. I still feel like I’m figuring it out most days, but I do think it’s introduced an enormous potential for exposure that indie artists have never seen before. For myself, I think it’s given me the courage to keep promoting my music. Because it can be very tiring to promote yourself to people in the world. It’s a very unnatural thing to be like, ‘hey, what’s up everyone, here’s my music!’ It feels so strange, but I think the people on TikTok have helped me feel like I should keep going. They’re really supportive. One day, I randomly was like, ‘I’m gonna tell my followers that any time I post this green dot emoji, it means to show this post a little extra love because it has to do with a single that's coming out.’ I didn't expect people to run with that, but they were so supportive on any video that had that. That was very special, and I was impressed by everyone's support. It was like a little secret club.
HWM: If you weren’t an artist what do you think you’d do?
Rachel Honza: I am in grad school so I know the answer to this. I’m in grad school for clinical mental health counseling. A lot of my lyrics have references to mental health topics. Mental health has always been something that’s very important to me, so yeah, the goal is to be a licensed professional counselor.
HWM: If you could go back in time, is there anything you would have done differently?
Rachel Honza: I think I would have gone back to myself probably in 2017 and 2018. I had a lot of self-doubt. I had been writing songs, but I felt like it was too late for me, or that it was going to be unwelcomed to kind of like step back into making music. I really was overthinking that all the time. So I think that I would go back and be like, ‘it’s okay to do something that feels uncomfortable, and maybe not everyone on earth will like it or welcome it but there are a lot of people who will, so you should do it.’
HWM: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about music?
Rachel Honza: I think it circles back to the quote from The 1975. That sounds silly but it’s to make music that you like, and that has become a very big philosophy of mine. I also kind of take from my experience with country music that it’s okay to tell the truth in songs and to be very vulnerable. I think it was Taylor Swift who said that telling your experience and listing niche things that you’ve been through is going to speak to more people than if you’re trying to cast a wide net and write a song that relates to everybody. So those are two principles that I take as advice.
HWM: If an aspiring musician came to you for advice, what would you say?
Rachel Honza: I think I would say to write songs that you like and that you like playing acoustically. A lot of the songs that I’ve put out today are songs that I just really liked to play in my own room or for my family members.
HWM: What’s next for your music? Do you have anything coming up soon?
Rachel Honza: Continuing to put out singles. Hopefully I'll get to play more shows as things begin to open up. Then my next goal is just to keep promoting “Screen Time,” continue to write songs, play some more small shows, and connect with people.
HWM: Is there anything you want to say that you haven’t mentioned yet?
Rachel Honza: I think it would just be how grateful I am for two things. The people who I've met who are producers or who play guitar or drums or who have helped mix and master. I’ve just met a lot of very talented people who happen to be friends or mutual friends, and I’m so grateful that they have encouraged me and have collaborated with me to make a lot of these songs. I wouldn’t have the songs I have today if I didn’t have their expertise and talent on them. And then how grateful I am for the people who have taken the time out of their day to follow along with me and encourage me on TikTok or Instagram. I just feel so overwhelmed a lot of days by how much more supportive people have been towards me than I had imagined for myself. So anyone who has followed along on any platform or listened to my music or encouraged me in real life... I’m just beyond grateful because it really helps me feel like, ‘okay, my music is a thing that belongs in the world.’