Rachel Platten had a long uphill journey to pop stardom. Before she was selling out shows and releasing triple-platinum singles, the Boston-bred singer/songwriter was performing at the bedsides of hospital patients as a volunteer for Musicians On Call, a rewarding experience that she says gave her the drive to keep moving forward in her career. Vegas Seven caught up with the 36-year-old in advance of her Life Is Beautiful Ideas Speakers talk.
Why did you decide to get involved as a speaker at Life Is Beautiful?
The reason that I wanted to get involved was because of my work with I Am That Girl [a nonprofit that mentors young women]. Often, as young women, we are told that we’re too emotional or that thing we go through is in some way not OK to talk about. I Am That Girl does the opposite. It gives a platform and a microphone to anyone who feels like they need to speak out about something embarrassing and vulnerable. What happens in these meetings is that girls connect with one another, and they feel like they’re not alone. You look around the room and you say, “Oh, my God, I’ve conquered that too. I’ve gone through that too.” All of a sudden it’s a whole room of people saying, “Yeah, despite what we say on social media about how perfect our lives are, there’s actually a lot that hurts.” I want to bring light to that. I love that the festival provides a platform where people can come together in another way besides music.
Your latest single, “Broken Glass,” was inspired by the Women’s March. What is its significance to you?
I was at the Women’s March, and I ran around New York City on International Women’s Day with two of my best friends, and there was this electric energy of hope and of women supporting one another. And that’s kind of rare. I have incredible girlfriends, but I know that it’s not that common for women to be encouraged to stand up for one another. We’re often encouraged, especially in media, to have conflict and compete with each other and feel like less than one another. It’s been pretty cool to see how that shifted. It’s also been a devastating year for a lot of other reasons that everyone understands; I think that I felt the need to respond. Because I’m an artist, [that song] was my human response. I was touched and moved and that was the art that came out from it.
You’ve reached massive success. Do you ever still feel like the world is asking you to prove yourself?
There’s a part of me that wishes that more people knew that I wrote “Fight Song,” that I’m a songwriter. That seemed to surprise a lot of people. My new single, “Broken Glass,” I wrote it. But it’s hard to complain when so many amazing things have already happened. If I’m ever in that state of mind, I quickly check myself and say, “Where is this coming from? Is this really coming from a place of lack and fear, and not my heart speaking?” When I’m grounded in my heart, I look around and just want to give back.
People ask me why I’m so positive—and the truth is, I’m not all the time—but when I am beaming with happiness, it’s because I’ve done the work. If young women are feeling like it’s hopeless, I challenge them to look into doing charity, because that’s an amazing way to feel powerful, and also to do the work on themselves. Start writing in a journal. Find out: where are you with yourself? Forget about what the world thinks about you: how do you feel about you? It starts with self-love.
Rachel Platten takes the stage for the Life Is Beautiful Music & Art Festival Ideas Speakers series on September 24. Other speakers include Bill Nye (September 22) and Bethany Mota (September 23).