X Factor 2013’s Rachel Potter on Broadway, Disney, and Ricky Martin — Exclusive
When we first saw Rachel Potter belt out Queen’s “Somebody to Love” in her signature country twang on The X Factor 2013, we pretty much just fell immediately in love. The 29-year-old “aww shucksed” and self-depricated her way into our hearts before blowing our minds with her incredible voice.
So, the other day, the Florida born, Nashville dwelling, future crossover superstar chatted with Wetpaint Entertainment about her road to The X Factor — Like, actually, since she got in a car accident on the way to talking to us — her Broadway background, and why she’s kind of afraid of horse costumes. Enjoy. We did.
Wetpaint Entertainment: How did you choose your song, a countrified version of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”? Rachel Potter: It’s a song I’ve been singing for many years. I picked it when I needed a pop/country song for a musical theater audition, and over time it morphed into my version. I picked it and made it mine so I could show my country chops to the musical theater scene. Plus, it’s a good one to sing a cappella, so I used it for a couple rounds of X Factor auditions before meeting the judges for the big onstage one. What I loved so much about it, is it’s a song I’m very comfortable with, so I was able to be really present in the moment and have such a great time.
You said you sang in a ton of rounds before we ever saw you hit the stage. How many do you go through before meeting judges? Three for producers, though they weren’t all in the same day.
Wow, that’s a lot! You obviously have a really great voice, which the judges gushed about to you. When did you start singing? In Utero, probably, because my parents were singers. At 3, I sang a solo at the Baptist church my family went to. I don’t really remember that, but the first one I really remember was when I was eight, and I sang “Jingle Bell Rock” at the Christmas show. I had to audition for it, and I danced with this life-sized horse.
Life-sized what now? [Laughs] Ha, it was two people in this horse costume, and its name was Pal. I was so terrified of it. I don’t know why, but I was… That was my first break.
A good one. Are you excited to work with Kelly Rowland, or were you hoping for another judge? I’m so excited to work with any of them truthfully, because I feel like any and all of their knowledge would be helpful. But really, I’m so excited for Kelly, because she’s a great mentor for the Over 25s.
Simon would’ve been amazing too, and I’m obsessed with Demi because she’s head and shoulders above so many artists, vocally. And she was so nice to me during auditions. In fact, they cut it out of the video of my audition, but Demi said, “We may be looking at the potential winner of this season.”
Was there anything else in your audition that viewers missed because of edits? Yeah, that I’ve been on Broadway. I literally stood on stage and talked about every show I’ve ever been in. So, when they just talked about my bartending, that was fine, but it wasn’t the whole story. And fans definitely hit the comments on YouTube about that.
I was in the touring cast of Wicked in 2010 as Glenda’s understudy, I played Wednesday Addams in the Addams Family on Broadway in 2011. Brooks Shields played my mom, so that was pretty awesome.
Oh, and in 2012, I was in the revival of Evita with Ricky Martin.
Shut. Up. We’re obsessed with Ricky Martin. What was that like? Did you meet his kids? Is he as sweet as he seems? Tell us, literally, everything. Oh yeah, I definitely met his kids. They were always in the theater, the most precious things. And he is such a nice guy. Really handsome. Every day he would come get me off the stage in one of our scenes; he’d pick me up and carry me off stage. I played the mistress.
Right, so you have this successful musical theater career… Why did you leave? Well, I just decided I didn’t want to do musical theater for the rest of my life, so I moved to Nashville and started bartending, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year. So they stuck with that for my audition story. I guess it just sounded like more of a, I don’t know, but it’s fine.
I work at a bar called McFaddens in downtown Nashville. It’s not a career thing, I’ve just always maintained the thought that it’s temporary, what I have to do to pay the bills right now. I work with great people who are extremely supportive, and I worked as a waitress in New York while I was trying to get a break.
Is there a requirement, living in Music City, that you watch the TV show Nashville? I do love that show and I watch it. I actually auditioned for it when lived in NYC, for the role of Scarlett. But I kind of let that go, because I want to be a country singer in real life and not just play one on TV.
Yeah, we want you to be one too, ha. Who are your inspirations, musically? It depends on when... Growing up, I was very inspired by Faith HIll. I learned to sing by listening to her and Martina McBride, and I would sit in my bedroom and try to imitate Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Also Brian White, I was obsessed with him when I was younger. I love Rascal Flatts, and I love Carrie Underwood, of course, and I really love Taylor Swift.
She was a big influence for me to get back on the horse and get songwriting. I was so inspired by the fact that she’s so young and so unafraid to get out there. I was like, Dang, this girl is 10 years younger than me, and she’s just totally putting herself out there! T.Swift definitely helped me out in that respect.
I also love — I’m not completely influenced by country — The Civil Wars, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Sara Bareilles. My first musical language was Gospel music, because I learned to sing in church. So, I try to incorporate that sound, that soul sound, into my music. I hope it comes through. What’s the best thing about being on The X Factor so far? One of the best things about being on The X Factor is that so many people watched my video, and people were commenting, saying “I would buy her album even though I don’t listen to country.” That, to me, is the biggest compliment. Because I think I do have that crossover feel, and I hope that people who don’t usually listen to that genre will be attracted to my sound.
What are some of your other favorite TV shows, besides Nashville? I’m a huge Breaking Bad junkie (great word choice, by the way Rachel…), I love Game of Thrones because I’m a total nerd for anything that is supernatural or Rennaissance-y. Like, I love Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I really like New Girl a lot. I’m usually more partial to HBO and Showtime. I love Homeland, I’m really excited for the new season.
If you stay on the show for a while, what songs can we look forward to hearing you put a little country on? I want to stay pretty consistent in the genre. I love “Taking Chances” by Celine Dion, and also I do “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Living on a Prayer,” and “Don’t Stop Believing.” But that song has been so overdone, so, who knows.
We were stalking you on Instagram a little bit. Who’s this Chase guy we keep seeing? Chase is my boyfriend. We met in Florida when we worked for Disney. Oh, yeah, I worked for Disney. I played The Little Mermaid for five years at Disney World. I did Belle in Beauty in the Beast, and Nemo, and High School Musical. In 2007, we met and performed together. And then he booked High School Musical on Broadway and left, and we broke up and lost touch and he went on to do American Idiot on Broadway. When I moved to New York myself, I knew he lived there, but we weren’t really in the same world, and didn’t talk to each other. Cut forward to this past summer, and we were both cast in a small regional musical in my hometown and played boyfriend and girlfriend in the show. And so, we ended up getting back together, six years later. Chase Peacock is his name. He’s really amazing.
What are your goals in or out of the music industry? In the industry, I would love to have the opportunity to become a well-respected songwriter and recording artist in the country music industry. Very equally, that is, with singing and songwriting. Fame isn’t necessarily the goal. My most important goal is just to be respected.
Why did you decide to try out for The X Factor instead of other reality competition shows? Actually, I tried out for American Idol and I was turned away three times!
The first time, I didn’t make it past the stadium round. The second time, producers said I was too musical theater. That’s when I was 21, and the third time was the most brutal.
Why, what happened then? Oh, that was in 2007. They said I wasn’t very interesting.
Yikes. Yeah, so I moved to New York and gave up on the idea of doing the reality thing until The Voice called and asked me to do a private audition, but I didn’t get through. That was Season 2. And on Season 3, I was asked to do a blind audition, but because of my Evita contract, I couldn’t do take time off to do it. That was a bummer. But my producer said that if I got through the next season, I could go. And then the next season came, and I was asked to do it, but a bunch of people from my cast were sick or gone, so I couldn’t get the coverage.
What would have happened if you’d gone? Oh, I would’ve been fired and blacklisted and would have never been able to work on Broadway again, basically.
Um, yeah, good choice then. So, seventh time’s the charm? Haha, yeah, maybe. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about it, auditioning for The X Factor. I had already moved to Nashville and I went back to New York to help some friends record a demo, and just happened to be in town the day they were doing auditions with nothing to do. And I was like I literally have nothing to lose. I didn’t expect to get through the first round, but I just kept going through the rounds, and from the very start, it just felt like it was meant to be, like it’s finally my time.
What would you do with the money if you win the show? Invest it and plan for the future, and make more music with it. I know that doesn’t sound very interesting, but I would buy very rational things, like a Chevy mom SUV, that isn’t wrecked like the one I just destroyed in Atlanta. I would record more music. You know, get all my basics covered. I want to have a family, and so I just need to make sure that I am making a life for myself, and for us.
Have you recorded things before? Yeah, I made an EP last year and raised the money through Kickstarter. Basically, I really wanted to make a record but needed to know if anyone would get behind me, if people would want to buy it. So, in a way, I was testing the market. I asked for 10 thousand dollars and raised 20 thousand from friends, family, and Broadway fans. For the release party, I played at Joe’s Pub in New York, and it was the first time I sang country music in the city, and I sold out the pub (180 people). It was thrilling, just one of the best nights of my life, really.
Usually at the end of the season, the finalists get to sing a song with a big name. If you could duet with anyone, who would it be? Oh my god. Wow I don’t know. I have three men I’ve always wanted to sing with: Gary from Rascal Flatts, Michael Bublé, and Brian McKnight. I would die to sing with Carrie Underwood, or with Faith or Trisha Yearwood or Martina McBride. Also Shania, one of my huge favorites. The Civil Wars, The Band Perry puts on a great show.
We vote yes to all of those. You guys could just form a little dream band for the night. What advantages do you think have over the other contestants? My experience. I’ve gotten rejected so much in my life from auditioning, that I’ve gotten to a really good place where I feel like if it’s meant to be, it will be, and if it’s meant to be for you, it will not go by you. and you can’t screw it up.
I feel that way about the competition, and if it’s not meant for me, I can’t be upset about it. For a lot of people, it feels like the end of the world. But there’s only going to be one winner, and I’m just happy and grateful to get to compete for that.