Signed to Universal Music Publishing and Arthouse Entertainment, RENAE (aka Cristi Vaughan) has worked with some of the world’s biggest pop music players, writing and placing songs with artists such as Meghan Trainor, 5 Seconds of Summer, Troye Sivan, Aluna George, Leona Lewis, and Little Mix, as well as penning many placements on TV and film. RENAE’s primary team member, producer, and husband (Matt Naylor) has achieved thousands of placements including tracks in Gone Girl, X-Men – Days of Future Past, Django Unchained, Lincoln, and has engineered
projects for Selena Gomez, Casting Crowns, and Jason Mraz.
We had a wonderful opportunity to interview RENAE. Check the interview below.
Hi, RENAE! We are currently reviewing and loving your songs from your current album. Tell us what inspired the album?
Hi! Oh cool, thanks so much!! Hmm well, a lot inspired this album. The main thing is that over the last few years, I’ve become curious about the big questions in life…spirituality, psychology, philosophy..so I’ve read a lot of books, gone to some retreats, and done a lot of inner exploration. I think it was this exploration and interest that really fueled the creation of this album, Align. The album is based on a wellness theory, the 7 chakras, where we created 7 songs that each lyrically and sonically represent the metaphor of each chakra.
You crafted lyrics and melodies written in the chakra’s musical key. Tell us about the writing process.
Yeah! So it’s said that each chakra resonates with a certain musical note. For instance, the 1st chakra goes with the note C, the 2nd with the note D, the 3rd with E, and it continues up the scale until the 7th chakra. We thought it would be so cool to have each of our songs written in these respective keys, so we tried it out! I love it because when you listen to the album as a whole, the whole spectrum of keys are represented, which adds to the metaphor of wholeness and balance that we’re trying to convey. In terms of the writing process…actually a few of the songs on the album were already written before we knew of this chakra-key theory, but they actually were written in the correct keys of the chakra, or within a half step or so! Kind of strange and interesting. For the other songs, we went into the studio with an intention like, “Okay, so now we need a song for the third eye chakra, so let’s write it about our experience with intuition and write it in the key of A.” It was actually a pretty fun challenge. Sometimes it’s easier to make art when there’s a few left-brain guidelines that act as containers for the creative energy.
How would you describe your sound?
Hmm. I’d say it’s pop music, mixed with cinematic and indie influences…fueled with intention of helping you vibrate with your true self!
Tell us why you decided to use chakras.
Ahh, well I think the concept is just so beautiful! The chakras to me are a super creative, artistic representation of navigating our true selves. They’re a colorful framework to help you get to know yourself better; to become aware of who you really are and what tendencies you might have that are blocking you from being your best self. I’ve seen new age meditation albums that use the chakras as a framework, but I’ve never seen them used with pop music. Sometimes spiritual concepts can be hard to grasp for the mainstream, so I was really inspired to bring the idea forth in a mainstream, relatable way through music.
Growing up, what songs inspired you?
I’ve always seemed to go through obsession phases over one artist. It started with Spice Girls, then Kelly Clarkson, Ben Folds, Taylor Swift, Twenty One Pilots, and my current obsession is Michael Jackson. There’s really no common thread between any of these artists haha! I guess I’ve always just moved towards whatever felt good to listen to. I have a theory that the artists we’re obsessed with are really just a sign that that artist is speaking to the part of you that has been dormant and is waiting to blossom. So right now for me, it’s Michael. Sometimes when I hear him I cry because the sound of his voice is vibrating and releasing something in me that is currently developing and coming forth.
Do you draw from personal experiences to create your music?
Yeah for sure! I’m not really sure how to not do that. When you’ve personally experienced something it’s so much easier to tune in and express the actual emotion of it. All of the songs on this album are my personal stories and experiences of life. I really liked using the chakras as a framework, it essentially gave me 7 categories to reflect on and express my stories through.
Your lyrics make people think! What is the most important aspect of songwriting?
Thanks! Yeah, I think that’s the goal…I think it’s easy to go through life in our culture on autopilot, but I came to a point where I started questioning everything, wanted to think deeply, and while it was a little uncomfortable at the time to ask bigger questions, my life is so much richer and full now because of it. Songwriting to me is a way for me to express my experience of life to others, in hopes it might inspire or touch them in some way.
What is the biggest misconception about being a singer?
Hmm, I think the biggest misconception about being a singer is that you need a major label in order to make a living. I think we’re at a time where the artist has much more control than ever before and we don’t have to depend on a label in order to have success. We can share our music, products, services, etc directly to fans…we can market and build a fanbase on our own…the power really is in our hands.
What is your most favorite experience in your career to date?
There are so many. But I love to travel, so one of my favorite experiences was when I was invited on a songwriting trip to Finland. About 20 writers from all over the world stayed in a cottage together and wrote songs all week. I actually wrote the song “Human,” there, which is a song on our album!
List the 5 things you need to have with you on a stage.
No shoes, a relaxed mind, an open heart, a water bottle, and my husband/music partner – Matt! 🙂
Do you have any upcoming projects that we haven’t mentioned?
Actually yes, when we release the full album in a few months, we will also be releasing “The Align Workshop!” It’s essentially a 7-week transformational healing workshop that will be offered online and in person. I see myself as not only an artist and performer but also a healer. One of my favorite things in life is helping people get in touch and “align” with their true selves. The workshop will be healing for the mind, body, and spirit through exercises in mindfulness, body awareness, and creative expression. We’ve also created meditation music, which are essentially instrumental versions of our songs from “Align,” that will be used in the workshop.
Complete this sentence, if I had an opportunity to change anything, I would change ___________.
Anything? I would love to help change the fear in people’s minds…help them transform that fear into love. I don’t think people realize how much fear limits their experience of life. Realizing and alchemizing our darkness is the most beautiful change we can make!