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Rising Artists: Eau Claire

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Interview by Jordan Snowden

Whenever Rachel Wong, also known as Eau Claire, is asked how she got her start in music, she usually feels “slightly embarrassed” each time.

“I found my way into producing after a particularly bad breakup while watching Pitch Perfect,” Wong said. After seeing Anna Kendrick produce music in the movie, Wong realized that she could utilize her skills to create music the same way.

“I had training in music theory and researched what I needed. I decided that there was no better time to start, especially since producing was something I had wanted to do since high school,” Wong said.

The D.C. artist has become one of the most sought-after producers/DJs in the city, with over one million plays on SoundCloud. This year has been one of Wong’s busiest yet, with several big appearances like Firefly Music Festival under her belt. But just a few years ago, Wong was an aspiring musician who spent hours every day learning everything she could about her craft, utilizing her training to explore different sounds.

“Sometimes mixes will come together pretty quickly, and other times I’ll spend countless hours having to restart from scratch, but I usually come to a point when I’m working on a mix when it all clicks, and I’ll know that I have the right sound,” said Wong.

For a remix, Wong starts off by working in a chord progression to accompany the vocals in a mix. She builds up the song with percussion, a bassline and additional instrumentals.  Each remix is approached differently, but all contain some of the original song so that it is still recognizable to listeners. Her first big break came when Wong’s Stevie Wonder “Uptight” remix got some unexpected attention, garnering over 200,000 plays on SoundCloud.

“I was eventually contacted by a booking agent who was interested in working with me, and it’s been an amazing ride so far,” Wong said. She is currently signed with United Talent Agency, whose current roster includes music heavyweights like Metric, Paramore and 3 Doors Down.

Firefly Music Festival was Wong’s first big booking through her agency. Originally, she was scheduled to play at the silent disco. But as the festival date neared, a slot at the main dance tent opened up, and Wong was offered the opportunity to perform.

“I really couldn’t pass it up!,” she said. “The day of the show I was so nervous that I couldn’t eat, but once I got up on stage and started playing, everything just flowed and I had such a great time.”

Wong credits notable names like Goldroom, Moon Boots, Zimmer, Bit Funk, Alle Farben, MORRT and Autograf as her music inspirations. She also credits a friend for giving her the guidance to succeed.

“He found my music by chance, I can’t even remember how, but was so kind to share with me his experiences in the music industry and production,” Wong said. “He gave me the guidance I needed to understand the basics of the music business and PR, which really helped me get my feet off the ground.”

Wong’s hometown is another key influence. Her name comes from a market called Eau Claire in Calgary, where she was born. When she visited Calgary in the summer, Wong would walk through the market to get to the YMCA. “One day it dawned on me that Eau Claire would be perfect to fit my musical style and personality,” Wong said.

Besides Calgary, living in D.C. has also had a profound impact on Wong.

“I’m inspired every day from my experiences in this city,” Wong said. “Between the people that have encouraged me, to all the creative talent in this city, there’s no shortage of inspiration to produce. D.C. is the first and only city I’ve lived in since graduating college, so I’ve had all my life experiences here, which have certainly paved the way into who I am now.  I’ve learned to approach life with a positive attitude and think optimistically, which is where my musical style is centered as well.”

When Wong is not creating music, she works as a full-time oncology dietitian. Balancing work and music requires her to be extremely organized and disciplined. Wong relies on making lists and setting her own deadlines to accomplish what needs to be done.

“It’s a healthy balance for me though, and both are rewarding in their own ways,” Wong said.

In just a short span of time, Wong has gone from playing small nightclubs to co-headlining the legendary 9:30 Club on numerous occasions, a feat that most artists could only dream of achieving. She’ll return to the venue on November 6 to support Bakermat. Besides shows, Wong is also hard at work on a new EP and will release one more remix before the end of year.

As for any wise words of wisdom for those looking to get their start in music, her answer was simple: don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

“If you want to DJ or produce, just do it,” she said. “Sometimes I meet a lot of people who want to do it, but that’s where it stays. Nowadays, you don’t need a full band set up, just a laptop and software.  Once you have that, you have to just go in and use your creativity.  Learn as you go.  Sure, there are classes and tutorials which are great.  But to make something unique, you have to find that yourself by creating and experimenting with sounds.”