Even in a world in which we’ve been conditioned to see ourselves as unique and beautiful snowflakes, Rae Fehring stands out.
The front woman of both Rae & The Honeybees and Cover Girls, Fehring is intimidatingly smart, disarmingly sweet and endlessly passionate. In addition to playing a half dozen instruments in two bands, Fehring is the driving force behind Girls Rock! Des Moines, a music camp for girls aged 10-16. And yet, for all she does and all she’s done, Fehring is still looking for ways to grow.
Fehring has always pushed herself. As a self-identified queer woman of color, Fehring is a member of three equally marginalized groups, and she learned early on that if she was going to succeed, she needed to expect more of herself than anyone else was willing to.
“One of the things I’ve experienced is that, vocally, people sometimes view me as a novelty,” Fehring said over lunch last week. “Because I’m not a gospel singer. I’m not a soul singer.”
She’s black, after all. So that’s where her talents and interests were supposed to naturally be.
“If I hear one more time someone say, ‘Play Tracy Chapman’…” she trailed off with an eye roll, before continuing. “Please tell me your reasoning for that. Because I’m black and I’m standing here with a guitar?”
Fehring almost seems to consider it her obligation to defy those default expectations: Her music is heartfelt and sincere, but unique to her experience. Rather than try and force herself into the expected roles of R&B or gospel, the first song Fehring ever wrote was a country ballad. She writes about love and loss — in part because, as she puts it, relationships are universal — but rather than sticking to songs about her last ex, she’s written love songs to her children and her grandmother. The closest thing she’s ever written to a gospel song is about an orgasm.
But, even now, Fehring is pushing herself out of her comfort zones and away from the easy topics of love and relationships.
“I’ve been disappointed with myself as a songwriter because I don’t write about the things that I experience,” she admitted. “Whether it’s misogyny, or patriarchy or fucked up right-wing Republicans trying to dictate what I get to do with my body. I don’t know why I don’t write about those things. So that’s the thing that I’m wanting to focus on more.” CV