Priscilla Renea, ‘Let’s Build a House’ [Exclusive Premiere]
Singer-songwriter Priscilla Renea has known she wanted to go into music since she was a toddler. During her childhood in Jacksonville, Fla., her father played the trumpet, and her mother loved to sing around the house. Growing up, Renea was always involved in some form of music, whether that meant writing her first songs or participating in school performances, so she was surprised when the adults in her life abruptly stopped encouraging her to pursue music once she decided she wanted to make it her career.
"It wasn't until I got to be 16 or 17 that I decided I wanted to do music professionally, and I encountered all this resistance," she tells The Boot. "I guess it's encouraged all the way up until high school, and then your art teacher starts telling you, 'You won't be able to do anything except be a teacher. Don't go to college for this.' It abruptly stops, all the encouragement. It's like, 'Okay, now get a job and be normal.'"
Fortunately, Renea didn't stop performing music, and she's premiering her newest single, "Let's Build a House," exclusively for readers of The Boot. Press play below to listen.
"Let's Build a House" comes off of Renea's upcoming second studio album, Coloured, which follows her 2009 debut, Jukebox. While Renea herself may not be a household name (yet), she is a renowned, cross-genre songwriter whose body of work includes songs performed by Mariah Carey, Madonna, Demi Lovato, Mary J. Blige, Train, Selena Gomez and many other stars. She is a self-described chameleon whose hits span pop, rock, R&B and hip-hop, but her country influence is especially prevalent in songs such as Pitbull's "Timber," Rihanna's "California King Bed" and Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood's "Somethin' Bad."
Like many of the songs on her upcoming new project, "Let's Build a House" glides effortlessly between genres, resting primarily in a bluesy, soulful swagger flecked with riffs and vocals that are classic country. Renea also says that authenticity in songwriting -- something that is deeply important to country music -- was a driving force behind the song.
"All of the stories on this album, everything is true," she explains. "Everything was a flow; it was all synergy. We wrote the songs irrespective of what we thought was gonna make 10 good songs; we just wrote, and then we picked the ones that we were drawn to the most."
Renea loves literature, and she says that she often finds inspiration for songwriting by reading book. While some songwriters may begin a song by thinking about a mood or a scene or a riff, Renea says she begins by telling a story.
"I mean, I'm a writer!" she says with a laugh. "Whether it's stories, poems or whatever, I think I'd be foolish not to let people into where I get it when I'm performing it."
In her recent double video for two songs off of Coloured, "Gentle Hands" and "Heavenly," Renae opens with a quote from neurologist and writer Sigmund Freud: "One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful." While the quote meant a lot to Renea during the time when she shot the video, she also stresses that she thinks it's important to offer fans the context of the literature that influences her as a way of giving them added insight into her thought process, as well as introducing them to the books that she loves.
"I want people to hear the metaphors in the songs," she goes on to say. "So many songs I grew up listening to, even now, I'll be like, 'Oh wow! They were trying to talk to us!' Those songs were trying to tell us not to conform, not to sell ourselves short, not to be a robot.
"I think Mariah [Carey] had a lot of life lessons, and Mary J. [Blige] had a lot of relationships lessons she was teaching," she continues. "Queen, they were teaching us the perspective of the underdog. People have been trying to shout this at us, that you can do anything, through the ages, but it's really the people who are awake and feeling it from that frequency that are gonna benefit from it."
Listen to Priscilla Renae, "Let's Build a House":