Interview with Rachel Chuganey aka Atomic Annie

Hello Rachel, I would like to introduce you to our readers so let’s talk a little bit about you, shall we? Your main focus as a musician is singing. How and when did all this start? When did you know this is what you want to do?

My mother had a extensive record collection. When I was three, she grew tired of changing records for me and I was taught how to do it myself. I had the ability to hear a song once and be able to sing every word in tune. I’ve always been mesmerized by music, I could sing along to all styles. My first gig came when I was just four, busking on my street corner in inner SE Portland, collecting nickels by singing Barbara Streisand and Carole King.

I must sing, and I sing everywhere. It’s not really a choice. It’s only  in the last few years that I’ve realized I could do it for a living. I’ve been a member of the bluegrass band The Rail Runners, and the folk/blues band The Wild Firs, where I sang backup vocals. I’m currently the vocalist with Nuclear Green, who have a pop/punk and eighties style. I make solo appearances as well.

Apparently your mom played a major role in building your interest in singing. Did your mom ever sing with you or to you? Did she encourage your interest in singing? Beside your mom, who else had a major influence towards further developing your skills?

My mom introduced me to music for sure. She had eclectic taste. My older sister was another major influence. She was 20 years older than me and always seemed so cool, so I liked what she liked. My mom did not encourage me to sing. Her interest in letting me listen to her records was primarily to keep me busy and to leave her alone.

I always found my own opportunities in music. I was in the choir and orchestra throughout school. I first played piano and trumpet, and later took up tuba, baritone, and trombone. I won a music scholarship to Mt. Hood Community College where I studied voice and orchestra. I’ve studied voice primarily over the last 15 years, and taught myself ukulele, guitar, and bass four years ago. I like working with different vocal teachers because they all have their own styles and specialties.

What is your favorite genre to sing to? What makes it so appealing from a vocalist viewpoint?

That’s a really tough question… My favorite is whatever I’m currently working on.

If you could share the stage with three singers who would they be and why?

Another difficult one! Only three? (laughs) Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, Michael Jackson, Prince, Chrissy Hynde. Just because they all were or are such great talents, extraordinary entertainers, and amazing humans.

Ha ha! This might be a simpler question, what are the biggest goals you’d like to achieve as a singer?

Technically speaking, I’m always trying to expand my vocal range, which is a challenge as I age. I want to perform more, both locally and nationally, with a hope to tour in Europe in the future.

Last question. How would you define singing in your own words? What does it mean to you?

For me singing is communication. It’s the way I express myself. All my triumphs and tribulations are expressed in my songs. In fact, it’s easier for me to sing than to hold a conversation.

Thank you Rachel for taking the time to do this interview with me, and thanks to all Freeform Portland visitors for reading this article. You can catch Rachel at a songwriter showcase at the Jade Lounge on March 9th.