The Whiskey Darlings

Whiskey Darlings

Interview by CA Marshall

Editor| Starlight Music Chronicles

SMC – Hello The Whiskey Darlings! Welcome to Starlight Music Chronicles Spotlight! We first met via the December 2015 SMC Artist of the Month competition and are pretty impressed about you holding the top spot for the first part of the competition. What did you think of this competition?

TWD – Hey Candice!  I think that is a great way to get people engaged in the process of picking the artist.  Because of it you have people excited for and wanting to read the reviews of the band, and listening to their music during and after the competition.

SMC – What positive do you think you walked away with from the competition?

TWD – We are a fairly new act, so it was nice to see some of our new fans rally behind us in that competition.

SMC – For the sake of introducing you to our fan base, can you tell us all of your names and which instruments you play?

TWD – The Whiskey Darlings consist of Michele Van Kleef singing and playing guitar, and Rob Rainwater singing and playing guitar, mandolin and harmonica.

SMC – Can you please tell us about the band itself and how you all came to be The Whiskey Darlings?

TWD – We started the project based on a love of Folk-Rock of the 60s and 70s. We were both booked at the same venue on the same night by mistake, so the person who booked us let us know that only one could play.  Michele suggested that we play an impromptu set together and the music just clicked.  I think that we are both fans of each other’s music, and that makes every show just plain fun to play as we watch to see what the other person is going to do.  We both thrive on playing live, and figuring out how to work with a crowd to create a memorable experience. The project had started to come into its own in the last few months and is steadily gaining a following in the Portland Oregon area.

SMC – Loving the band name! Tell us a little more about that?

TWD – Thank you, we get a lot of comments on the name.  We both love Whiskey, and we played around with names that had Whiskey in them.  I think that it was Rob’s wife that said “The Whiskey Darlings” the first time, I don’t remember exactly. We both liked it once we landed on it. 

SMC – I know it was mentioned a few times in the duration of the voting that you are a ‘newer band’, but in what ways do you feel you are unique as a band?

TWD – Yes, we are a new band.  Michele Van Kleef is a well-established performer, and toured for years in a national act called Calobo, and has worked with legendary Guitarist and producer Tim Ellis for years.  Rob Rainwater is a guitarist, and songwriter who has played with many Oregon based musicians.  We both have different styles of music that we play and enjoy, but the crossover of the folk-rock was the sweet spot for us. Throw into the mix the blues too, as you can hear on our first record that we recently released, we did a cover of an old Bo Diddly song called ‘Before you accuse me (take a look at yourself)”, but in our own style with vocal harmony. 

SMC – Are there any things that set you apart from the other bands competing?

TWD – We are probably 15 years older than all of them, ha!  I believe that we were the only Portland Band in the competition, that’s all that I can really think of.  Portland has a great music scene; I’m hoping to introduce them to Starlight Music Chronicles

SMC – Tell us about your new album and the fan responses to it

TWD – The album has been a truly grassroots effort.  We started playing shows together, and the response from audiences was really great.  We started to feel like we needed a few demo songs recorded so that we had something to show people and book better shows.  So we called a friend and local musician/producer named Cary Samsel who got us the use of a cool room at a church that he did sound for.  We tracked the whole record playing live in about 3 hours with two microphones, that’s why we called the record “Live Sessions”.  Even when we had it mixed and mastered there was very little post-production on it. Most of the songs on the record were done in first takes, or maybe second take if we totally botched something.  We wanted it to be a real representation of what you hear when you come see us live, and I think we achieved it, but you’ll have to be the judge of that. 

SMC – We have to agree: you music is truly unique. What do you feel you lend to your music that makes The Whiskey Darlings ‘Special’ and ‘Unique’?

TWD – We get compared to Simon & Garfunkel a lot, and I’m (Rob) such a huge fan of Paul Simon that I want to pass out every time that happens.  Michele’s love for vocal harmony comes into the mix with her love of The Indigo Girls, Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash and Young to name a few. We are also blending a hint of bluegrass and blues at the same time.  I think that our unique quality is that we blend the feel of country, and southern rock, with a poetic lyrical approach, at least that’s what we hope.

SMC – Do you have any plans to perform anywhere locally or internationally in the next 6 months?

TWD – For the time being we are playing primarily in the Pacific Northwest, mostly in the Portland circuit.  We have bigger plans in the future, but really want to build up our following first. 

SMC – What does the next six months look like for the band for career path?

TWD – Playing a lot.  We are just starting to promote this record.  Like we mentioned before we started with this just being a demo to get shows so didn’t push the record, but the response to it has been great so we are starting to promote it more.  By the way, you can find it on iTunes and link to it at  (shameless self-promotion)

SMC – Which radio stations has The Whiskey Darlings appeared on to date?

TWD – There is a great local station here in Portland called ‘Portland Radio Project’.  PRP is on 99.1fm here in Portland, but can be streamed live at .  We are both DJs on the station. I gave the record to our program director with hopes that she would play it, and she put us in rotation.  Being DJs was no guarantee that we got played, so it was nice to get some songs picked up.  Portland Radio Project is a great station.   We just learned that there is a station in Germany that is playing a few of our songs, but we don’t know much about that and will need to look into it, but I keep hearing murmurings like this, so I’m excited to see what happens.   Got to love the Internet.

SMC – What is your favorite ‘Go-to’ music?

TWD – For Rob it’s usually something like Simon & Garfunkel, Eric Clapton, Ben Folds, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, Black Berry Smoke, or his latest obsession, the Milk Carton Kids. It’s really about songwriters, and vocal harmony.  For Michele, Joni Mitchel is a big one, Carole King, Ani DiFranco, U2, Zero 7, Supreme Beings of Leisure, Death Cab for Cutie, Broken Bells and Cat Stevens

SMC – Have you ever had any cool fan experiences? (we love to ask this one in all of our interviews)

TWD – It’s a new enough project that we haven’t had any crazy over the top stuff happen yet, I’ll try to have a better story next time we talk.  We have had some very sweet think happen like hearing from someone that our show on Feb 13th was their combination Valentine’s day date and special wedding Anniversary treat.  That’s a lot of pressure to put on a good show.

SMC – Tell us a little about your thoughts on album releases. We are finding that Artists are seeing it more and more beneficial to release one song as a ‘single’ prior to their big album releases as opposed to years ago when it was the other way around. Do you also adopt that in place with your releases?

TWD – Great question.  This is a new and changing landscape that we are working in.  The last 15 years of this business has seem more change than the prior 75 years, and it’s going to keep changing.  The release of a single to pave the way for a record is a great idea in our digital culture.  People don’t always take the time to listen to a record anymore, and if they do it because they already like something that they have heard. We didn’t do that with Live Session, but I think we will with the next record. 

SMC – What demographic (age/country) is your loyal fan base so far?

TWD – We seem to draw 30 somethings and up, but I’m surprised by some of the younger folks I’ve had tell me that they love the record.

SMC – Do you think you would compete again in the Artist of the Month competition? (we have had bands enter a second time to give it a second kick at the cat)

TWD – Yes we would, but will give it some time so that we don’t exhaust our network.  That something that we are learning as we grow our fan base, you can’t ask everyone to go to every show, to support every Kickstarter, or every competition that you are a part of.  Something like this competition we want to ask everyone to get behind, and that means waiting a bit before you do it again.  It’s like if Christmas was every day, people would just get tired of it, even though it’s awesome!  I love Christmas by the way (if you can’t tell), watch for The Whiskey Darlings to do a Christmas Record in the future.

SMC – Where would be your ‘perfect’ venue to perform in?

TWD – A small Theater. I love places that can hold a couple hundred people and are big enough to give it the feel of a big show, but you can see the faces and talk with people after you play.  There is an awesome theater here in Portland called the Aladdin Theater that we love, and one of the first times we played as The Whiskey Darlings was part of a show there.  A Venue where people listen closely is ideal for us.  

SMC – Last question: What would you say to the next generation of Recording Artists as words of advice about the industry?

TWD – Have good songs, be really good, and play live, a lot.  It’s become too easy to make a record.  We see many people today start in the studio, and then go out and try to play shows and sell their record.   You can build up a lot of hype online, and have a full record done before you every play a live show.  If you have good songs, and put on a good show, people will respond to that, and when you make a record people will be waiting for it.  Also, once you play your songs live for a while they will change, and then you have a record that doesn’t sound like what you are doing. I’ve seen this lead to people being stuck on doing their songs exactly the same way every time they play and not letting the music take on a life and become something special between you and your audience. 

SMC – Thank you for your time and we wish you all the best!

TWD – Thank you for the opportunity!



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