For Rachel Wood, her upcoming concert marks a return to her Yankton roots in more ways than one.
In one sense, it’s a homecoming. She grew up in Yankton, where her parents, Gary and DeeDee Wood, still live. In addition, she performed at Dakota Theatre where her Aug. 15 concert will take place.
“This gig is so special,” she said. “I’m playing at the theater where I performed while I was growing up. If you go into the dressing room, my name is still written there (on the wall). And now, I’m back and performing in front of people who are my childhood friends.”
However, much has changed in the past three years since she left Yankton.
For starters, she now uses the name Rachel DeeLynn for her professional work, a tribute to her parents. “It’s a combination of my mom’s first name and my dad’s middle name,” she explained.
In addition, she has completed three years at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she is majoring in songwriting. According to its website, Berklee is the pre-eminent institute of contemporary music and the performing arts. Hundreds of Berklee’s students, faculty and alumni have been recognized with Grammy, Tony, Oscar and Emmy awards.
Wood is bringing more than her musical training to the Yankton concert — she’s bringing her band members from Boston. They provide a variety of vocal and instrumental talent as they pursue their own musical dreams.
“It’s so surreal, to think I have been playing with a band from Boston. I don’t come home often, with my schedule at school and now with my internship with a music publishing company in Nashville,” she said. “Now, I get to come home, which is special in itself, and I get to share my music in a live performance, not just sharing it through Facebook or other social media.”
Wood plans to share a variety of musical genres, including the debut of an original work, “Scissors,” that she will release this fall.
“I wanted to share it with my hometown before anyone else hears it,” she said. “The song is a fun one, like the warning that you shouldn’t run with scissors.”
Wood says she has morphed in her musical tastes and now holds a special love for country music. She cites artist Taylor Swift as an inspiration for her work and has expanded her musical talents to include piano, guitar, banjo and ukulele.
“I’ve been writing songs for a long time, since the start of middle school. But these songs (at the upcoming concert) really tell the story of the last three years of my life,” Wood said. “I really wanted to push myself as an artist. My goal for myself this past semester was meeting with the band three times a week. I made a goal for myself to write a new song for every rehearsal.”
Wood credits many influences that have allowed her to grow as an artist and as a person. She points to the Berklee faculty such as Pat Pattison, whose books on songwriting have been used at major schools such as Belmont University and the University of Southern California.
Another professor, Alonzo “Swagg” Harris, has worked with Alicia Keys, a 15-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter/producer, accomplished actress, New York Times best-selling author and entrepreneur. In addition, Harris has served as executive producer for the artist H.E.R., who recently won two Grammys.
The Berklee faculty also includes Livingston Taylor, the brother of music icon James Taylor.
“Livingston has taught us, when you take the stage, you have to make eye contact with your audience. You don’t dare be nervous because if you’re in front of an audience and don’t make eye contact, you’re being selfish,” Wood said.
“Otherwise, you’re in your head and not truly performing for them, just for yourself. People have come to see you, and they want to enjoy themselves and have a good time.”
During the past three years, Wood said she has broken out of her comfort zone. She has recorded with various producers and performed in New England, the Midwest and Canada.
She has enjoyed her summer in Nashville and wants to return after graduation. For now, she uses her music as part of her personal and musical growth and soul searching.
“With this concert, I want to share the past three years of my life,” she said. “But I also want it to be a night of fun. I want people to enjoy themselves.”
Wood described the contributions and close bond she has shared with her band members. She wants to share her background with them on the upcoming visit to Yankton.
“I told them to expect a little bit of a culture shock,” she said. “It’s great that they get to see this is my hometown, and they can learn a lot about my life in general.”
The Press & Dakotan reached out to the band members for their thoughts.
• Richard Wildes is a New England-based bassist and singer-songwriter. He has played electric bass for about eight years. He graduated from Berklee in 2019 with a songwriting degree.
Of the entire set, he enjoys playing “Not Him” live. “It’s been part of the set for as long as I’ve been in the band and it’s always a fun time,” he said.
Working together for long periods of time, the band members get to know each other quickly, he said. They have become friends and even enjoy playing music together without speaking because they know each other’s personalities and quirks, he added.
“We just practice and make sure we have the music down and get ready for a good time,” he said. “It can be intense sometimes, but it’s always very rewarding when everything comes together.”
He looks forward to the upcoming concert.
“Yankton can expect a good time, some cool original music with some fun covers mixed in, and some friends havin’ a ball together on stage,” he said. “I’m really excited that we get to play for the people of Yankton, and I hope they enjoy it.”
• Nicolas “Nico” Kandel is a Mexican songwriter and guitarist, along with other instruments, attending Berklee. He holds a background in rock and is also an arranger and songwriter in the styles of pop and rock.
“When I was 8, I was intrigued by the guitar because I thought it was cool,” he said. “But soon after I got bit by the rock bug, I got my hands on a guitar and haven’t let go since.”
Attending Berklee has influenced him in many ways by being exposed to the faculty, students and overall vibe. He said it’s been a fun experience, but the preparation for shows requires months of work. “As much fun as we have, we take discipline very seriously,” he said.
His favorite songs to play live are “Hindsight,” “Can’t Fix Stupid” and “Overboard,” which are all performed as part of the concert.
He looks forward to experiencing Wood’s hometown, and he says the audience should expect fresh, new music at the concert.
“(It will be) an all-around great show! We’ve got some things in store for you guys,” he said. “We’re gonna give Yankton everything we got, with a little extra.”
• Axl Colt hails from Mexico. He has played drums since age 9 and has sung tenor since starting with his first band at age 14. He majored in music production at Berklee and has pursued a music career based in punk rock.
“My favorite song from the show is ‘I Wish You Hated Me,’” he said. “It’s such an emotional song that talks about anger and love at the same time. I know I have been in that situation, and it definitely hits me hard when I play it.”
Colt has never before performed with Wood and looks forward to the concert. “I am so, so very excited to meet her town and give the best show!” he said.
• Hera Lynn is a Nashville-based singer, songwriter and pianist. According to her biography, she “pairs thoughtful themes reminiscent of Carole King with infectious pop hooks in the vein of Selena Gomez to create a melodic piano pop sound that’s all her own.”
Lynn started taking classical piano lessons when she was 8 years old. She then started teaching herself how to play pop and rock songs when she was 13.
Lynn describes Wood as “super high energy,” and the two women have spent time together in Boston and now in Nashville.
“When we’re not rehearsing, Rachel and I hang out and go to shows together all the time!” Lynn said. “We’ve gotten used to having her in Nashville this summer. I’m not ready for her to go back to school in Boston in the fall!”
Lynn pointed to Wood’s songwriting talent and the ability to collaborate with her.
“Rachel is an amazing writer, so I always have fun learning and playing her songs,” Lynn said. “I’m a little biased towards ‘Scissors,’ Rachel’s next single, because I co-wrote it with her. You’ll definitely hear it at the show!”
The audience can expect a “fun night of original music” during the Yankton concert, Lynn said.
“I’m from the Midwest, actually, St. Louis, Missouri,” Lynn said. “But I’ve never been to South Dakota, so I’m looking forward to it!”
• The final member, Preston Gigante is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, actor and amateur mini-golf aficionado from Ludington, Michigan. His music encompasses a mixture of rock, pop, blues and progressive rock influences with a modern feel.
For more information on the upcoming concert, visit Wood’s Facebook page under Rachel Deelynn or visit her website at www.racheldeelynn.com.
Follow @RDockendorf on Twitter.