International aid

Rachel Lomax

Photo by carolyn king

Singer-songwriter Rachel Lomax has reason to celebrate. She’s well-established in the Sacramento open-mic scene, and her debut CD, Can You Govern Your Animal Soul?, is finally being released this week. The record was a labor of love, definitely, but now Lomax has now chosen a new path: She’ll be volunteering her time with Sprout, a nonprofit that provides innovative programs for developmentally disabled adults. She’ll help mentally challenged individuals enjoy recreation and leisure activities in small group settings at locales like Niagara Falls and Orlando, Fla. So Rachel’s not giving up the dream, she just’s … relocating. To find out more about Sprout, go to To catch Rachel Lomax live, go to Luna’s Café & Juice Bar this Friday, February 6 (8 p.m., $6, all ages, with Sulky Darky and Tamarind Candy).

All this volunteer stuff is very noble and all, but really: What’s the payoff?

Ha! Well, I’m not doing it because it’s “noble.” It’s just time. I was kind of thinking of it as an end unto itself. I’m really glad to have the record done before I leave. … I can go do something completely different now.

So, back to the beginning. How’d you get into music?

When I was 4, my mom drove this really old Suburban around. It broke down, and my mom went into this old antique store in Placerville to use the phone. They had this old piano there, and even though we were dirt poor, she said, “We should get a piano!” My dad had a friend who helped him refurbish it. And in exchange for feeding her cat, we had an old lady neighbor who would give me free piano lessons.

Describe your sound.

I did a bunch of musicals growing up—my whole life, actually. But I’m classically trained. I love jazz, so I try to include that in a natural sense. It’s a more intriguing melody than pop melodies. It’s more Broadway-ish, because I want my music to tell a story. I hate it when lyrics just repeat and melodies don’t go anywhere.

Who are some musical influences?

Ani DiFranco, of course. She’s the voice in my head. I’m also into Radiohead. I like the Mountain Goats a lot. They have some really awesome lyrics. They honestly put out more music than anyone.

Any Sacramento groups?

I really like Agent Ribbons; they kick ass. I also really like Be Brave Bold Robot. But there seems to be a lot of girls out here recently who are only playing pop songs. And this is a personal opinion, but I don’t like pop! I don’t like lyrics that I can predict the first time that I hear them. I don’t like chord structures that I can predict, and I hate it when Sacramento artists try to act like rock stars when they’re not.

What will you be doing for Sprout?

I’ll mostly be taking care of logistics. These are independent people who just need a little help. They want to get out, they want to do new things, but they can’t quite deal with money issues, hotels, itineraries—stuff like that. We’ll be going to Disney World, Atlantic City and the Caribbean. I’ve never done any of that! …

I’ve worked with people with special needs before. Kids, mostly. I enjoyed it, and in doing research of who I could work for, I just kind of stumbled upon it. Sprout is a really great program where you can help all ages, all different groups of people who have developmental disabilities. There’s day trips, summer camps, customized travel options, and it’s a great way to help others. Especially in our changing social climate.

Oh, and my mom thinks I’d be good at it!

Will you still do shows?

I’m sure I will. I can’t exactly take my keyboard with me, so I’m leaving it with my very trustworthy friend Johnny Metro while I’m gone. I’ve got a guitar that I’ve been fucking around with. People are humoring me.

Is volunteering the only thing you have planned while you’re away?

Oh no. I’ll be going to Australia to visit a friend. I’m going to do more of the traditional backpacking in Eastern Europe. And then fly over to India because, well, I just want to.

Where else have you traveled?

I went to Mexico while I was still in high school. I’ve visited family in Canada. I went on one of those whirlwind Euro-backpacking trips with some friends. We did that whole Italy, France, Germany thing. It was fun, you know, because the drinking age is 18, which was great. I lived in Australia before coming back to the Sacramento area a couple years ago. Traveling can be such a strong influence in music, and gives you such a different perspective of who you are as a person in the world.