artist spotlight: Rachel Gesner ’24

A student singer-songwriter explains the process behind her groundbreaking new original song

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Photo courtesy of Rachel Gesner '24

Recently, Rachel Gesner ‘24 produced and released a brand new original song called “Own Worst Enemy,” which allows the listener to step into the shoes of someone who struggles with the daily effects of various mental health conditions.

Gesner, who has been an aspiring songwriter and musician since the age of thirteen, started learning how to play piano chords and accompany her vocals instrumentally. She was interested in crafting a narrative through music that resonates with listeners in a broad sense.

“I kind of wanted someone to hear this song and be like, ‘Oh, my God, I totally relate to that,’ or ‘I experienced that, I know what she’s talking about.’ I really wanted it to connect, and strike a chord deep within their hearts,” said Gesner. “I know that mental health is different for everyone, but the concept is basically just that the little voice in your head that gets in the way makes you have doubt in yourself. A lot of that, for me, comes from the fact that I second guess myself a lot. I’m an anxious person, which started when I was younger, and as I’ve grown up, it’s definitely been more challenging, but I’ve found ways to make it more manageable in learning what it is and how to deal with it.”

Gesner has a solidified process when it comes to songwriting, which begins with the lyrics, then transitions to the creation of a chordal skeleton for the song on the piano, finding how to best set the text of the song to a meaningful rhythm.

“I’ve always been more of a lyricist,” continued Gesner. “I definitely think I just express my emotions in lyrics. I think that there’s been times during my day where if I’m really upset about something, or really stressed about something, it won’t really be settled until I write it down into lyrics. And obviously, it doesn’t fix it. But for me, it’s very therapeutic. Because I feel like people really underestimate the ability of music and writing and how it’s just so therapeutic, because it allows you to express your emotions in ways that you wouldn’t be able to express in just words.”

She then works with a producer, and the two talk through the specific feelings and messaging Gesner is looking to evoke through the song, and figure out the logistics through which to achieve that tone and mood musically.

“I would almost say this one [“Own Worst Enemy”] is a little bit of pop rock because it’s pop but it also has a little bit of the bass instead of the acoustic guitar. I think I’ve written songs with more piano, and this one is less on the piano side and more on the rock and [electric] strings side.”

I really want to be able to… really put myself out there and turn my ideas into songs. I would love for my music to connect to larger amounts of people.”

-Rachel Gesner ’24

Gesner explains that one of the biggest challenges for songwriters in the 2020s is the influx of TikTok and short-form video content outlets within social media. While this has allowed emerging songwriters easier access to a platform than ever before, this visibility has subsequently created increased artistic competition within the industry.

“Everyone is constantly trying to work in the industry that I’m trying to work in, but I really want to try to pursue this as much as I can, in terms of being able to write more songs, experiment with more genres, and just not be afraid to really put myself out there,” concluded Gesner. “As scary as it is, I think I really want to be able to take my emotions, even if it’s not about mental health, or if it is about mental health, whatever it is, I really want to be able to… really put myself out there and turn my ideas into songs. I would love for my music to connect to larger amounts of people.”

Danny Milkis '23 is a Media & Communication student at Muhlenberg who has a specific interest in writing and journalism. In high school, he took part in extracurricular writing whenever possible, and received a Metropolitan Award nomination for his work as a Student Performing Arts Critic. He is ecstatic to have joined the staff of talented writers and editors at the Muhlenberg Weekly, and is excited to learn from this wonderful group of knowledgeable individuals throughout his time at Muhlenberg.

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