Rachel Demy
   
  
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   So - tell me your life story:   I was born in San Diego, CA in 1982 and relocated to Portland, OR when I was 3. My father died pretty tragically when I was 5, leaving my mother a widow at 25 to raise my sister and I. My childhood was difficult in ways I can really only see 30 years later – there are a lot of gaps in my memory, whole years that are just dark – but I would still say I had a good childhood. I was a very goal-oriented overachiever and I was pretty well liked in high school. I was the diplomat who had friends in all the cliques because I did a lot of different things: I was a varsity volleyball player, a drama kid, I went to shows and I worked at a skate shop. I was Sadie Hawkins Queen after beating out a few cheerleaders for the title and I was voted Most Inspirational on my volleyball team 2 years in a row. I graduated from the University of Portland with a political science degree (a degree that was just an excuse to write about DIY music scenes in the Soviet Bloc) and have been working in music since I was 18. I was always very forward-looking and I don’t think I really came online until I turned 28. Being 33 now, the last 5 years have been my most transformative as I have learned to be more present in my own life. Before then, I think I was just trying to survive and keep busy.   Talk about your foray into photography:   I began taking photos when I was 7 or so, with a hot pink Kodak Mickey-matic camera. It shot 110 film and had disposable flash cubes and I remember taking it with me on my first field trip to downtown Portland in elementary school. From a young age, I’ve enjoyed shooting what’s around me, my friends, nothing contrived, staged or overly directed. I’ve spent the last 26 years honing my eye but one could argue that my style and methods really haven’t changed much since I started. I’m still overwhelmingly drawn to people, animals, natural light and geometry. When I started spending my teenage years in venues, I began shooting live music and have been doing that in some capacity ever since. It became a natural creative outlet when I began touring with bands, a way to make sure I stayed engaged with my surroundings when it was too easy to lose my sense of time and place. Photography is still a way for me to center and ground myself when I’m in a cerebral spin.
   
  
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   What drew you to touring and working with bands?    I’ve always loved music. Some of my earliest memories of loving music were getting my first cassette tape (‘The Simpsons Sing the Blues’), my uncle introducing me to Depeche Mode and The Cure at the age of 8 and the first time I heard the Smashing Pumpkins, which changed everything for me. Siamese Dream came out and I consumed music at a fever pitch for the next 15 years. It wasn’t long after that I started going to shows 2 or 3 times a week, if bands were playing at the few all-ages venues in Portland, OR. As soon as I was old enough, I got an internship working for a local concert promoter, putting together ad packs and fetching lunch. When I turned 21, I spent the rest of college running the box office at shows and became known around town as ‘the door girl’ – which is a weird thing to say out loud but that’s how I got to know Portland and its music scene in a really deep way. And that’s how the scene got to know me. I got a job straight out of school working for a booking agent who had moved from New York and that’s how I got my real-life introduction to the national industry I work in now. It also rendered my political science degree nearly useless. At the agency, we were booking tours for The National (who I would come to tour with 8 years later), The Decemberists, Brian Jonestown Massacre, etc. and I   was booking my own bands only a few months after I started there. I think my foray into touring was realizing at the time (and I stand by this now) that no matter how cool the desk job, it’s still a desk job. And I realized the skillset I was refining could be put to better use out in the world rather than from behind a computer screen. So I made the leap to touring using the connections I had made in booking and I still can’t quite believe it all worked out! That was 8 years ago.
  Talk about the importance of home – how has it changed over the years, and what does it mean to you to feel at home now?   Wow. That’s a really great question! It’s a theme I’ve written about a lot but haven’t really had an opportunity to share. Many of my earliest memories of home involved a lot of domestic unrest with small bouts of peace and sometimes even actual happiness. Then there’s a lot I don’t remember. After my father died, my mom had to work full-time and put herself through college, all while trying to take care of my sister and I. For most of my adolescence, home was a benignly neglected place. I feel like my mom was doing the best she could to keep a roof over our heads but she really couldn’t do much more than that. And I think all of the pressure really contributed to the alcoholism that kept her absent in other respects – physically but mostly emotionally. My sis and I were left to fend for ourselves, which is definitely a skillset that has had a positive effect in my adult life and my career. But I’d be lying if I said that I loved being home when I was a kid. Our house was a mess and there was never any food. I never wanted to bring my friends over because I was embarrassed. My only place of solace was my basement bedroom that had a door I could lock. If my sister ever snuck in there and stole a CD or something, the violation felt exponentially stronger than I think it did for most kids. I had a lot of trouble sharing my things and my space up until a few years ago. As soon as I turned 18, I left home and then began about 12 years of searching for a place that resembled what I thought home should be like – safe, warm, a place of abundance that I could share with those I care about but still maintain my autonomy. I spent a lot of years getting one or two of those attributes but I’ve never had all three until now. I was once homeless for 8 months because I was touring so much and I’ve never felt more lost, unmoored and heartbroken in my entire life. I’ll never do that again. Finding home has always been a priority for me and now that I’ve found it, I’m loathe to leave it. I often have dinner parties in our place because having a house full of friends and food is something I never thought I would have when I was young. Every time I cook for people, it’s a celebration of what I’ve lived through and a hopeful promise that I will never have to go back there again. Even better was being able to host my mother last year for Christmas. She is now 10 years sober and the most full of life I’ve ever seen her. To have lived through all that together and come out the other side as friends makes me feel like I’m living in a movie sometimes. Like, how did it all work out so well, you know?
   
  
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   When did running become a part of your life, and why?   I was really athletic as a kid but I absolutely hated running. I have asthma so it was much easier for me to do anaerobic exercise and sports, like volleyball or the high jump or something. But when I was 25, depressed and broke, I didn’t really have much of a choice. I couldn’t afford a gym membership or yoga classes, but I knew that finding my long-lost athleticism again would in some way guide me productively through what ended up being a 5-year long existential crisis. I realized then that if I wanted to figure out where I was going and who I wanted to be, it’d be important to look back and remember where I came from and what I enjoyed doing when I was young (before money and status were even considerations). I had a friend who offered to take me on a run and wouldn’t take no for an answer. So I ran 2 very slow, conversational miles with her that day and have been doing it ever since. I always joke with people that I don’t know how anyone gets through their first year of running. I think I probably hated it for about 2 years, actually. And then one day I woke up and realized it had become a part of me. It caught me completely off guard.   How has it changed you?   Simply, running has expanded or blown up every single limitation I’ve put on myself over the years. I never thought I had the strength or lung capacity to run a marathon - certainly not an ultramarathon! I never thought I’d be the kind of person who could practice something day in and day out when it wasn’t a life-or-death situation. I never thought I could set a goal for myself and meet it strictly of my own volition. It has made me the kind of person that I admire but never thought I could actually be. I have an internal momentum right now that has made previously insurmountable things feel easy. The relationship between the body and the mind is endlessly fascinating – each one is capable of pushing the other while working in seamless harmony. And for years, I’ve struggled with one or both of them feeling weak. I’ve never felt this kind of unified strength in my entire life. I definitely don’t feel invincible but I feel capable and that’s all I really want in the end.
   
  
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   When do you feel the most yourself? Why?   When I’m in the kitchen making food for those I love. It’s a place of welcome focus for me, as well as a place run by intuition rather than rules. I don’t struggle with option anxiety, imposter syndrome or that I should be anything other than I am there. It's really peaceful. I can't always say the same for my career in music or my photography. But in the kitchen, I'm proud of my skills, my resourcefulness, and my creativity. And at the end of it all, I get to bring people together and feed them. I almost feel like more of a conduit than anything, like something bigger is working through me. I know it’s just food but it feels like more than that. It’s kind of psychedelic! I’ve always had a hard time with people who say they’d rather take their food in pill form. Like, why??? Why deny yourself the opportunity to participate in something so universal? It makes me really sad because food can be so unifying.   When do you feel the least yourself? Why?   I really hate shopping and I have a hard time dressing myself. I'm not the kind of person who upon opening their closet in the morning sees the unlimited potential and enjoys that. I usually experience overwhelming paralysis. I was the kind of kid who always wished I could go to private school and wear a uniform, which is one reason I was so well suited for touring. I love putting on the same thing over and over again, even when my tour mates would laugh about me wearing the same Smiths t-shirt every day. But who cares? If a person can only make so many decisions in a day, the hell if I’m going to waste half of mine deciding what to wear. Which isn’t to say I don’t care what I look like. If I’m happy in my body and I feel healthy, it really doesn’t matter what I adorn that body with (which is why I invest so heavily in white t-shirts – comfort is key). Good skin and a solid set of eyebrows can carry you much further than makeup. So when do I feel least myself? When I’ve been eating poorly and not drinking enough water; when I’m stuck staring at myself in a dressing room, wearing something I don’t feel comfortable in. I’d rather be out running in the woods, sweaty and disheveled but feeling wholly present with myself. You are quite literally not yourself when you are in a constant state of self-observance, a stranger on the outside looking in.
   
  
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   What do you love about yourself?    Some people may not agree, but I think I’m a really good listener. I don’t just wait for my turn to talk. When someone is speaking to me, I put all my stuff aside, maintain eye contact and really think about what they’re sharing with me. Listening is not something you can multitask. I’m not sure if it’s because of this, but people tend to really open up to me and share things they don’t share with other people. I feel honored to be that kind of a safe place for people. Sometimes I wonder if being a good listener is also a convenient excuse to not share a similar vulnerability with others so I’ve been a bit more proactive lately about offering up my own stories and opinions. I mean, good conversation is an exchange, right? It should never be one-sided. But to be seen, heard and acknowledged by someone is affirming and necessary so I always try to make sure I see, hear and acknowledge those I spend time with.      What don’t you love about yourself?   Ha! Oh, god. Well, part of my sense of humor is an unabashed dedication to self-deprecation, which I’m fairly certain wears on those who love me. And all that normal body image stuff or we’re-all-going-to-die-alone stuff aside, I think the one thing I’ve struggled with over the years is intimacy. I’ve done things I’m not proud of when my very tall personal walls are breached, usually by someone who cares for me deeply. Through therapy, I’ve come to realize I have a lot of very protective learned behaviors that have been preventing me from getting as close to people as I’d like or, more likely, need. I’m not sure if this is common or not, but I went the extra mile and built an entire life and career on being the person who comes to town for a night and then leaves before anyone can see my darkness (or what I consider to be weak or shameful). Seriously, I used to move every 2 years as a kid and then I picked the one career that gave me an excuse to never call anyone back, ask for help or let people see me in my entirety. Usually, I have the privilege of being alone in a hotel room when I fall apart. I knew that taking this year off from touring was going to be uncomfortable because I was finally going to have to be around the people I love constantly, without the busyness of my job to fall back on. I knew I’d have WAY too much time to think about all the people I’ve let down over the years or the friendships that got ruined from years of neglect. The good news? I only had a few months of paranoia that everyone I knew hated me and I balanced out considerably after that passed. The anxiety dwindled and its place is a wellspring of energy to reinvest in those I love and in my new community in Seattle. Sometimes you just need to get stuck in the shit for awhile, allow others to grab your waving hand and help pull you out. I’m still not the most open, intimate person I would like to be, but I am moving forward. With help, of course. Also, my Ukrainian genetics enable me to grow a pretty mean mustache. I dunno. Maybe that’s something to be proud of?
   
  
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   Talk about an instance in your life that made you feel the most vulnerable:   When I made the leap into freelance, I also made some pretty questionable financial decisions that had me overwhelmed by debt for my entire 20’s. It was something I was really ashamed of and I would distance myself from all of my serious partners because I didn’t want them to know about it. Being 50% of a relationship was something I felt obliged to do – to be equal and autonomous -  but it was actually something I could not afford to do. I was ashamed of how it had gotten so out of hand and the emotional weight of that debt had me making a lot of decisions that would then perpetuate more debt. When I realized this debt shame spiral was an obstacle to intimacy, I didn’t want to let it win. I needed someone to share that burden with and I made the decision to tell my boyfriend (now fiancée) about every skeleton in my financial closet. I told him about every bad decision, every emotional struggle that manifested in overspending and every fear I had about being found out. I was scared of never EVER being able to be free of that debt because it so pervasive. I truly couldn’t imagine my life without my debt. Like, what goals would I have if I wasn’t constantly seeking money to pay off the credit card companies? I couldn’t see my own future. I have never felt more naked and afraid in front of anyone I cared about so much – and truly I’ve never felt so loved either. And he just held me while I sobbed, didn’t judge me and we found a way to get me out from under the mountain I had created.   What did you do to make it through?    Aside from all the boring practical adjustments I had to make in my life, I started going to therapy to address the emotional triggers that led to overspending, consumption and whatever other addictive personality traits I have. Once I started addressing those old emotions, the urge to spend actually lessened. I’ve since cut up all my credit cards and for the first time in my life, I have a savings account. For the first time since adolescence, I’m feeling the potential of my future. It’s as good as I imagined it.
   
  
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    When was the last time you were guilty of judging a woman too quickly?     I am actually pretty metered in my judgment of people. I tend to do a good job of giving people the benefit of the doubt before I meet them or even after an awkward first impression. I did, however, judge a woman I knew publicly on the internet once with a pretty mean-spirited tweet and I am not proud of that. Before my conscience could catch up with my fingers, I made a statement that was fueled by many years of anger at how this person had hurt a few people I care about. I wanted to expose the so-called “truth” about her. But man, did that backfire! I took the tweet down and apologized to those involved but what plagues me still is that I represented myself so poorly and acted counter to everything I stand for. I contributed to the same unnecessary ugliness on the internet I try to fight every day. I contributed to age-old narratives that make women look superficial and catty, that have pit women against each other for millennia. Should I, as a feminist, be proud of trying to call another woman out? Absolutely not! Those who know me could look past a tweet like that and understand it as one facet of my personality, not the whole. But those who don’t know me? Well, I just made myself look like a spiteful person, which I’m really not, but how would they know that? I guess my point is this: to err is human and as our lives become more public, we will make more mistakes in public and those mistakes will be pretty immortal. But I think we can’t judge the quality of a person’s character necessarily on their mistakes alone, but also how they atone for those mistakes. So this situation was a good learning experience for me – judge not lest ye be judged and always seek the humility to right your mistakes. These two mantras have been present in my mind every day since.         
  
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   Name one of your girl crushes, and why you are crushin’ on her:   Besides you two? Where do I start? I have so many women in my life that I crush on and it’s hard to choose just one. You’ve already interviewed a few of my crushes (Kathleen Tarrant, Kate Harmer and Jenny Jimenez) so if I can’t choose them, I’d probably choose my friend Sarah Jurado. I’ve known Sarah for about 8 years and have seen her go through some of the darkest emotional territory of anyone I know – all the while doing it completely sober. Watching her emerge back into the land of the living these last few years, healing from some pretty brutal battle scars and again becoming the Sarah I fell in love with years ago is nothing short of miraculous. I think if you ask any of her other girlfriends, they’ll all agree. She’s such a vision these days.   
   
  
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   What frustrates you about the way women treat each other?    My frustrations aren’t new. I think the perception that we’re all fighting over the same tiny slice of pie is part of the patriarchal narrative that will be the hardest to exorcise. The patriarchy extends much deeper into ourselves than I think even we, as women, are comfortable admitting. But I don’t blame women for feeling that way. It’s going to take a little time. I do take issue with women judging women on the right and wrong ways to be a feminist. I think it’s deeply personal and as varied as one’s definition of femininity. But I don’t think anyone’s definition is wrong, as it changes with and is defined by our own personal experience. I would be lying if I said I was open to and understanding of women who protest abortion clinics. I think the title of Pro-Life is incredibly misleading. I think you can be supportive of life and still be supportive of a woman's right to choose. If I had it my way, the titles would be Pro-Choice or Pro-No-Choice as we're really fighting for legislation that will dictate whether women does or does not have a choice over her own medical future. I mean, we have a choice about everything else – insurance plans, printer paper, laundry detergent, etc. – why not this? I don’t think anyone’s disputing the utopian ideal that a world without a need for abortion would be pretty alright. But that would also be a world without rape, without misogyny, without abuse, without terror, without murder and with access to affordable healthcare, education and a multitude of other basic human rights of survival. So until we get there, I don’t understand how women publicly use shame and fear tactics toward other women for being mired in a system that does little to protect the lives and bodies of women. It doesn’t have to be this way and it breaks my heart.      Tell me a story about that way your perception shifted about another woman after getting to know her:   To make an incredibly long story short, one of my dearest friends came into my life, well, kind of out of nowhere. She moved to my town and became friends with all my friends and, I found out a little later, had feelings for my newly recent ex-boyfriend. It was very, very challenging for me. But it was made more challenging by the fact that I actually really liked her. I had no idea what to do with all the conflicting emotions. So I talked to her about them on multiple occasions, whenever and however often the feelings came up. For whatever reason, I felt like I had nothing to lose with this person but that there was an overarching reason she had come into my life. There was a lesson in all of this for me. And sure enough, over time, as she heard me, as I got to know her better, as the ex faded away into history, I was able to find a deep, loyal friend in this woman who kind of just paratrooped into my life. Now when I see her, I have such a strong family bond, of kindred spirits who have been through something together. She’s also incredibly funny, creative, a great artist and she teaches me how to call bullshit on bad situations. I’m glad I stuck with her and I’m glad she stuck with me.
   
  
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   What do you love about the way women treat each other?   Women are compassionate and understanding. The women I know have an innate talent at finding meaning in small things and I find women to be incredibly hopeful. Some people like to have a jab at women who are affirming of each other, who tell each other they’re beautiful and talented, as though it’s a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. I think it takes a lot of courage to share feelings with people, to help, affirm and remain open to each other. I don’t admire people who think they did everything themselves (because no one really does – that’s delusional), who take pride in controlling their emotions (or the emotions of others) or who claim to not need people. The women I know are really good at sharing and they know how to be happy for each other and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. And you know what? I know a lot of men who are equally as good at this stuff. I mean, what fun is anything if you have no one to share it with? Like, “Oh, cool. You did it all yourself. Enjoy your party of one." 
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